Traditional Dry Beans and Lamb

 Hubby brought a whole sack of lamb home the other day; apparently someone he knows had a kurban (sacrifice) and some of the meat came to us!

What is this? An alien?!

At first I was pretty intimidated, I had no idea what to do with it!  it was roughly butchered (as in, whole large cuts of meat), and some parts I couldn’t identify. Some of it was very fatty too (as lamb is prone to be). But if I’ve learned anything, it’s :

When in doubt- stew it out!

So I decided to take some good old fashioned dry beans, and make it even more traditional by throwing in some cubed lamb, specifically the super fatty parts!

Between you and me (I would never admit this to anyone), I used to not be able to cook dry beans.  I wanted to be fancy and add too much to it.  But when you add, it just takes away from the flavor!

There’s nothing like a good ol’ dry beans.  Even in the dog days of summer, it’s always welcome on our table! When I make beans, I make A LOT! Plenty enough for five people or more (even though it’s just the two of us right now).

Ingredients

2c dry beans

2 onions (one whole, one diced)

4 peppers (spicy or not, as you like)

3tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp oil

2c lamb meat, for stew

water

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Either soak the beans over night, or boil them hard (salted, I use 2 tsp salt) for an hour (after half an hour some may be floating, add water to the pot to knock them down, at that time add one whole onion).  I typically use 2:1 ration for water to beans.  But it is really up to you and how watery you want your beans to be.  I usually end up having to add more water down the line anyway…so don’t worry too much about it.
  2. Throw the stew lamb meat into the pot of water, beans, and onion.  If you soaked over night, then start cooking at this point, adding the onion and stew meat at the same time. Let the pot boil while you do step 3.
  3. Dice the remaining onion and pepper (I cut them to the size of my pinkie), and sautee in a pan with the olive oil* and a dash of salt. Add tomato paste and cook until everything melds together. Spoon water from the boiling pot into the tomato paste/veggies pan until the contents are a slurry.
  4. Pour the slurry into the boiling pot and mix well.  Cover and let boil on low for up to 6hrs (depending on how tough your lamb is.  Don’t be afraid to go back and check every hour or so!). Add salt and pepper as needed, towards the end.
  5. Turn off the heat and let sit for half an hour.

 

Serve with pickles and fresh bread.

Afiyet olsun!

Hillside adventure

Recently we were called by Hala to come out to the koy for a visit with the family.  We were enticed with the promise of sura (a type of food that you will see towards the end of this post), a trip to the family field.  This field is different than the one I told you about before, and it is also a lot more extensive.  Unfortunately, however, it has also been generally abandoned because fewer and fewer members of the family are taking on the challenges of farm life- and are migrating to the city.  Still, the place was beautiful.

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It was raining off and on that day, but that didn’t deter us!  I speak for myself, Anne was pretty put out by the rain and continuously dodged under trees whenever it got heavy.  This resulted in a LOT of mud and slick grass.  However, the nearby brook seemed to appreciate the refreshment.

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While Anne and a cousin hung back and picked fresh rose hip (an ingredient to Anne’s wellness tea), Baba, hubby and I went exploring on the hillside.  Much to our chagrin, there were no fruits left on the trees- a combination of the season coming to an end and also neighbors foraging from our empty fields.  Rude!

Between jumping between cow pies and trying not to fall down a hill, I really had a work out!  those hills that seem so beautiful from far away are really no joke to climb up- especially when the glass is slick!  Fortunately, I made it through our hillside adventure without falling down.

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We came across a well, which had a huge frog floating inside.  I was really intrigued by the depth and width of it, since most wells in the US tend to be much smaller.  I’m still not sure what purpose this well served, since there was a tulumba (water pump) nearby…

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While leaving the well, Baba saw a few ayva (quince) trees, which he went to inspect.  Hubby and I hung back eating kuzu kulagi (lambs ear- a sour tasting leaf that looks kind of like spinach).  I heard a crunch in the woods nearby, and expressed my concern about a fiend being up to no good.

It’s just a bird, don’t worry about it

But it wasn’t a bird. And it was worse than a fiendish neighbor.  It was a wild boar.  And, no joke, it was the size of a donkey.  It crashed through the brush- thankfully in the opposite direction of us.  It looked at first like a dog…but then I though it might have been a bear.  It made it half way up the hill before I was able to shout.

DOMUZ!

I apologize for the lack of picture- I was too busy getting the heck out of there to take one.  Instead, I offer this lovely scene that reminds me of the ending of Gladiator.

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Well, that was enough excitement for me.  On the way out of the field I picked plenty of stray blackberries that didn’t realize summer was over.  We headed back to Hala’s house and waited patiently for our extra special dinner!

Sura is kind of like Thanksgiving turkey…except instead of turkey it is lamb, and instead of stuffing it’s rice.  So I guess it’s nothing like Thanksgiving turkey, except that it is typically served on holidays!  Instead of having this delicacy on bayram we had it now.  Sura is cooked in a large stone oven- which is first heated, the food put inside, then sealed with mud.  Sura usually takes around 10hrs to cook.

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And was it a feast or what?  Our meal started with lentil soup and a side of homemade pickles, which was closely followed by the much anticipated sura!  The meat was so moist and tender I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying it.  No condiments necessary!  I think it is safe to say I prefer this to turkey any day.

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Even though we were nearly stuffed to bursting, the next course was keskek (a lamb porridge), yogurt noodles, and finally rice pudding for dessert.  You can see what keskek (keshkek) looks like below. It may not be pretty, but it’s good!

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We had a fantastic day and sat with the family until the sun went down, drinking coffee and laughing at jokes that I mostly didn’t understand.  Hey, they fed me though- no complaints here!