Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew: A Springtime Tradition

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew

There’s a sweet and sour story behind this Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew.

Every year just before Easter I begin to think about lamb dishes. Maybe you do to. Most of my lamb fantasies involve big, whole legs of lamb. The kind with a frenched bone sticking out one end, looking like something Fred Flintstone would pack in his lunch pail over at Slate Rock and Gravel Company.

Like Fred, I idealize a good piece of meat and generally believe that bone-in cuts are superior. Give me a bone-in rib-eye over its boneless brethren any day. I wouldn’t think about braising a pork butt without the shoulder bone.

Unfortunately when it comes to bone-in leg of lamb, my Yabba Dabba Doo fantasies are just that – fantasies. Because a bone-in leg of lamb seems to resist my attempts at the rosy pink consistent results I dream about, and I don’t know why.

I’ve tried high heat and low heat. I’ve seared, I’ve barbecued and I’ve roasted. But mostly – I’ve failed. Yes, I’ve read all about internal cooking temperatures, and I can work an instant-read thermometer. Still, I’ve never been able to achieve a consistently cooked, tender and juicy, bone-in leg of lamb. It’s that inconsistency that scares me off the cut. The bone-in varieties can run $60 or more for a 5 to 6 pound leg. Which is a lot of money to risk for inconsistent results.

The good news is I’ve learned from my mistakes, or maybe I should say I’ve succumbed to them. These days I don’t even try to cook bone-in leg of lamb anymore, but I refuse to give up on roasted leg of lamb entirely. Especially since a boneless leg of lamb is so easy to roast.

Which means I have a choice. I can pay even bigger bucks to a butcher to de-bone or butterfly the meat for me, or I can learn to do it myself.

Naturally I chose the latter. Which isn’t to say that I have learned to do it quite yet. However I’m on the road, and it’s a bumpy road. That’s the sour part of my story today.

Wine Pairing

2012 Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel 

Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel
Greg gave me a pretty easy assignment this week. His Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew practically paired itself since it’s pretty well known that lamb and Zinfandel are a tried and true combination. But what Zin should I commit? Being a loyal Californian, I thought I’d start here. Zinfandel thrives in the many microclimates found up and down our coast. […]
Ken Eskenazi

Price $37

Pairs well with barbecue, roasted red meat, stews, slightly spicy foods, cold cuts, pasta, sharp cheeses

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew

This delicious Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew came to my table last week after I destroyed a perfectly good leg of lamb while practicing my de-boning skills. You see I’m determined to bring a stuffed and roasted boneless leg of lamb to our Easter celebration in Palm Springs this weekend. So several weeks ago I bought the smallest leg of lamb I could find. I sharpened my knife, I located the loin, the shank, and the joint that marries the two. I plunged in my knife and I got to work. I was feeling confident at the start, but somehow without noticing I disconnected the loin completely while the bone was still buried deep inside the shank. In other words, I failed.

I’m sure you can guess what I did next. I chopped that leg into bite-sized chunks and got to work on this Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew. I pretended to myself that Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew had been my intention all along.

I realize it sounds like I’m making excuses, but that’s not my intention. This is a leg-to-stew, lemons-to-lemonade story of perseverance, and it has a sweet ending. The Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew is really, really good. The tomato broth is refreshing, and appropriate to the season, with a gentle acidity balanced by the sweetness of the currants. The lamb is succulent and rich and suffused with flavor. It’s a perfect partner to the Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel we paired it with, and I have no regrets regarding this stew.

Though I do want you to know there’s another leg of lamb chilling in my refrigerator right now and I intend to try again. Easter is just three days away. I’ll let you know if we have stew again or not. GREG

I was supplied with wine samples in order to bring information about Frank Family Vineyards to this blog. All opinions are my own.

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2–4Published

To make this a complete meal, serve it with a simple green salad or add shredded dandelion (or other bitter greens) to the stew just before serving.

This delicious and simple Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. If you plan to make it ahead do not add the currants, pine nuts and greens (if using) until after you reheat the stew on the day it is to be served.

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew


  • 1 ½ pound boneless leg of lamb (cut into bite size chuncks)
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for seasoning)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium Maui or Vidalia sweet onion (peeled, halved lengthwise then sliced crosswise into thin strips)
  • 2 cup chicken broth (plus up to 2 cups more more as needed)
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar (or as much as ½ cup if you like the sharpness)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 1 ½ ounce toasted pine nuts (about ½ cup)
  • mint sprigs (as garnish, optional)


Place the lamb chunks into a medium bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper; toss to thoroughly coat the meat.

Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the seasoned and flour-coated meat in as close to a single layer as possible, work in batches if necessary. Brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes, moving it to a plate as you finish each batch. 

Once all the meat is browned, add onions, meat, and any flour that remains in the bowl or on the plate to the pot, continue cooking until the onions soften, 3 minutes more. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping any of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Allow the mixture to come to a boil then lower the heat to low. Add the vinegar, tomato paste, and brown sugar. Simmer the stew , stirring occasionally, until the meat is quite tender; about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check occasionally and adjust consistency with a little more broth as necessary to keep the volume of liquid at about 2 cups.

Just before serving stir in the currants and pine nuts and season with more salt and pepper. Ladle the stew into shallow bowls and serve warm with mint sprigs as garnish (if using).

Sweet and Sour Lamb Stew