Comfort food is hard to come by in District 12, home of The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen. Katniss grew up hunting and foraging to provide food for her mother and sister, but they often didn’t have enough to eat.
Everything changes when Katniss leaves home to represent her district in the sadistic Hunger Games, a deadly competition where representatives from Panem’s 12 districts are forced by the capital to fight for victory. The penalty for losers? Death.
As competitors prepare for the games, they are treated to every conceivable luxury. Katniss travels to the capital city on a lavish voyage where she is supplied with beautiful clothes and decadent meals. For a girl who frequently went to bed hungry, bountiful banquets are a cruel irony as she prepares to fight for her life.
Catching Fire, the second movie of The Hunger Games trilogy, hits theatres this month. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know it’s worth staying up for a midnight showing. Put your hair in a Katniss-style braid, practice your archery, and sit down before the show for your own Hunger Games-inspired comfort food: lamb stew with dried plums.
A bowl of this thick, rich stew will chase away the fall and winter cold. The secret to the tender lamb and layered flavor is the low and slow cooking. The stew simmers for almost two hours, cooking down fresh herbs and dried plums into a gravy-like broth. It’s easy to see why Katniss found a rare comfort in the capital’s lamb stew.
Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
2.5 lbs. boneless lamb, trimmed of fat and gristle
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
2 cups sliced celery
4 cups beef stock, divided
12 oz. dried plums (prunes)
2 cups sliced carrots
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
Cut lamb into 2-inch pieces. In a shallow bowl, combine flour and spices. Dredge pieces of lamb in flour and set aside.
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons oil. Brown lamb pieces on all sides, working in batches without overcrowding. Set browned lamb aside. Deglaze the pan with ½ cup beef stock, scraping up all the browned bits and setting them aside with the lamb.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add celery and cook until it begins to soften.
Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until the scent releases. Add lamb and pan liquids back into the pot, then add the remaining 3 ½ cups of beef stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, add plums, and cover.
Simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and potato and cook until they are soft (about 20 minutes). Garnish with additional thyme and rosemary as desired.
Enjoy the stew on its own or over a hearty pile of quinoa or couscous.