Red Wine and Tomato Lamb Stew


Incongruous, illogical, foolish.

It’s when you wear 4-inch pointy-toe stilettos to a party where you know you will be standing up all night. It’s when you get a blowout and it’s raining. It’s when you eat chilli with onions and pizza with garlic and anchovies on the night of your first kiss. It’s when you drink coffee at midnight. It’s when you eat classic French Onion Soup and you’re a vegetarian. It’s when you get in the car of that ex-boyfriend and accept his breath mints.

It’s when you make lamb stew in steaming 32C (and climbing!) weather.

As always, our summer was deadly hot and mind-numbingly humid. Somewhere in the latter part of May though, it seemed to lose steam (no pun intended). Rains came (rainy season follows summer...that’s how our seasons go) and it looked like the summer would be shorter than normal – sad in a way, but a relief too. It was way too hot already and I was running out of skirts and dresses to wear (the breeziest way to go in the summer).

Then suddenly, in June (which fyi, should already be rainy/back to school season) like an avenging angel, the heat swooped back down to flatten us. Sweat and lethargy grappled with me...sometimes rendering me unable to do even the most basic tasks! The heat raged anew, ignoring the thunder that tried to bully it away.

So why was I melting over a heavy pot of bubbling lamb stew when I was in danger of getting a good braise myself? Why do I wear stilettos? Why did I get into that car?

I know!
I would have been kicking myself if only I had the energy.

Red Wine and Tomato Lamb Stew
(inspired by* Red Wine and Tomato Lamb Shanks, page 124 Donna Hay Magazine issue #33)

  • 1 kilo lamb (stewing cuts, with bones)
  • flour for dusting
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 head garlic, outer skins peeled but inner skin left intact
  • 3 onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 800-gram tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400-gram tin chickpeas (260 grams drained weight)
  • 2-3 smallish potatoes (about 300 grams total), peeled
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • a generous pinch of your favourite chilli powder or flakes**
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Dust the lamb with flour and shake off any excess. In a heavy-based pot heat oil. Add lamb pieces and sear until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add the onions and minced garlic to the pot and cook until soft and golden.
- Gradually add wine, scraping the bottom of the pot as you do to deglaze and get all the yummy bits.
- Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, potatoes, bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, sugar, chilli, and the whole garlic head. Give everything a good stir.
- Add lamb and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender and sauce is thickened. Stir occasionally after the first hour to make sure the stew does not stick to the bottom of your pot and scorch it! When you do this, taste and adjust seasoning.

In my defense, we had some stewing lamb*** in the freezer and it was taunting us mercilessly! I had bookmarked a lamb shank recipe from the Donna Hay magazine winter 2007 (winter? Could I not see the warning signs?) issue that sounded fabulous – lamb stewed in tomatoes and red wine. I was itching to try it. And at the end of the day, we did enjoy the dish...even as I stared unbelievingly at C, who was wolfing everything down while beads of sweat popped up on his forehead. He loved it! So did I. But yes, it would have been much better eaten while a storm raged outside. Now I’m thinking of tossing the leftovers in the be resurrected**** once the rains come again.

*I changed and added a lot (the garlic head, chickpeas, and potatoes for example are my additions, all the quantities are different, I added chili, she used marjoram instead of rosemary...) so aside from the wine, tomatoes, and lamb, my recipe differs quite a lot from Donna's (but I still give her credit for inspiring me!) if you try this, and you don't like it, please don't blame Donna :)

**I used dried chipotle pepper flakes and a couple of generous glugs of Chipotle Tabasco sauce – my latest favourite supermarket thing :)

***This was made with another batch of mum-in-law lamb. She may not know this, but I haven’t had to buy lamb since she gave me the first batch! Thank goodness for small favors eh? ;) I hope I don’t jinx this seemingly steady supply of lamb. I’m making something for her soon I swear!

****The leftovers will make a kick-a** pasta sauce...I just know it! And you know I don’t use the word a** lightly (again, no pun intended).