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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 3 comments

Okay... so I was a little late to this party. I only read the Hunger Games last week after being intrigued by the hype and the trailers for the new movie. I have to admit that I am partial to a bit of Sci Fi & Fantasy and have dipped my toe into the world of Young Adult fiction a few times... Harry Potter & the Twilight saga being among my favorites. And the Hunger Games did not disappoint. In fact, I loved it so much that I read all three books back-to-back (an advantage of coming late to the party) in a matter of days! One of the best things about this series is the role-model-worthy strong female lead... by comparison, Hermione Grainger is frankly a bit of a nerd and Bella Swann tends to grate on the nerves after a while, whereas, Katniss Everdeen is a feisty, butt-kicking, strong young woman... something rather absent in a popular fiction for young people.  I approve!

One of the most obvious themes running through the series is food... the indulgent & extravagant meals of the Capitol residents compared to the shocking lack of food in the districts and arenas. And the author Suzanne Collins does an amazing job of making the readers' mouths  water with her descriptions of the former. I was particularly envious of the Lamb and dried plum stew that becomes Katniss' favourite, so much so that I was inspired to recreate this dish by adapting my own Lamb stew recipe. In my mind, I imagined it to have a middle eastern quality, hence the addition of warm aromatic spices such as cinnamon and sumac (worth trying to get hold of if possible, but can be substituted with the finely grated zest of half a lemon).  A rich and hearty dish like this deserved long and slow cooking, so it was a perfect opportunity to get out my trusty slowcooker!

You will need...
  • 2lb lamb stew meat (diced boneless shoulder is very tasty)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) stock (preferably lamb, but beef can substitute)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree (paste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 level tablespoons dried sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (sounds like a lot, but lamb needs it in my opinion)
Reserve until last hour and a half of slow cooking...
  • 1 1/2 cups (approximately 300g) pitted prunes (dried plums!)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (you can substitute butternut squash or sweet potato if you prefer, or do a mix of root vegetables)

Simply toss the diced lamb cubes in the flour and then brown in a frying pan with the olive oil.  Remove to the crockpot with a slotted spoon. 

Then gently brown the onions in the same pan you browned the lamb.  Deglaze the pan with a splash of the red wine and then put the onions & juices from the pan into the crockpot with the meat.

Finally, add the rest of the wine, the stock and the spices & seasonings and mix well.

Cook on 'high' for 5-6 hours or on 'low' for about 8 hours, or until the meat is tender.  Add the dried fruit, carrots and honey for the last hour and a half of cooking if on high or 2 hours if on low (this stops mushy carrots), and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve with wild rice (as Katniss was served hers before the Hunger Games) or mixed grains and sliced crusty, wholegrain or seeded bread in homage to Rue & the District 11 bakers... I guess if I was being purist, I would bake crescent shaped loaves with seeds from scratch!

If you don't have a crockpot, you could make this in a standard casserole dish.  Just cook slowly in the oven for approximately 3-4 hours at 285'F (140'C).

Enjoy... and may the odds ever be in your favor!

3 Responses so far.

  1. Rachel Sharp says:

    I don't have Sumac, would tamarind substitute?

  2. Mama Max says:

    Hey Rachel!

    I would say you could try tamarind as it has a similar fruity/sour flavour... although, I would worry that the tamarind would overwhelm the other flavours too as it's quite strong.

    If you can't get sumac, you could try to get some zataar (a spice blend that contains sumac).

    However, the simplest substitution is lemon zest. Add small amounts at a time and taste so that you don't make it too lemony!

    Hope you like the recipe... we loved it!

  3. Rigby says:

    Looks yummy! I was also intrigued by the lamb stew in the story- glad you tried making the recipe!

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