Hanging on to a hankering

Sometimes I get a hankering for a meal that just increases with each day that passes.  It starts with  perhaps a memory or flush of nostalgia that builds and builds until it becomes an obsession bordering on unhealthy mania.  Have you ever seen a man banging his head against a freezer display door in the supermarket because they (and the previous two supermarkets he’d visited that day) didn’t have frozen potato waffles?  If you have then you must live near me and on that day I absolutely had to end my month long fantasising about potato waffle & baked bean cheesy melt with eggs.  If such a reaction over what is frankly a childhood school dinner amazes you then set aside your stunned response to the fact that three supermarkets didn’t predict the great potato waffle drought of 2012 and picture the following.

Shoulder of lamb, studied with garlic and rosemary, braised slowly in a red wine gravy and pale flageolet beans, shining like little pearls alongside some steamed sprouting broccoli.  It’s a classic and was always a best seller on the menu of the French restaurant for which I worked 20 years ago.  I imagined it for half a day, remembering the many times I’d enjoyed eating it.  The meat so fragrant and tender that you can cut it with a spoon.  The next day I thought a little more.  Had it been over a year since I’d made this favourite of mine?  Good God it had; and now I had a hankering.  The thing with a hankering for dishes that absolutely have to be cooked slowly for five hours is that when the craving hits on a Monday there’s precious little opportunity to scratch the itch between leaving for work in the morning and getting home after six, and so the week long wait begins, and the craving builds.

Saturday arrives, but there’s no time for cooking.  There’s a nursery to decorate, paint samples to test and furniture to buy.  Much as I’d rather like to be at home preparing that shoulder over walking around an industrial park, I also have to admit that some things are more important, and prioritising a seemingly unimportant meal over our expectant child isn’t something I’m about to suggest to my pregnant wife.  Not, that is, unless I want to have my own homegrown Fry’s served up with a devilled sauce as starter.  On the way home I pop into my local butcher who’s just about to close.  No shoulders are left but he has two perfectly sized shanks that’ll do perfectly.  Flageolet beans are in the larder, and a bottle of wine in the sideboard.

Sunday comes and like a child at Christmas I bowl into the kitchen to get the show on the road.  Happy days.

The first low blow is that I was completely wrong about the beans situation; there aren’t any in the larder.  Second downturn of the mouth comes when I realise the bottle of wine was downed a week earlier when friends came over.  Why do I always remember drinking one less bottle than we actually had? And so I find myself sitting in the kitchen grimly looking at two raw lamb shanks.  Is it worth heading to the seventh circle of hell known as the only shop open on a Sunday, or do I turn this into one of those major happy accidents?  I scour my provisions for a flageolet bean substitute.  No time to soak chick peas, but I do have red lentils, and a huge bowl of freshly grown tomatoes that my Dad gave me mid week.  Gina walked past and muttered her mantra.  “I wouldn’t mind something spicy.  Spicy’s good.”

Spicy is good.  Very good.  So, as they say if life gives you lemons, or my case lentils, then you make Slow Cooked Curried Lamb and Lentils which as it turned out was ten times better than I could have dreamed about.  Now let’s just hope that 6 months from now, the supermarkets don’t forget to stock their shelves with any of these ingredients or the deli counter could be bear witness to a gibbering baguette hurling breakdown on aisle six.

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