186 cookbooks, and nearly all of them are good

It’s rare for a cookbook to bring me to tears. Tonight, one did.

I decided to try Lamb Do Piaza from “One-Dish Meals of Asia” by Jennifer Brennan. Brennan explains helpfully that “do piaza” translates to English as “two onions”, or perhaps “twice as much onions” (as meat).

In any case, onions are one of the major ingredients. You need to cut some thin slices to fry until they’re nice and brown for a garnish at the end; but mostly you need to chop, and chop, and chop. And yes, you will cry about it. The onion fumes will get you.

Starting to brown the onion slices

Once you get done chopping, though, it’s surprisingly simple. Cook the chopped onions for a while until they’re thoroughly soft – I kept them on low heat with a lid on the pan, and they still nearly scorched. (But almost-and-not-quite scorched is tasty.) Then brown the meat, cook a couple of cloves of garlic and a few peppercorns and whole cloves* briefly, add a little salt and water, and let it stew for most of an hour. Check from time to time and add more water; it will try to burn.

* (Use whole spices here – they keep their flavor during the long, slow cooking in a way that ground pepper and cloves can’t.)

Yogurt, browned onions, tomatoes

When the meat’s tender, add a little tomato sauce and cook another fifteen minutes or so. Then garnish it with some yogurt – I used whole milk Greek yogurt – and the browned onion rings (remember them? You made them back at the beginning of this recipe) and some chopped raw tomato. (I used grape tomatoes. It is February, after all, and they come closer to tasting really tomatoey than anything else I can get right now.)

The garnishes make for an unusually pretty stew, and they also lift the taste from Pretty Good Ordinary Stew to Delicious!! Meal. So I wound up with tears of pleasure, mixed with tears of frustration.

Because I don’t think I can get rid of this cookbook either. And I’m not sure if that’s really great or maddening.

4 responses to “186 cookbooks, and nearly all of them are good

  1. This is hilarious to come across on the interwebs by chance–I used to have that cookbook and I lost it (I often loan out cookbooks) and I miss it! Have you made the Sri Lankan lentil & veggie dish with coconut? Yum. 🙂

    • I feel your pain! No, I haven’t tried the Sri Lankan lentils yet – my husband and my son (who comes over for dinner fairly often) would rather eat soap than coconut. Maybe I’ll try it sometime when it’s just me for dinner, especially since the book says the leftovers are good too. (Too many smallish quantities of different veggies to try to make just one serving!) Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Here’s a funny thing: I don’t like coconut either, especially dried coconut. It ruins granola for me and I don’t even like coconut cream pie. But I do like that recipe. So if you do end up making it for yourself, you could just not mention the coconut and ask if they want to try a bite. 🙂

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