Scottish Lamb Stew with Barley, Turnips, Carrots and Merlot

In Nairobi, there is a place called “Carnivore” where you get to eat all kinds of wild animals from zebra to gazelle to giraffe to lion. Tasting every single piece of wild animals is a great adventure. Each meat has such a distinctive flavor, and many of them have a very gamey, strong taste. Growing up on a mostly vegetable and grain based diet, I wasn’t that adventurous with meats until the nineties. Once, my Grandma served peacock and lamb kabobs as a specialty at our family gathering. The thought of eating a colorful peacock and an adorable sheep grossed me out so much that I put my spoon down. My Grandma, who was very offended by my rejection, said, “these special meats used to be served only to Kings in the palace. Don’t you want to try?”. I shook my head left and right and moved myself farther away from that plate. A decade later, my perception of lamb completely changed when I visited Scotland. Scots are very big on sheep. The national dish of Scotland is sheep’s intestines cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Lamb-based Scotch broth is also very popular. Scots cooked their lambs so deliciously that I have eaten lamb ever since trying it there. In the US, lambs are most widely consumed on Easter, but I think warm lamb dishes are great during the cold winter. Its strong flavor and “heaviness” can put on an extra layer of “weight” to keep you warm. With that thought, I am making Scottish lamb stew with barley, turnips and carrots in my California kitchen to stay warm today.

First, I preheat the pot and brown 1 ½ lb lamb stew meats with bones. Then I add 1 onion, 1 large garlic clove, 1 turnip (diced), 2 carrots (sliced), 2 celery stalks (sliced), white part of 1 leek (sliced), 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns, 1 Tablespoon sea salt, 1 bay leaf & 4 sprigs of fresh thyme to the pot. When the onion color looks translucent, I pour 10 cups water and bring it to boil. Then I simmer for a couple of hours until the lamb meats start falling off the bone. Then I take out meats from the pot and strain out all vegetables. Then I skim off fat and bring the clear lamb broth to boil (~7 cups). Then, I return the “cooked”, lamb meats and add ¾ cup pearl barley, 1 onion (chopped), 2 turnips (shredded), 2 carrots (shredded), 2 celery stalks (sliced), 1 white part of leek (sliced), 1 cup cabbage (shredded) and salt and pepper to taste. After 15-20 minutes of cooking, I serve the “one pot meal” topped with some fresh parsley.

I’m pairing the lamb stew with a 2005 Bassetti Merlot from Monterey county, California. With its blend of 95% Merlot and some Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, this French oak-aged dry red wine has supple cherry and berry flavors with herbaceous notes and soft tannin. Round, plummy and fruity, it is great for this delicious Scottish lamb stew with its layers of complexities. The fruit-forwardness of the wine draws out the sweetness of the turnips and carrots. And, the small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon added to this Merlot gives a nice structure to this round wine to stand up against the flavors of lamb without overpowering it. What a charming pairing this dish and a wine are!

Hope you enjoy the taste of Scotland with a pairing of Merlot. I wish you an amazing 2012 filled with great joy, happiness and prosperity. Happy cooking!

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