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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, July 16, 2007

The best stew for winter

It's really cold. The coldest winter in a couple of years, at least. Certainly the coldest I've felt for a while, and I'm loving it...Most of the time I'm loving it. The times when I'm walking from the station to work and my feet have turned numb and my nose is aching are not the times I love it so much. But generally I've always been a cold-weather person, and I think it's partly because of the food; I love anything slow-cooked, casseroled, stewed or Germanic and over the past weeks I've been cooking up a huge pot of something meaty and wet (uhhh...) to have in the fridge for when we come home and it's dark and cold, and we're tired, hungry and perhaps prone to grabbing the first edible thing that springs to hand, which may or may not be a packet of Twisties...
This week I made coq au vin, in honour of Bastille Day, but I've also been dabbling in a spicy, paprika-laden beef & chickpea stew dolloped with yoghurt (gutsy) and an Irish stew made with pearl barley and topped with sliced potatoes that my mum thought was nice, but wasn't what she considered Irish stew (and fair enough -it did seem more of a Lancashire hot pot). But the best stew I've ever made and which gets my juices going just when I look at the photo was one I made for a few friends last winter; the Greek lamb stew from Nigella's How To Eat. Truly, I dreamt about it for weeks afterwards, and I'm going to have to give it another run this winter, especially as my brother is currently living the party life in the Greek Islands and the Greek theme is running strong.

It calls for 2.5kg of lamb shoulder cooked in a bottle of white wine (yes, white), the standard stew veggies, tinned tomatoes, oregano and small pasta shapes. I love stews with pasta cooked in them; they go soft and slurpy and absorb all the tasty liquid. But for me, the crowning glory of this dish is the mix of crumbled feta and dried oregano you scatter over your plate before serving. I love feta cheese anyway, but this was outstanding. Don't skip it. In fact, I'd double the amount - it makes the dish a bit richer, but the sharp saltiness works so well. It's also fabulous with a dribble of chilli oil over the top.
This one gets a really strong recommendation from me, but note, if you have trouble finding lamb shoulder - as we did, even at the Preston market, or are charged a
what-the-f*%#?! price - as we were - an alternative one butcher suggested might be to use lamb shoulder chops, which are cheaper and much easier to find.

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