Happy new year and welcome to 2021. Hopefully, this year is better for us all than 2020. Perhaps we’ll be able to travel again. I’d like to do simple things like dining out with friends again. Here’s hoping! As the year turns, the really cold weather is settling in here in the Boston area. January and February are our coldest months. That means time for hearty and healthy fare. Yes — we have to pay attention to ‘re adjusting’ our holiday eating to less sweets and more ‘good for you’ fare. That is not always easy to do with ‘hearty’ foods, but this Turkish Chickpea with Lamb Stew is just the solution. Made with a healthy dose of vegetables, it also includes the chickpeas and lamb, both good choices. And to top it off, it is both easy and easy on the pocketbook, and who can’t use that?
The emphasis in this stew is on maximizing the flavors while remaining both healthy and budget friendly. Called kuzu etli nohut yemeği inTurkish, this stew is both hearty and easy to make. All together with prep time, this stew will take about an hour and half to cook. Most of that however is time simmering on the stove top. It should take you less than thirty minutes to put the entire dish together.
Once finished, I think this stew will quickly become a favorite. One thing that really stood out to me was that there is deep, earthy flavor to the stew, but no one flavor dominates. Traditionally, this is made with both tomato paste and red pepper paste (Biber Salçasi). I didn’t have any, so I skipped it. If you have some available, I encourage you to add it available. It can only make the flavor richer.
The Mighty Chickpea
If you’ve read enough here, you know about how much I love chickpeas. I try to have some almost every day. They are delicious and good for you. Chickpeas also have a long history that starts in Turkey. The first cultivation of chickpeas took place in the area around Turkey and Syria up to 10,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of chickpea cultivation is found in remains that date back to about 7,000 BCE. That Turkish cuisine includes a stew based on chickpeas, then is in no way surprising.
In addition to being an ancient crop, chickpeas are also healthy. They are nutrient rich and high in protein and fiber and low in fat. They are popular in vegetarian and gluten free diets. Vitamins in a chickpea include B vitamins, iron, manganese, folate, and potassium. There is evidence to suggest that chickpeas as part of the healthy diet can help in a variety of ways. They may help to control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and manage weight. There is also research that suggests chickpeas could help manage diabetes.
An Economical Stew
The other main ingredient in the Chickpea with Lamb Stew, is of course lamb. We love lamb here at mezze & tapas world headquarters. I know that some people consider it an ‘acquired’ taste, but it we just find it delicious. Add that to the fact that it is a heathy choice in red meat, and it is hard to resits. In fact, lamb loaded with protein, iron, zinc, omega 3, and essential B vitamens.
I don’t often do this here, but I would also say that this is an economical meal. Yes, even with the lamb. And it makes sense when you think about it. This stew was undoubtably first conceived as a ‘peasant’ dish in its local region. Like all peasant dishes, it would first be concerned with maximizing economy and using what was inexpensive, local and in season. Some may consider lamb ‘expensive’, but it is a common source of meat in the Mediterranean. It would in fact be considered ‘local’ and ‘inexpensive’ to peasants who first made stews of chickpeas and lamb. With modern day supermarket prices in the US, lamb is slightly more expensive than beef. But using the leg of lamb cut, is still a relatively inexpensive meal.
When I made this, I spent about $11.00 on 1.7 pounds of boneless leg of lamb. A bag of dried chick peas was $1.29. I used about a quarter of the bag, so I spent about $0.33 on chickpeas. The onion cost $0.80, and a can of tomatoes $1.49. Water and spices were negligible, lets say $0.10 for all of them combined. With that, the entire cost of this stew was $13.72. At eight servings, that is about $1.71 per serving. Not bad for a warm, hearty, and healthy cold weather dinner.
Tips and Tricks
Although this recipe for Chickpea with Lamb Stew is pretty easy and straight forward, there are a couple of small tips that will helpful. The first is to use dried chickpeas. They just have the substance and the texture to make send this stew over the top.
Canned chickpeas have their place, but not in this case. They will be to soft and mushy to really help lend to the ‘heartiness’ of the stew. The second is to incorporate the onions into the stew in two separate stages, instead of all at once. This makes sure that you get both the flavor of the onions and the soft, sweet texture of the onions as well.
