Here in the Western world putting fruit in with meat isn't something which we do very often . . . however having said that we do like our pork with applesauce and our cranberry sauce with turkey . . . but fruit in a stew, its not a really common thing. In the Middle East it is a fairly common thing . . . just think of a Tagine with apricots or dates . . . really delicious dishes.
This delicious recipe is loosely adapted from one I found in one of my favourite cookery books, Lotte's Country Kitchen. It has been on my bookshelf for several years now, since 2010 when it first came out. It is a cookery book which follows the seasons and this recipe is one that I have had flagged for several years, wanting to cook it when we had a nice crop of plums from our plum tree, and this year was the year!
Eating seasonally is what I like to do, and when the fruit for a recipe comes from our very own provenance, I am even happier about it. We had a bumper crop this year and so I did not mind in the least being able to use some of them in this deliciously delightful recipe!
This stew is a fabulous mix of meat and veg in a lovely gravy . . . I used leeks instead of baby onions, because that is what I had and I happen to think that leeks go particularly well with lamb . . . I also used baby parsnips, carrots and some swede (rutabaga) because . . . you can't have a stew without swede can you?
I can't anyways . . . swede and stew go together for me like peas and carrots! The gravy is flavoured with some lamb stock, fresh herbs, a bit of red wine and then of course the plums, which go in at the same time as those delicious herby dumplings.
This is one beautifully delicious combination. Lamb is an almost sweet meat, so using fruit in this dish is not really wierd at all . . . the plums went beautifully, but if you didn't have Damson plums you could also use apricots, or another variety of plum. Our plums are Victorian Plums and they went wonderfully. I think that even dried fruit would work well . . . as in dried apricots or prunes. All would be just delicious!
I served it with some mash on the side and Todd was in stew heaven. The leftovers the next day were even more delicious, but then leftover stew often does taste even better the day after. I only wish that I could make this for my mum. She often speaks fondly of the lamb stew she had to eat in the hospital after she gave birth to my brother. He is 56 now so that is an awfully long food memory to have! I am sure she would love this.
*Lamb and Damson Stew*
with herby dumplingsServes 4 to 6
For the dumplings:
4 ounces of self raising flour, plus extra for shaping (1 cup)
2 ounces shredded suet (about 1/4 cup heaped)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 TBS chopped fresh sage
4 TBS cold water
salt and black pepper to taste
Heat a flame proof casserole over a medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, begin browning the lamb a few bits at a time, so that they get a nice colour. Don't be tempted to add too much meat at a time or it will stew instead of browning. It is the browning which will give your stew its lovely colour. Remove the meat as it browns and add more. Repeat until all is browned.
Add the butter and then add the leeks, carrots, parsnips and swede. Cook gently over a low heat until they are just coloured. Add the brown sugar and stir in. Add the flour and stir it in, cooking it for a few minutes. Add the red wine and allow it to bubble up. Pour in the stock and bring to the boiling point, stirring. Add all of the herbs and return the meat to the pot. (Make sure you bend the bayleaf in half so that the flavour is released.) Cover and bake in a preheated 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3 oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is tender. Remove from the oven. Add the fruit, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Increase the oven temperature to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.
Make the dumplings by placing the flour, suet, mustard, herbs and seasonings into a bowl. Add enough of the water to make a firm but soft dough. Break off the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape with lightly floured hands into round balls. Drop these on top of the hot stew, pushing them down a bit into the hot liquid. Cook, uncovered, for a further 15 to 20 minutes, until the dumplings have doubled in size, turn a bit golden and crisp on the surface, and the stew is nice and tender.
I do hope that you will be inspired to make this lovely dish. I guarantee you won't be sorry! Oh, I am so happy that stew and soup season are here! Bon appetit!