Written by Lana of Bibberche
The eastern states are buried under several feet of fresh snow, and the temperatures in Southern California have plummeted, as if in solidarity. My girls and I wear our socks to bed, put on several layers of clothing, and pile up blankets to keep our noses warm.
When I can see my own breath inside the house, I crave simple, satisfying, peasant fare.
And, if the recipe comes from a friend, it makes my toes wiggle in delight and gets me ready to face another frigid night.
A Gift from a Friend
Back in the day, before I knew that blogs even existed, I was an active participant of a few online culinary forums. I was fascinated by the diversity I discovered in the ether and my virtual cookbook slowly grew to gargantuan proportions as I added more and more recipes from all over the world.
I was firmly ensconced on American soil, but I cherished the moments when I could connect to the people from the old country especially through traditions, culture, and food.
I met Vera on SerbianCafe.com in the late 90’s. She lived in Moscow where her husband worked. Her photos made me yearn for Russian winters that I have never experienced. She was witty and sharp, smart and assertive, but kind and generous in sharing her expertise in the kitchen and beyond.
Her recipes were always prefaced by a story, a small nugget of history, an advice, or a literary quote. She was a true cosmopolitan and I looked forward to trying her concoctions knowing that I would be in for an exceptional epicurean experience. We exchanged emails and made plans to meet one day in our beloved Belgrade.
A few weeks ago I received an email that almost broke my heart: Vera passed away after a long battle with cancer.
I sat numb for hours. I felt bad because I did not know she was sick. I felt angry to think that I will never meet her in Belgrade, Moscow, or California. I felt cheated because I knew I would forever miss her wit and her generosity.
But soon after, I realized that I have a piece of her: I have dozens of her recipes securely tucked in my cookbook. I can reach out to her whenever I want and she will be there for me, kind and supportive as always, eager to lead me to another success in my culinary adventures.
Vera’s Georgian Lamb Stew
They say that people from Georgia (ex USSR) live very long lives and most experts atribute their longevity to their diet which consists of a lot of dairy, meat, and vegetables – all of it natural, unprocessed, and wholesome.
This recipe for Georgian lamb stew is simple and not fussy, easily adaptable and versatile. You can add or omit any vegetable to make it appeal to your family.
- 2 lbs young lamb, cut into big chunks
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium/large russet potatoes, peeled
- 2 medium onions, peeled
- 4 roma tomatoes (or 3 ripe tomatoes)
- 3 bell peppers (red, orange and yellow), seeded, stems removed
- 2 smaller eggplants (leave the skin on), ítems removed
- 1 bunch parsley, minced
- ½ bunch of fresh dill, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 quart chicken stock(you can substitute 1 cup of stock for 1 cup of red wine)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 peppercorns
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and brown the meat on medium-high heat, 4-5 minutes per side. In the meantime cut all the vegetables in rounds of approximately similar thickness.
- Place the lamb on the bottom of a clay pot or a Dutch oven and Start layering the vegetables in the order they were listed in the ingredients. Add parsley and dill on top, along with whole garlic cloves. Press lightly with your palm.
- Pour the liquid (stock, or stock and wine mixed) into the pan with the lamb drippings, heated on medium temperature, and scrape the bottom to release all the delicious bits. Pour on top of vegetables, making sure they are submerged.
- Bake for 45 minutes and add bay leaves and peppercorns. Continue baking for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the meat is tender.
Do you have a recipe given to you by a friend, comforting enough to warm you up even on a coldest day?