This is an excellent spring stew, to be made when the lambs are gambolling and the ravishing little baby turnips - an essential part of this dish - are just appearing. You don’t often find a navarin in British restaurants, but it is a fine family dish.
Whatever meat from the lamb you are using (you can mix them if you so wish), remove all excess fat and any hard bits of skin. Any bits of bone can be kept to be added to the stew for greater flavor, and removed after cooking. Cut the meat into
Heat the olive oil in a big frying pan until very hot but not smoking, then brown the lamb cubes rapidly on all sides. Do not crowd the pan, but brown a few pieces of lamb at a time, removing them with a slotted spoon into a waiting flameproof casserole. When they are all browned and in the casserole, sprinkle them with the sugar and toss over a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes until the sugar has caramelized. Season with salt and pepper, and add the flour. Toss again to brown the flour, mixing it well with the lamb.
Remove any fat from the frying pan, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, scraping any goodies from the pan as you do so. Pour over the lamb in the casserole. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and, if necessary, additional stock or water just to cover the meat. Bring to simmering point, then cover and cook for 1 hour. If you prefer,
Pour the contents of the casserole into a colander or large strainer set over another pan. Remove any bones and return the meat to the rinsed-out casserole. Skim the fat from the stewing liquid, season to taste, and pour back over the lamb.
Cut a little cross on the base of each onion to ensure even cooking. Add to the casserole along with the potatoes, turnips, and carrots, and mix with the lamb and sauce. Bring the contents of the casserole to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently until everything is cooked and tender, about 45 minutes.
Prepare the beans and peas by dropping them into a pan of boiling water and cooking for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. Add them to the lamb stew 5 minutes before serving. Serve the stew with some good French bread and a bottle of robust red wine.
© 1999 Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright estate. All rights reserved.