Navarin d’agneau printanier

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Lamb with spring vegetables

As soon as the young spring vegetables hit French markets in April, this is the dish I want to make. It blends lamb with the flavors of carrots, onions, turnips and peas and makes a fine one-dish meal.

Ask the butcher for an assortment of stewing lamb – shoulder (épaule), collar (collier), breast (poitrine) – or you can simply use shoulder of lamb. Have the butcher chop the meat into large pieces – or do it yourself, using a very sharp knife.

2 pounds (1 kilo) lamb for stewing
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup water
1 branch fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 bunch spring onions, or 12 small onions
1 bunch new carrots, or six medium carrots
1 bunch new turnips, or 6-8 young turnips
1 lb. (500 g.) unshelled fresh peas
salt and pepper

Peel and halve the garlic cloves. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a large stew pot. Add the meat and brown on all sides over medium-high heat. When the meat is evenly browned, carefully pour off and discard all but about a tablespoon of the fat.

Turn the heat down to medium. Using a press, crush in the garlic and sauté for a minute. Sprinkle with flour and stir for another minute, until the meat is well coated and the flour is starting to brown. Add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula to incorporate the drippings. Add the tomato paste, stir to blend. Add the water, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetables: Peel the onions, carrots and turnips. Chop off most of the onion greens, leaving the white bulb plus about an inch (2.5 cm) of green. Cut the carrots in half crosswise. Quarter the turnips. Shell the peas and set aside.

When the meat has stewed for half an hour, add the onions, carrots and turnips and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the vegetables and meat are tender.

You may set the stew aside in for up to 24 hours at this point — the flavors will only intensify. Allow the meat to cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. Remove from fridge an hour before reheating.

When you are nearly ready to serve, reheat the stew if necessary. Cook the peas in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and add them to the lamb.

Serve on plates or in shallow soup bowls, accompanied by a fruity red wine. Serves 4-6.


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