When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~ Wendell Berry ~
I’m a child of Spring. Forever in love with it’s delicate beauty and lifeless branches slowly springing to life and clouds of cherry blooms floating in the air.
Back in the days when I lived in Lithuania, cherries would bloom right in time for my birthday and it would be a sign of summer just creeping around the corner, with promise of warmer days and campfires and seducing scent of smoke.
It’s a wonderful thing spending an evening (or night) around a fire. Once it fades a little and there’s enough coal from the wood, you toss in and bury potatoes in them and then some hours and refreshing drinks later – the best humble potato you can taste awaits. Almost charcoaled on the outside, wonderfully moist inside, with a touch of butter and salt, it is the most delicious thing ever, delivered from the cradle of nature.
I haven’t been around a campfire of such kind for far too long. Wrapped up in the city life and all it entailed, I forgot how wonderful it is to hear but sparks of the fire. Now, surrounded by alps, in the beautiful Swiss countryside, I’m yearning for those moments again. Which in my world means, I might get around to do it, somewhere in a year or two. Time has a tendency to slip by.
While I may not be camping in the depths of nature, I love imparting a lovely smokiness into dishes. It gives a wonderful aroma and flavour and makes you feel like outdoors even if your hiding in the kitchen in the pouring rain. With some cheese and luscious wine and berry dessert, a perfect Sunday lunch awaits.
- 500g/1,1 lb potatoes
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 artichokes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- about 1 cup chicken stock
- pinch of saffron
- few springs fresh thyme
- few tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 tbsp rice
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Lapsang Souchong tea
- Rack of lamb
- 30g/2 tbsp butter
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 220C/430F.
- Srub the potatoes, and slice them into chunks. Cover with cold water and cook till the potatoes are just done, about 10 minutes. Drain well, toss with oil, season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes or till they are crispy.
- Clean the artichokes by trimming stem and ⅓ of the top. Break most of the outer leaves and trim the sides of the artichokes. Do it carefully not to trim the heart itself, you can leave a few leaves close to the heart, that will soften as you braise. Using a tea spoon or a melon spoon, scoop out the choke, otherwise known as the furry stuff, quarter and immediately rub all over with lemon to prevent discoloration. Then drop into water with some lemon slices. Repeat with the rest.
- Heat the oil in a pan add the onions and sauté for a few minutes on medium heat, add the carrots cook for a few more minutes. Tip in artichoke hearts, lemon juice, season with salt and pepper. Top with chicken stock, just enough to cover artichokes add saffron, thyme and simmer for about 20 minutes, till the artichokes are soft. Just before serving sprinkle with fresh parsley.
- For the lamb, line a cast iron pan with three large sheets of foil, scatter rice, sugar and tea. Place the rack on top, season lamb with salt and pepper and place on a rack. Once it starts to smoke, top with a lid, fold over the foil, to prevent any smoke from skipping away. Smoke for 10 minutes on medium heat, then remove the pan from the heat and leave with the lid on for another 10.
- Heat the butter in a pan and sear the lamb on all sides, pop into the oven where the potatoes are baking for about 10 minutes (for medium rare). Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
- Serve lamb with braised artichokes and crispy potatoes.
- 1 ½ cup/ 360 ml red wine
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 2-4 tbsp sugar
- 2 gelatine leaves
- about 1 cup strawberries, sliced
- a few tablespoons ricotta
- touch of black pepper
- powder sugar to taste
- meringues to serve, optional
- Divide strawberries between glasses.
- Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.
- Bring red wine with vanilla to boil and sweeten to taste. Stir in and dissolve gelatine. Let it cool a little then pour over strawberries. Leave to set for at least a few hours.
- Mix ricotta with a bit sugar and black pepper. Serve strawberry and red wine jelly with black pepper ricotta and if you happen to have any meringues lying around, they surely wouldn’t hurt!