This is the season of sins. Yes, there’s good cheer and all that, but there’s gluttony, and there’s greed. And I’m guilty of both. The last few days have been an exercise in excess. Friends, who are fiendishly good cooks, fed us far too much. And we didn’t put up a fight. Now, like all sinners, I’m dressed in black. It’s a colour that hides many a meal, most of which are now resting somewhere in the mid-regions of my body.
But I’ve never been one to cry over wasted waistlines – if it’s for good food, it’s for a good cause. It’s just that I won’t be able to look a liqueur-soaked cake in the eye for a few days. I might even balk at the mere mention of baking. And avoid the slightest whiff of sweet, spiced wines.
There’s something else that I avoid at this time of the year. The Boxing Day Sale. It’s a day that marks the end of the Christmas spirit. No more opening doors for old ladies. No more letting go of parking spaces. No more small talk and warm smiles. It’s dog eat dog. It’s a fight for the last pair of skinny jeans. A red clutch. An electric kettle. A thesaurus. It’s rigor mortis by retail.
This year, I decided to venture into the war-zone for the first time in many years. I wanted to watch shoppers from the sidelines. Their frenzied focus, the crazed look in their eyes as they prowl through the discounts. As they step on others’ toes. As they swipe their cards thin.
It really is theatre.
When we got back home, we were tired and hungry. But not for anything fancy. Christmas was over, Boxing Day had ended, and all we wanted to do was sit and watch a movie, and eat stew.
This stew cooks itself. You throw things into a pan, and walk out of the kitchen. You walk back in only the when the house fills up with the beautiful smell of meat, vegetables, bay leaves and peppercorns. This is my wholesome, end-of-excess stew.
End-of-excess lamb stew
750 gms lamb, on the bone
3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and each cut in three pieces
1/4 of a small white cabbage, cut in big cubes
3-4 medium sized potatoes, each cut in two
2 bay leaves
1 white onion, cut into 8 pieces
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp green peppercorns
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
In a big pan, put the leg of lamb and cover it with water. Add salt, the bayleaves, peppercorns and garlic. Bring to the boil, then lower heat, cover the pan, and let it cook for 2-3 hours.
Then add the potatoes, carrots, cabbage and celery. Add some more salt. Cover and cook till vegetables are cooked. The lamb, by now, should be falling off the bone at the touch of a spoon.
Serve hot, with a blob of butter if you like.