The days are gold and warm but late in the afternoon a cold something materialises in the air and it whispers: cook comfort food and make it steam with the aromas of slow cooking and herbs.
So I do. It’s a good time of year to haul out all those jars of grains and legumes and nuts that have remained untouched over summer, abandoned for the seductions of summer's fresh salads, vegetables and grills.
I opened the cupboard, creak. Rice of about six different kinds, lentils - the same, barley, polenta – instant and not instant. Let's get cooking.
I started with a simple lamb shank stew, taking two lamb shanks, two carrots cut into rounds, three potatoes cut into thick discs, two onions cut into quarters, a sprig of rosemary, lots of white pepper and a dash of worcestershire sauce.
It couldn’t be easier. I just simmered the lot, covered with water, for two hours, adding a scant cup of barley and quite a lot of finely chopped parsley with three-quarters of an hour to go.
Meanwhile I boiled some more potatoes and whipped them to creamy smoothness with butter, white pepper and more chopped parsley. I think I’m entering a white pepper phase. I find it hotter yet more subtle than black, with a cleaner heat that suits winter foods. After all, white pepper is just the seed of black pepper. The latter includes the fruit of the berry.
I placed a hill of mash on the plates, placed a lamb shank astride each and the stewed vegetables and barley around, drizzling some of the stew juices over the shank. Salt, more white pepper and a further dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Red wine made a welcome return. Well, what a coincidence: check the the final tasting note.