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Eric Akis: A classic French stew, made with lamb

Cubed lamb replaces beef in this rich, flavourful version of the classic French stew boeuf bourguignon.
This version of bourguignon is rich with cubes of tender lamb. ERIC AKIS

If you enjoy eating lamb and French-style food I have recipe that should appeal. It’s for lamb bourguignon, a tasty variation of that classic dish usually made with beef. 

Bourguignon, pronounced “boor-gee-nyawn,” means “of Bourgogne,” Burgundy in English, an east-central region of France renowned for its wine.

Not surprisingly, wine is added to several Burgundian dishes, including, of course, those named bourguignon. When a dish is dubbed “a la bourguignon,” it also indicates you’ll find such things as baby (pearl) onions, mushrooms and strips of bacon (lardoons) in it.

Because of this French stew’s origins, Burgundy wine, or wines produced in the style of Burgundy wines, such as pinot noir or gamay noir, are recommended to use in the dish. The wine does not have to be expensive, but it needs to be flavourful. If you use a lacklustre wine in the stew, it will have that quality, too.

I made my lamb bourguignon the same way I make beef bourguignon and started by searing cubes of meat until richly browned. Before I did that, I patted the cubes of lamb dry with paper towel, removing any excess moisture on them that could cause the meat to steam, rather than sear. When searing the cubes of lamb, I did so in batches, ensuring there was some space in between each piece in the pot. If you overcrowd the meat in the pot, moisture seeping out from inside it won’t have room to evaporate and the meat will steam, rather than sear.

There are a few cuts of lamb that will work for the stew, such as a lamb leg, lamb shoulder and lamb sirloin. If cubed lamb stewing meat is available where you shop, you could, of course, use that in the stew.

I served the lamb bourguignon with two side dishes, boiled miniature potatoes and steamed, buttered asparagus. Instead of miniature potatoes, you could also serve it with mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, egg noodles or orzo.

Lamb Bourguignon

Cubed lamb replaces beef in this rich, flavourful version of the classic French stew.

This recipe could be doubled if serving a larger group.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: About two hours 15 minutes

Makes: Four to five servings

4 thick slices bacon, cut, widthwise, into 1/4-inch wide strips

2 lbs (900 g) boneless lamb leg, sirloin or shoulder, roasts, chops or steaks, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes and patted dry (see Note 1)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)

1 cup frozen pearl onions (see Note 2)

2 small to medium carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tsp herbes de Provence (see Note 3)

1 bay leaf

2 cups red wine, such as pinot noir or gamay noir (divided)

1 3/4 cups low sodium beef stock , plus more, if needed

1 (7 oz./200 gram) tub pearl white mushrooms (see Note 4)

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Place a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until most of the fat is rendered out. Remove pot from the heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a wide plate.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Add 1 Tbsp of the oil to the bacon fat in the pot and set over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Sear lamb, cooking it in batches, until nicely browned. Remove seared lamb from the pot and set on the bacon as you go along.

When the lamb is all seared, add the onions and carrots to the pot and cook until lightly browned, about two minutes. Stir in garlic, flour, tomato paste, mustard, herbes de Provence and bay leaf and cook two minutes more.

While stirring, slowly mix in 1/2 cup of the wine. Bring to a simmer and when the mixture is thick, slowly mix in the rest of the wine. Mix in the 1 3/4 cups stock, return to a simmer, and then add the seared lamb and bacon to the pot.

Cover and cook the lamb in the oven 90 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, six to eight minutes. Remove pan from the heat.

When the lamb has cooked 90 minutes, stir in the mushrooms. Thin the stew with a bit more stock, if you find it too thick. Cover and cook in the oven 15 minutes more, or until the lamb is very tender. Sprinkle servings of the lamb with chopped parsley.

Note 1: If you can only find bone-in pieces of lamb leg or shoulder, buy a 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pound (1.13 to 1.25 kilogram) piece, remove the bones and cube the meat, you should end up with about two pounds of it. If cubed lamb stewing meat is available where you shop, you could use it in this recipe, too. If you want buy Vancouver Island Lamb, check out Parry Bay Sheep Farm in Metchosin (

Note 2: In our area, frozen pearl onions are not as widely available as they once were, but they are available at some grocery stores. I found them at Peppers Foods ( If you can’t find them, you could replace them with fresh pearl onions, which are sold in bags in the produce section of some supermarkets. Peel them before using. If you can’t find those either, replace the pearl onions with a small to medium onion, diced.

Note 3: Herbes de Provence is a French-style blend of dried herbs sold in the bottled herb and spice aisle of most grocery stores. If you can’t find it or wish to use dried herbs you already have on hand, use a one teaspoon mix of them, combining ones you would find in herbes de Provence, such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary, savory, basil, oregano and/or tarragon.

Note 4: Pearl white button mushrooms are extra-small mushrooms, great for cooking whole, sold in tubs at many grocery stores. If you can’t find them, buy an equal weight of the smallest white button mushrooms you can get and cut each one in half.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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