The good thing about the weather turning cold is that I can cook hearty and warming dishes. Peasants seem to know more hearty and warming dishes than other more pampered types. Since I aspire to be a peasant [a comfortably well off peasant, safe from the risk of famine and disease and exploitation if you don’t mind], what better way to start my Autumn and Winter life than with a peasant recipe.
This is a Romanian shepherds’ pie. And very simple and good it is too. I’ve lifted it from Elisabeth Luard’s excellent European Peasant Cookery.
Take some trimmed lamb [about 250g per person] and cube it into inch square lumps. You can do as Elisabeth recommends as render the fat for the cooking [as though a peasant shepher, hunched around the cooking pot] or you could do as I did, someone with a cholesterol problem and a passion for cheese, and use some oil heated over a medium high flame. Chuck the lamb in and stir well, browning all over. Then add a lot of sliced onions [a medium onion per person] and stir until well cooked. Don’t let it catch or brown too much, so turn the heat down if needs be. Add a load of black pepper and some salt and some chopped herbs. I used dried mixed herbs on the grounds that us peasants don’t have loads of fresh herbs from the supermarket to hand during the winter. Now add enough water to cover the meat, cover the pot and leave to simmer for an hour.
Now peel and slice lots of potatoes. I guess around 250g per person. After an hour, cover the lamb with the potatoes. Top up the dish with more water if it looks too dry.
Leave to cook covered for another half an hour. Just before serving time see how much water is left. If there’s too much, then take the lid off and let some water evaporate. The potatoes don’t down on the top much cooking like this so you can either sprinkle them with vodka and light it or stick it under the grill for a little bit. Or you could just not bother.
Now there’s a challenge. You need to stir a splash of vinegar into the meat sauce and then stir in some cream in too. You’ll notice that there’s a load of potatoes in the way. I lifted the potatoes off and stirred the vinegar and two tablespoons of cream in.
Serve with good seasonal veg, such as sprouts and carrots or eat it out of the cooking pot with a wooden spoon, in the style of a Romanian shepherd out in the mountains.