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08/06/2011 / melgardener

Winter Warmers

I’m the first to admit that winter is not my favourite season (it’s not even my second favourite…or third, for that matter). I loathe the cold, detest the rain and don’t even get me started on snow. Not even the temptation of schnapps can sway me on that one. (Okay, yes, that’s another $10 gone).

But, winter does have some benefits and the main one I enjoy is the excuse to cook and eat comfort food. I love a rich, hearty stew, relish a piping hot bowl of soup and can easily have second helpings of curry. These are dishes that have no place in the warmer months – they only work to their
best effect when it’s cold.

Today I’m making lamb, rosemary and sweet potato casserole. Not only is it one of the simplest dishes I know, but it all gets cooked in one pot so it’s great for people who hate washing up (that would be me). The other thing I love about this meal, and about many a soup or casserole, is that they are very forgiving. You don’t need to have any particular culinary skills in order to create one and you can pretty much mix and match ingredients to a standard base, depending on what you have in the fridge and pantry.

One of the problems I have when I cook is that rarely do I ever make a dish the same way twice; which also makes it difficult to write out recipes when I’m asked to. I try to keep the list and the instructions simple but then I want to add a note here and a note there, and before long I’ve
written a novel that no-one is going to read.

But, with the smell of lamb and rosemary permeating the house, I’ll try.

Take your cubed lamb and coat it in some seasoned flour. I seasoned mine with sumac (because I adore this spice and it is the perfect friend for lamb) but you could also go with a salt/pepper seasoning. Fry a chopped onion and some crushed garlic in a pan with a bit of oil, then add the
lamb and brown it all over. Don’t worry about all the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan. They will eventually melt in the gravy/sauce and will add heaps to the flavour. Chop some fresh rosemary and add that to the pan.

Tip in a can of tomatoes, one-and-a-half cups of stock (I always use veggie stock but use whatever you’re most comfortable with) and half a cup of red wine (go on, pour yourself a glass as well. You deserve it). Bring this to a simmer and add the cubed sweet potato and potato. At this point you
can either transfer to an oven at 170 degrees or leave on the stovetop at a very low simmer. You want this to cook for 1-2 hours so the lamb is beautifully tender and falls apart when you eat it. This would also work perfectly in a slow cooker.

With about half an hour to go, add any other veggies you are using. In my case, I added some chopped carrot, half a cup of frozen peas, a small tin of sweet corn and a small zucchini. Serve with crusty bread to soak up all the gravy/sauce.

What’s your winter warmer meal and how do you like to cook it?

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