When preparing your victory feast, meat and bread are staples

My 10-year-old son, Gideon, and I had a conversation about his biblical namesake. We discussed how Gideon selected 300 soldiers by taking 10,000 troops to the springs of Harod and letting them drink. The ones who lapped water like dogs, rather than cupping their hands to drink, were to be the soldiers.

My Gideon thinks they were chosen because it’s faster to lap water like a dog rather than cupping one’s hands.

My son also loves the brilliant battle plan — how Gideon divided his 300 men into three companies, giving each one a trumpet, pitcher and lamp. They surrounded and stormed the camp, blowing the trumpets and clanging the pitchers, crying, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”

The subsequent discussion generated by this story was brilliant. Gideon is convinced that the victory feast included lots of meat, “because it’s really fast to eat. You just have to chew.”

He also wanted to learn more about “cakes of barley bread.” I couldn’t describe the taste, so together we created a recipe and spent several hours in the kitchen. I felt like my namesake and her son Jacob. At dinner, we ate the bread with honey. The bread is a bit dense, to which Gideon responded, “Mom, I don’t really like the bread, but I liked being with you. Next time, let’s just make some meat. It’s faster.”

Gideon’s Roasted Lamb with Potatoes and Onions | Serves 10 to 12

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Hungarian paprika
2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 forequarter leg of lamb (about 5 lbs.), deboned and left untied
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Layer the potatoes and onions in the roasting pan, season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika, and pour the stock over the potatoes and onions. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
With a knife, insert the slivers of garlic into the skin side of the lamb. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and paprika. Place the lamb on a rack skin-side up and place rack in the pan over the potatoes and onions.
Roast the lamb 8 minutes a pound for rare and 12 minutes a pound for medium. Allow dish to rest 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Barley Bread

1 1/2 cups barley flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup warm milk
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. yeast
1 tsp. fine sea salt
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a mixer, dissolve the warm milk, honey and yeast. Sift together the barley flour, white flour and salt. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly into the yeast mixture.
Stir in the olive oil and knead the dough until smooth and shiny and the dough is no longer sticky, about 15 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes by machine. Add up to 1/2 cup more white flour, as necessary.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size. Remove dough from the bowl, punch it down and knead a second time, for about 5 minutes. Take the dough and divide it into equal parts, according to the sizes of bread desired. Place dough in lightly oiled bread pans, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.
Bake the bread in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 375 for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until done. Bread is done when it shrinks from the sides of the pan and the loaf is golden brown. Remove from oven, remove loaves from bread pans and allow to cool on a wire rack, so air can circulate freely around them.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].