MaMa's Lamb rice

Here at Shananigans base camp my head and my heart are teeming with memories of last Christmas which was very special. In Christmas week Shane arrived with Shan on her first visit to Ireland and it was also our first time to meet her. Claire and Mike came from Australia spending part of the holiday here and part with Mike’s parents in Wales. Christmas resembled a Six Nations convention as we were also joined by my young Italian teacher Solange and her Argentinian husband Agustin. With a bit of talent we could almost have fielded a rugby team between us.

Shane with Claire & Shan last Christmas

What  a difference a year makes. Last year around this time I was nervous about meeting Shan and wondering what it would be like to have a Chinese person staying in our home. Now she is my much-loved daughter-in-law and soon to be mother of my first grandchild.
It will be a quieter Christmas here this year. Claire and Mike are spending the holiday with friends in Melbourne, Solange and Agustin are visiting her family in Italy with their 4 month old twin boys. Meanwhile we are waiting with baited breath for Shane to arrive on Saturday from Beijing. He will be on his own this time and it will be a short visit as Shan is now over 30 weeks pregnant and can’t risk the long-haul journey. Still it will be fantastic to have this time with him as he takes a rare break from life in Beijng and gets ready to become a father.
Shan’s MaMa will be with her in his absence and Shan can be sure of a constant supply of regular and nourishing home-cooked meals. Like us the Chinese have all sorts of strictures on diets for pregnant women. They avoid overly spicy food for instance. As a result many of the meals Shane and Shan are eating these days are easy to replicate here in Ireland from readily available ingredients.
I know most of you are probably up to your eyes with last minute preparations for Christmas and cooking Chinese food is the last thing on your your minds but this recipe of MaMa’s for Lamb Rice is so straightforward that I was able to put it together in just a few minutes yesterday evening. What I like about it is that it is winter comfort food, similar in its appeal to Irish stew, but it can be on the table in about 45 minutes. So if you’re stuck for a quick meal to prepare during this busy week, give it a go.
Lamb Rice served with yoghurt in Urumqi

Lamb is always on the menu in the Uighur restaurants in Xinjiang province and a similar rice dish was served at the first meal we ate out with Shan’s Mum in Urumqi at the restaurant attached to the This and That Satisfactory Chain Supermarket. In her simple and authentic version, MaMa makes this with lamb ribs, carrots, onion, tomato, rice and cumin. I’ve jazzed it up a bit below, adding in some of the ingredients I associate with the middle eastern influences of that region – dried apricots, dates which I brought back from Urumqi and a stick of cinnamon. I also took a notion and added in a half bottle of stout which is entirely optional. You could use a light chicken stock or, as MaMa does, simply water.
MaMa’s Lamb Rice
MaMa’s Lamb Rice Shananigan’s Style

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