Clay Pot Cooking: Bruny based Čenakai.
Brunyfire’s clay cooking pot collection continues to grow and cross geographic and cultural borders thanks to my extended family who are scattered across the globe and willingly help in sourcing some of the rarer, harder to obtain pieces. In this instance, this story is dedicated to Lithuanian čenakinės, a tale made possible by one of Brunyfire’s talented and smart young nieces, Jacqueline who currently lives and works in Belgium and has a Lithuanian boyfriend.
Domas’s parents own a shack in the Lithuanian countryside where Domas’s Dad was born……… ………and the family spend their summer weekends there, often cooking on an outdoor camp fire.Jacqui and Domas were able to secure a couple of these traditional clay cooking pots through Domas’s mum Helen who traveled many miles to collect them from a resident potter at the Lithuanian Folk Museum in Rumšiškės, a town in the centre of the country. These pieces are hand thrown in an earthenware clay – they are absorbent, glazed inside and out with well fitting lids – all of which is necessary for the retention of moisture from the natural ingredients inside as the food slow cooks.
Lithuanian čenakai is a cross between a meat stew and a soup and can comprise a mixture of pork, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and cream/mayonnaise or lamb with potatoes, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Made and served in these small, intimate clay pots, they are intended for individual serves…….………and eaten directly from the pot with a spoon.
Before you even think about starting this recipe – plan well ahead – like a day or so! For starters, the subtle blend of dried herbs, known as khmeli suneli, the underlying basis for this recipe, is (in this particular recipe) comprised of 11 different dried herbs. If, like me, you assume you have them all in your cupboard and don’t, then there are a few substitutes listed below to help out!
- 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
- 2 tablespoons dried dill
- 2 tablespoons dried summer savory (substitute 50:50 mix of thyme and sage)
- 2 tablespoons dried mint (substitute with basil)
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons dried coriander
- 1 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried ground marigold petals (substitute with Tasmanian saffron)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
- 2 crushed bay leaves
For 6 servings.
- 600 gms lamb – this came from Erhard, Bruny Island Free Range Meat.
- 600 grams potatoes (Dutch Creams, from Murrayfield).
- 3 onions
- 400 mls good quality, home made stock
- 200 grams baby tomatoes (from Dave’s place at Roberts Point.)
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 4-6 small eggplants
- 2-3 organic carrots (these, along with the beetroot, came from Mhrylyn’s garden)
- 1 small hot pepper
- Chopped parsley or coriander
- Black pepper
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
- Khmeli suneli
- Adjika – a ‘kick ass’ (Jacqui’s words!) hot and spicy salsa that is served on the side.
Slice up the lamb……….. ………..onions and potatoes. Slice eggplants and sprinkle with salt and leave them for about 30 minutes, then rinse in water. Fry the lamb till lightly browned on both sides, fry eggplant. Layer the čenakinės with the lamb, potatoes, onion, sliced carrots………..……..and scatter the tomatoes………… …………and the khmeli suneli and bay leaf throughout.Mix the tomato puree with the broth, add finely chopped pepper and minced garlic and pour the stock into the pots. Finish with a layer of spuds and a sprinkling of rock salt.Place the pots in a hot oven for about 40 minutes until the lamb is fully cooked.Pull the čenakinės from the oven and sprinkle with extra marigold petals and coriander and serve up with the following pesto.
Make up the Adjika pesto – whilst this is a really easy recipe, you might need to halve the amounts – from Natasha.
2 large peeled and roughly chopped carrots
5 medium peeled and cored apples
3-4 chopped capsicums
10 cups sliced ripe tomatoes
1 cup olive oil
24 large garlic cloves
14 medium jalapenos, stems removed
2 tablespoons salt
Using a food processor separately mince carrots, apples, capsicums and tomatoes and place them in large pot. Bring this to the boil on a high heat and boil gently till boiling, stirring continually to prevent burning. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Mince the garlic and jalapenos together in a food processor. Add the oil, salt, garlic and jalapenos to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.