I have been a book nerd for as long as I can remember. I’m told that there was one day where I picked up a book I’d had read to me before and read it on my own. No one could believe that I was reading because I was all of three years old, but upon handing me more books, I could, indeed, read.
My teachers always said that I was a voracious reader, and it was hard to believe that I could read at the rate that I did and comprehend as much as I could.
I made up for this by being truly awful at math, handwriting, and organization, but that’s beside the point. I absolutely loved reading. I would devour books like I now devour chocolate. Entire series would be dominated over the course of a weekend. I read many, many years above grade level, and conquered books like A Separate Peace in sixth grade.
And then college happened. All of a sudden, I had to read books that some “important” professor thought were significant for some reason or another and I didn’t have time to read what I wanted. Like millions of others, my appetite for reading for fun was rekindled by Harry Potter. I read each book like I used to read Ramona Quimby books. I got lost in the world of Hogwarts and, even at age 20, longed for a good Quidditch game.
When the Harry Potter series ended, I craved another series I could get lost in. I tried silly “chick” series, more classics, and then a series landed in my lap. Literally. A student threw them at me across my classroom and said “READ THESE!” and they landed in my lap. And then the floor.
That series? The Hunger Games. At the time, there were only two books with a far-off release date for the third. Nearly three years ago, I got lost in the world of Panem, the adventure of Katniss, rooted for Team Peeta, and dreaded what would happen next in the arena. It was around this time that I’d started this blog of mine as well, and I remember being in awe of the descriptions of the food.
While we, as “foodies”, often describe things with ridiculous adjectives like “decadent” and “succulent” and (shudder) “moist”. In The Hunger Games, upon experiencing wonderful food for the first time, the descriptions of food were simple. “Creamy carrot soup.” “Juicy breakfast sausages.”
Simple. Honest. Until the lamb stew. This stew was Katniss’ favorite. She ate it multiple times, and it even helped keep her alive in the arena. Lamb stew with rich gravy and dried plums served atop hot grains. Sounded perfect to me.
So I made it. Or rather, my interpretation of it.
My appetite for books closely rivals my appetite for truly delicious food. This was savory and sweet at the same time, rich and delicious, and the kind of dish that would be both impressive and comforting to anyone, whether a wealthy Capitol resident, or a poor girl from the Seam in District 12.
Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
Ingredients (8 servings)
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 large onion
- 2 ribs celery
- 3 carrots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb
- 1 cup dried plums (a.k.a. prunes)
Cut all the vegetables into chunks. Place the chunks in a food processor or blender and process until a coarse paste forms.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then add the vegetable paste. Salt liberally and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and herbs, stir well, and cook another 5 minutes.
Add the lamb, then add water or broth until it covers the meat and vegetables by about 1 inch. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low.
Simmer, covered, for approximately 90 minutes, or until the lamb is tender. Add the plums, stir well, and simmer another 15 minutes. Skim off any extra fat from the top of the stew.
Serve on a cooked grain of choice (I used millet).
Now please, don’t send me to the arena. I wouldn’t make it!