Once you've browned your meat, and added the requisite fresh herbs + bay, onions, and garlic, and before you add the wine/stock + veg, add a selection or all of the following to give your stew a lift:
• whole red chilli, chopped (deseeded if liked)
• heaped tsp sichuan pepper, crushed, or whole black peppercorns
• 3/4 brown anchovies from a jar/can
• crushed/sliced thumb-sized piece of ginger
• a few strips of orange zest
• 4/5 whole ripe tomatoes
I can guarantee you'll be licking your plates, and the casserole dish (given half the chance...).
I braised some beautiful lamb shanks for a couple of hours with all of the above the other night, with the addition of streaky bacon, and some steamed jersey potatoes, with roasted asparagus, baby artichokes, and fennel alongside. It went down a treat.