Soak the Chickpeas
Of course, if you are going to use dried chickpeas, you do need a little bit of advance planning. By that, I mean taking time (two minutes) the night before to soak the chickpeas. If you need a refresher, here is a post I did a while back on prepping chickpeas. Since chickpeas grow between 2 1/2 to 3 times their size while soaking, to end up with about 2 cups of chickpeas you want about 3/4 cup of dried chickpeas. Put them in a bowl, and cover by at least two inches with water. That’s it. That is all your “advance planning.”
Once soaked, the chickpeas also need to cook for about an hour and a half. The beautiful thing is, that is about how long the stew takes to cook. That means if you start cooking your chickpeas just before you start making the stew, they will be ready exactly when you need them for the stew! To cook them here, drain them from their soaking water and put in a small sauce pan large enough to hold them. Add a bay leaf, and cover with water by about 1/2 “ . Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Once they are boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer and let them go for about an hour and a half. When time to add them to the stew, drain them, then add directly to the stew and let heat through there for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
When to add the onions
The other ‘tip’ is how you work with the onions. At the beginning of the recipe, you soften all the onions, then remove from the pan and set aside. By softening the onions, you mellow out their flavor, and allow them to begin to sweeten. But you don’t want to cook them all the way here, because they need to ‘last’ in this stew. So after you brown the lamb and other vegetables, and just before adding the water, you add the onions back in. But the trick here is to add only half of the onions, keeping the other half still set aside.
Why do this? Well — at the point you add the onions and water, you are about to simmer the stew for an hour. The onions you add back will bring a depth of flavor and you want that. But they will also, for the most part, disintegrate and turn to mushy bits. That isn’t bad either — they really just disappear into the broth. But if you still want a bit of the ‘bite’ the onions give you can’t let them cook away. So – but retaining some, and adding them back at the very end, you get the best of both worlds. The deep, oniony flavor, and the crisp crunch of a soft and sweetened onion in the stew. Is it ABSOLUTELY necessary? No, but I do think it does make a difference to the quality of the finished Chickpea with Lamb Stew.
I hope you give this Chickpea with Lamb Stew a try. It is a great way to enjoy a warm, comforting meal on a cool night. This Turkish dish will also give you the opportunity to try a new meal from perhaps a different food culture. And to top all that off, it is both healthy and economical. Really a winner all the way around!
Chickpea with Lamb Stew (kuzu etli nohut yemeği)
- 3/4 cup dry chickpeas about 2 – 2 1/2 Cups Cooked
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion sliced into 1/4 moons
- 1 3/4 – 2 lb boneless leg of lamb cut into 3/4” cubes
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 Red bell pepper cut into large chunks about 3/4” each
- 14 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups approx of water
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- Kosher salt to taste
Prepare the chickpeas the night before
- Place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover by 2 inches with water
- The next day, drain the chick peas and cook them in a separate pan while preparing the stew
- To cook, put them in a pan, along with the bayleaf, and cover by at least 1” with fresh water
- Place a lid on the pan, slightly ajar to allow some steam to escape
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook while your stew is cooking, about 1 1/4 – 1 1/2
Prepare the stew
- Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat
- Add the onions, and cook until they begin to soften. Remove from the pan and set aside
- Add the lamb cubes and cook, stirring often, until the cubes are uniformly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cumin and paprika and stir to coat meat evenly
- Cook for an additional minute or two, until spices become fragrant
- Remove lamb from pan and set aside
- Return about 1/2 of the onions to the pan, along with the chunks of red peppers.
- Coat with tomato paste, and stir until everything is coated
- Let cook for 2 -3 minutes, until the tomato paste becomes fragrant
- Return lamb to the pan and add the diced tomatoes
- Stir to combine thoroughly
- Add enough water to the pan to cover everything by about 1/2”
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cook for about 1 hour, until lamb is very tender.
- Drain cooked chickpeas (discard bayleaf) and add to stew, along with reserved onions
- Add Aleppo Pepper
- Add kosher salt to taste
- Serve stew hot, over torn pieces of lavash bread, or rice.