sat beside a billabong ..."
So sang my mother, as a lullaby, to my sister and me; so sang my London-born, WWI veteran grandfather to my mother and her sister when they were girls.
But the lilting Waltzing Matilda is perhaps all that many Americans, myself included, know about the hours-, kilometers- and hemisphere-away Aussies of Australia.
(Top-of-mind check. Fosters beer. Great wine. Vegemite. Mutton. Humour and vocabulary. Kangaroos and koalas. That movie guy with the cowboy hat, what was his name? And yeah, Muriel, the one in the wedding movie. Russell Crowe!!! A remarkable 60-something white-haired Aussie named Martha who trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes carrying a red umbrella and wearing a long-sleeved, high-collared white -- WHITE! -- linen shirt somehow kept immaculately fresh during five days of hard hiking and third-world camping. The Sydney Opera House. The Outback. A Town Like Alice. The Shackleton Antarctica quest. Rupert Murdoch. Dame Edna. The Bee Gees. Gallipoli. The aboriginal people. That's a sadly short list for a big place. Note to self: Make immediate booking to Australia for blog research purposes.)
So when the Australia-based Two-Minute Noodle Cook announced the four ingredients for this month's Paper Chef, the international food weekend that keeps some (ahem) foodies awake nights strategizing on the possibilities, I jumped into the fray.
But hey -- did they make it tooo easy?
- Rice & Carrots -- These two ingredients appear often here on A Veggie Venture.
- Anchovies -- Eeeww. Anchovies? Stinky fish?? Stinky slimy fish??? Alright, this one's a challenge. But okay, I'm game, I've been meaning to try them, seems they're everywhere, including a tin or two in my very own pantry. So why NOT now? (And hey, I can always blame any iffy results on someone else's choice of stinky slimy fish. And besides, it qualifies for the never-ending Clean Out the Pantry project.)
- Something from Down Under -- Nothing like lamb, eh, mate?
And so was inspired Swagman Stew, a lamb, carrot and spinach stew fat with tomato gravy soaked up by just-cooked basmati rice and perfect -- PERFECT -- for a cold, wintry Sunday supper.
In keeping with the style of the house, Swagman Stew is a simple stew, one that takes a few minutes of up-front attention, then essentially simmers away on the stove for an afternoon, filling the house with a rich aroma of spring lamb and summer tomatoes, and developing flavors whose first bites, as it turned out, turned the table from lively to silent ... until that is, the shiraz, Australian of course, in due course fixed that.
As ever, many thanks to the folks who work hard to coordinate these events -- just like in my first Paper Chef back in September, I'm learning that I can, indeed, cook without a recipe.
PS As for those stinky slimy anchovies? I must not have used enough for there was not one bit of stink or slime in the entire stew. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow. Hint, hint.
Hands-on time: 25 minutes up front plus 10 to finish plus brief occasional attention along the way
Time to table: 3 1/2 hours
Makes 7 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic with a little water
1 pound lamb (uh oh! I'm not even sure what cut the butcher sent home with me, I explained only that 'stew' was the plan), fat removed and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (next time I'll make larger chunks as the lamb seemed to break down with the long cook)
2 tablespoons anchovy paste (I started with just 1 but then decided to live daringly)
2 cups slow-roasted tomatoes (this is the Eat Local angle, Batch 5, to be precise, which included a head of garlic) or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut in thick slices on the diaganol
About 5 ounces fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste (none was needed tonight)
Heat a Dutch oven over MEDIUM HIGH. Add the oil, let heat til shimmery. Add the onion, stir to coat with oil. Add the garlic and saute until soft and golden. Push the onion to the edge of the pan, add the meat, in batches if necessary, and brown the meat. Stir in the anchovy paste, the slow-roasted tomatoes, the wine and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to MEDIUM, cover and let simmer for an hour, checking occasionally to stir and adjust temperature to keep at slow simmer.
Add the basil and thyme, let simmer for another hour.
Add the carrots, making sure they're completely submerged, and cook for another 45 minutes.
Add the spinach and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve hot over cooked rice. Enjoy! Tell the cook she did just fine!! And pass the wine ...
Stew Only, Per Cup: 256 Cal (41% from Fat, 37% from Protein, 21% from Carb); 24 g Protein; 12 g Tot Fat; 3 g Sat Fat; 13 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; NetCarb 10; 66 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 1050 mg Sodium; 71 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 5 points
1 Cup Stew with 1 cup rice: 304 Cal (35% from Fat, 33% from Protein, 32% from Carb); 25 g Protein; 12 g Tot Fat; 3 g Sat Fat; 24 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; NetCarb 20; 70 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 1051 mg Sodium; 71 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 6 points