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Babylonian Lamb or Beef and Turnip Stew

4-6 Servings

3¾ hours 1 hour active

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The starting point for this dish comes from the translation of a recipe from the Yale Babylonian culinary tablets. To create a fragrant, full-flavored stew, we approximated and adjusted ingredients, and we turned to the oven for steady, constant simmering. Lamb is the traditional meat, and we opted to use lamb shanks, as the marrow gives the braising liquid body and richness; we shred the meat after cooking and discard the bones. We found the stew was just as delicious made with bone-in beef shanks (1 to 1½ inches thick). The culinary tablets reveal that beer was used as a cooking liquid in Mesopotamia, so we developed this dish with a wheat beer for notes of sweetness and fermentation; a lager works, too. Steamed bulgur (recipe follows) is an ideal accompaniment.

4-6

Servings

Tip

Don’t forget to rinse and dry the leeks. Leeks’ many layers trap dirt and sand. To prevent grit from winding up in the stew, be sure to wash and drain them after slicing, then dry them to remove excess moisture that would otherwise impede browning.

3¾ hours

1 hour active

Ingredients

  • 4

    12-ounce lamb shanks or 3 pounds beef shanks, trimmed

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Pardon the interruption

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Reviews
Nina K.
October 25, 2022
Soft meat
I made this 2 Thanksgivings ago. It was so cool to know you’re making an ancient recipe. And it was GOOD. The meat was soft.
Diana L.

It was delicious. I have use lamb shanks but cut off most of the fat so at the end I did not have to skim it off. I rarely cook rutabaga. It tastes great in this stew. I will make it again for sure. Thanks for the great recipe.

Paris N.

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Clete G.

This was not a success for me. Parsnips were too bitter. (Used purple parsnips.) Cilantro was also too bitter. If I were to try it again, I'd use potatoes instead of parsnips and 1/2 the amount of greens.

Robert H.

I used lamb shanks from my local halal butcher. I used two white turnips and two yellow potatoes. I cooked it in a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven, which makes the transition from stovetop to oven and back. I think that it would be good with fenugreek, which you can find at specialty groceries, or online. It came out great! I served over couscous rather than bulgur wheat. I have pictures of it, if it helps. A little Torshi Litteh (Persian pickled, spiced eggplant) on the side can add some bite if it is too lamb-y or too bland.

Kay G.

We found this recipe to be fragrant and delicious! We used lamb shanks, thoroughly trimmed of fat, and half turnips and half red potatoes. Loved the melding of these seasonings and the beer (used a Belgian wheat beer) with the lamb and the freshness/ bite of the cilantro and arugula. Accompanied with French bread and a bold cabernet. Fabulous.

Austin H.

This was a huge success for me. We absolutely loved the complexity of flavors in the stew and the lamb shanks were perfect. It really opened up my eyes to historical recipes. I guess I think that way back when they didn't have the agricultural knowledge or kitchen tools we have now and we must be able to make better food but this was one of the most delicious recipes I have ever tried.

Marianne T.

Just want to make sure that you do not brown the meat for this recipe?

Lynn C.

Hi Marianne -

No, you do not need to brown the meat for this recipe.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Scott P.

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Cathleen R.

Any suggested substitutions for the beer? More stock?

Lynn C.

Hi Cathleen-

You can replace the beer with more broth or a combination of broth and water. Just make sure you are using low-sodium broth or it could become too salty.

Best,
The Milk Street Team