Slow cooker lamb ragu, made with pieces of lamb shoulder, and cooked slowly in a rich gravy flavoured with onions, tomatoes and mushrooms, is a dish that will not only please the most discerning of dinner guests, but will also make a satisfying and comforting meal that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
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What is ragu?
The word ragu derives from the French word 'ragout', meaning 'stew'. So simply put, a ragu is just a stew. But this recipe is more than 'just a stew'. It's a deeply savoury dish, with meat so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. And as it cooks, the flavours develop and form a deliciously tasty gravy that begs to be slurped up from the spoon.
You can serve this lamb ragu either mixed with your favourite pasta (tagliatelle or pappardelle are particularly good) or gnocchi. Or if you prefer, you can simply spoon it over a dish of mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.
Add a fresh green salad and a few slices of flatbread to mop up the last of the gravy, and you have a meal that will have everyone clamouring for seconds.
This recipe for lamb ragu is made with pieces of lamb shoulder. This cut of meat can be quite tough, but leave it for a few hours in a slow cooker and it transforms into the most delectable and succulent meat, that can be pulled apart with a fork.
The gravy is thick, rich, and flavoured with plenty of tomatoes and onions. And a large amount of chopped mushrooms adds an extra element of deliciousness.
And the beauty of this dish is that all you have to do is brown the lamb and onions, and then tip everything into the slow cooker and leave it alone for a few hours until you are ready to serve.
That's what I call easy cooking!
Let me show you how to make it.
What you will need
You will need sharp knife and a chopping board for cutting up the meat and vegetables, and a frying pan for browning the lamb and onions. Apart from that, the only other piece of equipment you will need is a slow cooker or crockpot.
This recipe will feed 6 people. However, any leftovers can be frozen for another meal.
**You can find the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this slow cooker lamb ragu on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
Lamb - the best cut of lamb to use is lamb shoulder cut into large chunks. The shoulder contains lots of connective tissue which breaks down during the long slow cooking time, resulting in succulent meat that can easily be shredded with two forks. For a cheaper option, you could use lamb neck or pieces of stewing lamb.
Mushrooms - I used brown chestnut mushrooms but you could use white button mushrooms or baby mushrooms. If the mushrooms are on the large side, either slice them or cut them into halves or quarters. Baby mushrooms can be left whole.
Onions - these should be peeled and coarsely chopped. If you would like to get more vegetables into the ragu you could add a chopped carrot and a stick of celery in addition to the mushrooms.
Tomatoes - I used a can of tomatoes. You can substitute this with the equivalent amount of fresh chopped tomatoes.
Garlic - this dish calls for quite a lot of garlic - I used 5 cloves of minced garlic. Adjust it according to your own taste.
Stock - If you have fresh beef stock you can use that, otherwise make your own stock using a stock cube or stockpot. For a richer flavour substitute half of the beef stock with a good red wine.
Italian herbs (or mixed herbs) - this is a mixture of oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil. I used dried herbs. If you prefer you can use finely chopped fresh herbs but you will need to use double the amount of fresh as dried.
Olive oil - this is used for browning the meat and onions.
Salt - for seasoning, and to your own taste.
You will also need 2 or 3 teaspoons of cornflour (or cornstarch) mixed with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water for thickening the gravy.
What to do
In a nutshell, these are the steps for making lamb ragu:
- Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and cut them into quarters.
- Cut the lamb into 2 to 3-inch chunks (or get your butcher to do it for you).
- Sear the pieces of lamb in olive oil until they start to brown and transfer them to the slow cooker.
- Brown the onions in the same pan and add them to the lamb.
- Fry the mushrooms with the garlic and add those to the lamb too.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and leave for 5 to 6 hours on low.
Season the pieces of lamb with salt and fry them in olive oil on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side until they start to brown. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan or the meat will release juices and stew rather than brown.
Transfer the browned lamb to your slow cooker.
Fry the onions in the same pan for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to turn translucent. If you are using carrots and celery, you can fry these with the onions.
Add the browned onions to the lamb in the slow cooker.
Fry the mushrooms and garlic in the same pan, stirring continuously, until the mushrooms start to release their moisture.
Tip the mushrooms (and any liquid that they release) into the slow cooker and sprinkle the herbs over the top.
