Saturday, April 04, 2015

Lamb Ragu with Peppers on Wet Polenta

This continued cold weather makes me want to go back into my hibernation mode, curled up in front of a warm fire with a book and eating warm comforting stews.  Swedes don't eat that much lamb but now that it is Easter time, there is a lot of lamb in the store, and I took advantage of that in this recipe.

You could serve this stew with whatever starch you prefer, but I think it is particularly delicious with a wet polenta.  The first time I ever had polenta was in NYC at the famous Union Square Cafe.  It was served as a side dish, covered with cheese, and it was luscious. However, the best polenta I had was in a little restaurant in Barnes, London.  I had a truffle flavored polenta which was really creamy and light.  I asked the chef what the secret was, and she said that she used milk as her liquid instead of water.  Back in the US, I have often used grits instead of yellow cornmeal, which works very well.

Serves 4

For the lamb ragu:

1 kilo lamb shoulder
2 onions
2 carrots
6 to 8 cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers
150 grams green beans
1 can (500 grams) crushed tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 tabelspoon soysauce
bunch of fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, and/or rosemary)
1/2 cup milk
oil for frying
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper

First, prepare the meat.  Cut the lamb into bite sized chunks.  Heat a large pot on the stove on high and add a slug of oil.  Put one layer of lamb into the pot and brown on all sides.  Put the browned lamb in a bowl and set aside. Repeat until all the meat is browned.  It should take about 2 or 3 batches.  If the bottom of the pan looks like it is starting to burn, in between batches, put a few tablespoons of water in the pot and scrape all the brown bits on the bottom.  Put the water into the bowl with the meat and continue.

While the meat is browning, you can prepare the vegetables.  Slice the onion in half, and then in slices.  Peel and chop the carrots into small pieces.  Peel and chop the garlic finely.  Slice the red pepper into strips.  Top and tail the green beans and chop each bean in half if they are long.  Finely chop the herbs.

When the meat is browned and in the bowl, add the onions and carrots to the pan and a bit more oil if necessary.  Fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry an additional minute or two, making sure not to let the garlic burn.  Add the meat and juices back into the pot with the can of tomatoes, soysauce, bouillon cube and the milk.  Add one teaspoon sugar and one teaspoon pepper. Add the peppers, green beans, and herbs.  Bring to a boil and put the lid on.  Let the ragu simmer for an hour.

Taste the ragu and add another teaspoon of sugar if the sauce seems sour.  The meat, peppers and green beans should be very tender. Adjust the salt and pepper.

For the polenta:

1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
2 cups water
2 cups milk milk
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to season

Pour the water and milk into a large pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, watching carefully so that it does not boil over the pot.  As soon as it starts to bubble, pour in the polenta and a bit of salt and stir.  Let it cook for 20 to 45 minutes, until the mixtures thickens, the grains become tender and no longer taste raw. Stir every couple of minutes. The timing will depend on the coarseness of the grain.  As it cooks, if it starts to get too thick, add a bit of milk or water.  You will probably need to add about a cup of water over the cooking time.  You want the mixture to be thick but still quite soft.  Add the parmesan at the end and stir until it is melted. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with the stew poured on top.

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