I cook without formal training. I will often hold two herbs up to my nose and sniff to see if they match. That's my big secret. Sometimes I line up three bunches of herbs and drift my nose back and forth, attempting to isolate the perfect pitch of flavour. I rely on my sense of smell as much as I do my sense of taste, perhaps even more so. I believe cooking is instinctual, I dream about the flavour combination I plan on making, I text myself kitchen missives when out and my favourite store is a gorgeous grocer that specializes in local produce and imported and specialty items. I love playing with food and sometimes dinner is a learning experience and sometimes it really, really works.
This dish is not easily classifiable. Mr. thinks it was more of a chowder but I was channeling stew as I diced the onions, chopped the carrots and stirred in the hearty hunks of lamb. The lamb was from dinner the night before, a lovely meal of beets, sweet potatoes and the most tender and delicious lamb I have ever eaten. Mr. slowly roasted the lamb in red wine, fennel and onions. At least, these are the main spices (and root vegetable) I am aware of; I've been dealing with my own cold as well as the babies' collective stuffy noses. The beans and meat give this meal a stew-like consistency but the milk throws it off entirely and transforms it into the chowder. This is Mr.'s reasoning and he's not relenting so we'll go with chowder. I think chowder stew thing of yumminess is more apt.
one onion, diced
2 cups beans (I used soldier and red kidney beans)
8 oz. cooked lamb (fennel, rosemary, rhubarb, red wine, pink and black peppercorns*)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
8 cubes pre-made stock (these are ice cubes, not those powder things)
one cup almond milk**
decent handful of spinach
S&P to taste
1. Sweat the onions in butter that has been slowed with olive oil.
2. Add the carrots and beans. At this point add the red wine and 3-4 cubes of stock. I always use this for stock. Cover and let it simmer to cook the carrots. I had to leave mine for a bit because my beans were half-cooked. If your beans are in better shape, use your own discretion.
3. Chop the lamb into one centimetre square pieces and add to the pot. Basically a good (big people-sized) spoonful of the chowder will have a bite of lamb, at least one bean and a carrot.
4. Add the last of the soup stock and the almond milk. Lower the heat to about medium low so that the almond milk doesn't scald.
5. Chop the spinach into strips and add to the pot just a few minutes before serving. Don't forget to salt and pepper to your taste!
*Mr. gave up his spice mix! You would definitely have to change the order in which you add/cook the ingredients of this stew but with this spice mix you could emulate it! Yum! Plus, if you are vegetarian (uh, not sure why you'd be reading this post all the way to this point, but if you are, thanks!) you could forgo the lamb and fake the flavour. Score.
**Usually I would have used goat milk because soy milk is a total pain when it is cooked because it curdles, not in a make you sick way but in a really, really annoying way. The almond milk seemed able to hold its own and the only adjustment I needed to overcome its sweetness
Mr. does almost all my plating because I am not very good at the balancing and pretty-fying aspect of food. He topped our stew with Roquefort and the kiddies and my mom had Drunken Goat (a hard goat cheese). The stew wasn't overly heavy so it's really perfect as a spring chowder and it will cure the common cold. Really.*
*This isn't true. That's why the common cold is so damn awful.