Cold weather is not something that most people enjoy, but I’m not most people. I love the festive feeling that comes from crisp, cold mornings and frosty countryside. Come summer, my fellow celts and I will be bathing in SPF 50 and complaining about the heat, whereas winter, for me, is somehow snuggly and cosy. Layers of clothes, mittens and boots are like cocoons of warmth that we can shed when we finally arrive in our centrally heated homes. Roaring fire or hot radiator, I don’t care, both create that welcoming homeyness that I love.
Comfort food and cold weather are perfect partners. Soups, stews and mountains of starchy roots are the ideal accompaniments to frosty days and I eat more than my fair share of them when the temperature drops. To be honest, I’d eat that kind of food in 40°C heat, but I definitely appreciate it more when there’s snow on the rooftops! Steak and ale stew topped with pastry, chunky leek and potato soup, eye-wateringly spicy chicken curry or cheese-topped dauphinoise are all gratefully received. This is the food that cheers me and fills my heart with joy.
One big pot in the middle of the table with some rice or quinoa and salad and this becomes a conversation; serving each other, talking about the flavours passing the bread and pouring wine. Suddenly a group of friends feel like close family and the cook can rest, knowing that their part is over and now they can relax and enjoy the company (perhaps even receive a few compliments?) and when the cook is as ease, so is everyone else. My lamb tagine is the first recipe that my mum tasted and asked for the recipe – before that, she was the giver of recipes – it started a reciprocal foodie relationship between my mother and me. My apprenticeship was complete.
800g lamb shoulder, cut into cubes (or speak nicely to your butcher for some good stewing lamb)
2 heaped tablespoons flour (I use rice flour)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 generous teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
2 red onions, roughly chopped
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 heaped tablespoon harissa (Bart’s make a good one or check your local deli)
lamb or beef stock
salt, to season
- Put the flour in a bowl and mix in the cumin, coriander and paprika, season with salt and toss the lamb in the spiced flour.
- Heat some oil in a pan and add the lamb, letting it brown well before stirring. Once browned all over, add the onions, carrots and celery and leave to soften slightly.
- Stir in the harissa and add enough stock to just cover the meat and veg. Bring to a boil then simmer with the lid on for 2-3 hours until the lamb is tender. Give it a stir whenever you remember, to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan.
I like to serve this with some chopped coriander leaves, lemon zest and chopped red chilli stirred in at the last minute for an extra touch of freshness and heat.