I’m particularly fond of using my slow cooker when staying at altitude. We ski in Deer Valley, Utah quite regularly and I find the prospect of putting meals on the table at 8,400 feet quite a challenge. None of my well-honed kitchen skills work quite the way I want them to. My roast chickens take forever and end up dry and tired. My pasta is mealy. My rice is a total catastrophe. BUT, anything done in the slow cooker where the whole problem of excessive evaporation can be completely avoided is a rockin’ success. This lamb stew at the end of a hard day of skiing, or really any challenging winter day, is a perfect repast. It’s oh so warm and cozy, slightly aromatic from the cumin and the anise – and full of hearty protein to keep you going.
Slow Cooker Lamb Stew with Lentils (6 servings)
- 1 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked over for small stones
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 3 lbs lamb stew meat, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 2 teaspoons cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock (prefer organic)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 10 ounces crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced or quartered
- 2 cups carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
Spread the rinsed lentils on the bottom of your slow cooker.
Grind the cumin and anise seeds in a mortar and pestle and set aside. This is a perfect task for children who need to get out their aggression. It involves lots of smashing and grinding. What could be better?
Heat the grapeseed oil in a Dutch Oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb cubes and brown on all sides for 7-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the Dutch Oven and place over the lentils in the slow cooker. Add the onion to the pan and sauté on medium heat until soft, 10-12 minutes. Add the anise seeds, cumin seeds and ground cumin to the onions and sauté on medium for 3 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock, honey, crimini mushrooms and carrots and simmer for 3 final minutes. Pour into the slow cooker with the lamb and the lentils. If the lamb isn’t completely covered add another ½ cup of broth and press the meat down into the liquid so that the lamb does not dry out during the cooking process.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you’ll be home during the cooking process it does help to stir the dish once or twice. If you’ll be away the entire time, don’t worry. All will be well, with or without any stirring. At six hours the lentils will be just tender. You can serve the dish then, or if you need to be away for a full 8 hours, the stew will be just fine for the additional time. Thirty minutes before you plan to serve the stew add the salt. You’ll need less salt if your chicken stock is quite salty. Add one teaspoon first and taste the sauce, if necessary add the additional half a teaspoon.
Serve the stew over mashed potatoes, rice or a hearty piece of toast.