I may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. I am not a doctor; please consult your practitioner before changing your supplement or healthcare regimen.
A hearty bone-broth-based lamb stew that’s rich and (optionally) spicy is here turned into a humble feast, marked by a table with bowls of toppings, to pass and share. The condiments may be fermented, zesty, or fresh, and they each add conversation and harmony to the table. The food draws us together and gives us joy at the end of a day! This restful pleasure is increased when we use either the slow-cooker or the Instant Pot, both great, modern tools to make dinner come together with less work. This stew is ideal for several healing diets: Paleo, GAPS and Keto.
The sautéing stage of this stew can be prepped the night before or the morning of and then set to cook. The dish is delicious enough for guests but perfect for a family to appreciate in the simplicity of each others’ company. A bit spicy, it can be heated up or cooled down according to the cook’s and eaters’ tastes. I make it without the cayenne for my kids; and it’s a wink sweet from the garam masala (find it here).
I love the idea of making a paste from poppy seeds. This is the marvelous Pakistani beginning that starts the story of Middle Eastern Lamb Stew— an actual poetry of slow cooked meat, spices and gravy. If leg of lamb or lamb stew meat are too expensive, make lamb meatballs! (See the photo below with both options.) They will poach in the simmering gravy. Or use wild meat, sure: elk, venison, even beef can be substituted. But, lamb, it is special, and it adds the ethnic flair to this dish.
Middle Eastern Lamb Stew
Lamb Preparation, called Nihari
- 3 cups bone broth for slow cooker; 2 cups bone broth for Instant Pot
- 2 lbs. grass-fed lamb stew meat, (or lamb shoulder, cubed), or use ground lamb, rolled into 1"-2" balls
- 2 medium-large yellow onions, diced or sliced thinly; or use two green onion bunches for fewer carbs for Keto, diced
- 1/2 cup olive oil, duck fat, avocodao oil, meat fat, or ghee
- 1 2" length fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 5 cloves fresh garlic crushed or minced
- 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional; also great without
Poppy Seed Garam Masala
- 3 T. poppy seeds
- 2 T. garam masala, buy in bulk from a good spice vendor (a natural foods market with fast turnover to ensure freshness)
- 1 T. filtered water
- 2 cups cultured cream/probiotic sour cream
- 2 whole cucumbers, peeled and chopped
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed well and chopped
- 1 whole lime, cut into 6 wedges
- *Slow-Cooker/Crockpot*— Heat bone broth on high in crock pot, allowing enough time for it to heat before the following step is completed: In a large cast iron skillet heat fat, onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt over medium high heat, sautéing until onion is browned and tender, 20 minutes, turning the heat to medium-low after 10 minutes to prevent burning. *Instant Pot*— Use "Sauté" button to heat fat, onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Sauté until onion is softened, 10 minutes. Add bone broth to onion mixture.
- *Slow-Cooker/Crockpot*— Remove onion to crock pot with slotted spoon, and add meat cubes or meatballs, remaining sea salt and optional cayenne to skillet, browning on all sides, 8 minutes. Cook meat in two batches if it is too crowded. Add ginger and garlic, moving meat around with spices for 2-3 minutes. *Instant Pot*— Add lamb cubes (or meatballs), ginger, garlic, remaining sea salt and optional cayenne.
- *Slow-Cooker/Crockpot*— Transfer meat and spices to crock pot of hot broth. Use spatula to scrape in any bits from pan. Add Poppy Seed Garam Masala (see recipe below), stirring meat, broth and spices briefly to mix. *Instant Pot*— Add Poppy Seed Garam Masala (see recipe below), stirring meat, broth and spices briefly to mix. (If using meatballs, do not stir.)
- *Slow-Cooker/Crockpot*— Turn crock pot heat to low and cook for 5 hours, or up to all day, until meat is very tender. *Instant Pot*— Check that rubber ring is fitted inside Instant Pot lid. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, making sure the steam release valve is sealed. Press the “Stew” setting, and ensure the time reads 35 minutes. (If making meatballs, choose the "Manual" setting and set the time to 7 minutes.) When the Instant Pot is done and beeps, press “Cancel” (or simply allow Instant Pot to slow-release pressure and keep the stew warm, if you're away). Allow Instant Pot to release pressure naturally for 30 minutes. Place a dish towel over steam valve (or use oven mitt), and open it to release any remaining pressure. Remove lid.
- Serve with cultured cream, cucumbers, fresh lime wedges and fresh cilantro.
Poppy Seed Garam Masala
- In a spice grinder combine poppy seeds and water. Puree into a paste.*
- Transfer paste to a small bowl and add garam masala, stirring to mix.
Optional AdditionsYou may add other fresh herbs and spices, according to what you have on hand, or what you like: both fresh dill and fresh mint may be used to garnish the finished stew. Red chili flakes may be added to the cooking stew, instead of cayenne. For Paleo and GAPS, whole dried figs may be added to the stew, before it cooks. For Paleo, GAPS and KETO, other veggies may be added to the stew, before cooking, to create a larger meal.
Other NotesThe slow-cooker version of this recipe will be brothier than the Instant Pot version, because that extra liquid is needed to compensate for the evaporation that can take place with the long, slow cooking time that is unattended. As mentioned above, add lots of extra veggies, if desired.