Showing posts with label Beef and Lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beef and Lamb. Show all posts

September 10, 2017

Farmer's Skillet Dinner: Bauerntopf mit Hackfleisch


This is a speedy one-pot meal of ground meat and potatoes that is also a perfect use for those small, new-harvest nugget potatoes that are just coming into markets now (my potatoes were a bit bigger than that, but still good). If you are chopping up larger potatoes, be sure to choose waxy ones that won't turn mushy when you stir them. It's also an excellent hiding place for a zucchini; none but the most dedicated of examiners will be able to find it in amongst the richly seasoned gravy.

Here in Germany, this dish is often made with a "fix" - that is, a prepared seasoning packet from a company such as Knorr or Maggi. However, when I looked at the ingredients in the packet and discovered that it really only contained powdered tomato paste, dehydrated onion, paprika and a few other seasonings (including way too much salt for my taste), I decided to make it from scratch - a "fix ohne fix" as it were. The zucchini was my own inspiration, but it adds another vegetable to make the dish more of a complete meal.

You can use any kind of ground meat you like, but here I've used the standard German mixture of beef and pork. In fact, you don't even need to use meat at all - you could easily cook up and drain some lentils to use instead (add them after the onions), or a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and walnuts could also fit the bill.

Double this if you like - but you'll need to use either a very large skillet or a dutch oven.

Bauerntopf mit Hackfleisch

Farmer's Skillet Dinner

Serves 2

250 grams lean ground meat
1 small onion, finely diced
150 grams zucchini, grated
300 grams nugget potatoes, quartered into wedges
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
60 mL tomato paste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pinch smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (or coarse sea salt)
1 teaspoon beef or chicken stock base (optional, low-sodium preferred)
1 cup water

In a large skillet, break up and brown the ground meat (use a little oil if you don't have a non-stick pan). Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and zucchini (it will seem like a lot, but don't worry - it shrinks down) and stir through. Add the salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini wilts down and its water evaporates.

Next add the tomato paste and the paprika, marjoram, and white pepper, and stir through. The mixture will be quite thick, but stir it through until everything is coated. Add the quartered potatoes, and stir them through gently until they are coated with the seasoned tomato mixture.

As soon as the potatoes are added, add the water, and stir through gently until it is all incorporated. Bring the temperature up to a simmer, and then reduce to the lowest setting and cover the pan. Cook, stirring gently two or three times throughout, for 25 minutes. If your mixture is still very wet (it shouldn't be) leave the lid off and cook for another five minutes. Divide between bowls or plates, and tuck in.



Now, then, can you see the zucchini?

July 29, 2017

Loco Moco


Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is such a hometown favourite that it appears everywhere from takeaway windows, to diners, to fine dining restaurants.

Four essential ingredients comprise the classic Loco Moco: white rice, ground meat patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. The number of patties and eggs is variable, but even the petite offering shown here, of a single patty and a single egg, makes for quite a substantial meal.

There are other variations, of course. Fried rice instead of rice, being one. The meat patty could be replace with fried spam, and there may or may not be mushrooms in the gravy. Some places ask if you want sautéed onions or not, but in this version they're already right in the gravy. Loco Moco often appears as an option on Hawaii's famous Plate Lunch, which pretty much guarantees a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. In Japan, where Loco Moco has migrated quite happily, it is often served with Tonkatsu sauce instead of brown gravy, which gives it an altogether different effect.



Serving the egg as the topmost layer is picture pretty, but most places drench the egg with extra gravy - sometimes so much so that the takeaway container threatens to overflow. It is big food. Generous food. Comfort food.

So here's how you make it:

Loco Moco

Serves 2-4

3-4 cups hot cooked long grain white rice
4 hamburger patties in brown gravy (or Salisbury Steaks with a little soy sauce spiking the gravy)
4 fried eggs

Divide the rice between the dishes (pasta bowls work really well for this). Top the rice with one or two hamburger patties and a big spoonful of gravy. Top the patties with the fried eggs, and ladle extra gravy over it all. Serve with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side.

