I’m always on the lookout for new, unusual flavors and unique combinations of ingredients that harmonize well with each other. When I came across the concept of a spicy, Sichuan-style stir-fry, combining classic Chinese staples, like soy sauce and chiles, with cumin, a spice most associated with Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking, I was thoroughly enticed, to say the least. Of further delight was when I took my first taste. Although I’m a professional chef and a self-proclaimed food-lover and eater, there are still times when I run across a flavor-fusion that takes me by surprise by its distinctive, and delicious, synergy.
While lending its own characteristic taste, lamb is a superb host for this stir-fry, and the assertive flavor that may cause some to shy away from this less-familiar meat is tamed by the pronounced smoky spice of cumin and sharp bite of chile peppers. However, that taste many commonly associate with lamb is likely due to what its feeding habits were—meaning it probably grazed on fresh, green grass. Paradoxically, this is one of the very reasons I think more lamb should be eaten by all. Grass-fed animals have consistently proven to score higher in rates of omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), than their grain-fed counterparts.
Thankfully, since the market for lamb in the U.S. is quite small, true, pasture-raised lamb is almost as accessible as its grain-fed counterparts. With that said, grain-fed lamb with its milder flavor is still a viable option for a rich source of protein, with high levels of vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc. Nonetheless, if you find you still just can’t get into lamb, don’t fret: this dish is almost as good made with beef!
3 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil, divided
1 ½ pounds leg of lamb (or beef), trimmed of all gristle and sliced against the meat-grain into thin strips
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 ½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns), crushed with a mortar and pestle
½–1 teaspoon crushed chile flakes, depending on your spice preference
1 onion, cut in ½-inch wedges
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, cut in 3-inch lengths
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water, if necessary
1. Combine sliced lamb with salt, cumin seeds, peppercorns, crushed chile flakes, and about 1 tablespoon oil. Set aside. Prep all vegetables, and have them easily accessible.
2. Heat remaining oil in a large wok or shallow pan until very hot. Add onion wedges and celery to pan, and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes. Add bell peppers and green onion. Stir fry until crisp-tender. Transfer vegetables to a bowl, and set aside.
3. Heat wok again until very hot. Add half of the lamb, being careful not to overcrowd pan or meat will steam instead of sear. Let lamb cook in pan for a minute or two, without stirring, for it to develop a crust, then stir-fry until cooked to medium-rare, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and complete second batch of meat, if necessary.
4. Return lamb and vegetables to pan and add soy sauce, plus a little water if mixture seems dry. Heat through. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products