Lamb Stew with Black Beans

As the weather gets colder, hearty stews are often on the menu. Their initial cooking time is fairly short, and then all that is needed is to place the pot in the oven for a few hours.
Beans are the perfect addition to such hearty stews, and I decided to add some to the pot. I usually pair lamb with white beans and Mediterranean herbs, but, when I realized I only have black beans, I decided to go with this option. After that, the addition of Mexican/Caribbean flavors was only natural. So, spices such as cinnamon, cumin, and cocoa powder, found their way into the pot, along with the original herbs. The result was a very rich, flavorful and aromatic stew. Served with white rice, and fresh additions such as cilantro leaves, avocado, pomegranate seeds and lime wedges, the dish was even more colorful and tasty. Try it and enjoy.

Makes: 2-4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours

Ingredients:
1 medium onion
1 celery stick
2 medium carrots
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground four pepper mix
3-4 bay leaves
½ fresh rosemary sprig
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 lbs (455 grams) lamb shoulder blade chops
1 can (15.5 oz/440 grams) black beans, drained
1 can (14.5 oz/410 grams) diced tomatoes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 Tbs Harissa paste
1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups beef or vegetables stock
For serving (optional):
Freshly cooked basmati rice (see instructions HERE)
Fresh cilantro leaves
Sliced avocado
Pomegranate seeds
Lime wedges

1. Dice the onion, celery and carrots, and place in a wide pot. Add 1 Tbs of the oil, 1 tsp salt. pepper, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme, and mix. Sauté over medium-high heat, mixing occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
2. Move the vegetables to one side of the pot, and add the remaining 1 Tbs of oil to the clean side. Once heated, add the lamb and season with the rest of the salt. Sauté until golden-brown on both sides.

3. Add the beans, tomatoes, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, harissa paste and cilantro, and mix well. Add the stock, mix gently, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

4. Preheat the oven to 220C (105C). Place the covered pot in, and braise for 1 hour. Lower the heat to 180F (80C) and braise for another hour.

5. At this point, the stew is ready to serve. However, it will taste even better the following day. If choosing this option, bring to room temperature before placing, covered, in the fridge. When ready to serve, reheat over medium-low heat. Serve with rice, avocado, cilantro leaves, pomegranate seeds and lime wedges.

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