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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Urban Peasant Quick & Simple with Lamb & Pumpkin Stew and Stuffed Papaya

Vintage Cookbook: The Urban Peasant Quick & Simple, James Barber
Publication Details: Urban Ink, 1993

Beloved by many Canadian home cooks in the 1990's, James Barber was the host of a CBC Television cooking show, The Urban Peasant, that became something of a hit not only in Canada but in other countries as well. Barber had a very warm, friendly, accessible style that was really the antithesis of what many see as the "celebrity chef"

Barber sought to demystify cooking and to feature ingredients used in ways that anyone could handle. This was done without any fancy or unusual preparation normally, but with often surprising and always delicious results. His show was a real pleasure to watch (and likely still is, out there somewhere in syndication) and was almost relaxing, a seeming contradiction given the nervousness with which many approach cooking. It even ingrained this atmosphere in its set, which was of an open-concept living space as opposed to an impersonal professional style kitchen.

Barber died in 2007 as he had lived, cooking. His wife told the CBC "As far as we can tell, James was sitting at the dining room table, he was reading a cookbook, and he had a pot of soup simmering on the stove."

In 1993 he released one of several companion cookbooks to the series, and one of which I am particularly fond. This was his Urban Peasant Quick & Simple cookbook. As he himself put it on the back cover, this one was "completely practical" and with "no trimmings, no romance". It is almost entirely unillustrated (though the few drawings that there are are his own charming ones) and while it might at first seem a bit spare, it is also full of terrific recipe after terrific recipe, all of which are, as the title would imply, quick and simple. And there are dozens of them. It is a real resource of new ideas.

Today we are sharing, as always, two recipes, as they originally appeared. And one has the seasonally appropriate and wonderful ingredient of pumpkin.

Lamb & Pumpkin Stew Served in a Pumpkin  

1 lb/500g pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1/2 lb./250 g cubed  leg of lamb
2 Tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt & Pepper

Heat the oil in a frypan and brown the meat. Add the onion, cayenne pepper, sugar and garlic and stir well. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cumin, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a hollowed out pumpkin and put in a 400F/200 C oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with cumin and some more chopped cilantro. 

Stuffed Papaya    

1 papaya
Cottage cheese
Fresh peeled shrimp
Fresh prawn tails
Freshly ground pepper

Halve the papaya and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and chop. Half fill the shells with cottage cheese and arrange the chopped flesh around it. Top with a mound of fresh, peeled shrimp and decorate with a few fresh prawn tails. Grind some pepper over the top and garnish with cilantro. Serve on crushed ice.

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