Are you eyeing off your slow cooker now that the weather has turned cooler but lacking inspiration? Acupuncturist Russell O’Reilly has shared with Wellspring one of his favourite recipes which will step you through cooking lamb so that it falls off the bone.
This dish is also jam packed with health benefits from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.
1.2kg shoulder or leg of lamb
5 cloves garlic
3 medium brown onions
2 large carrots
1 small gold sweet potato
2 large sebago potatoes
10 large roma tomatoes
2 cans good quality peeled whole tomatoes
1 litre beef stock
1 tspn fresh chopped thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste if desired
Skin your tomatoes - this is easily done with some blanching. Take out the eye of the tomatoes with a sharp paring knife in a circular gouging motion, then at the opposite end of the tomato score an ‘X’ a few millimetres deep. Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a moderate boil and drop in the tomatoes. Wait five minutes or until you see the skin starting to lift. Pour contents through a colander and then place the tomatoes in a bowl of water and ice cubes. Once cool you will be easily able to peel the skin away from the flesh at the X incision. Set aside.
Peel and roughly chop onions and garlic. Hint – keep your onions in the fridge overnight. You won’t cry as much when they are cold! Peel and cube roughly (2cm x 2cm) and keep your carrots, sweet potato, Sebago potato and skinned tomatoes in a separate bowl. Prepare your lamb. Take as much fat and sinew off the meat as possible and dice into rough, manageable-sized chunks. You can also leave your selected cut of lamb whole, bone-in or out as long as it is fully immersed during the stewing process.
Brown off portions of your lamb in a hot pan in stages. Don’t over-crowd the pan as you will end up broiling your meat and it will be tough. You’re aiming to get just a slight kiss of caramelisation to the outsides. Set aside.
Have your 10 litres plus pot on a moderate to high heat with generous lashings of olive oil. Place the onions and garlic into the pot and stir until caramelised and translucent. Add your thyme and lamb to the mix and stir, coating the lamb with wonderful juices in the bottom of the pot. Add a touch of stock along the way if you’re worried your lamb is starting to burn. It will quickly reduce, increasing the hearty flavour of the dish.
Add stock, canned and skinned tomatoes, bring to the boil, add your carrots and potatoes and reduce to a moderate simmer. If your fluid levels are not covering the pot contents then top up with more stock or water.
With the lid off keep the casserole simmering for at least three hours. Aim for longer if your fluid is still covering the casserole (up to six hours). The aim here is to reduce the contents which intensifies the flavour. The end result should be intense flavours of tomato, caramel and lamb which will fall apart in your mouth.
Traditional Chinese Medicine health benefits
This dish will promote beneficial actions on the spleen, kidney, heart and liver. It will strengthen chi (life force), the blood and assist digestion and immunity.
For spleen deficiency, meals that are easily digestible such as stews, casseroles and congee are nourishing and will not place stress on the spleen.
Lamb is warming in nature and strengthens the spleen and kidneys.
Onion is warm, pungent and assists digestion.
Garlic is also warm and pungent and has powerful antimicrobial qualities, strengthening the lungs against cold and flu.
Thyme produces powerful antiseptic essential oils which are antibiotic and anti-fungal in nature, having the power to act against bacteria and viruses.
Sweet potato benefits the spleen and lungs and is easily digestible.
Tomatoesnourish the heart due to their red pigmentation.
About Russell O’Reilly
Russell is an experienced acupuncturist and the owner and director of Albion Acupuncture Clinic in Brisbane. He has worked extensively overseas and his needle techniques and styles are not commonly seen outside of China. He is also the CEO of San Acupuncture Supplies and Equipment, which supplies high end boutique hardware to traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners.