Persian herb and lamb stew

The meat plays second fiddle to the herbs in this Iranian inspired stew.
The meat plays second fiddle to the herbs in this Iranian inspired stew. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Dietary
Gluten-free

What I love about this stew is that it's actually all about the fragrant green herbs, not the lamb, which is there to complement rather than steal the show. And while it does require a LOT of herbs, it is simple to make, looking after itself on the stove as you get on with living, while providing all the necessary comfort and fortitude we look for in a stew. My tip is to really cook down the herbs – it releases the most phenomenal green oils. This really is a dish to behold.

Ingredients

850g butterflied lamb leg, chopped into large bite-sized pieces

½ tbsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sumac

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried fenugreek

1 large brown onion, finely diced

3-4 cups chicken stock

Herb mixture

leaves from 2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley

leaves from 2 large bunches coriander

1 bunch spring onions

1 bunch chives

3 tbsp olive oil

Method

1. Add the chopped lamb, turmeric, sumac, garlic, olive oil and fenugreek to a bowl and toss to combine.

2. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and once hot, add the lamb, and cook, browning all over for 5-10 minutes. It's important not to rush this step, you want the meat to brown and the fat to caramelise.

3. Push the lamb to the side and add the onion and cook, stirring to prevent catching, until the onion has softened, about another 5 minutes.

4. Add 3 cups of the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a low heat, with the lid partially on the pot, and simmer for about 1.5 hours (up to 2 hours). You want the meat to break apart with a fork and the liquid to have mostly reduced. Depending on your stove top and the rate of evaporation, I always like to have a spare cup of stock nearby in case the liquid evaporates before the cooking time is up. If it's beginning to look too dry, add the additional cup of stock.

5. For the herb mixture, add the parsley and coriander to a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.

6. Chop the chives and spring onion by hand, as finely as possible, and add to the herbs. (You can't chop these in the food processor as they will just turn to mush.)

7. Place a frypan over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of oil and the herb mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. It's important to cook the herbs until they become quite dry. It seems a little counter-intuitive to cook fresh herbs like this, but it is where so much of the stew's flavour comes from. Remove and stir through the lamb, and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

8. Squeeze over lemon juice and season with salt, sumac and pepper as required, just prior to serving. Serve as is or with rice.

Note: Traditionally this style of stew would include Persian black limes, but given their limited availability, I have substituted that deep lemony-lime flavour with sumac. Also, if you want to bulk this out, it is often served with kidney beans.

More stews from Katrina Meynink