Last week, I received my paperback copy of The Hunger Games, and, pardon the pun, devoured it in a night. Sure, I didn’t sleep much, but it was worth it. I handed it over to my daughter who did the same the next night, although she wasn’t willing to cop to being up until 4am, and I didn’t reveal to her how much faster she is at reading than I am.
Yesterday, we went to the cinema in Redmond during the day when most people are either at work or school (one of the best things about a lack of schedule as homeschoolers is having an entire movie theatre to ourselves, or nearly so). I’d saved half of the leg of lamb I’d purchased earlier in the week, but we got home so late yesterday, we ended up eating out instead. So, tonight we had Katniss’ favorite meal from the Capitol. Going completely on inspiration, and not looking it up, here’s what I came up with. Remember folks, I don’t generally measure for things like this, so you’ll have to use your own best judgment, and since I wanted this to have an intense flavor, I was fairly heavy-handed with the spices.
First, chop a pound of lamb meat into small, bite-sized pieces. Toss into a bowl with shiitake mushrooms (or any sturdy mushroom on hand that you like) and two handfulls of dried plums (prunes). Cover with a decent quality red wine (I believe I used either Haystack or Barefoot brands, since those are the two open on my counter at the moment). Toss in a large quantity — approx. 3 or 4 T. each — of turmeric and paprika*. Sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon. Grind 2 tsp. flower pepper (black pepper with dried petals from calendula, rose, lavender, and cornflower), add this to the liquid. Stir it all together. Let marinade all day or over night.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a pot or large, tall-sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add in rendered lamb’s fat (or 2/3 a stick of butter or olive oil, the heartier the fat, the better the survival in the arena), and allow to melt. Saute minced garlic. Spoon out plums and mushrooms into a separate bowl. Spoon lamb out of bowl, adding a splash of the red wine mixture. Brown the lamb’s meat.
Create an opening in the center of the pan or pot, and brown the mushrooms in the center until tender. Remove from heat, add plums, and pour in the rest of the wine mixture. Bring to a low boil for about five minutes.
Optional (at my daughter’s insistence): add in 4 heaping T. of Bhutanese red rice or a similar wild, nutty grain. Fill the bowl that held the marinade half way with water, bring to a boil again, and turn heat down to medium to simmer and reduce sauce.
When sauce has reduced to a syrupy thickness, replace the mushrooms and salt to taste.
This turned into an intensely flavored, rich stew. It sent me into throws of bliss, but my partner said he wasn’t very hungry to start (though he ate all the lamb), and my daughter picked out the lamb, saying the sauce was too spicy for her. She offered me her plums and rice, but I’d already had my small bowl and a third of my partner’s, which was plenty. Small pot, very filling.
*For my mother and other people unable to eat nightshades, I’d recommend replacing the paprika with extra cinnamon, although you don’t need as much cinnamon as paprika, even with this substitution.