This wasn't awful by any means, but for our tastes, there seemed to be a conflict in flavors that threw us off. Lean ground lamb can often be hard to find, so for the lamb in this dish, I used a piece of boneless leg that I got from our butcher that I trimmed the excess fat from, diced it into medium chunks and quickly pulsed it in our ever-useful food processor until it was coarsely ground. A little messy, but this process works well - I do the same thing when I need ground chicken or turkey - this way I can control what is in it and how much light or dark meat I want.
Once we browned the crumbles, they were taken out, with a pungent dose of fresh minced garlic slid into the pan with a little oil. Also added was a fragrant pinch of herbes de Provence - you can buy this spice mixture pre-made, but I made my own by tossing together equal parts of marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory and a pinch of dried lavender and crushed aniseed. The extra could be used for roasting meats, added to a favorite sauce or I've even used it before to season homemade crackers! The lavender is key - that alluring scent adds a such special note.
At this point, we were good - what's not to like? To add a sharp background, and pull up those golden bits stuck on the bottom of the pan, we stirred in a splash of dry red wine. Beef broth, whisked with a little cornstarch, was next to be added to the spiced garlic. Chopped tomatoes, figs and olives were tossed in and the mixture was allowed to simmer, giving the cornstarch a chance to add body to this stew. The lamb was added back in to heat through and we served this stew topped with a gremolata - a basic condiment composed of fresh garlic, chopped parsley and bright lemon zest.
We both enjoy the combo of sweet and salty, but the tomato, fig and olive combination just didn't sit well on our taste buds with the savoriness of the lamb. One of Jeff's complaints was he felt the lemon was more distracting than it should be - I didn't mind that so much, but I knew what he meant. While I doubt we would make this again, if you've had those flavors mashed together before and you enjoyed them, you might like this stew!
Lamb, Fig and Olive Stew