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LAMB, ARTICHOKE AND BEAN STEW

This is one of those dishes where you can just free style. There is no recipe, there are no ingredients. The method is what is important, not the individual ingredients. Your aim is to get tender meat, you shouldn’t need a knife to eat it, this should come with tender vegetables and a juice that is rich and flavoursome. For this one I use judion beans, but any bean will do, black, speckled, white, small or large. You obviously have to adjust times depending on the bean, but that is about all. I have used beef here, flank, stewing or chuck are good cuts. I like to cut these into large chunks say 3 cm square so that the beans can be cooked with the beef, the timing then being roughly the same. The other main ingredient is artichokes, trimmed and halved or quartered depending on the size. Onions, garlic, carrots, wine and plenty of herbs are good as the background.

Cooking the beans with the beef is a good idea to impart the flavour into the beans. Large beans can be cooked from the beginning, but smaller beans will need to be added later. Better to add them a little early as a stew where the meat is a little over cooked is preferable to one where the beans are undercooked.




The method with the meat is simple. Season well with salt and pepper, a little cinnamon if you like, maybe some pimenton. Choose a good heavy bottomed pan that is a size that will accommodate all the ingredients comfortably and heat with olive oil, you want it to be about to smoke, not white hot. Roll the meat in flour (the flour helps to colour and will also impart a texture to the final juice) and then place each piece carefully into the pan, do not throw the lot in. Care and patience are the friends of good food. You are looking to get a perfect caramelised meat all over which is going to give you the flavour that you are looking for. Pick up one piece and look at it, if you feel it is ready, turn it. Carry on until all is done. While you are doing this and to keep you busy so that you are not forcing the issue, peel some garlic, carrots and onions. The garlic can be left whole, the others chop coarsely.

Now when the meat is all perfect, remove and add the garlic, onions and carrots. If there is a lot of substance caught on the bottom then pour some wine, I have used white this time, but red, sherry, cider, beer will all impart their own distinct flavour, and why buy a bottle of wine if you have a bottle of sherry kicking around. So, pour in your wine and with a wooden, must be wooden, you do not want to damage your pan, clean the bottom of the pan of the caught flour and meat. Then you can add your vegetables, possibly with a little more oil. Colour the vegetables a little, cover and sweat for five minutes on a low heat. Tie up the herbs that you are using in some string, rosemary, marjoram and thyme are good, but whatever takes your fancy. Pop these in with the beef, the judion beans the rest of the bottle of wine and cover with water. Not too much, you can always add more, but too much will dilute the flavour.

Now you can turn your attention to the artichokes. Trim them if necessary, if small just cut the spiky ends off and halve. If larger trim outer leaves cut across close to the choke, remove the choke with a spoon and cut into quarters or even sixths. These will be added about fifteen minutes before you think it will all be ready.

When all is ready give it a final seasoning. A good idea is to cook it the day before as it will taste much better the following day. Serve with plenty of coarsely chopped parsley.

This is a method that can be used with any meat, with peppers, pumpkins, celeriac, sweet potato, tomatoes. All you really need to do is think about the timings so that they all arrive at the end cooked perfectly. You have plenty of room for manoeuvre. Look in your cupboards, your fridge and use up those things that have been there and need to be use

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