We eat a lot of pork and chicken – falling in with the local customs and with what is available in the local shops. And we enjoy both. But I love lamb, so every so often we treat ourselves to it, sometimes ordering a half-lamb from the Domaine des Pascales, the wine producer in the village with family connections on a sheep farm in the Aveyron, and sometimes buying it in smaller quantities. In summer we cook it simply, grilling chops or pieces on skewers on the barbecue, but as the weather gets colder the need for winter comfort food increases. Yesterday I bought a whole shoulder and as soon as I saw it I had a vision of it stewed with chick peas. We cut some of it into chunks to put in the freezer for a sunny day (which I hope comes soon), leaving the knuckle half of the shoulder for stewing, and I put some dried chick peas in water to soak overnight.
Today, I browned the meat and some onions in olive oil, added six roughly chopped cloves of garlic, four of our last tomatoes, peeled and chopped, four carrots, peeled and chopped, a chopped paprika pepper, some bay leaves, the drained chickpeas and enough water to cover. I brought it to the boil and then simmered it for an hour and a half. I removed the joint from the sauce and cut the meat off the bone and into small chunks, added salt to the sauce and reheated it. I didn’t have any parsley for a garnish so I used slices of a small green pepper. We ate it with paillasse bread, crustier and tastier than the standard baguette.
Of course, it isn’t really winter yet, it just feels like it because we haven’t seen the sun for so long. The days are still quite mild and we haven’t had any really cold nights. We still have pepper plants on the balconies, with peppers turning red (slowly) and even some flowers.