“You’re crazy. Aren’t you afraid of cocaine traffic, kidnapping and violent crime?”. That was the response I got from my friends when I was heading on my adventurous trek to the “Lost City” in Columbia, where Indianan Jones was filmed many years ago. Contrary to the negative image of the country, Colombia was a fascinating place to visit. Instead of encountering rebels, shootings, and drug wars on my trip, I saw peaceful Indian villages, luscious valleys, and beautiful creeks as I journeyed along the mountain trails.
The Lost City was the Tayrona Indian’s political & economic center. Built at an elevation of 4200 ft. during the 8th century, it is hidden in the deep forest surrounded by rugged mountains and far away from contemporary civilization. Getting there required crossing 7 creeks and climbing up steep slopes including the last stairway, 1200 steps long, on foot. It not only involved sliding and falling in the mud multiple times, but also getting thousands of mosquito bites all over my legs. The challenges turned into exciting discoveries every single day, which started with a cup of rich, full-bodied Colombian coffee. Today, I’m making a Colombian lamb casserole cooked with some delicious coffee made with beans from those same luscious mountains.
First, I remove the fat from 2 lbs of lamb legs and season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then I heat extra virgin olive oil in a cast-iron pot (e.g. Le Crueset) and brown the “trimmed” lamb steaks. I put them aside and stir fry 2 chopped onions and 2 sliced carrots with 2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 teaspoons sugar & 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Then I add the browned lamb steaks, along with 1 Tablespoon vermouth, ½ cup beef stock and 1 cup robust Colombian coffee to the pot. I bring it to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes, and serve with potato.
Cooking with coffee is very similar to cooking with wine. At first, the rich flavor seems too strong. But then, the initial intensity turns into a perfectly balanced flavor, as the lamb fats in the cast iron pot integrate beautifully with the acidic bitterness of the coffee. The meat not only comes out tender, but any “gaminess” also disappears in the flavorful casserole. The flavor compatibility of Lamb & Coffee is amazing, just like drinking a glass of nice Cabernet Sauvignon with a juicy piece of steak.
I am finishing my dinner with a dessert wine, Schloss Koblenz’ 2009 Eiswein (ice wine) from the Rheinhessen Region, South West of Frankfurt, Germany. The ice wine is made from super ripe Riesling grapes that naturally freeze on the vine. Pale yellow in color and high in sweetness and acidity, this wine is extremely refreshing. How enticing tropical aromas of lychee & pineapple and flavors of honey, peach & dried apricot are in the wine! I love having a taste of summer fruits in the middle of winter. Enjoy my discovery of an interesting Columbian coffee lamb recipe and a delicious ice wine! Happy cooking!