In Peru, a seco is a stew whose ingredients vary by region and my all-time favorite one is the lamb stew or Seco de Cordero. Slow cooked in a cilantro sauce, it is hearty, savory, and a little spicy — perfect for the upcoming Fall season. My mom often reminds me that as a little boy I would simply refer to it as the delicious meat dish with the tasty green sauce, but she knew what I meant. And by the time I was done savoring the seco, there wasn’t a speck of green left on the plate.
The recipe here is based on my mom’s, with techniques and ingredients from recipes by Gaston Acurio and Tony Custer. The three basic steps are: browning the lamb, sautéing the sofrito, and slow cooking the lamb in the cilantro sauce. Depending on the size of the pot you use, you may need to brown the lamb in batches. For the sofrito, I used some aji amarillo to add a spicy touch. And I used an immersion blender to puree the cilantro. The slow cooking just requires patience.
Cilantro was brought to Peru by the Spaniards, and is used in dishes like the Lomo Saltado or Ceviche Nikkei, but here its flavor take center stage as a great complement to the lamb. In many ways this dish also reminds me of a tagine. For as long as I’ve enjoyed the seco, I’ve always had it with steamed rice and frejoles, but I think it would also go really nicely with a side of quinoa or couscous. Both of which are great for mopping up the last of the savory and spicy green sauce off your plate.
- 2 lb. boneless leg of lamb
- salt, pepper, cumin, oregano to taste
- canola oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 red onion
- 1 teaspoon aji amarillo
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 yellow potatoes
- 4 carrots
- 1/4 cup green peas
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a large pot to cook the lamb and an immersion blender to make the cilantro purée.
- Mince the garlic and dice the onion, potatoes, and carrots. Remove the cilantro leaves from the bunch and purée in 1/2 cup of water. Cut the lamb into bite size pieces. Prepare the beef stock.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper and brown in a pot with canola oil over medium to high heat. Work in batches if necessary. Remove the lamb from the pot when done.
- In the same pot, add some more canola oil and sauté the onions, garlic, and aji amarillo sofrito over medium heat. Season with cumin and oregano to taste.
- Add 1/2 of the cilantro purée to the sofrito to deglaze the pot.
- Return the lamb to the pot, add 1 cup of the beef stock, and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the remainder of the cilantro purée, 1/2 cup of stock, potatoes, carrots and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Add the green peas and turn off heat, mix well.
- Serve warm with a side of steamed rice and frejoles.
To make the beef stock, I used one teaspoon of Better than Bouillon Beef Base to 1 cup of water. And though I made 2 cups of stock, I only used the sufficient amount to add to the sauce that was reduced while slow cooking.