No let-up in the weather in the West Country today. I'm not sure my brain isn't iced up. Finding it incredibly hard to concentrate - and write in real sentences. Or maybe it's my new Twitter* habit.
Tomorrow I'm actually going to venture out of the house provided we don't find another six centimetres of snow on our doorstep and go and buy some proper food. Since we got back from France on Wednesday (thank goodness. Ryanair cancelled our flight AGAIN today) we've been living off various permutations of bacon and eggs. Or that's what it feels like.
I'm planning to make a a really good dish that the chef at my son Will's former pub The Marquess Tavern used to put on the menu and which we put in our beer and food book An Appetite for Ale. The top pie-like layer is made from slices of day (or two day) old bread which is dipped in the gravy created by the stew and baked until it's crisp. I could have waited until I'd made it before posting the recipe so that you had a pic to inspire you but thought you might want to try it this weekend.
4-5 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
3 white onions, peeled and roughly chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1.5kg lamb fillet or shoulder
3 tbsp seasoned plain flour
500g carrots, peeled or scrubbed and thickly sliced
350ml lamb or beef stock
350ml strong ale
Salt and white or black pepper
6 thick slices sourdough or similar country bread
Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat, add the onions and thyme and cook for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a casserole.
Trim any excess (but not all) fat off the lamb and cut into cubes and toss in the seasoned flour. Add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry the lamb in batches until brown, adding it to the onions as you finish. Deglaze the pan with 300ml of the stock and pour over the lamb and onions then add the ale. Bring to the boil, stir then simmer over a low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Add the carrots and more stock if needed then simmer for a further 30 minutes until the carrots are cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the oven to 225°C/425°F/Gas 7. Dip the bread slices in the gravy. Divide the remaining stew between individual pie dishes and top with a slice of the gravy-soaked bread. Bake the dishes in the oven until the bread is nicely browned and crunchy. (You could, of course, make this is a single dish, arranging the bread slices over the top).
Any other good suggestions to keep out the cold? What have you all been cooking this week?
*If you're on Twitter you can follow me as frugalcook