Monday, 28 September 2009

Kabaklama: Turkish autumn lamb stew with pumpkin, lemon and mint

Here is a wonderfully rich and savoury stew from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. A look at the ingredients list confirms the simplicity of this dish, but not the complexity of the flavour. The decisive element is the aromatic oil "flourish," redolent with mint, pepper and chilli (if you can get away with it (g)), at the end. Don't skip this step--it really takes this stew into sublime territory!

I was telling my dear friend Se, who hails from Konya, Turkey, about this stew, and she quizzed me on the inclusion of pumpkin. In Turkish, kabak means either zucchini or pumpkin, with the former the far more commonly used ingredient. (At least in savories; dear Se was actually serving up a simmered pumpkin dessert when she mentioned this.) Perhaps the writer was mistaken?

Unusually, Paula doesn't give much information about the source of this particular recipe, but I have complete trust in her research. Her recipes are usually spot on. And as a translator myself, I say that if this is the quality of food you get from a possible mistranslation, then bring them on!

I have yet to get a hold of Turkish red pepper paste (biber salcasi) here in Japan, so substituted the equivalent of tomato paste and as much cayenne as I thought I could get away with. I adjusted Paula's recipe for the pressure cooker. If you don't have one, the meat will take at least double the time to cook in step 2.

Turkish autumn lamb stew with pumpkin, lemon and mint

45 g lean shoulder of lamb cut int 2.5 cm cubes and including all bones
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground back pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pepper paste [Saffron: or substitute extra tomato paste]
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (around 2 coves
1 1/2 cooked chickpeas
1 large ripe tomato peeled seeded and chopped
6 cups pumpkin peeled (around 1kg [S: I used a mix of regular and butternut pumpkin]
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (around 2 lemons)
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or chilli or to taste

1 Trim the meat of excess fat and sprinkle with half the back pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium-large pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until all moisture evaporates, abut 7 min. Add the onion and cook stirring for 1o min.

2 Add the tomato and pepper pastes and cook stirring for 5 min. Add 1 1/2 cups water, cover and bring to pressure. Cook under low pressure for 25 min, or until the meat is tender.

3 Add the garlic chickpeas, tomatoes, pumpkin and salt. Add water to barely cover contents. Cover and cook (without pressure) until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 min. If chickpeas are very tender, add them right at the end.

4 Stir in the lemon juice and remove from heat.

5 Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small pan until sizzling; add the mint, red pepper and remaining 3/4 tsp back pepper, and stir for an instant. Swirl the oil over the stew, stir once, and serve hot.