Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lamb Chowder ... or is it Stew? Soup?

I cook without formal training. I will often hold two herbs up to my nose and sniff to see if they match. That's my big secret. Sometimes I line up three bunches of herbs and drift my nose back and forth, attempting to isolate the perfect pitch of flavour. I rely on my sense of smell as much as I do my sense of taste, perhaps even more so. I believe cooking is instinctual, I dream about the flavour combination I plan on making, I text myself kitchen missives when out and my favourite store is a gorgeous grocer that specializes in local produce and imported and specialty items. I love playing with food and sometimes dinner is a learning experience and sometimes it really, really works.

The original platter of deliciousness.

This dish is not easily classifiable. Mr. thinks it was more of a chowder but I was channeling stew as I diced the onions, chopped the carrots and stirred in the hearty hunks of lamb. The lamb was from dinner the night before, a lovely meal of beets, sweet potatoes and the most tender and delicious lamb I have ever eaten. Mr. slowly roasted the lamb in red wine, fennel and onions. At least, these are the main spices (and root vegetable) I am aware of; I've been dealing with my own cold as well as the babies' collective stuffy noses. The beans and meat give this meal a stew-like consistency but the milk throws it off entirely and transforms it into the chowder. This is Mr.'s reasoning and he's not relenting so we'll go with chowder. I think chowder stew thing of yumminess is more apt.

The Recipe

one onion, diced
3 carrots
2 cups beans (I used soldier and red kidney beans)
8 oz. cooked lamb (fennel, rosemary, rhubarb, red wine, pink and black peppercorns*)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
8 cubes pre-made stock (these are ice cubes, not those powder things)
one cup almond milk**
decent handful of spinach
S&P to taste

1. Sweat the onions in butter that has been slowed with olive oil.

2. Add the carrots and beans. At this point add the red wine and 3-4 cubes of stock. I always use this for stock. Cover and let it simmer to cook the carrots. I had to leave mine for a bit because my beans were half-cooked. If your beans are in better shape, use your own discretion.

3. Chop the lamb into one centimetre square pieces and add to the pot. Basically a good (big people-sized) spoonful of the chowder will have a bite of lamb, at least one bean and a carrot.

4. Add the last of the soup stock and the almond milk. Lower the heat to about medium low so that the almond milk doesn't scald.

5. Chop the spinach into strips and add to the pot just a few minutes before serving. Don't forget to salt and pepper to your taste!

*Mr. gave up his spice mix! You would definitely have to change the order in which you add/cook the ingredients of this stew but with this spice mix you could emulate it! Yum! Plus, if you are vegetarian (uh, not sure why you'd be reading this post all the way to this point, but if you are, thanks!) you could forgo the lamb and fake the flavour. Score.

**Usually I would have used goat milk because soy milk is a total pain when it is cooked because it curdles, not in a make you sick way but in a really, really annoying way. The almond milk seemed able to hold its own and the only adjustment I needed to overcome its sweetness

Mr. does almost all my plating because I am not very good at the balancing and pretty-fying aspect of food. He topped our stew with Roquefort and the kiddies and my mom had Drunken Goat (a hard goat cheese). The stew wasn't overly heavy so it's really perfect as a spring chowder and it will cure the common cold. Really.*

*This isn't true. That's why the common cold is so damn awful.


  1. I think my vote is for calling it stew. And for Drunken Goat cheese. :)

  2. It tasted so great I'm going to miss these delicious meals

  3. I love all of your side notes in this post; so fun.

    I am going to vote for calling it stew, too, but I love the idea of using alternative milks in the soup.

  4. The Cilantropist: Ah, thank you (that should have sounded weirdly British). I just discovered Drunken Goat and I may have whispered to it, "where have you been all my life?", at which point hubby said, "huh". Oh nothing. Just cheese. :)

    Ethel: No reason why you can't make them at home ... or come back! The kids certainly wouldn't mind!

    Fight the Fat: Thank you! Adding the beans definitely cut down on the fat and calorie count!

    Kristen: Thank you! That is actually how I speak in real life which led to my brother once saying: "She should write commercials. They don't make any sense either but it's entertaining." Brothers are awesome.

    I'll have to let my hubby know that by now I am definitely winning. Ha ah! The votes are in! The stew was kind of ugly and missing something without the milk, plus it adds just an extra little punch of protein. That is, if you are able to somehow ignore the meat and beans ...

  5. I"ll go with a stew, but what ever you call it I'm sure you can call it delicious!! I would stick with your herb method, trust your nose and your common sense!

  6. That looks like a wonderful winter meal. My vote is for stew. That is usually the meatier one.

  7. Dennis: I'm sure I look a little nuts to my neighbours, sniffing at the pots on my balcony but it really does work, especially whe using an unfamiliar herb.

    Rick: I love that you say winter ... gotta love Nova Scotia, I just made this a week ago! To be fair, it was quite chilly on the day I made it. Poor hubby, not one person agreed with him.

  8. Thanks for stopping by. My lettuce did grow and looks more and more full. I needed to be patient! Looking at my own lettuce which has the happy trails of snails and slugs makes me realize how much chemical farmers must use to keep their lettuce so hole free.

    Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe. Looks great though I don't eat meat.

  9. Nirmala: That's fantastic! Although, bugs are not so fantastic. Doesn't it kind of freak you out? We eat locally and organically and though it is more expensive, I just can't feed my kids these weird chemicals. Some things do not wash off the produce.

    You know what, just nix the lamb! It already has a mix of beans in it so it can be transformed into a vegetarian recipe quite easily. we tend to eat more meat in the winter and know that it is getting warmer we're tending towards some more veg. dishes.

  10. who cares if it's soup or stew!? It has lamb in it--it's divine food! :)

  11. Olga: I agree! I love lamb so much it just might be a little wrong! :)