One of my life rules, now that I am a grown-up, is "talk to strangers." So many wonderful friendships have been formed, adventures experienced and invitations extended over the years. This is especially relevant when you are traveling. However, it can work just as magically right here in South Sound.
A few months ago, I was standing in line at Kinko’s behind a very lovely woman with long blonde braids. She was picking up a new brochure and I spotted pictures of sheep on it. I had to ask about the unusual sheep.
The woman is Selma Bjarnadottir and both she and her sheep are Icelandic. I asked her for a good recipe and she agreed. We have kept in touch because I wanted to visit her farm south of Rochester and see her sweet-faced, shaggy sheep.
I sent Selma an e-mail recently and asked about a Sunday afternoon visit. She suggested a friendly potluck with her neighbor, Sue Ujcic, proprietress of Helsing Junction Farm, and her husband, Jared. Along with her partner, Anna Salafsky, Sue runs a top-rated community-supported agriculture (CSA) business in Washington, growing everything that goes into the weekly boxes of vegetables for its members. Check them out at www. helsingfarmcsa.com. They raise just about every kind of vegetable found in the seed catalogs.
Sue brought a tangy cabbage slaw, Selma made a savory lamb stew and I brought dessert. The lamb stew is very simple with just four ingredients plus salt and pepper. However, I am sure it was the mild meat of the Icelandic sheep that made it so delicious. Connoisseurs consider Icelandic lamb to be the best in the world. If you are interested in purchasing a lamb, look up Selma’s farm at www.bonedryridge.com. Her lambs receive only mother’s milk, grass, salt and Icelandic kelp
Selma’s husband, Mark, has traveled extensively. Born in Turkey, he has lived in Helsinki, Stockholm, Nova Scotia and Reykjavik, where he met Selma. Sue traveled to the island of Mallorca, just off the coast of Spain, this past September. All of this travel resulted in the most delightful evening talking about adventures around the world.
It was especially fascinating for us because we are about to take-off for an unusual trip. Tickets to Iceland are hovering around $500 round-trip. This is for nonstop flights between Seattle and Reykjavik. For a bit more, we will go on to London where we will park our heavy winter gear with a friend. Then we will take Ryanair to Mallorca. This intra-Europe airline has incredibly low prices but very strict luggage-weight restrictions. Sue gave us several tips about small, charming villages to visit and where to find the most delicious tapas.
On Mallorca, we will stay with a couple we met on a trip to Alaska. Elia and Rafa live in Palma. Rafa is the cook and I will love shopping in the island markets and cooking with him.
In Iceland, we will meet Selma’s brother and her parents. We will arrive bearing the gift of honey for them from her farm. Of course, we also gleaned plenty of Iceland travel tips. We especially look forward to a swim in the famous Blue Lagoon, naturally piping hot and full of minerals. They say you come out 10 years younger. I plan to go in more than once. We’ll see how that works out.
You see how well this idea of talking to strangers has succeeded? We met, we visited, we shared a delicious meal, we exchanged travel stories and we look forward to our visits to both Mallorca and Iceland in just a few days.
Sadly, because of budget cuts, this is my last column to be published in The Olympian. I have gained so much in the seven years I have shared recipes with you. Thank you for greeting me so warmly when you recognized me around town. And special thanks to those of you who have passed on your favorite recipes. We have all been enriched by the experience.
However, there is good news: I will continue to offer up recipes, cooking ideas, observations about food as well as tidbits from my travel experiences on a new blog you’ll be able to find at www. theolympian.com/blogs. You’ll recognize the same smiling face that has accompanied my What’s Cooking with Karyn columns.
Karyn Lindberg has called Olympia home since 1988. She is passionate about cooking and entertaining. She believes good recipes are meant to be shared.
Lamb Stew a la Selma
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound lamb stew meat, cubed
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper
Brown the meat in a skillet with a little oil. I recommend grapeseed or coconut oil, both high smoke-point oils. Put the browned lamb in a slow cooker. Sauté the onions in the same skillet and add to the cooker. Add a little bit of water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil. This will take up all the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add to the meat and onions. Add the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Add a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Turn the slow cooker on low or medium heat for six hours. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Pull out the thyme and rosemary stems before serving. The leaves will be left behind in the stew.
Selma made a quick gravy by pouring the liquid from the slow cooker into the sauté pan. She added a bit of flour and water mixture and brought it to a boil, until it thickened. Then she added back to the stew. “This is my favorite lamb stew dish,” says Selma. “I make it at noon and it is ready for dinner. Simple and soooo tasty.”
Winter Cabbage Slaw
7-8 inner leaves Savoy cabbage, finely shredded (about 2 cups)
1/2 red cabbage, finely shredded
1 mango cut into fine strips (or about 1 cup papaya)
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
To make the dressing, place all ingredients except the oil in a small saucepan and reduce over high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove from heat. Once cooled, strain into a bowl and add the oil. Toss with all the slaw ingredients. Taste and add salt if needed. Leave out chili flakes if you don’t want any heat.