Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mutton Dressed as Galah

There's an old bush recipe for cooking galah that goes something like: Place the galah in a pot with two round river stones ( (known colloquially as gibbers) and boil until the gibbers go soft. When the stones are soft discard the contents of the pot, and eat the gibbers.

Every western Chinese restaurant has Mongolian Lamb on its menu, a sort of fanciful sizzling concoction that arrives steaming on a heated cast iron griddle.

In Mongolia however, the lamb seems to be a much older version of once was sheep, than perhaps we consider to be lamb in the western world.

Watching the blokes cook our evening meal one chilly afternoon in Tarelj, brought memories of the galah recipe flooding back.

Without ceremony an old milk can was filled with sheep, water and secret herbs and spices, and then before our very eyes, a dozen or so fist-sized black smooth river rocks were heated and added to the brew.

The lot was then brought to the boil, and a lid wired onto the can, creating a crude maxi-pressure cooker. After a time on the boil the can was rolled down the hill, then carried back up again, and the whole procedure repeated. This went on for what seemed like several hours, and I assumed the rocks were there to pulverise the meat while all the bashing was happening, or perhaps they were there to help maintain a level of heat for the time the pot was away from the fire.

It was only at the time the meal was being served, I wondered if they'd followed the old Aussie recipe to the letter.

Each of us was handed a steaming hot rock, smelling unmistakably of mutton.

Could it be, I wondered aloud, that we were really going to eat the rock?

Apparently not, the rock was certainly not soft, but was traditionally a hand-warming gesture, offered immediately before a meal. The mutton had permeated it to an extent, so that it left an oily deposit of warmth on anything it touched.

The mutton had indeed been transformed into the texture of lamb. The rocks had achieved their magic intent.

Those old swaggies knew a thing or two about cooking.


1 comment

Chrissy said...

Makes me hungry!

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