I'll get to the stew recipe in a second. First, I have to admit my consuming crush on Rachel Khoo, British author of The Little Paris Kitchen. Just look at this chick. She's my style ideal, a girly girl made of equal parts flirty Audrey Hepburn bangs, vintage frocks, and commanding red lipstick. Don't you just want to meet her on a warm evening for a Lillet (or three) and talk about lingerie? I do.
With what can be day-in, day-out dinnertime drudgery, Rachel's approach to food is a reminder of something all too easy to forget: that great cooking can inject style and creativity into the everyday. Put simply: she's an inspiration. Whether it's opening her tiny apartment kitchen to strangers in order to test the recipes for this cookbook or figuring out how best to use the first strawberries of the season, Rachel brings a kind of sensuous, feminine fun to cooking we haven't seen since we first discovered Nigella Lawson. The world could use more of that.
And now for her lamb stew. Rachel suggests we take heavy beef stews out of the rotation and add in this lighter, livelier one instead. It also happens to be dead easy, and could simmer away in a slow-cooker. If you can't make it to a meat counter for lamb necks, substitute lamb stew meat or lamb shanks. Serve on a still-blustery evening with a strawberry-pistachio tart for possibly the chicest spring dinner ever.
SPRING LAMB STEW
from The Little Paris Kitchen
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 11/2- 2 hours
2 pounds lamb neck, cut into pieces
2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
4 carrots, cut into chunks
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 ½ ounces green beans, chopped
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Brown the meat, garlic and onion with the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole (cocotte). Add the bay leaf, thyme and carrots, and enough water to cover the meat by at least an inch. Bring to a simmer and remove any scum that rises to the top. Once all the scum is removed, cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1½ - 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Ten minutes before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the peas and beans. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, then drain.
Take the casserole out of the oven and remove the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme. Add the peas and beans to the lamb with salt and pepper to taste, and serve straight away.