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Midwinter Solstice
© Sue Courtney
19 June 2003

Suddenly winter has arrived and with it the shortest day of the New Zealand year. After a mild autumn, the cold snap was a shock to the system - even here in Auckland where winters are relatively mild. But even on a mild day, as soon as the sun is obscured by the clouds and you are hit by the wintry blast blowing straight off Antarctica bring snow to the mountains, you really know that winter is here.

People are readying themselves for the midwinter swim this weekend. Here are some dishes that you can prepare beforehand, a soup to quickly reheat and a casserole for long slow cooking, the heat of the oven warming the house as well as cooking the dinner. And what better to warm up the cockles than a glass of spicy mulled wine.

The recipes include
- Chrissy's Yummy Vegetable Soup
- Lamb in a Voluptuous Red Wine Sauce
- Mulled Wine

Chrissy's Yummy Vegetable Soup
This is based on a recipe of my sister, Christine, who in turn based it on an Alison Holst recipe. For readers from outside of New Zealand Alison Holst is kind of legendary in New Zealand for her down-to-earth recipes. Her TV debut was in 1965 and she has published over 75 cookbooks.

You will need: -
- 1 cup of brown lentils
- 2 litres water
- 1 onion.
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 stalk of celery, chopped
- 1 cup each of grated carrot, parsnip, pumpkin or root vegetables of choice
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp sugar
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp powdered chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups (or 1 tin) of peeled roasted garlic tomatoes - it you have your own preserved or frozen tomatoes from the summer, these are good to use.
- 2 cups of chopped silver beet or spinach - or other greens of preference, e.g. peas or beans.
- More water as required

Soak a cup of brown lentils in 2 litres of water while you are gathering and preparing the other ingredients.
Melt the butter in a large capacity saucepan, add chopped onion and saute. Then add the crushed garlic, the celery and the grated vegetables. Cook together for a few minutes. Then add the lentils and the liquid they are soaking in.
Crush the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and add those, plus the whole cumin seeds, the garam masala, the powdered chicken stock and the sugar.
After about 15 minutes add skinned and roasted garlic tomatoes.
Cook for about 30-40 minutes in total, adding more liquid as necessary.
For the last five minutes of cooking, add the greens.
Test for flavour, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve hot with crusty fresh bread.

Notes: Instead of using chicken stock powder you could make your own stock using use homemade chicken stock from the leftover bones of a well-seasoned roast chicken - have the roast chicken the night before.

Lamb in a Voluptuous Red Wine Sauce
Since I discovered wine reductions, I make them all the time. It's a great way to use up a bottle of corked wine, as the cooking process quickly blows off the dread taint. But most people would want to - and should - take their corked wine back the store or producer for replacement. So buy a bottle of wine specifically for cooking. For this recipe, a plummy Merlot or a juicy Shiraz, which you can pick up for about $10 in the supermarket, is ideal.

For the Reduction
- 750 ml (1 bottle) robust red ripe and juicy red wine (pref. Merlot of Shiraz)
- a handful of fresh garden herbs - rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, chives, parsley, etc.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 onion sliced into rings

Combine above ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer to reduce by about 1/3rd (to 500 ml).

For the Lamb
- 1 small shank end of lamb - or if you want, simply use lamb shanks.
- Whole seed mustard
- Carrots, peeled and cut into lengths.
- Parsnips, peeled and cut into lengths.
- 100-200 grams of whole mushrooms

Prick the skin of the leg of lamb many tines.
Marinate the leg overnight, or for several hours - I placed the lamb into a thick plastic bag and placed this into a large bowl. I used corks to bolster up the sides of the bag so the wine marinade completely covered the meat rather than having the liquid fill out the bag to fit the bowl. (see photo).

On the left: Marinading lam supported by corks
On the right: Lamb coated with mustard and surrounded with red wine, just before cooking

After marinading, pour the liquid into a large over proof dish.
Place the carrot and parsnip pieces into the liquid, then carefully add the leg to sit on top of the vegetables.
Cover the top of the leg with French mustard.
Cook covered for 1 hour at 160 C.
After 1 hour baste generously and cover. Continue cooking for 2 more hours, basting regularly to ensure the lamb remains moist.

Add whole mushrooms to the liquid for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, put some potatoes and kumara on to boil. These will be mashed to help soak up the liquid.

At end of cooking time, remove lamb onto a plate to keep warm and place the mushrooms alongside.
Discard the carrots and parsnips (because they will not taste very nice).

Pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan - there will be 3 to 4 cups of liquid altogether.
Add 1/2 cup sugar and boil vigorously until the liquid reduces to about 1.5 cups.
Thicken with cornflour

Mash the boiled potato and kumara with a little honey, butter and milk. It's good for soaking up excess sauce. I also did some crispy roast spuds and pumpkin baked in a separate dish alongside the lamb. Green beans added colour.

Carve the meat and plate. Place the mushrooms on top. Serve the thick, rich, opulent sauce alongside it.

There were leftovers. I have to save that the next day the cold lamb meat from this dish was the best I have ever tasted.

Mulled Wine
A mug of mulled wine is a pleasant way to warm up when coming in from the cold. And it is simple to make.

You will need:
- a bottle of a hearty red wine
- a few whole cloves
- a cinnamon stick
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of sugar
-slices of lemons and oranges.

Into a large saucepan place the water, sugar, citrus and spices.
Bring to the boiling then lower heat to simmer for five minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Add the bottle of wine and heat for about 10 minutes to let the flavours fuse. Try not to boil the brew.

For this recipe I would choose a fairly cheap wine. This means we are headed into the overseas (i.e. Aussie section) of the supermarket wine department. I would choose something spicy and tasting, something like the ever-reliable Jacobs Creek Shiraz.

Kia pai te kai

© Sue Courtney
June 2003

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