This is also a great way to use up extra Salisbury steaks, if you have some in the fridge, but if you want to make the patties up from scratch, it can still be done up pretty quickly:

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, sliced pole-to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
3 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon) - preferably low sodium
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 125 mL (1/2 cup) cold water to make a slurry)

Put the rice on to cook first. While it cooks:

Mix together the meat and seasonings with a fork or your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been nicely browned, remove them to a plate while you make the gravy. To the emptied pan, add the onions and garlic, and stir them through, scraping up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and start to get tender. If the pan is too dry, lower the heat a bit and add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through, being sure to scrape up the flavourful bits on the bottom of the pan. Make a slurry of the flour with the cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet, stirring. Stir it all through until it is thoroughly integrated with the onions and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes of cooking for the flour to cook through and lose its paste-like raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Return the patties to the sauce, lower the heat to it's lowest setting, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary. If it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it to your preferred gravy consistency.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy might be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). It's on point for the dish flavour-wise, and it's a near miraculous gravy-browner.

When the rice is cooked and the patties and gravy are ready, fire up another skillet and fry up some eggs. Sunny side up is traditional, but over easy (or over hard) is fine if that's how you roll.

Layer the ingredients quickly and dive in.

June 17, 2017

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs (and Bibimbap)



My first experience of Korean-Mexican fusion was a Korean Taco Truck in Vancouver a few years back. Almost immediately, curiosity overwhelmed confusion and I decided that this was something I really needed to try. So, I bellied up to the window and got myself an order of mixed tacos - Galbi (short rib) and Bulgogi (shredded beef). On the plate, it's easy to see why these two amazing cuisines can come together so deliciously, despite the huge geographical distance and cultural differences.

Since that first unexpected demonstration of fusion that really works, the combination of Korean and Mexican has shown up again and again, and it seems to get tastier each time. And then I received a package from some friends in Australia, which included a bottle of Chipotle Gochujang sauce from their local restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic.

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in Korean cuisine; a spicy, fermented chilli paste that is used either on its own and as a base for other sauces. The spiciness of this condiment predates New World peppers, with the heat in those earlier versions being likely provided by sancho (Zanthoxylum piperitum) and black pepper, although chillies have been used since at least the early 1600s. This particular fusion iteration relied on chipotle, a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper, and is more the texture of a thick Mexican-style hot sauce.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first date the sauce had in our house was with some pork neck steaks in a presentation that skewed neither east nor west (but was delicious), but after gawking at the Hispanic Mechanic menu, I was determined to hunt down some beef spare ribs. I wasn't able to find the thin, flanken cut that would be closer to what is used in a traditional Korean Galbi recipe, so I opted for braising rather than grilling - Galbijjim (갈비찜, Galbi Jjim, or Kalbi Jjim), more or less, rather than grilled Galbi. I'm looking forward to trying this sauce with pulled chicken, too.

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs

1 kg Short ribs, browned in 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
5 fresh large shiitake, sliced in half (stems removed)
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 Tablespoons chipotle gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 scallions
4 cloves garlic
2 cups beef or veal broth
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 red chiles, deseeded

Braise 3 hours in an oven preheated to 170°C (340°F), remove the meat from bone, shred, mix with some braising liquid. There may be some fatty bits, and you don't want to wholly discard those. Chop up some of it and mix it in with the meat and braising liquid. If you have a lot of fat, you won't want to use it all or it will be too rich. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and set aside as a separate item.

And what did we do with this marvellous, meltingly tender and unctuous short rib meat? We made Bibimbap, of course.



Bibimbap (비빔밥) is Korean for "mixed rice" and is generally made by adding various toppings to a base of one of a number of different rice varieties. It is often served in a (very hot) heated stone bowl, but not always. There is a tremendous variation from one bibimbap to the next, as it is infinitely customizable depending on what toppings are available and/or selected, from all vegetarian, to a mixture of meat and vegetables, to raw egg (or egg yolk) added at the last minute (usually in the hot stone bowl versions). There is a wonderful array of different flavours and textures to enjoy.

