Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the cusp



The season is starting to turn. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the days are lengthening. Work days don't start and end in inky blackness, with daylight glimpsed through office windows but gone before you get home to enjoy it.


There is a hint of warmth in the breeze and the sun is starting to get some spirit into its rays. Bulbs are popping up in the garden, with splashes of purple and yellow enlivening the grey winter soil. Soon my kitchen will be full of spring greens and lighter, simpler meals will be on the menu. I'm especially looking forward to the arrival of asparagus.


In the meantime, the nights are still cold. The unpredictable Melbourne weather means that a warm spring-like day will be followed by one of rain and biting wind, so warming, soothing soups and stews are still welcome at this time of year. While they are a heavy meal, stews are simple to make and most require only copious amounts of time, bubbling away on the stove, or cooking gently in the oven, to turn them into a meal to warm you up from the inside.

So there's still time to make some stews before putting away the stockpot. I have quite a collection of favourites but I'm always finding new recipes to add to my repertoire.

One of my favourite non-food magazines is Notebook magazine. It has an excellent food section each month but it also has very interesting, thought-provoking articles that go beyond the usual fluff about celebrities, make-overs or diets, and give you pause to reflect on relevant issues affecting us, whether it's the environment, managing finances or reading about strong, intelligent women.

The June issue featured a delicious-looking French lamb and cannelini bean casserole with rosemary dumplings. Just the title was enough to catch my interest and it was certainly worth making. The dumplings are cooked at the end, without a lid, and get a pleasant crispy crunch to them. I've adjusted the liquids from the original recipe, as I prefer my stews quite thick, and this one had a thin sauce. If you make only one more stew this winter, make this one.

French lamb and cannelini bean casserole with rosemary dumplings
Adapted from a recipe in Notebook magazine, June 2009 issue

1 tablespoon olive oil
500g lamb shoulder, cut into 3cm pieces
12 baby pickling onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 cup (125ml) white wine
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
1 bouquet garni
1 rosemary stalk
400g can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
Dumplings
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
30g butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Heat half the oil in a large, flameproof casserole pan over high heat. Cook the lamb in batches until brown all over, then transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining oil to the pan over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown. Add the lamb, wine, beef stock, bouquet garni and rosemary. Remove from heat and bake in preheated oven, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until lamb is tender. Add the cannelini beans and stir to combine. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.

Meanwhile, to make the dumplings, place the flour in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Use your fingertips to run the butter into the flour. Add the rosemary and stir to combine. Add the milk and use a round-bladed knife to stir until mixture just comes together.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Spoon tablespoons of dumpling mixture over the top. Bake in oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until dumplings are golden brown and cooked through. Serve with steamed green beans.

1 comment:

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