Chef Tom – Lamb, Pork, Pumpkin, and Music

To continue with the theme of Fall and all the wonderful colors, textures and flavors available during this time of year, here are a couple of warming stews, perfect for the cooling evenings.

They call it comfort food for a reason, yes? I would also call Lamb Stew soul food. Meat and potatoes. What more do you need.

There is a wonderful little – always busy – hole in the wall here in San Francisco called Burma Superstar.  They have one dish on the menu that is a must-have, called Pork and Pumpkin Stew. The pumpkin is always a squash called kabocha. I love the gentle, mealy texture and the fact that you do not have to peel it. If you’ve never cooked with kabocha, you’re in for a treat.



Lamb Stew

Serves 6

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon thyme, minced

8 cups chicken stock (or bone broth)

1 large leek, finely chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½ -inch pieces

3 large stalks of celery, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 large turnips, peeled and cubed into ½ -inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Guinness

1 cup instant mashed potatoes

Season lamb cubes with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven brown lamb in olive oil, on med-high heat, in batches, until pieces are nice and brown (about 3 minutes per side) and remove from pan.  Reduce heat to low and add chopped leek to sweat (pan is covered), scraping up brown bits as leeks releases juices.  Return lamb to pan and cook 1-2 minutes.

Add Guinness and cook, scraping up brown bits.

Add 6 cups of broth, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste and bring pot to a slow simmer. Simmer lamb, uncovered, 1  1/2 hours. Keep watch on the pan so it doesn’t cook too fast.

To lamb mixture add potatoes, onion, carrots, turnip, celery, and remaining 2 cups of broth and simmer, covered, until vegetables are soft and stew thickens.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6


2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled

1 pound kale (1 large bunch) either curly or cavolo nero, ribs removed, leaves washed

1 1/4 cups low-fat milk

1/8 cup chopped scallions (about 3 scallions)

1/8 cup unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Drain off the water, return the potatoes to the pan, cover tightly and let steam over very low heat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher or a fork, through a food mill or in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, while still hot.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil), until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Transfer to the ice water, allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop fine (you can use a food processor).

Towards the end of the potato cooking time, combine the milk and the scallions in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for a few minutes. Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes and beat in the milk and butter or olive oil. The mixture should be fluffy (you can do this in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle).

Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Place a hot scoop into a big bowl of lamb stew. Serve with Irish soda bread, or any whole grain loaf, with plenty of butter. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal.

Pork and Pumpkin

Burmese Pork and Pumpkin Stew
Serves 4-6

2 pounds boneless pork, trimmed into 2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped fine

1 whole garlic head

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/3 tablespoon paprika

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 small can tomato paste

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1 teaspoon Chile Flakes (or more if you want spice)

2 cups chicken stock (or bone broth)

1 small kabocha squash, seeded, stemmed and cut into 1-inch chunks (peel and all)

1 ½ cup coconut flakes, unsweetened

4 tablespoons raisins (or cranberries or currants)


Mix the half of the spices and all of the ginger into the meat. Let sit for an hour.

Caramelize the onions to dark brown in the butter over low heat, covered, stirring every ten minutes or so, until dark brown.  When the onions have fully caramelized add the tomato and anchovy pastes and the remaining spices and bloom and brown for 3-5 minutes.

Add stock to the pan and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan.

Add the pork.

Slice off the top 1/3 of the head of garlic and push down to the bottom of the pan, cut side down.

Simmer the stew for one hour (a gentle bubble).

Remove the garlic head and using tongs, squeeze the cloves into the stew. Add the squash and simmer for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

In this last 20 minutes, lightly toast the coconut flakes in a dry pan over med-low heat, stirring often, carefully so not to burn. Let cool. Mix the toasted flakes with the dried fruit and use as a condiment for the stew.

On That Note

I don’t know what it is lately with me and quirky lesbian musicians, but hey, if they’re good they’re good. I love their high, clear harmonies, their catchy rhythms and their intriguing lyrics. They also have a very appealing, down-home aesthetic.

Ladies and germs, The Rainbow Girls:

The girls love to jam with – and occasionally join on stage – other like-hearted musicians, like this young guy.

May I also introduce the music of John Craigy:


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.”

Check him out at

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