For our Bibimbap, I went with plain, white, medium-grain rice, the shredded short rib meat and braised shiitake mushrooms, ginger-soy braised cabbage, sesame carrot, and an absolutely fantastic zucchini bokkeum (볶음, stir fry) that is good hot or cold and makes a terrific banchan (반찬, side dish). It will get its own post very soon (I note that banchan are normally served in the middle of the table, for diners to help themselves, but I couldn't resist putting it right in the bowl for the picture). Final garnish was shredded green onion, although if I'd had them at the time, I would have added Mexican pickled red onion. In fact, we made tacos from the remaining short rib meat a couple of days later, for which I whipped up a batch of the pickled onions expressly.

While there are an assortment of different sauces used as the finishing touch on a bowl of bibimbap (including, for example ssamjang, sesame sauce, citrus-soy, and a variety of spicy options, often based on gochujang) we went with more of the chipotle gochujang, which amplified the flavours used in the braising liquid.

May 20, 2017

Kefta Mkaouara: Moroccan Meatball & Egg Tagine


The very first meal that we had in Marrakech was a wonderful feast prepared by the cook our our riad (traditional Moroccan boutique hotel), featuring a variety of salads, and this iconic meatball & egg tagine. Arriving late at night after a significantly delayed flight, we were extremely grateful for two things: first, that we had arranged a driver through our riad to bring us in from the airport, and second, that this meal was waiting for us when we finally staggered through the door.

There are a lot of recipes for this dish out there in the wilds of the internet, and I initially tried one I found that looked pretty good but ended up swimming in copious amounts of a sauce more reminiscent of a displaced marinara. So, I researched a little harder, and then dug into my notes from our trip to Morocco. This is the result, which feels much closer in spirit to what we had in Morocco. There is enough sauce to provide a condiment to the meatballs and also to cook the eggs, but not an excessive amount.

Tagines are traditionally served with bread, rather than rice or couscous, so I picked up a couple of khobz-like flatbreads from a local bakery, and served the tagine with lemony, Moroccan-style carrot salad and spiced olives on the side.

Kefta Mkaouara
(Moroccan Meatball & Egg Tagine)

Serves 4

550 grams mixed ground beef and lamb
1 large whole egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup panko-style bread crumbs
2-3 teaspoons Ras el Hanout* spice mixture, divided
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup parsley, divided
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes (low sodium preferably)
1 medium yellow onions, diced somewhat finely
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chili flakes
4 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and add the panko, a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, and half the parsley. Stir together.

Break apart the ground meat in little pieces (I use my fingers for this), letting it fall on top of the egg/crumb mixture, and then season with salt and white pepper. Use a fork to gently (but thoroughly!) combine the ingredients into a homogenous mixture, being sure to distribute the breadcrumbs well throughout the meat. Shape into very small meatballs with a tablespoon or very small disher. You can leave them rough or rolls them between your palms to make nice rounded meatballs, each a bit smaller than a walnut. You should get 24 meatballs.



Heat the oil in a medium skillet (the one above is 23 cm) over medium-high heat, and brown the meatballs in batches (don't bother cooking them all the way through at this stage, and don't overcrowd the pan). Remove the browned meatballs from the pan to a plate, and add the diced onion and the garlic into the emptied pan. Sauté until the onions are translucent, then add the tomato paste and stir through. Sprinkle the turmeric, a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, and the chile flakes over the onions, and stir through. Add the can of tomatoes with their juices. stir through. Cook altogether until it starts to resemble a sauce, about four or five more minutes. Turn the heat to low, and add the meatballs (and any juices that may have collected on the plate). Cover and cook for 10 minutes.



Make a "nest" in the meatballs to create space for each egg - one per person is usual. Crack an egg directly into each nest, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cover. Continue to cook on low heat for 5 - 10 minutes more, depending on how done you like your eggs. If you plan to have meatballs leftover for a future meal, just cook the number of eggs that you need for the moment. The eggs can be freshly cooked when you warm up the meatballs and sauce the next day (or you can skip the eggs on the second pass, and just stuff the (warmed up) meatballs and sauce into a hollowed-out flatbread for a fantastic meatball sandwich. When reheating, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to loosen the sauce to an optimal consistency.

* If you are unable to find a premixed Ras El Hanout blend (we brought ours back from Morocco, but it is often available in grocery stores that stocks North African and/or Middle Eastern spice mixtures), you might want to make your own: This one, and this one both look like decent options.

