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Navarin d'agneau

LanguedocLiving, May 22

Andrea Swan, and her neighbour, Monique Guezel, describe this recipe as the harbinger of spring.  It will likely be the last of the hearty stews of winter but it provides a glimpse of the coming season of abundance.

Andrea goes on to explain this recipe:

If French mangetouts are not available, but fresh peas are ready, then after shelling the peas, Monique adds a few pea pods to the recipe for some extra flavour. She maintains that the secret is to use new spring vegetables to enhance the flavours. In France, the butcher tends to leave fat and bone on the cuts. That, I think, is what provides the rich taste to stews and casseroles.

I was amazed to watch Monique prepare this recipe when she simply sprinkled the flour over the vegetables and then added the water. I assumed that the result would be lumpy gravy. But nothing of the sort happened. Instead, the sauce was smooth, rich and tinged a lovely bronze colour that Monique said was due to the flour and fat combining.

Monique also cautions about the correct way to add potatoes to a stew. She says that potatoes should be added to the stew and cooked when the meal will be eaten and not as part of the first stewing. Otherwise, the potatoes become tough when re-heated. In making this dish, I found that par-boiling the potatoes before adding them to the navarin ensured that they would be tender, and not under-cooked.

Ingredients for 4 people:

1 kg lamb shoulder cut into large chucks with fat attached
6-8 small onions
8-12 small carrots
8-12 small turnips
8-12 small potatoes
2 cloves garlic
24 green beans
24 pea pods or the peas from 24 pea pods, including 4 pea pods
2 tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sauteing 

Preparation:

Liberally coat large pot with olive oil and add lamb pieces in small batches.

Cook lamb until nicely browned on all sides. When finished, set aside.

Slowly add all remaining ingredients except potatoes to the pot and turn to coat on all sides. Allow to lightly brown in the fat.

Sprinkle the vegetables with flour, turn to coat them and then return the lamb chunks to the pot.

Add the water, cover pot and bring to a simmer. Allow the mixture to cook slowly until almost tender.

This dish is best prepared the day before serving to allow the flavours to mature but adding the potatoes during the final cooking. This dish worked well with a rosé from the local Cave Cooperative, fresh bread from the boulangerie and a salad of local greens.

Andrea and Monique's book “Travels in Languedoc: Secrets to a Memorable Visit” can be bought from Amazon.

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