Comfort Food

When I think of a "comfort food" or foods, I instantly think of something hearty, warm, and complete. And by complete I mean something that contains a lot of what I want and need in one single package, so to speak. Soups, chilis, casseroles and, of course, stews.

I enjoy a hearty, steaming hot bowl of stew. Growing up in the Midwest, I think, does that to a guy. And once I was out on my own, I found that many other cultures and traditions have their own types of stews. So, I present to you an easy to make, hearty, healthy stew with a cultural kick. I think of it as a middle-eastern potato stew. Yes, it does sound almost contradictory. But you will soon see how this comfort dish can be comfortably at home with anyone who loves hearty, meaty dishes combined with spicy middle-eastern seasonings.

Before we move on to the recipe, I reserve these next couple of lines for a brief discussion about curries. While the article certainly is not an at-length dissertation on the topic, I do very quickly want to help define what I mean when I use the term "curry." A curry, for our purposes here, is a blend of spices and seasonings that compliment each other and heightens the taste of a dish. I realise that that is a very loose definition and I'm sure to pay for it. Turkish, Indian, and other middle-eastern curries contain spices and seasonings that are both native and not to their respective regions. For those areas exposed to trade, non-native spices and flavourings were easily had and so they became customary in use to blend curries.

There is a misconception that curry blends are hot and spicy. Not necessarily so. Penzey's Spices, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin offers 5 different blends of curries. They range from mild and sweet to pungent and heavy to pique and hot. And they are designed to be used in both hot and cold dishes, with or without meats, and to build up a variety of vegetables. You can learn more about Penzeys and their many different spice offerings by visiting their website and signing up for their catalogue, which contains many spice facts and recipes.

Curry blends make their way in to a myriad of dishes. And that was the catalyst for this dish. This stew, I hope you will find, is an excellent use of the wonderful power behind seasonings and blends of seasonings. Happy cooking and enjoy!

Curried Potato Stew

  • 1/2 pound stew lamb meat
  • 1 whole white onion, coarsely shopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 small potatoes (preferably a low starch potato although any will work), chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 4 - 5 tablespoons curry blend
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or ricotta cheese

In a large skillet, brown the chunks of lamb -- being careful to cook thoroughly. As the meat cooks, stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of the curry blend. Place meat in a slow cooker or into a large pot set on "warm."

In the same skillet -- heat reduced -- with a touch of olive oil if needs be, slightly saute the garlic and onions to the point where the onions soften and begin to lose opacity. Do not over-cook. Add to the lamb.

Again, using the same skillet, cook down the carrots and potatoes for roughly 10 minutes, just to soften (less time may be needed). Add to the onions, garlic, and lamb.

Finally, in the skillet, make a gravy using the cornstarch and either hot water or broth. Add to the lamb, et al. Throw in the tomatoes to the mixture.

Careful that the mixture is not too hot, stir in the yogurt or cheese and incorporate well. Add the remaining spices, and about 1/2 cup water. Stir well and allow to cook with low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Serve hot.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 + hours