May 05, 2017

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner


This is quick, delicious, and oh-so-easy. We use habanero peppers, because we can get them more easily than we can jalapeños, but you can use any chile pepper you like, really. Kind of a cauliflower hash, as it were, but not so...hashy?

What it is, is very filling and satisfying. It's also low carb, if that interests you, or are just looking for something different from the cycle of potato-pasta-rice-bread that make the foundation of so many dinner calendars.

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner
Adapted from Gluesticks & Gumdrops

Serves 2

1/2 large head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
250 grams ground beef or beef/pork mixture
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero chile pepper, de-seeded
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or other powdered chile
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
60 grams cheddar cheese, grated
black pepper, to finish
cilantro, for garnish
Water, as needed

Do your mise en place first: separate the cauliflower, chop the onion, mince the garlic, grate the cheese, and de-seed the hot pepper (carefully). Wash and dry the coriander, and tear the leaves off of the thicker stems (you don't need the stem here).

Heat the canola oil in a large over medium-high temperature, and add the ground meat. If your meat is a bit fatty, you might not need the oil at all, or you might need to spoon a little off after it's fried. You want a bit of oil to thoroughly brown the meat, but not so much that it becomes greasy. If you are using lean meat, you shouldn't have to drain anything.

Break up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula as it fries, and let it get some nice golden brown colour before you add anything else. Don't just fry it until it loses the pink - you don't get good flavour from grey meat. When it is satisfactorily browned, add the onion and garlic, and stir through. When the onion turns translucent, add the chile pepper and the salt, cayenne, cumin seasonings. Stir and continue to fry until the onions are tender and a bit browned at the edges.

Add the cauliflower and stir it through, coating it with the spicy juices already in the skillet. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and stir through again. Continue to cook and stir, adding splashes of water where necessary to keep the mixture loose an not burning, but not enough to make a gravy. You can also put a lid on and turn it to low for a few minutes to make sure the cauliflower gets cooked through to your satisfaction.

When the cauliflower is tender, it's time to finish. Scatter the grated cheddar evenly over the pan, and put a lid on for a few minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese. Use a wide spatula to lift sections from the pan onto the plate, trying to keep the cheese top-most if possible. Garnish with black pepper and cilantro. Devour.

You can of course use more cheese to make this an even more deluxe dish, but it's lovely the way it is, and perfect for someone looking for a lighter (but still satisfying) meal.

Not hot enough? You can always top it with the fiery hot sauce of your choice.

April 29, 2017

Gored Gored: Ethiopian Spiced Raw Beef


I am a big fan of Ethiopian cuisine. Its richly layered seasonings can be searingly spicy or pleasantly warm, but are always complex flavours borne of a long, unique culinary heritage.

I also like raw beef dishes, generally: carpaccio, tartar, kitfo (another Ethiopian dish, as it happens) are all wonderful, but the intense seasoning and the richness of the butter lift gored gored into a class of its own.

While I've eaten gored gored many times in restaurants, when I decided to make it myself, I found very few recipes to work from, and even fewer in English. I set about watching cooking videos on YouTube and scouring cookbooks, but there didn't really seem to be a consensus on any sort of master recipe, so I've constructed my own based on the bits of information that I've uncovered, as well as hands on (quite literally) analysis through consumption of versions prepared by professionals. The dish is not always served raw - sometimes it is lightly seared - but I prefer it raw.

This was a full on Ethiopian meal, with the other dishes being shiro wat (recipe still under development), okra stew with onions and tomatoes, and of course, injera - that wonderful Ethiopian flatbread that serves as a literal foundation upon which the other dishes are served, as well as the utensil with which to eat them. My injera really, really needs more practice, but the gored gored turned out beautifully.



Berbere spice mixtures can often be purchased pre-mixed, but if you can't find it, there's a link in the recipe below.

