British Lamb Stew | Classic, Simple, Delicious

Stews are a staple the British kitchen, and lamb stew in particular holds a special place in many British hearts. There are many regional variations. Lancashire Hotpot is a lamb stew topped with sliced potato, baked until the lamb (a working muscle, some kidney, and traditionally oyster) is tender and the potatoes are brown on top. Scouse is a Liverpudlian institution, made with lamb or beef, and is rooted in the tradition of Northern European sailors. Across the Irish Sea, Irish Stew, made from lamb or mutton with onions and potatoes, graces the tables of families in the North, South and everywhere between.

Here we’re making a lamb stew adapted from a recipe in Michael Smith’s 1973 cookbook, Fine English Cookery. Slightly unusual but excellent features include adding lemon zest at the beginning, adding the onions (browned in butter) half way through, and adding the diced fresh tomatoes at the end of cooking. The result is a lamb stew oozing with richness, that still somehow tastes light and fresh. Check out the recipe below!

First, coat the diced lamb with half the seasoned flour and brown in batches in the pan. It’s important not to overcrowd the pan, otherwise the lamb will steam instead of brown.

The lamb is being browned in batches in a red dutch oven.
Browning the lamb.

When the lamb is all browned, set aside and add the carrots and celery, season and cook until they release their moisture and begin to brown. During this time, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to release the fond left behind by the lamb and get all that flavour into the sauce.

Diced carrots and celery in the pan are releasing their liquid, which we are using to scarp the fond (the browned lamb juices) from the bottom of the pan and into the developing sauce.
Releasing the fond.

Next, add the lamb back to the pan, along with the lemon zest, rosemary, garlic, chilli flakes, the remainder of the seasoned flour and half the butter, and give it a good mix. Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, put a lid on it and transfer to a preheated 375˚F/190˚C oven for 1½ hours.

The bubbling stew is ready for the oven, and is being transferred carefully with tea towels to the oven. At this point I forgot the lid, but remembered it 5 minutes later!
Ready for the oven.

In the meantime, it’s time to brown your onions off. Today we’re using green onions that are quite thin, but it is better to use the ones with bulbous whites. Pearl onions are also a good substitute. Fry the onions gently in butter with a pinch of salt and the sugar, until take on a nice golden colour. Add them to the lamb stew with 45 minutes left to go (half way through cooking).

The green onions are browning in butter in a large non-stick pan. The tail end of the green onions has been chopped off, for use in other recipes, leaving the white and the first part of the green.
Caramelizing onions.

Finally, when the 1½ hours are up, take your stew from the oven and stir in the diced tomatoes, the parsley, and the rest of the butter. Now serve to your delighted family/guests alongside mashed potato, rice, or crusty bread.

The final stew, served in a dark stoneware bowl. The sauce is glossy and the right texture - not thick, not thin, but the right point in between.
Delicious lamb stew, ready for eating!


SERVES: 6      PREP: 15 minutes       COOK: 1¾ hours       TOTAL: 2 hours

1½ lb lamb shoulder, diced into 1½ inch cubes
4 tbsp seasoned flour
4 medium carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 cup butter
The grated zest of 1 lemon
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp chilli flakes, not too spicy (here we’re using half Aleppo Pepper, half Urfa Biber, but cayenne or regular chilli flakes will also work well)
4 cups chicken stock
Around 20 green onions, white parts with a little green (or pearl onions)
1 tbsp sugar
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
½ cup chopped parsley

1) Coat the diced lamb with half the seasoned flour, and brown in batches in a pan.
2) After all the lamb is browned, set it aside and cook the carrots and celery until they begin to release their liquid, scraping the fond of the bottom of the pan and into the developing sauce.
3) Add the lamb back to the pan, along with the lemon zest, rosemary, garlic, chilli flakes, the remainder of the seasoned flour, and half the butter. Give it a good stir.
4) Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, season to taste, and transfer to a preheated 375˚F/190˚C oven for approximately 1½ hours.
5) While the stew is in the oven, brown the green onions in the remaining butter with some salt and the sugar. Add the onions to the stew half-way through it’s cooking, with 45 minutes to go.
6) Finally, after 1½ hours is up, take the stew form the oven and stir in the tomatoes, parsley and remaining butter. Now enjoy your delicious lamb stew!

Serve alone, with mashed potato, rice, or a good loaf of bread to mop up the gravy.

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