Eating My Words | Meat Mains | Recipes

Hunger Games Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

Written by Rebecca Peters-Golden

I always delight in reading novels that totally love their food—feasting, snacking, cooking, smelling; I love it all.

There is, however, something almost shiveringly good about a delicious description of food in a book where food is scarce. This is the case in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (hi, the title kind of says it all).

lamb stew
Photo: Casey Barber

When kickass Katniss Everdeen isn’t trying to find enough food to survive or interacting with Greasy Sae, the old woman in District 12 who famously says, “Once it’s in the soup, I’ll call it beef,” she’s, you know, killing other teenagers to provide a vicious propaganda of bread and circus for the overprivileged and overfed citizens of the Capitol.

In short, for Katniss, food has always been a necessity and very rarely a pleasure. It’s for this reason, I think, that Katniss’ fondness for lamb stew stands out.

On the train that will take her to the Capitol, Katniss views each meal as a chance to build up her strength, to perhaps help her stay alive a little longer in the Game.

lamb stew
Photo: Casey Barber

Although she tastes many of the Capitol’s delicacies, it is a homely stew that she likes the best, “made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums” and served on a bed of wild rice.

Although she shovels it into her mouth without thinking on the train, when she is interviewed in the Capitol, it’s very much on her mind:

“So, Katniss, the Capitol must be quite a change from District Twelve. What’s impressed you most since you arrived here?” asks Caesar. . . .

I rack my brain for something that made me happy here. Be honest, I think. Be honest.

“The lamb stew,” I get out.

Caesar laughs, and vaguely I realize some of the audience has joined in.

“The one with the dried plums?” asks Caesar. I nod. “Oh, I eat it by the bucketful.”

lamb stew
Photo: Casey Barber

And, never has hunger so been nature’s salt than in a scene during the Games, when (spoiler) Katniss and Peeta are rewarded for their first kiss with the only real meal they’ve had since the Games begun:

“There’s a feast—fresh rolls, goat cheese, apples, and best of all, a tureen of that incredible lamb stew on wild rice.”

As a reader, it’s like you’ve been hungry for delicious food descriptions as Katniss has been deprived of food, and this Hunger Games lamb stew definitely hits the spot . . .

Even if you aren’t fighting for your life at the hands of a corrupt government.

lamb stew
Photo: Casey Barber

So, even though the Hunger Games movie will likely disappoint, at least you can follow the casting call from your couch.

And you can sop up a bowl of this delicious Hunger Games lamb stew as you watch the blogosphere rage.

lamb stew
lamb stew

Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Lamb stew with dried plums is inspired by Katniss Everdeen's favorite food in The Hunger Games, but it's also a simple but comforting recipe you can make for dinner tonight.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag dried plums (prunes), sliced in half

Instructions

  1. In a large pot such as a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add half the lamb and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil and brown the remaining lamb, then transfer to the bowl.
  4. Lower the heat to medium.
  5. Add the onions and cook until soft, stirring frequently. They'll take on the brown color from the meat, but shouldn't caramelize.
  6. After about 8 minutes, when the onions are soft, add the garlic and cook for a minute, but don't let the garlic burn.
  7. Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  8. Add the browned lamb along with the cumin, salt, and pepper.
  9. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Add the dried plums and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you find the stew getting too thick, add up to another 1/2 cup of water or wine.
  11. Serve with bread or other side of your choice.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 524Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 873mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 47g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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11 Comments

  1. This looks amazing! Issue may be taken with a number of casting choices, but should they be looking to fill the role of Katniss’ beloved stew, you may reasonably expect a call!

  2. Really interesting spin on a book my teenage daughters make fun of. (There are very deep divisions between the fans of Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games.) I don’t eat lamb, but this gives me an interesting insight into the heroine.

  3. Lamb stew… not something I eat, but I know my husband would love me even more if I made this for him. And it looks so easy (for someone like me who doesn’t make stew because she thinks it so hard).

  4. Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) talks about a book group where the host always makes something from the book. Such a clever way to better understand literature (and food!!)

  5. I made this last night. The only thing I did different was I added a few carrots and a couple of tiny potatoes. It was delicious!. Exactly how I imagined it would taste. Thanks!!

  6. Well, the movie didn’t disappoint, and it inspired some cooking experiments. It may have been daring to do that for our Easter feast… but I dared. The lamb stew was among them, though I used rosemary instead of thyme, and we served baked potatoes with it. I did use thyme for the apple tart with goat cheese. My family liked it, and so did a friend of my son who came visiting.

  7. I am currently reading Catching Fire, like the series, what I also like is how a food is big deal. Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies and wanted to replicate Katniss’s favorite meal at the Capitol, Lamb Stew with Dried Plum. I envisioned it to be a French or North Africa style of stew. When I looked online for recipes, I was disappointed to see more soup type consistency rather than the thick gravy like stew that was described. I came across this one and told my self that this was a sound recipe and needed to try it. I followed the recipe to the letter and it produced a rich and decadent stew. The prunes complemented the lamb really well, also the wine I used was a Washington State Syrah. I told my self, This is definitely what they would serve at the capitol and I can eat this by the bucket full. Good job, I’ll be repeating this recipe.

  8. Fred, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! I, too, am not a fan of a watery stew—I mean, Katiniss was going to eat it for strength; it has to be hearty. Thanks! —Rebecca

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