Gored Gored

Serves 4 - 6 (as part of a multi-dish meal)

225 gram piece of high quality raw beef, suitable for tartar
3-4 tablespoons warm Ethiopian spiced butter (Nit'r Q'ibe) (I used a modified version of this recipe from Saveur: I added a teaspoon of Berbere seasoning)
1 (extra) teaspoon Berbere seasoning (I used this recipe from Epicurious) You'll also need this to make the Awase seasoning
3-4 tablespoons Awase seasoning (I used this recipe from Markus Samuelsson)

Once you've gotten all of the seasonings sorted out, this dish is extremely simple. On your extremely clean cutting board, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small cubes. I cut mine very small, for the best spice-penetration, but it's normal to cut them a bit larger than this.

In a small serving bowl, add the Awase and the extra Berbere seasoning, and stir well to thoroughly coat all sides of each bit of meat. Add the warmed spiced butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring completely through, until the meat has a glossy sheen.

You can keep any leftover gored gored until the next day, covered well in the fridge, and either sauté it for the next day (if you must), or warm it very gently over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, just until the butter loosens up and the meat approaches room temperature, and then swiftly plate to prevent it from cooking.

December 17, 2016

Khoresht Loobia Sabz: Persian Green Bean and Lamb Stew


Persian cuisine is full of delicious, slow-simmered dishes that are very satisfying on cold winter nights - even more so if you've had the foresight to put a stash in the freezer. This tomato and green bean stew can be made with lamb, beef, chicken, or meatless, and is generally served with rice.

I made this recipe first due to a sudden abundance of fresh green beans that needed using. Normally, I prefer very fine green beans, which are sometimes also called French or filet beans (Prinzessbohnen, or Nadelbohnen in German), which are stringless and supremely tender, but on this occasion I found myself with a rather large bag of somewhat larger diameter green beans, and wanted to find a recipe that would do them justice. Although these beans are stringless they are also quite firm, but this dish simmers until the beans are truly tender, absorbing the flavours around them as they soften. The resulting texture is luscious rather than overcooked, and helps the dish stand up to freezing very well.

I scoured my resources for recipes to get a sense of the variations of this dish (also spelled Khoresht Lubia Sabz), and eventually made a version very closely modelled on Khoresht Lubia Sabz by My Persian Kitchen, although I note that I used much less water than the original recipe.

Khoresht Loobia Sabz: Persian Green Bean and Lamb Stew

Serves 4

500 grams lamb stew meat, diced medium-small
1.5 tablespoon canola oil (divided)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
400 mL diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
400 grams green beans
3 tablespoons lemon juice


In a medium-large soup pot over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the canola oil and add the onion and garlic. Stir and sauté until the onion is translucent and just starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, and then add the lamb. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon (if using), and continue to sauté until the lamb colours slightly. Add the water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cover, and then simmer for an hour and a half, until the lamb is tender.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir thoroughly through. Let the stew continue to simmer while you prepare the beans.

Wash and dry the beans, and trim the ends. Cut the beans into short lengths (each bean cut either into halves or thirds, depending on length). In a separate skillet, heat the remaining half tablespoon of oil until it shimmers, and then add the cut green beans into the hot skillet. Stir fry the beans until they are bright green (add an extra pinch of salt as you fry them), about 3 minutes. Pour the beans into the stew, and add the lemon juice. Stir through, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about an hour, until all of the flavours permeate the beans.

Serve over plain rice, such as chelow or kateh, or even a polow if the mood takes you.





November 13, 2016

Salisbury Steak: Hamburger patties in gravy


This was a fairly common meal for us, when I was a child. Easily made, relatively quick to prepare, and tasty. My mother would have had at least one more hot vegetable on each plate (or a salad), as well as a dish of pickles or radishes on the table. She was ahead of her time in making sure we got our vegetables in. Sometimes we'd have mashed potatoes, sometimes merely boiled and left whole (or chopped), sometimes baked.

While there are some ingredient differences between Salisbury steak per se and a simple hamburger patty in gravy (the Salisbury steak is named after Dr JH Salisbury, a proponent of low-carb diets), the method is essentially the same: create a meat patty and fry it up in a skillet, in which a gravy is then built after the patties have browned. There are of course similar dishes all over the world - everything from Japanese hambagu to Russian Koteleta to German Hacksteak, and doubtless many more. Salisbury Steak also holds the perhaps dubious honour of being one of the iconic meals available as a Swanson brand TV Dinner (although it was not the very first offering thereof).

