Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Last week it was all summer fruits and ice-cream and salads and then the weather changed. I was almost tempted to turn the heating on – in June – as the temperatures plummeted and the rain lashed at the windows. Forget the ice-cream, it was back to stew weather. But what stew do you eat in June. A Navarin of lamb of course packet with lots of tender, young spring vegetables and lots of vibrant fresh mint. So delicious you could forget about the awful weather!

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

The vegetables are flexible here – use what you have. Tender new seasons carrots, little spring onion heads or French beans all work well.

Serves: 4

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions or leeks, chopped

A couple of sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

450 g (1 lb) lean boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes

150 ml (5 fl oz) red wine

450 ml (15 fl oz) lamb or chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 or 2bay leaves

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

Baby new potatoes, scrubbed (cut into bite sized pieces if large)

Small turnips, scrubbed and quartered

Bunch of asparagus, cut into even sized pieces about ½ cm

Large handful of shelled fresh peas

Large handful of shelled broad beans

Fresh mint

Heat some oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the seasoned lamb, in batches so as not to over crowd the pan. Brown evenly on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Turn down the heat of the pan and add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Scrape the browned bits of lamb of the bottom of the saucepan and stir them into the veg. Add the cubes of lamb back to the pan with the wine, rosemary, bay leaf and stock

Bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Let it gently bubble away for 1 hour.

Meanwhile boil the broad beans for three minutes and then plunge them into cold water. Shell.

Add the turnips and potatoes to the stew and stir. Cover the casserole again and continue cooking for 30–45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Next add the peas and asparagus and cook until just done. Finally add the broad beans and mint. Check seasoning and serve.

Glazed Turnips

When I see turnips, I think of working at Chez Panisse. For the first month, I was on the veg section and it was my job to cook to order each and every glazed spring vegetables which accompanied the main course. The selection of baby spring vegetables was a thing for beauty. We did not ever get to see vegetables that came anywhere close to these ones in California. Baby beetroot in a rainbow of colours, tiny fresh peas and beans, purple and yellow baby carrots, deep red spring onions and these pretty pink topped turnips. It was my job to prep all these vegetables with utmost care and cook them to perfection. Each vegetable was added at a different time to the pan, to allow for different cooking times. It did all seem a bit of a fuss, about something that seemed so easy, but it was there that I learnt that sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do really well and I have to admit, the vegetables were absolutely delicious.

So, I was a little apprehensive about cooking the beautiful purple tinged turnips that turned up in my box this week. Did I still have the touch – 25 years later, to cook a perfect turnip?

Glazed Turnips

Bunch of smallish turnips

Large pinch of salt

Large pinch of sugar

Large knob of butter.

To prep the turnips, trim the stalks short but leave attached. With a small paring knife, scrape around the leaves to remove any dirt or grit. Rinse. Peel the turnip downwards to the bottom, from where the purple tinging ends and gives way to white. Cut into even sized pieces through the stalk – either halves, quarters, sixths or eights depending on size. Place in a heavy bottomed saucepan which allows them to roughly just cover the bottom of the pan. Nearly cover with water and add the salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat so that they boil away gently for about 5-10 minutes, depending on their size. A sharp knife should just insert easily. By this time to water should have nearly boiled away. Add the butter and reduce to a glaze. This should take about a minute. Taste and check for seasoning. Eat straight away.