Make Ahead

New Mother's Magic Elixir (Lamb Stew)

March 23, 2010
6 Ratings
Photo by Nicole Franzen
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

For years now, every time a friend has a baby, I make this lamb stew. Each of these women has claimed magic healing powers in every bite. I can't personally attest to the magic, but it does taste just wonderful. The recipe is some melange of Julia's Navarin and a number of other recipes I tried along the way. —MrsWheelbarrow

Test Kitchen Notes

This rich stew is aromatic, satisfying, and just plain delicious. Every spoonful made me happy. My other half came home from work wanting to know what smelled so good. All the herbs plus the star anise gave it great depth of flavor. And the meat itself just melts in your mouth. I did use the Cahors wine which was not easy to find, a good Malbec could be used as an alternative. For the stock, I used the recommended substitute, a homemade chicken stock rather than a stock from lamb bones. The only problem I had with this recipe was adding the sugar to caramelize the onions -- the caramelization happens very quickly. I took my eye off the pan for a minute to open the wine and almost had burnt stew. Also, be sure to season with salt and pepper. They are listed in the ingredients but never mentioned in the directions. I can't wait to make this stew again using a lamb stock I can now make from the leftover lamb bones -- can it get any better? - clbeth —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, more to taste
  • 2 pounds lamb, cut into 2" cubes, preferably from the shoulder
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 18 pearl onions, peeled (or use frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 4 medium carrots, cut in 1" dice
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in 1" dice
  • 6 stalks thyme
  • 2 stalks rosemary
  • 10 stalks flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (I like to use Cahors)
  • 4 cups rich broth, preferably from roasted lamb bones, but chicken stock can be substituted
  • 2 cups russet potato, cut in 1" dice
  • 1 cup freshly picked peas, or frozen petite peas
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: preserved lemon rind, fresh horseradish, minced flat leaf parsley
  1. In a large heavy stew pot, heat olive oil until shimmering.
  2. Dry the meat well, then dredge lightly in the flour. Drop the lamb into the pot, browning and searing well. Do not crowd, cooking the meat in one layer and removing it from the pot once it's browned. Continue until all the meat has been seared. Remove to a plate.
  3. Heat the butter in the same pot until it's bubbling, then add the pearl onions and cook until browned. Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and get them good and caramelized. Remove to the plate with the lamb.
  4. If necessary, add more olive oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Cook the celery and carrots until just softened.
  5. With a piece of kitchen twine, tie together the herbs, tucking the star anise and bay leaf in the center of the bundle. Place in the pot. Add back the lamb and the onions.
  6. Turn up the heat, add the wine, and bring to a boil, cooking off the alcohol and scraping up all the tasty brown bits in the pot. Reduce by half. Turn down the heat, add the stock, cover and cook at a very low simmer for about an hour. (You can also put the entire covered pot in a 325 oven.)
  7. At this point, remove the herb bundle. Now, if you wish, you can freeze the stew, and continue with the recipe when ready to serve.
  8. Add the potato and cook the stew for 30 minutes more. Stir in the peas, cook for 5 minutes, and serve.
  9. Garnish the stew with diced preserved lemon rind, minced fresh parsley, and a grating of fresh horseradish.
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  • drbabs
  • AntoniaJames
  • Lizthechef
  • mrslarkin
  • MrsWheelbarrow
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12 Reviews

rachelsunday November 9, 2020
This was exceptional! My husband said it's in his top 3 list of his favorite meals I've ever made. I followed the recipe exactly but used a very rich roasted beef stock. The depth of flavor from all of the caramelization steps and the way the lamb just melts in your mouth made it one of the most delicious dishes I've had in a long time. Perfect as the weather cools down here in California. We ate it with a crusty pain au levain (toasted with lots of salted butter) and the horseradish is a must for serving! Thank you for this recipe!
drbabs April 3, 2017
Oh, wow, Cathy. This was delicious.
MrsWheelbarrow April 3, 2017
Hi Barbara! I'm so glad to hear it. This is a stand by in my arsenal. Always so delicious and nourishing. Coming to Austin in June! xo
Bridgitnm July 13, 2014
This looked so great and then i saw it was you Mrs. wheelbarrow!!
Tarragon April 30, 2012
I can't speak for new mothers, but for regular folks, this was great - wouldn't change a thing! I made this because I am a sucker for anything with star anise and I had most of the ingredients on hand. Used about 2 C stock from roasted lamb bones and 2 C mixed veal/chicken/beef stock. My new go-to recipe for lamb stew; thank you so much.
MrsWheelbarrow April 30, 2012
Thank *you* so much, Tarragon. It's time for me to make this again, too.
AntoniaJames March 23, 2010
Sounds so tasty!! Especially the garnish of freshly grated horseradish. I can see why the new mothers rave about this one. What's extra special about this recipe though is that you know that the women who received this beautiful gift will never, ever forget it . . . . . and will always associate it with that amazing, magical time in their lives, when they were welcoming into the world their own children. (I also think that the blast of high-quality animal protein is almost like a drug for many pregnant women and new mothers. It was for me!) ;o)
MrsWheelbarrow March 23, 2010
My unscientific research would agree!
Lizthechef March 23, 2010
Married to a lamb-lover, I keep promising to serve him something other than a couple of grilled chops - here's my chance - anniv. this weekend...Thank you.
MrsWheelbarrow March 23, 2010
Happy Anniversary!
mrslarkin March 23, 2010
This sounds wonderful. Saved it. Thanks for the recipe!
MrsWheelbarrow March 23, 2010
You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it!