For this Sunday’s Romanian cooking spree, I decided to make two lamb dishes from the excellent lamb sold in Turkish shops here in Germany. One is a ciorba, a soup that precedes almost every Romanian meal, whether it is winter or summer. There are many different kinds of ciorba, but this one is a classic cabbage and lamb variety. The other is a simple yet delicious lamb and potato stew. Neither of these recipes look like much, but you would be surprised at how combining very simple ingredients can result in a more complex flavor than you would expect from just reading the recipe.
Let’s start with the ciorba, then.
1 tablespoon of oil
2 large onions, diced
2 large carrots, diced
600gr of lamb – something with plenty of bone in it and some fat on it as well
1/2 smooth white cabbage, shredded
2 cans of tomatoes
1 cup of bors*
sour cream, to serve
The procedure is quite simple. Fry up the chopped onions in the olive oil, then add the lamb chopped in cubes (as far as the bone in it will allow). Let the fat on the lamb melt somewhat, then add the diced carrots and the shredded cabbage, allowing it to wilt in the oil and lamb fat. Add the tomatoes and enough water to reach about 1cm below the level of the chopped vegetables, salt to taste, cover and simmer on a low heat for at least 2 hours, or until the cabbage is tender and translucent. 5 minutes before taking the soup off the heat, stir in the bors.
Serve the soup warm with a dollop of sour cream on it, and enjoy
*Bors is a sort of fermented malt concoction, and is the key ingredient in most if not all kinds of ciorba. The best kind is in the liquid form, and can be found in shops that sell Russian and/or Eastern European food. More commonly found are the packets of powdered bors, which also work nicely. If you’re in a pickle and can’t find either, it can be somewhat mimicked by the addition of the juice of one small lemon, though it will not be quite the same.
As for the lamb stew, you will need
1 tablespoon of oil
500gr of cubed lamb steak
500gr of potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons of dried cimbru, or a thyme and sage mix
1 can of tomatoes
Once again, this is very simple. Fry off the onion in the oil, then add the lamb and brown. Add the carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and dried herbs, enough water to almost cover, salt to taste, and simmer on a low heat until the carrots and the potatoes are tender. That’s all it takes, but the results are a warm, filling stew fit for any winter meal.
This basic recipe is used for many Romanian stews. You can also substitute the lamb for chicken legs, for another great stew. For the vegetarian variety, you can substitute the potatoes and lamb for two different kinds of beans, white and red are usually used in this case. For a non-vegetarian bean stew, adding some cubed bacon also gives this version a very nice flavor.
So, that concludes week 2 of Romanian cooking! I’m going to have to think about what next week will bring.