• STEP 1

    Heat the oil in a large casserole. Tip in the lamb and cook for 5 mins until any liquid has disappeared, then add the onion, carrots and leeks. Cook for 5 mins more, stirring often, until the veg is starting to soften.

  • STEP 2

    Pour over the stock, add the rosemary, cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 1 hr. Stir in the beans and cook for 30 mins more, topping up with water if necessary, until the lamb is tender and cooked through. Serve with some crusty bread or potatoes, if you like.

What is lamb stew?

Chunks of lamb are slow cooked in stock until tender and served in flavourful broth. The meat can be seared on the hob before being transferred to the oven or simmered on the hob over a low heat until the meat is tender. There are lots of versions of lamb stew, but the most popular options are Irish stew, with chunks of potato and pearl barley; lamb hot pot topped with thin slices of potato that are cooked until golden and crisp; and stew and dumplings, cooked with vegetables and stock and topped with a suet-and-flour dough that creates comforting, fluffy dumplings.

What cut of lamb is best for stewing?

The best cuts for stewing are shoulder, leg or neck fillet – it needs to quite a hard-working muscle with some fat marbling through it that will break down during the slow cooking to create tender meat. It’s also best with economical cuts that are boneless – keep saddle, rack and lamb chops for roasting. Lamb breast is also too fatty – the resulting gravy would be too greasy. You can buy ready diced ‘stewing lamb’, which will be either shoulder or leg. To have more control on the size of the chunks of meat, buy shoulder or leg steaks and dice yourself.

Why sear the lamb before stewing?

By searing the lamb in a little oil before adding any liquid and slow cooking, you add flavour and colour to the gravy. As the meat caramelises on the outside, this gets stirred into the gravy when the stock is added, which improves the depth of flavour in the stew significantly.

How long do you cook lamb stew?

Depending on the cut of meat and how big the chunks are, a lamb stew will need around 1.5 hours cooking. You could transfer to the oven on a low heat and cook for up to 2 hours. Make sure to check the stew halfway through cooking, topping up with more stock if lots has evaporated and stirring well to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom and everything is cooking evenly.

Can I add other vegetables?

Leeks, potatoes and carrots are traditional in a stew, but you could add chunks of celeriac, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash or fennel, too. Just make sure to cut the vegetables into evenly sized pieces so they cook through at the same time. Add similar vegetables at the same time – for example, tip in softer vegetables later on in the cooking time. Some stews include stout, wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée or spices to flavour the gravy. Lamb is quite a strong flavour, so can withstand plenty of flavourings. Most recipes use chicken or vegetable stock, as lamb stock can be too strong for this quantity.

What do I serve lamb stew with?

Crusty bread, potatoes or dumplings are great with lamb stew. It’s traditionally a one-pot dish with meat, vegetables and carbs (in the form of potatoes or pulses), so no sides are really needed.

Is lamb stew freezable?

Lamb stew will keep for up to four months in the freezer. Defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a pan on the hob until simmering and piping hot.

Can this be adapted for a slow cooker?

You can cook lamb stew in a slow cooker if you prefer. Sear the meat in batches and fry the veg using the sear function on your slow cooker or in a frying pan, then transfer everything to the slow cooker pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours until the meat is tender.

You could also pressure cook if preferred. Check the lamb is tender after 25-30 minutes at high pressure. You won’t need to top up with stock during cooking, as less evaporation will happen compared to cooking it on the hob. To make a thicker gravy, toss the lamb in a light dusting of flour before frying in oil – this will help thicken the gravy once the stock has been added.

For other lamb recipes using a slow cooker, try this Moroccan-inspired lamb stew with lots of warming spices, lemon and olives. For a low-fat curry with kale, try this slow-cooked lamb curry. Or, stir up our slow-cooked lamb shanks to serve with mashed potatoes.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, December 2009

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