This is my first entry for Belleau Kitchen’s monthly Random Recipe Challenge, a little gem of an idea that gets cooks making recipes they may not normally consider. The rules for this month’s challenge were as follows (quoting Dom from Belleau Kitchen):
- count your cookbooks from left to right and stop at number 17
- randomly open the book at a random page
- cook the EXACT recipe on that page
I wasn’t exactly sure I had 17 cookbooks with me in South Africa (although my OH would have said there was never any doubt). He was right of course, and as I ran my finger over the shelf, it alighted on……da,da,da…..Jamie Oliver’s ”Jamie’s America.”
Oh, oh Jamie O. Why do you perplex me so. You seem like a nice chap and I greatly respect your efforts to wean British children off turkey twizzlers. I’ve even eaten at Fifteen once and thought it was pretty good. However, your cookery books I cannot fathom. From my experience, they involve a great deal of faff for average results. However, hypnotised by your cheeky chappy charms, the British public buy them by the bucket load. But not me, Mr Oliver. Oh no, I just own the one.
“Jamie’s America” has survived my sporadic cookbook culls purely on the basis of his recipe for “Jewish Penicillin” (a.k.a chicken soup) which is pretty pukka. However, other recipes I have tried from here have ranged from downright weird to fairly disgusting so I had limited expectations of my random recipe selection, “Venison and Juniper Stew” and accompanying “Navajo Flatbreads.”
Despite trailing round several butchers in Johannesburg, surprisingly I could not locate any venison. Venison is out of season, so I am told. In search of a substitute, I turned to my new favourite find, fat-tailed Damara mutton which I buy from the wonderful people at Badgerleur at the Bryanston Organic Market. Having already broken rule 3 of the challenge with my meat substitution (although in my defence Jamie does say that the Navajo Indians love their mutton), I threw all caution to the wind and decided on a few further adaptations. I figured that as this was a Native American dish, it would make sense to cook it in my potjie pot over a fire which would surely be more traditional than a boring old hob. I also threw in some pumpkin that was languishing in the fridge (Americans love a bit of pumpkin, right?) and a dash of red wine to give the sauce a bit more body. In to my flat breads I mixed some fennel seeds (Jamie optional extra) and some fresh lavender (my addition).
Jamie being Jamie, there seemed to be a lot of faff involved in what was essentially a simple stew. As I started to nod off half way through the instructions, I decided I would just follow the three simple rules to making any stew: brown the meat, brown the onions, throw everything else in the pot and simmer for 2-3 hours. Bish, bash, bosh. Stew. Done. I was a little more rigorous following the flatbread instructions although I declined to make like a Navajo woman and flatten the breads between my hands, preferring to utilise a rolling pin instead.
Given my previous Jamie experience, the finished dishes were actually pretty good. The stew was, well a stew, but a pretty tasty one at that. I would have given it a 7/10 but as my OH pointed out, if we hadn’t been eating it on a fairly balmy South African evening but whilst shivering in the UK instead, we probably would have enjoyed it more. So, I am prepared to raise my score to an 8. The flatbreads though were really, really good. Crisp on the outside and lovely and soft and fluffy inside. And yes, the lavender and fennel did work. Would I make both dishes again? Actually, I probably would. However much you resist, it seems the enigmatic Jamie O will get you in the end.
Mutton & Juniper Stew (serves 2 greedy people or 3-4 normal appetites), adapted from “Jamie’s America”
- 400g mutton (or stewing venison), cut into 2cm dice
- 2 tbsp seasoned flour
- olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 200g pumpkin, cut into 2cm dice
- ½ tbsp juniper berries, crushed
- sprig of rosemary, leaves chopped
- knob of butter
- dash of red wine
- small handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks separated and chopped
- 200g new potatoes
- beef stock
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
1. Toss the meat in half of the flour. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan or potjie pot and brown the meat on all sides. Add the onion and fry until softened. Add the carrots, pumpkin, juniper, rosemary, butter, wine, parsley stalks and remaining flour and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and enough beef stock to half cover the mixture (if using a potjie) or to fully cover (if using a hob). Simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender, adding more stock if the stew becomes too dry.
2. Just before serving, mix the chopped parsley leaves with the crushed garlic and some salt and pepper and stir through the stew.
Fennel and lavender Navajo flatbreads (makes 5), adapted from ”Jamie’s America”
- 300g strong white bread flour
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp lavender flowers
- 3 tbsp olive oil
1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil and 100ml warm water and mix to a rough dough. Knead on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 1 hour.
2. Divide the dough into 5 balls (about 100g each). Roll out thinly into circles, ovals or amoeba shapes. Heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat and cook the flatbreads for a couple of minutes each side until puffed and golden.