At home in Canada I generally used all beef (or occasionally bison) for the patties, but here in Germany I use either beef or a combination of beef and pork (which is the standard most economical offering of the region). While a certain amount of filler material is apparently acceptable, mine are always just meat and seasoning spices. I make the gravy with either just onions or onions and mushrooms, depending on what I have in the house. The gravy is a bit variable in terms of thickness, because I don't tend to measure the amount of flour that I use. This one is a bit thinner than it often is, but it was equally delicious on the patties and on the mashed potatoes. I use lean meat for these - extra lean makes for a bit of a drier patty.

Salisbury Steaks

Serves 4

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef and pork)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, either sliced pole-to pole or diced
6 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (or chopped) - optional
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
pinch of whole mustard seed (optional)
1.5 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 60 mL water to make a slurry)

If you're making the family style of dinner above, put the potatoes on to boil first. Once they are going, mix together the meat and seasonings with your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been browned, stack half of them into twos and push them to the side. Add the onions and garlic, and stir through the fond. Add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard seeds (if using), and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and the mushrooms give up some of their liquid. If the pan is too dry, add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through. Make a slurry of the flour with just enough cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet. Stir it through carefully until it is thoroughly combined with the onions, mushrooms, and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes for the flour to cook through and lose its raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Spread the patties out in the sauce, lower the heat, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy will be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). This will make it a touch more salty, though, so be aware of that, especially if you're using a salty meat broth or stock.

At this point, the patties can be held for a while if necessary to let the potatoes finish cooking, or to wrangle any other vegetables that you want to include in your meal. Put the lid on if you like to keep to much liquid from evaporating.

Serve up the patties with a spoonful of the gravy over them. These reheat very nicely for lunches the next day, and also make very good sandwiches (I usually slice them horizontally for sandwiches, and add a slice of cheese).

July 03, 2016

Harira


I continue to be inspired by my vacation in Marrakech last year, and as you can see I have many more Moroccan recipes still to explore.

Harira is a traditional soup from Morocco, and while it is enjoyed year-round as an appetizer or light meal, it gains particular significance during Ramadan, for many households being a significant dish for iftar, the traditional meal that breaks the daily fasting during that month. Its recipes are as varied as the households they come from, but generally are all based on a combination of tomatoes, legumes, a starch such as rice or pasta, green herbs, and spices. Meat is an optional component, but used in fairly small quantities as it is not the focus of the soup. I've used lamb in this version, because we have such an excellent supplier of good quality lamb that I cook with it as often as I can, but beef or chicken could be used instead or the meat could be omitted entirely. For a meatless, vegan harira, I would double the amount of lentils, and possibly also increase the amount of chickpeas.

The soup is thick and hearty, and always served with bread. As part of iftar, it might also be accompanied by dates, hard boiled eggs, small savoury pastries, even homemade pizza. Iftar is served just after sundown, and although it is Ramadan right now, we are not Muslim so we enjoyed the harira at our usual dinnertime.



This version of harira is pretty close to the one I first tried at the market restaurants that spring up every evening in Jemaa El Fna, the main square of Marrakech. It is adapted from MarocMama's recipe.

Harira with Lamb

Makes 7-8 cups

1 medium yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
5 large roma tomatoes
225 grams lamb, diced small (optional)
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 small pinch saffron, crushed between fingers (optional)
400 grams cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup dry green or brown lentils (washed)
30 grams spaghettini or other thin pasta (broken into short lengths)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups water

Prepare your mise en place: roughly chop the onion and garlic together, and the tomatoes and herbs each separately.

In a food processor, puree the onion and garlic until smooth (a tablespoon of water may help this process).

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion/garlic puree, and stir and cook for a few minutes. Increase the heat slightly, and add the meat, if using. Stir and cook the meat until it has lost its raw look on all sides.

Add the tomatoes to your now-empty food processor and quickly puree. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped herbs, salt and the spices, and stir well. Add four of the five cups of water, and bring up to a simmer. Add the washed lentils and chickpeas, and stir through. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and let cook for an hour, to let the lamb get tender. This can be reduced to 30 minutes if you aren't using the meat - long enough for the lentils to get tender.

