Yesterday it finally began to feel cold, properly cold, the kind of cold that makes your toes hurt just walking from the front door to the car parked almost outside. I am not good at cold and I had forgotten what it felt like; I really was born in the wrong place. To be honest I have been hankering after wintry comfort food not because it was freezing outside but because I fully subscribe to the illusion that December warrants comforting stodge: mash, pies, puddings. In my defence I should say that I have been cold for weeks, but I had forgotten that it can get much, much colder. Two years ago Simon and I went to Berlin in December and I experienced real cold, and even with 2 pairs of tights under my jeans I was still a walking icicle (although less so than my dad). When I was a teenager, I used to put the fan heater in my bedroom on in the summer, because moving from the hot sun into the temperate house always made me cold, and because huddling in front of heat with a novel is my idea of heaven. I also unsurprisingly like hovering by a warm stove - I definitely deserve an Aga, but obviously I don't have one. Anyway yesterday it began to be December cold and we went to a party for most of the afternoon and had snacky party food for lunch. The invitation said 'please bring an exotic dish'; I brought brownies (well they are American, aren't they? exotic, ish?) because I can make them almost blindfolded and they always work (I went for Nigella's divinely seasonal snow-flecked ones, which are fantastic) and a bottle of M and S cava. I noticed that the 'exotic' dishes looked decidedly dodgy and several people had brought shop-made sausage rolls, which hardly qualify as exotic either; there were also far too many dishes swimming in mayo, but there was a lovely bean salad and some delectable vegetable pancakes.
After the party, I made Jamie's lamb shank pie. I love lamb shanks - that doesn't need saying again. I seasoned the shanks and browned them briefly, before replacing them in the heavy based saucepan with chopped leeks, onion, carrots, turnip (not swede!), and celery, which I cooked for 15 minutes until softened, adding rosemary and thyme plus a little flour. I whizzed red wine, flour and tomato puree in the food processor and added this to the pan with the lamb shanks, brought it to the boil and simmered for 90 minutes with the lid on.
Meanwhile I rolled out bought puff pastry and cut it into strips. When the lamb had simmered for 90 minutes, I transferred it and its sauce to an ovenproof dish (the only suitably sized dish I had was, embarrassingly, a Le Creuset saucepan) , layered the strips of pastry over in an uneven rustic way, brushed with beaten egg and milk and baked for 20 minutes.
I have already admitted how much I love lamb shanks... and slow-cooked meat in red wine is simply wintery heaven for me. I don't eat pies very often but this one was thoroughly worth it - it was absolutely fantastic. I could have eaten the lamb and sauce without the pastry too - it had such a depth of flavour. One question I would have is how to serve it neatly - I couldn't figure it out, but decided it didn't matter since I don't go in that much for poncey presentation. Speaking of which I saw Gary Rhodes in his spiky haired days making prawn cocktail earlier - he made a prawn cocktail cake which was so faffy and cheffy and looked so ridiculous that it made me want to shout at the television. Who wants prawn cocktail cake when they can have lamb shank pie? Not me, at any rate.