If you’ve ever read The Hunger Games trilogy, you’ve probably noted that the most memorable dish in said texts is Katniss’ memorable meal of lamb stew with dried plums over wild rice. Her first taste of it in book one is at the games training center in the Capitol, and she is later rewarded with more of it later on during her time inside the game arena (it pops up in the following books quite a few times as well).
To create this dish, I used my favorite Irish Guinness beef stew as the base recipe: swapped out the beef for lamb, traded the Guinness for red wine, and threw in some dried plums (a.k.a.: prunes). Otherwise, the base is simply, onions, carrots, potatoes, fresh herbs and tomato paste — all items that can be easily found at your local grocery store.
This rustic lamb stew is incredibly easy to make and is the perfect dish to serve over these next few chilly months. The lamb is tender and slightly sweet, further enhanced by the herbaceous rosemary and sweet prunes. If lamb is too pricey for your budget, simply use beef or pork stew meat in its place. This can be simmered on the stove top for about 45 minutes, or cooked low and slow in a slow cooker over the course of a few hours. It is great served on its own, but to keep with the original inspiration for the dish, it’s even better served over wild rice (though I prefer a wild rice blend as wild rice can be rather chewy and rather costly).
Put yourself in Katniss’ shoes and volunteer yourself as tribute for cooking up this heartwarming meal. And may the odds be ever in your favor.
(P.S.: Happy New Year!)
Lamb Stew with Dried Plums Over Wild Rice
Inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy and films
Makes about 6-8 servings
High-heat cooking oil, as needed
2 pounds lamb meat, cubed into 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons flour
A large pinch of salt and pepper, plus extra for finishing
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (no stems)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups low-sodium beef broth or stock (or more, if needed)
1 cup dried plums, cut in half
1 Bay leaf
2 large Russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
To serve: 6 cups cooked wild rice or wild rice blend
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Put lamb in a large bowl and toss with flour, salt and pepper. When oil in the pot is hot, sauté add lamb, shaking off excess flour, until browned on at least two sides. Do this in batches if the lamb is too crowded in the pot (saving any excess flour that’s in the bowl); add a little more cooking oil if needed in between batches. Transfer seared lamb to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving excess grease in the pot.
Reduce heat to medium and add onions, carrots and herbs to pot, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic, and stir for about a minute to let the tomato caramelize. Sprinkle reserved flour over the vegetables, stir in well, and let cook for at least another 30 seconds to cook off the raw flour.
Add the wine, stir and let it cook for about a minute. Add broth, dried plums, herbs, Bay leaf, potatoes and the seared lamb (along with excess juices on the plate) and bring to a heavy simmer over medium-high heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer on low for at least 45 minutes, until the potatoes and lamb are cooked through. Halfway through cooking time, uncover the pot to allow the stew to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Serve alongside or over wild rice and seeded bread.
To cook stew in the slow cooker, follow directions above, cooking ingredients in a pot or large saute pan, stopping after the wine is added. Put all ingredients (except rice) in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on the low setting for 7-8 hours.