To make this dish for four hungry diners you will need:
1kg lamb knuckles
250ml good red wine
500ml chicken, beef or lamb stock
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of white beans
3 sticks of celery
3 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1kg yellow sweet potatoes
There’s a lot of colour in this and, best of all, you can almost taste it. This homage to the succulence of lamb has a host of fine flavours in the mix. But that’s not all: what we have here is that most welcome of all meals, one that calms emotions while lifting the spirits. What’s more, the pleasure of cooking this meal is almost as great as eating it.
We begin with the onions and garlic. Peel and thinly slice the onions; crush, peel and mince the garlic. Pour a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sweat the onion and garlic mix over medium heat until soft and translucent. Pour the mix into a bowl and cover with clingwrap until needed later.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan, rev up the heat and sear the lamb sections until browned on all surfaces. Some cooks prefer to lightly flour their meat first. This cook believes the gravy is better without the cloying presence of wheat dust, but you decide.
Clean the carrots and celery, removing every last trace of Mother Earth. Cut both vegetables into longitudinal sections.Select a large saucepan with a fitted lid and decant the cooked onion and garlic mixture into it. Add the lamb, carrots and celery sticks. Tie the thyme sprigs together with clean cotton and drop them into the pot.
Pour in the can of tomatoes, the red wine and the stock. In an ideal world lamb stock would be the favoured choice. But who has such a thing in their freezer? Chicken or beef are far more likely and in this hack’s unfashionable opinion, unlikely to make much difference to the final feast.
Same goes for the wine. It’s amazing what Tassenberg can do for such a meal. Of course you can follow the fancy chefs who insist you should never cook in anything less than the dop you drink. If this is true, pour in some well-breathed Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1984. I bet you that only Mr Rothschild will know the difference.
Let the casserole simmer until the meat is truly tender. For the last five minutes pour in the drained white beans and let them warm up under the lid.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the hob the pot of peeled and sectioned yellow sweet potatoes have now become soft after some gentle boiling. Drain them and give them a good workout with the masher. You may want to add some butter.
Season the casserole with some freshly ground black pepper and as little salt as possible. Salt is a personal thing so let the diners make their own choice after serving.
This meal demands to be accompanied by a heavy Shiraz, the Tassenberg or the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1984. Enjoy. – David Basckin