Celtic California Stew
[California influenced Irish stew derivative with rosemary/sorrel/mint dumplings]
For eight people I used three pounds of lamb – from three different cuts – two small shanks, four shoulder chops and a pound of stew meat. Brown the lamb heavily in a pot that can also go in the oven. Use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for browning. Then in the same pot add bouquet garni, ten cloves garlic, twenty peppercorns. Stir to cook for a minute or so, then deglaze the pan with a cup of red wine. Add six cups of meat stock (I used chicken), two teaspoons salt, enough water to just cover, cook in covered casserole for two to three hours in 350 degree oven.
Meanwhile, finely chop four large carrots, four large potatoes, two leeks, bunch spring onions, half large head of cabbage or whole small head, bunch of greens. None of the vegetable pieces should be bigger than about a fifth of an inch cubed no matter what.
After two to three hours, remove lamb from dish, put aside in bowl, skim all fat possibly can from remaining liquid. Add two tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped, one tablespoon thyme chopped, other herbs to taste (I used two tablespoons sorrel and small amount of mint). Put in pot to boil until reduced by half. Then with lamb slightly cooled, strip all good meat off discarding bones, fat and slimy tissue. Return lamb to boiling liquid while it reduces. Can also return to casserole in 350 degree oven uncovered this time and let cook while you do vegetables.
Make dumplings. Chop up handful of fresh herbs – anything you like. I used mostly sorrel and rosemary with a little thyme and a fair amount of mint. Put in bowl and add two cups of flour, teaspoon of salt, several grindings of pepper, two teaspoons baking powder. Mix together, then add a stick of butter chopped into small pieces and rub it in like making pastry. Once it is crumbly, add a two tablespoons of olive oil and stir it in well. Then add a tablespoon or so of water at a time, stirring it in until a thick dough forms.
Put half gallon of vegetable stock on to boil. Add chopped leeks from above, add chopped potatoes. Return to boil and reduce to strong simmer. Add dumplings (ping pong ball sized pieces of dumpling dough) and cook for 15 minutes. Add more hot water gently if necessary. Remove dumplings to baking dish and put in oven to keep hot. Turn oven off at this point and let lamb and dumplings keep hot. Add rest of vegetables, return to boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add a little wine, lemon juice and or salt to taste. Remove lamb from oven and stir into vegetable stew mixture.
Serve in bowls with three dumplings per bowl and pour stew on top. Serve with bread and butter. My kids got out the plain yoghurt and added a little as well.
I actually kept some of the vegetable mix aside so that the vegetarians could have vegetable stew with dumplings.
This was far and away the best stew I have ever made and very well worth the work involved.