Middle Eastern Lamb Stew with Rhubarb

By Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely This recipe, which I included in a past article on rhubarb, fits here perfectly, as rhubarb is a harbinger of spring. The leafy plant with tart pink edible stems comes from Asia. It is often braised with lamb in Persia, Afghanistan, Iran, the Balkans, and Middle East, seasoned perhaps with saffron, cumin, allspice, or tomato. In this version, just before serving, rhubarb segments are placed on top of the lamb chunks to steam, adding brightness in color and flavor to the rich, dark stew.

Makes 4 or more servings.

Ingredients

About 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or a combination of oil and butter 2 large onions, chopped 2 pounds lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds About 3 cups vegetable stock or water 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves Salt and pepper to taste 2 or 3 rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut across in 1 1/2-inch pieces

Preparation

Heat the oil in a wide pot and over moderate heat cook the onions, stirring, until translucent. Push them to the side and add some of the lamb cubes in one layer, browning and turning them as they color. Depending on the size of your pot, push them to the side or remove them to a bowl to make room for the rest of the lamb. When all the meat is well browned, add the coriander seed and stock or water. Cover the pot loosely and simmer for about an hour, until the lamb is tender. Keep an eye on it to see that the stew doesn’t become dry, adding more liquid as needed.

When the lamb is tender and the sauce reduced, season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and mint or coriander (cilantro). Set the rhubarb pieces on top of the lamb, cover closely, and cook over low heat for a few minutes, just until the rhubarb is tender (know that hothouse rhubarb cooks faster than field rhubarb). Serve the stew with the rhubarb pieces intact on top of the chunks of lamb with the sauce spooned around. Rice makes a perfect accompaniment.