Wednesday, 26 November 2008
When the Frost Gilds the Pumpkin . . .
"A tingling, misty marvel
Blew hither in the night,
And now the little peach-trees
Are clasped in frozen light.
Upon the apple-branches
An icy film is caught,
With trailing threads of gossamer
In pearly patterns wrought.
The autumn sun, in wonder,
Is gayly peering through
This silver-tissued network
Across the frosty blue.
The weather-vane is fire-tipped,
The honeysuckle shows
A dazzling icy splendor,
And crystal is the rose."
- Evaleen Stein, November Morning
As I walked home from work, quite early in the wee hours of this morning, I could see it all around me . . . the magic of Jack Frost's brush had painted everything high and low, under a crystal clear night sky full of the magic of starlight, icy crystals twinkling and adoring all the hedgerows and grasses . . . the first heavy frost of the year.
The air almost tinkled and rang with the magic of it all and I tarried down the lane, breathing it in and basking in the wonder of it all, and thought about what a gift it was. Most nights I would miss this, laying upstairs in my warm bed in the cottage, sleeping . . . totally unaware of the wonder weaving it's way through branch and on leaf. I breathed in the air and felt it's cold sting in my my nose and down in my lungs . . .
I am so thankful for a heart that has passion enough and the will to take the time to soak it all in, the wonder of life and the joy that it brings, blessings both great and small . . . sometimes I think that the smallest joys are the greatest blessings of all . . .
I had a quiet afternoon yesterday before I left for work. I was able to do a new painting. Todd says she is his favourite one thus far . . . but then again we both say that every time. I just love the magic that springs from the end of my paint brush, not quite as beautiful as the magic from Jack Frost's brush, but I hope that what comes out weaves a spell over the viewer just the same . . .
I cooked us the Irish Stew from my Cookbook challenge of last week for our tea. It was lovely, comfort food, stick to the innards food . . . just what the body is wanting on a cold autumnal day. We sat at the table, enjoying our meal together as we looked out at the darkening sky . . . the blanket of night fell down upon us, the firelight from the flames in our fire flickered against the walls as Jess lay hopeful upon the mat in front of it. This is what life is all about, what more could a body want or possibly need . . .
serves 4 to 6
(I cut the recipe in half quite successfully)
Apparently there is no definitive recipe for Irish Stew, each family placing layers of their chosen vegetables and lamb in a pot, seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with water or stock and stewed gently for several hours. Searing the meat and vegetables first adds a lovely depth of flavour to the stew.
3 pound 5 oz of mutton chops from the neck or shoulder,
still on the bone, cut about 3/4 inch thick
(I used lamb chops cut from the loin)
3 TBS olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into
thick slices at an angle,
(or 12 small baby carrots, scrubbed and left whole)
12 baby onions, peeled, or 3 - 4 medium onions,
peeled and cut into quarters through the root, which
should keep the wedges intact
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks (my addition)
1/2 of a small swede, peeled and cut into chunks (my addition)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 fluid ounces of lamb or chicken stock, or water
a large sprig of thyme
8 to 12 potatoes, peeled and cut in half if very large
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 TBS snipped fresh chives
Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then add the chops, cooking for a minute or so on either side until nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Add the carrots, swede, parsnips and onions and cook for several minutes, allowing them to brown in places. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Place all the vegetables into a deep casserole dish with a lid. Lay the chops on top of them, seasoning them with some salt and pepper as well. Scrap the leaves from the spring of thyme and sprinkle it over top. Place your peeled potatoes on top and then pour the stock over all.
Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is very tender and the vegetables are nicely cooked, and potatoes just beginning to brown. Pour off the cooking liquid and allow it to sit for a minute and then skim off any fat. Pour the juices back over the stew and serve hot, sprinkled with the parsley and chives.
A nice crusty roll to mop up the juices is nice along side.