And buying a pricey leg of lamb is actually one of the few instances where I deem it worthwhile to visit more than one grocery store in pursuit of a deal. Unlike the very small savings that such extra trips usually achieve, the price difference for a big ticket item like this can sometimes be $20-$30 or more.
That’s well worth the 2- mile drive across town for me.
The last time I bought a leg of lamb, it was for Easter, and I was able to get a boneless one for $2.50 per pound which is about as cheap as it ever gets here in my neck of the woods.
Definitely not an every-week food item for my frugal tastes, but a pretty darned good deal for a special occasion. By comparison, the other stores were charging $6-$9 per pound.
Since a leg of lamb can be as large as 10 pounds (and sometimes even more), that’s a lot of savings --- exactly the kind you can get when you use a little pre-planning and check the store flyers before you grocery shop.
I knew the roast was bigger than we would need for Easter dinner, so I cut it in half and prepared one half for the holiday, and one half for this meal. Of course, I could have also frozen the unused portion to use on a later date.
I recommend using this approach for ALL large cuts of meat: buy the big, budget size, but apportion it immediately into meal sizes, label, and date the packages, and freeze the ones you don’t need for a different meal.
But this recipe doesn’t have to be reserved just for special occasions. It can also be a regular Sunday dinner type of meal, too, by substituting more budget friendly chicken for the lamb.
And, of course, there’s always the cheapest option of all -- making the stew vegetarian and just enjoying the delicious, spicy-flavored legumes. If you choose this version, I recommend adding an extra can of chick peas. And the Chinese eggplant is also an optional addition.
Another way to stretch your dollars here (and with any stew) is to add as many carrots and other budget vegetables as you’d like to the pot to get more servings out of it. Those are all tricks that frugal cooks have used for generations to stretch a meal.
The dutch oven is essentially the original slow cooker method. It was delicious, very satisfying, and a big hit.
I’ve tweaked and modified the recipe a bit since that first time to arrive at the current one, but I can safely say that this stew is equally good whether cooked on the stovetop, in the slow cooker, or in the oven. The stovetop is simply the fastest method, so it’s the one I use for demonstration purposes.
Although, come to think of it, Mom probably would have ventured to cook a meal like this in a pressure cooker, too. That would be even quicker. So, go ahead and give it a try in an instant pot or pressure cooker if you have one.
For the chicken in this recipe, I always buy the cheapest per-pound cut available. And, of course, I only ever buy it on sale. Paying full price for meat is a major budget buster – and just makes no sense.
Normally, the cheapest chicken parts are thighs, backs, or legs. I do not usually bother with wings because I feel that I am paying for too much bone.
Boneless cuts of meat, on the other hand, are usually prohibitively expensive for most budgets. And in my opinion, boneless chicken breast is often unpleasantly dry when cooked in things like stews or casseroles anyway, so I generally avoid it, unless it’s a remarkable sale price.
Which does happen sometimes. I’ve hit store manager specials on boneless chicken breast where it’s available for drastically reduced sale prices of $.99-$1.50 per pound. The sale often runs only as long as supplies last. Keep your eyes peeled for similar savings in your grocery stores.
Although I have calculated a price for this recipe of $1.50 per pound for the chicken, generally speaking, I won’t buy it unless it’s under $1 per pound. When I do see a sale for $.69 -.99 per pound, I will try to stock up on a few extra packages to have in my freezer.
As a case in point, when I last made this recipe and took pictures, my local grocery store had split chicken breast on sale for $.99 a pound. That’s a pretty good deal, so I bought one package (about 2 pounds) to use here and a couple of extra packages to freeze for later use.
As a dried fruit, currants keep a very long time, so once you’ve measured them out, seal the rest in a plastic bag and store them in your cupboard for use in future meals.
However, the major purpose of the currants is to add a touch of sweetness, so if that is still too expensive for you, you could easily substitute 1/2 cup of raisins, or about one cup of diced apples, or a couple of tablespoons of inexpensive apricot jam for a similar flavor effect.
Whatever you use, I think you’ll find this to be a delicious meal.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8-10 generous servings
Prep Time – Approximately 30 minutes
Total start to finish time – 90 minutes (but longer is better)
Total recipe cost – Approximately $11.00 (with chicken)
Total per person meal cost with a tossed green salad – Approximately $2.00
Approx. 2 pounds of chicken parts, preferably bone-in (breast, legs, backs, thighs)
2 pounds of boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces.
4-6 large carrots
6-8 small-medium potatoes
3 Chinese eggplants or one large eggplant of another variety (optional)
1-2 large onions
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 28-32-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 14-16 ounce cans chick peas (6-7 cups)
¾ cup water with 1 teaspoon of salt (broth) or ¾ cup of homemade broth
¼ cup currants (or 1/2 cup raisins, or about 1 cup diced apples, or 2-3 tablespoons apricot jam)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
½ of a lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
Plain yogurt (optional)
Fresh or dried mint (optional)
(Recipe continues after photos)
- Place the package with the approximately 2 pounds of chicken parts in the sink. Remove the skin from each piece by grabbing it and pulling firmly. Discard the skin. Set the chicken aside on a plate and wash your hands and any surfaces the chicken came into contact with it in order to avoid cross contamination.
- If you are using lamb, cut it into ¾-1-inch cubes and set aside.
- Wash and scrub or peel the 4-6 large carrots and slice them into chunks about ½-¾-inch in size. This should make 3-4 cups.
- Wash and peel the 6-8 small-medium potatoes. Cut them into quarter or eighths. Set them aside in cold water.
- Cut the stems off the 1-2 onions and peel them. Cut them in half, and then lengthwise into about 4 strips. Cut across the strips to coarsely dice them.
- Peel and chop or mince the 6 cloves of garlic.
- (OPTIONAL) Wash the 2-3 eggplants and cut off the ends. If desired, partially peel them to create a striped effect. Slice them lengthwise into quarters or eighths and then crosswise into triangular pieces about ½ -inch thick.
- Squeeze the lemon to make 1 ½ tablespoons or more.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the coarsely diced onions. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the 1/4 cup of vinegar. Let it boil until most of it is evaporated (reduced). This will take about 3-5 minutes. If you're using the eggplant, add it at this time, and cook it for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- (If you are using the lamb, add it at this point and brown on all sides. Then continue with the rest of the recipe)
- Add the can of diced tomatoes, the ¾ cup of broth, the ¼ cup currants, the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and the seasonings (2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon oregano, and ½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes). Stir and blend well.
- Add the carrots and potatoes and distribute evenly.
- Place the skinned chicken parts on top of the stew. They will cook along with the rest of the ingredients.
- Cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer the ingredients until the chicken is cooked through (no pink shows when it is cut at its thickest part) and the vegetables are tender. This will take about an hour, but longer cooking times are almost always better with meals such as stew.
- When the stew has cooked, remove the chicken parts with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate. If it’s larger pieces, such as split breast, slice the meat off the bone.
- Drain and rinse the chick peas and carefully stir them into the stew. Heat through for about 10 minutes.
- Ladle the stew into bowls or onto plates. Add a whole chicken part or some of what you sliced off the breast.
- Serve the stew with a tossed green salad, and some optional pita bread or fresh bread of your choice. Top it with an optional dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh or dry mint, if desired, and if your budget allows.