tarragon lamb - back to my roots
I´ve always considered myself as a world citizen but I realize that I yet have to conquer the safety that knowledge about my people, their culture, the country and it´s history gives - to be able to fly. To be able to lift, I have to know and nourish my roots. And what better way could I find to nourish my roots, if not cooking? Couldn´t you guess that all roads lead to Rome? ;P
Székely cooking is part of Transylvanian cooking and has been impregnated by the Hungarian, Jewish, Armenian, Romanian and Saxon people and their cuisines. Székelys have always been living close to nature and being poor inspired them to use ingredients they could find in the forest and on the fields. Dill, tarragon, rosmary, basil, marjoram, caravay, lovage, "wild"thyme and juniper are some herbs that are frequently used and are found in every flower-bed on the countryside or hanging from kitchen ceilings in dried bunches.
Székely people are famous for their hospitality but I find it more of a burden than something overly positive. From time to time it can be very tiresome to turn down all the food you are being urged to try. I own a few Hungarian recipe books and a Transylvanian one, but I wanted to learn more about the history of food and cooking, so I ordered (read: asked my father to buy and post) two books on the subject. One of them is called Erdélyi lakoma (Transylvanian feast) written by a former owner of Four Seasons (London) Pal Kövi. The other one is called Székely ízek (Székely flavours) and written by János Pataki whom I´ve never heard of, but I´m looking forward to recieve the books anyway.
800g lambsteak in cubes
200g carrots, thickly sliced
200g parsnip, sliced
1 larger celleriac in cubes 2-3 tbs flour
lard (or sunflower seed oil)
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
*Tarragon is not dried for winter usage as other herbs, but vinegared (is there such a word?) Pack tightly a little jar with fresh tarragon and pour pure vinegar over so you fill the jar. Put a lid on and keep it in a cool, dry place and use it during the winter. You can actually use it for up to two years, then the flavour starts to fade away... (If you don´t want to make this, I´m sure you could use fresh tarragon and then add some ready made tarragon vinegar)
Roll the meat in the flour, then brown it in the heated lard until it gets a nice color. Pour 200ml of water on it and cook under a lid for 30-45 minutes. You have to check every 10-15 minutes, stir and add more water if needed, but don´t start with too much water because that´s the trick here. You don´t want to cook a soup, you want a stew, a kind of pörkölt. When the meat starts to get tender add the vegetables, lemon juice and zest and the chopped tarragon and cook for 20-30 more minutes until both lamb and vegetables are cooked.
Of course, I have a long way to go...and this is just the beginning.