Serve with your favorite starch like polenta or mashed potatoes, or like I did with a side of
pita Peeta bread.
If you haven’t been off stage in a sound-proof booth lately, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games – a popular trilogy of books and the soon to be released film based on them. After many glowing recommendations from friends, I started reading these books in January of 2011. I absolutely devoured them, finishing all three in under a month. The story is so compelling – once you pick it up, you almost can’t put it down. In case you’re unfamiliar with the premise, here is my super abbreviated plot summary…
A dystopian/post apocalyptic North America is divided into 12 districts, governed by “The Capital.” Each year a boy and girl from each district must participate in “The Hunger Games,” a brutal televised spectacle wherein they fight to the death… I know, I know. Sounds like a total downer – but, it.is.fascinating. It’s full of adventure, drama, action and a wee bit of romance. If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer for the film.
When reading the first book in the Hunger Games series, I was really intrigued by Lamb Stew With Dried Plumbs which the main character eats at several times during the story. It even plays a bit of a role in the plot. I like lamb, but I’ve never had it in a stew. I didn’t think I liked dried plumbs (Ew. Prunes, y’all), but it turns out I was wrong about that. Dried plumbs are tasty.
There is an unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook available at booksellers, but I didn’t at all feel like investing in a cookbook like that just to try one recipe. Instead, I did some online research and created one myself. I used middle eastern flavors, and traditional Irish preparation. I lucked out and it was a winning combination. As a bonus it made my whole house smell amazing!
This recipe is a nice balance of savory with subtle hints of sweetness. It’s rich and filling, warm and hearty, but surprisingly not at all heavy. It’s quite different than a beef stew you might savor by the fireplace on cold wintry nights. It’s perfectly appropriate for this gorgeous Spring weather we’re enjoying in San Antonio. The veggies and citrus notes add some brightness to the savory base of the dish.
Give it a try – it would make a great meal for St. Patty’s Day, Easter, or to get nice and full at your Hunger Games premier party.
Recipe Makes 8-10 Servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, grated (if you have a food processor with a grating attachment – it makes really quick work of grating the onion and garlic)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin if you don’t have garam masala in your pantry)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of salt & pepper
3 lbs lamb stew meat in 1 1/2 inch pieces pieces
1 cup beer (I used a Shiner Bock, because it’s what I had in the fridge)
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
4-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds
Zest of 1 large naval orange in wide strips
2 cups sweet potatoes in 1/2 inch pieces
3 roasted red bell peppers (jarred is fine) cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup whole dried plums (prunes y’all!)
1 cup frozen green peas
In a large, heavy pot like a dutch oven over medium heat, combine the oil, onion garlic, chili powder, garam masala and cinnamon. Stir well, then add the meat to the spice mixture and coat it well.
Increase the heat to high, then add the beer, chicken stock and orange zest. Bring to a boil then add the sweet potatoes. Reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers and dried plumbs. Simmer, partially covered for around 30 minutes more. The sweet potatoes, orange zest and most of the prunes will break down while they are cooking till they nearly disappear and thicken the stew. At the end, add in the frozen peas and stir to incorporate them well.
Serve immediately, or let it refrigerate overnight so that the flavors come together even more. This dish makes delicious leftovers.