Pour in the tomatoes and stock, cover with a lid and leave to cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. You can also cook this on high, and it will take between 4 to 5 hours for the meat to tenderise.
Once the meat is tender, use a large spoon to transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving dish. Leave the liquid in the slow cooker.
Use two forks to help you pull the meat apart.
Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Stir in a mixture of cornflour and water until the gravy reaches the desired consistency.
Stir the thickened gravy into the ragu and serve hot with your choice of starch (potatoes, pasta, polenta, gnocchi) and either a salad or steamed vegetables.
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Slow cooker lamb ragu FAQ
Yes, lamb ragu freezes very well. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then pack it into suitable containers and freeze for up to 3 months To use, allow it to defrost in the refrigerator and then heat it in a saucepan until it is piping hot. Do not refreeze.
Lamb ragu can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
Leftover lamb ragu can be turned into delicious pies. Make your own pastry (use the pastry from this curried chicken pie recipe) or use store-bought shortcrust pastry. Cut the pastry to size and add spoonfuls of lamb ragu for the filling. Seal the edges of the pastry, brush with beaten egg and bake for approximately 25 minutes at 200C/400F until golden.
You can make a ragu with whatever cut of meat you prefer. You could use stewing beef in this recipe (cooking time will remain the same) or pieces of chicken (you will need to shorten the cooking time by one hour and use chicken stock instead of beef stock).
Yes, you can make lamb ragu on the stove instead of in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe, but use a large (covered) saucepan instead of the slow cooker. Simmer the ragu slowly for approximately 3 hours, or until the meat can be shredded with a fork. Top up with extra stock if necessary
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If you enjoyed this lamb stew, you might like to try some of my other lamb recipes:
- Slow cooker lamb shanks in a red wine gravy - succulent lamb shanks slow-cooked in a tasty red wine gravy.
- Lancashire hotpot - layers of succulent lamb, potatoes and onions in thick gravy with a crispy potato topping.
- South African lamb bredie (lamb stew) - tasty lamb ribs cooked in a pressure cooker with vegetables.
- Lamb ragu with ground lamb and linguine - tasty ground lamb in a tomato-based sauce, flavoured with red wine and garlic and served over your favourite pasta.
Slow cooker lamb ragu
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- 26 ounces / 750 grams lamb shoulder cut into large cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound / 250 grams onions coarsely chopped
- 14 ounces / 400 grams chestnut mushrooms (quartered) about 1½ punnets
- 5 cloves garlic finely minced
- 14 ounce / 400 gram can chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups / 480 ml beef stock make with a stock cube if you don't have fresh stock
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs / mixed herbs substitute with fresh, but double the quantity.
- Salt to taste
- 3 teaspoons cornflour / cornstarch mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
- Season the pieces of lamb with salt and fry them in olive oil on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side until they start to brown. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan or the meat will release juices and stew rather than brown.26 ounces / 750 grams lamb shoulder, Salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Transfer the browned lamb to your slow cooker.
- Fry the onions in the same pan for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to turn translucent. If you are using carrots and celery, you can fry these with the onions.1 pound / 250 grams onions
- Add the browned onions to the lamb in the slow cooker.
- Fry the mushrooms and garlic in the same pan, stirring continuously, until the mushrooms start to release their moisture. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.14 ounces / 400 grams chestnut mushrooms (quartered), 5 cloves garlic
- Tip the mushrooms (and any liquid that they release) into the slow cooker and sprinkle the herbs over the top.2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs / mixed herbs
- Pour in the tomatoes and stock, cover with a lid and leave to cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. You can also cook this on high, and it will take between 4 to 5 hours for the meat to tenderise.14 ounce / 400 gram can chopped tomatoes, 2 cups / 480 ml beef stock
- Once the meat is tender, use a large spoon to transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving dish. Leave the liquid in the slow cooker.
- Use two forks to help you pull the meat apart.
- Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Stir in a mixture of cornflour and water until the gravy reaches the desired consistency.3 teaspoons cornflour / cornstarch
- Stir the thickened gravy into the ragu and serve hot with your choice of starch (potatoes, pasta, polenta, gnocchi) and either a salad or steamed vegetables.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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