In an old farmhouse deep in Provence outside the little village of Pélissane on any given day you will probably find my cousin in the kitchen. Especially when the weather is fine and children, partners, children’s children are gathered or stray cousins like me.
Meals are important there and the preparation of lunch for the crowd starts right after breakfast.
When I saw this recipe, this is the scene that sprang to mind, with my cousin yelling out ’Qui veut goûter ma sauce?’ – Who wants to taste my sauce?
This navarin or spring casserole of lamb is exactly the kind of dish that she would make: it can feed a crowd, most of it can be prepared in advance- always an advantage – and uses the kind of fresh vegetables that we have here in Turkey and she has there in France. But the essence of it is the sauce…. mmmmm..
I had forgotten how delicious a good French sauce is because sauces are not a feature of Turkish cuisine.
So I had a very good feeling while I was making this navarin, a warm reminder of good cooking and my French family and many happy meals like this that we have shared – what better than this Julia Child recipe?
- Preheat oven to 450°F/220°C.
- Brown the meat a few pieces at a time in hot oil in a pan. As they brown, place them in a large covered casserole.
- Sprinkle the lamb in the casserole with the sugar and toss over a moderately high heat for 3-4 mins until the sugar has caramelised. This will give a fine amber colour to the sauce.
- Toss the meat with the salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the flour.
- Set the casserole uncovered in the middle of the preheated oven for 4-5 mins.
- Toss the meat and return it to the oven for 4-5 mins more. This browns the flour evenly and coats the lamb with a light crust.
- Remove the casserole and turn oven temperature down to 350°F/180°C.
- Add 2 cups of stock to the pan in which you browned the lamb.
- Bring to the boil and scrape up the coagulated sauté juices.
- Then pour the liquid into the casserole. Bring to the simmer for a few seconds shaking and stirring to mix liquid and flour.
- Add the tomatoes or tomato purée and the other ingredients. Bring to the simmer for 1 min, then add more stock if necessary; the meat should almost be covered by liquid.
- Put the lid on the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven; regulate the heat so that the casserole simmers slowly and regularly for 1 hour.
- While the lamb is simmering, prepare the vegetables as follows:
- Scrub and/or peel the potatoes and cut in half lengthways if large.
- Peel the baby carrots. If using larger ones, cut into 1 ½’’/4cm lengths.
- Peel the onions.
- Peel and cut the turnips into 1’/2.5cm chunks.
- After the stew has simmered for an hour, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a bowl.
- Rinse out the casserole. Remove any loose bones and return the lamb to the casserole.
- Skim the fat off the sauce in the bowl, correct the seasoning, and pour the sauce back into the casserole.
- Nestle the vegetables into the casserole around and between the pieces of lamb.
- Baste with the sauce.
- Bring to the simmer on top of the stove, cover and return to the oven.
- Regulate heat so the liquid simmers slowly and steadily for about an hour longer or until the meat and vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
- While the casserole is on the final simmer, drop the peas and beans into boiling salted water and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 mins, or until the vegetables are almost tender.
- Immediately drain into a colander.
- Run cold water over them for 2-3 mins to stop the cooking and to set the colour.
- Put aside until ready to use.
*The navarin may be prepared ahead to this point. Set casserole aside, cover askew. Bring to the simmer on top of the stove before proceeding with the recipe.
- Shortly before serving, place the beans and peas in the casserole on top of the other ingredients and baste with the bubbling sauce.
- Cover and simmer for about 5 mins until the green vegetables are tender.
- This may seem like a lot of directions but each step is not difficult, perhaps just a little time-consuming. You just tell yourself you are making something truly delicious!
- The turnip season has finished here in Turkey so I couldn’t use any. However I thought Julia wouldn’t have minded as all the other vegetables were bought that very day from my local market so they couldn’t have been fresher. I also used a different green bean as the type specified here doesn’t exist.
- Turkish lamb is excellent and now is the time to eat it. This particular lamb came from Balıkesır, an area renowned for its succulent meat.