Recipe Source: Attributed to Cristobal Cubero (c. 1502) in A Drizzle of Honey by David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 1999 pp. 196 - 6.
Aren't you happy that this isn't another dish made from leftovers? I had some lamb shanks that had been sitting in the freezer for longer than I wanted. Shanks are kind of an overlooked cut of meat. They tend to require long cooking and are kind of bulky to use. People who skip them in favor of other, sexier cuts are really missing out because lamb shanks are some of the most flavorful and delicious ingredients money can buy. (They also tend to be cheaper than other cuts of lamb...) I was feeling kind of burned out on medieval food, but this looked so tasty that I just had to make it. I justified it to my exhausted little brain by telling myself it didn't really count, since someone else had already done the redaction.
Yeah, I know. In a way, this recipe is more medieval than others, because all of the recipes in this book are based on Inquisition records. These Inquisition records relate to the persecution of Jewish people on the Iberian peninsula (mostly Spain). There's at least one recipe that is traced to Mexico. I don't recall what Cubero's ultimate fate was - not everyone mentioned in this book went to the stake, although many did. It is a difficult book to read, because it forces the reader to confront a part of history that is frankly ugly. The people in this book suffered horribly and for the most part died badly. At the same time, we have to appreciate that thanks to Gitlitz and Davidson, we know who these people were again. We know their names. We know what they did, how they made their living, who their families were. It would probably bring the victims themselves very little comfort to know that we know their names while the names of their tormentors are lost in the mists of time, but I have to appreciate the idea that something of these people remains when their enemies tried so very hard to eradicate them from history.
Anyway, as is usually the case when I'm trying to re-create a medieval recipe I didn't make a whole lot of changes. In fact, the only change that I really made was the hard-boiled eggs. I completely forgot them. I had someone in my kitchen doing his very best to distract me and I just plain forgot them. It's okay though - the dish worked quite well even without them.
Lamb and Chickpea Stew (serves 8; approx. cost per serving not available)
1 fennel bulb, with stalk and leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 large onion, sliced
2 pounds lamb shanks
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained
- Large, deep saute pan with a lid
- Dice the fennel bulb and stalks. Reserve the fronds for later.
- Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat.
- Add the garlic. Cook 2 minues.
- Add the onion. Saute until the onion pieces begin to brown.
- Add the lamb to the pot and brown.
- Add the fennel and cook another 2 minutes.
- Add the rosemary, salt and enough water to just reach the top of the meat. Stir to combine.
- Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.Add the chickpeas. Cook until the meat is falling off the bones.
- Stir the fronds into the stew and serve.