Chef Tom – Spicy Saucy Lamb Stew

Fall is my favorite time of year for cooking. It’s also my favorite time of year for color, and texture, and for getting warm. I love being cold, and then getting warm. The most warming things to eat are soups and stews. Plus I only need a bowl. A pot and a bowl.  Simple. Bowl of something warm and a hunk of bread. Couldn’t get any better.

Here’s a lovely stew with a wonderful Middle Eastern profile. What I love about this recipe is you add a few side bowls filled with yummy condiments and everyone can custom make their own dinner. The crunch of cauliflower “breadcrumbs,” the tang of torn green olives, the creaminess of lemon-mint yogurt, and the pungency and surprising bite of preserved lemon – all add multi-dimensions to a bowl of hearty goodness. Make some this weekend.

Warm and Spicy Lamb Stew
Serves 4


Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds lamb stew, patted dry

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, cut into 1″ wedges

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, crushed

2 tablespoons harissa paste


1/2 cup castelveltrano olives, pitted, torn into 1/4 inch pieces

2 tablespoons preserved lemon, minced

1/2 bunch fresh mint

1 small head cauliflower

1 tablespoon melted butter

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Season lamb stew with salt and pepper. Brown stew in batches, in olive oil in a frying pan, over med-high heat, until nice and dark, about 5 minutes per side. Remove meat from skillet.

Reduce heat to medium; add onions and caramelize for 15 minute, stirring every 5 or so. Add smashed garlic and cook, 5 minutes. Add cinnamon and coriander and cook, stirring constantly, until spices are very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add harissa paste and cook, stirring often and scraping bottom of pot, until vegetables are coated and paste is slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, stirring to release any bits stuck on bottom of pot. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Return lamb to pot and bring stew back up to a simmer. Cover with a lid, leaving slightly askew so steam can escape, and cook, adjusting heat to maintain a very gentle simmer and skimming foam from surface as needed, until meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Transfer lamb shanks to a cutting board and let cool 10–15 minutes; keep liquid at a simmer. Pull meat from bones and tear into bite-size pieces. Add bones back to pot as you go. Transfer meat to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Simmer bones in broth, uncovered, until liquid is thick and very flavorful, 25–30 minutes. Remove from heat; add meat back to pot and let cool uncovered (bones and all) until no longer steaming. Cover pot and chill stew at least 12 hours (you can skip this step, but it will dramatically improve the flavor).

Ladle stew into bowls and serve with Toasted Cauliflower Crumbs, Mint Yogurt, more harissa, olives, fresh mint leaves, and/or preserved lemon as desired.

Do Ahead: Stew can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Toppings Preparation

Toasted Cauliflower Crumbs

Heat oven to 350.

Coarsely chop cauliflower and pulse in a food processor until about the size of grains of rice (or, you can very finely chop with a knife instead). You should have about 1 cup.

Melt the butter and add to the cauliflower crumbs, mix well with your hands, and place onto a pre-oiled foil-lined cookie sheet.  Roast the cauliflower, stirring often, until golden brown all over and charred in spots, 6–8 minutes. Remove from oven, season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Lemony Mint Yogurt

Mix yogurt, mint, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

On That Note

Something Old, Something New

This vid of Joe Cocker came across my feed a few weeks ago. His performance at Woodstock really put him on the map. He’s been gone now four years, but the intertubes are full of some of his best performances over the years. This one was from a live concert in 2002 in Cologne. I love the lead-in. Starts with Joe singing a slow lyric, then a piano arpeggio, a sexy blast from the sax and a thumping bass that gets you moving (oh, that bass). Turn your speakers up.

Man knew how to rock.

Only recently did I hear about Laura Pergolizzi (LP). When I first saw this performance I thought she was a he who was presenting herself as a she. But nope. She’s the real deal. She’s androgynous, for sure, with an amazing range, exhilarating style, and a wonderful quirkiness.

Plus, she’s a helluva songwriter.


Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

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