Randy Mayor; Jan Gautro
6 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup lamb mixture and 1/2 cup couscous)

Syrah and lamb are often served together in the south of France, and tasting this dish, you'll see why. Syrah often has a meatiness of its own, plus a hint of spice and a rich fruitiness. Each of these characters is mirrored in the dish. I serve this over couscous, which adds a nutty flavor. Any ruby port will do fine. I used Cockburn's Special Reserve Porto, $16, which belongs to a category of port known as Vintage Character Port. (Avoid using tawny port, which has a deep toffee character that will conflict with the fruitiness of the wine and the food.)

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 325º.

Step 2

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle lamb with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add half of lamb to pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining lamb.

Step 3

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon pepper, parsnips, cumin, and garam masala; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Return lamb and accumulated juices to pan. Add port, chile paste, figs, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 325º for 1 hour or until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally.

Step 4

Combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch, stirring with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pan; stir well to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 1 minute or until sauce is thick and bubbly, stirring constantly.

Step 5

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in 2 teaspoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve lamb mixture over couscous. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Step 6

Perfect wine: Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz 2001 (Barossa Valley, Australia), $ This Australian shiraz (syrah is known as shiraz Down Under), has exotic, spicy flavors, which mirror the spices in the dish. And finally, this wine's thick, blackberry fruitiness and almost syrupy softness cushion the bold spices in the wine and the dish.

Ratings & Reviews

alen31's Review

December 13, 2010
Love this stew on a cold fall night with fresh bread and a Pinot Noir. Good for close friends and family when you want to light the candles on the table.

rpark05's Review

May 07, 2010
I used 50% more spices and added 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes. Very good taste, except biting into the crunchy little seeds in the figs was weird, and I don't really like parsnips. Next time golden raisins and butternut or other winter squash.

Sachs1's Review

September 24, 2009
This has become a regular in our winter meal line up. I modified the recipe with fresh figs when I can find them and a cup of wine instead of port. I also add more spices to amp up the flavor. It is even better the next day and makes outstanding leftovers.