A portuguese lamb stew to awake the tastebuds and bring me back to the land of the living
And then, without a big trumpet announcement, without gales blowing outside to the sound of falling rain and echoing thunders, without November's ability to prepare us and get us in the mood, just like Glenn Miller's famed theme, December reached us unexpected. 'Tis the season and what not, and even though temps have been cooler, and the wind has been playing carroussels with the leaves and my hair whenever I walk outside, it feels like December came too soon, and the season reached us far too soon.
I have only just begun my periplus through cold months comforting array of foods, I haven't even baked cinnamon rolls, and the queen of Fall around my home, the pie - whatever the filling might be - as only just begun making its first outings. It doesn't feel like December, my body is not yet in December mode, and my usually high Christmas spirit seems to have been taken out of me while sleeping. I feel more like Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas than ever before. I'm quite certain that all that happened - minor though it may seem in comparison to what other people may have been going through - last September and October has had a very strong hand in it. It's like my giddy joie de vivre has been ripped right out of me and I am having a terrible time finding it once more.
So because of that I decided to play along to my son's wants, and spent last weekend decking the halls, literally. I told him we could put up the Christmas village and spread the Christmas knick knacks around the house, over shelves and hanging from their long lived favoured places, but that we would leave the tree for next weekend. I just wasn't feeling it, and I hated myself for it. Christmas is twenty three days away from me and I am still not quite feeling yuletide grabbing me by the balls - well, actually by the boobs an' all. I am just not finding a way into the spirit. I have no idea what it will be like, this year, as I feel like I need to get my juju back and still I don't know why. In the end, I told myself what the heck, and got the tree up as well. Maybe if I sit by it and stare at it long enough, I will start to feel something.
I only wished I wouldn't feel so numb, as if nothing really matters and nothing really makes me excited about things I used to hold dear to heart just a year ago. I turn to cooking in the hopes I come up with dishes that pull me out of this sleepy state, this numbness of feelings that is leaving me listless. I focus on ingredients I love, like potatoes, and come up with ideas of things I would like to try cooking with said ingredients, but then it's like I couldn't be bothered, because, in the end, what's the point? If the point is gobbling down food, well, I could do with loosing a little more weight and volume, and if the point is to photograph it and post it in this blog... why bother? is what I feel most days. It's like I am stuck in the middle of nowhere and I have no desire of getting out of there.
But then something comes up that seems to wake me from my slumbers, if only momentarily, like some particularly good mulled wine with clementines that turn juicy and spicy and are a treat to eat as dessert, or a lamb stew that is so portuguese as to make me gag in its commoness and regionality, such a paragon for what in my eyes the gastronomic culture of this country stands for. Because, let's face it, Ireland has a lamb stew recipe, I'm guessing most UK must have regional recipes of lamb stew, as well as New Zealand and I'm gonna risk Australia too, India has lamb curry - and that's fancy for stew! - but none of those can come close to a good ole' portuguese "Ensopado de Borrego", our very own lamb stew. There are many variations on this theme, with more of this and less of that, with seasonings that might slightly differ from place to place and cook to cook, but they all share one simple thread: it's a thick, warm, hearty stew that makes use of certain lamb cuts that are not prime quality when it comes to meatiness and tenderness. It cooks for hours to make sure it becomes tender, and that will bring forth all the flavours of the meat.
For our version we use:
- 500 gr lamb that is cut in medium to small size chunks
- 3 large carrots
- 5 medium potatoes
- 2 large onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 5 very ripe tomatoes - or passata if you prefer
- 1 glass of white wine
- 1 good glug of olive oil
- flour, salt, pepper, laurel leaves and water