We live in a society obsessed with summer. Always doing, always consuming, these are the ways of the warm months. But, in winter, our biological mandate is to slow and sleep. It is to stock up, turn inward, tell stories, and celebrate abundance. As we near the solstice and enter the time of winter festivals and holidays it’s a good time to remember the year and re-imagine the next. It is a time to plant seeds deep in the earth for them to sprout when the sun returns.
It’s also a time for slow-cooking. Break out the crockpots! Here is one of my favorite recipes for winter, a combination of my friend Ana Azizkhani’s delicious Persian stew, and a traditional Chinese winter stew made designed to warm and nourish our bodies. I apologize to my vegetarian readers, I do not have a meat-free version of this. I have to say, there simply is no substitute for bones and marrow when it comes to renewing the deepest resources of the body, but perhaps someone will be creative enough to make their own version. For the meat-eaters in the audience, enjoy!
Persian-Chinese Lamb Stew
½ butternut squash
1 lamb shank
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 sprig saffron or ¼ tsp. tumeric
10 prunes (to taste)
1 tsp. salt (to taste)
¼ tsp. pepper (to taste)
2 Tbsp. lime juice (to taste)
3 Tbsp. maple syrup or something sweet (to taste)
9g Dang Gui (Angelicae Sinesis, you can find good quality Dang Gui at Golden Cabinet Herbs)
15g Fresh ginger
The night before (or roughly a day and a half before) you want to eat the stew start the lamb shank cooking on low in the slow cooker with the Dang Gui and fresh ginger. The herbs don’t have to be exact in their amount. I like to use about one or two large pieces of Dang Gui and a large “finger” of ginger. Add vinegar and cook in just enough water to over the meat with 2 inch margin on top. As the meat cooks make sure the water is always covering the meat. In the morning (or 8 hours after starting) remove the herbs.
3-6 hours before eating chop up the onions and garlic and sauté until brown. Chop up the butternut squash in ½-1in. cubes and add to cooked onions. Cook squash until slightly soft. Add mixture to stew and turn to high. Add lime juice, maple syrup and spices (salt, pepper, saffron/turmeric). If using saffron crush and soak in a small amount of warm water for a few minutes before adding.
2 hours before eating add prunes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Note: I like to cook the stew a little longer than Ana suggests, until the prunes explode and everything gets a nice ruddy brown. There is a lot of leeway in this recipe, so play with it according to your palette!