While the soup is simmering, whisk together until smooth the remaining cup of water with the flour. Let it stand while the soup cooks, so that the flour fully hydrates.

When the lentils are cooked and the lamb has had some time to get tender, add the broken pasta and stir through. Then, stirring constantly, add the flour/water mixture in a thin, steady stream. The soup will start to thicken very rapidly, but keep stirring it until all of the flour mixture has been added. This is a very thick soup. Cook and stir for another 20 minutes, to allow enough time for the raw taste of the flour to cook out, and for the pasta to cook. You will need to keep the burner on its lowest heat and stir the soup regularly, to prevent the scorching. Serve as an appetizer or whole meal, with bread and any other accompaniments you like.




June 19, 2016

Zrazy Grzyczana z Kaszą: Polish Braised Beef Rolls with mushroom stuffing and Kasha


A couple of weeks ago, I made a Lithuanian recipe for Blueberry Dumplings, using a cookbook given to me by my former colleague at the end of my last work contract.

Today, I offer you not one, but TWO Polish recipes, from an entirely different cookbook, given to me by an entirely different thoughtful colleague at the end of my last work contract. I guess my non-stop talk about food is paying off! It was hard to decide which cookbook to start cooking from, so I eventually decided to choose based on which one I received first, but am evening the score by making this a two-for-one.

The book is From a Polish Country House Kitchen by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden. There's a lot of good looking stuff in here, and I can't wait to get my hands on some of these recipes. (Duck and red cabbage pierogi? Yes please!) I wanted to start with something that felt very traditionally Polish, because my greatest association with Polish cookery is Barscz. Now, I love a good barscz, but to be perfectly honest, there is a bit of a blur around the dish in terms of nationality and cuisines - probably because I grew up with the Ukrainian and Russian versions. For the first effort from this book, I wanted something that really identified as Polish.

Now, you could quibble all day on the origins of some of these dishes. What in Poland is called Zrazy is called Rouladen in Germany, Paupiettes in France, and probably a half a dozen things in half a dozen other places. But this version, with the mushroom/bacon/onion filling, doesn't seem to be reflected in any of the other recipes that I've seen. Likewise the kasha recipe, despite all its infinite variations, appears a little differently here than I was familiar with from Russian or Ukrainian versions.

Finally, before we get to the actual recipes, I wanted to note that according to the book, this recipe should serve two people (scaled from the original four). Generous! That was a bit much for the two of us, based on our usual dinner size, but we happily put the rest in the fridge for a quick dinner later in the week. Depending on how hungry you are, or what portions sizes look like to you, well, it could vary a bit. For me, the math of roughly 125 grams of meat per serving seemed perfect. There's two on the plate in the photos because a) it looks nice, and b) we didn't realize how optimistic the serving size was until we started eating, and we promptly agreed to reserve the second zrazy.

Zrazy Grzyczana
Braised Beef Rolls with Mushroom Stuffing
Adapted from From a Polish Country House Kitchen

Serves 2 - 4

2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion
225 grams wild mushrooms, chopped (I used chanterelles)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed
2 tablespoons bread crumbs (I used panko)
450 grams beef top round steak, boneless, sliced into 4 long, very thin/wide steaks
4 slices raw bacon
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Finely chop the yellow onion and three quarters of the mushrooms. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet, and sauté them until tender and reduced in volume. Combine in a food processor (or turn out onto a cutting board) with two tablespoons fresh minced dill, and two tablespoons breadcrumbs. Chop/pulse until finely chopped, but not puréed. Set aside.

When you buy the beef, if you can ask the butcher to cut it for rouladen, it will save a lot of headaches. Use a meat-mallet or rolling pin or even a small skillet to pound it (gently, that is) into a long thin strip. Lay a strip of bacon along its length, and add a quarter of the mushroom filling. Season well with salt and pepper. Fold the sides in just a little bit (as if you were making a spring roll or a burrito) to help contain the filling, and roll the steak up lengthwise into a tidy roll. Secure the roll with butcher's string or toothpicks and set aside. Repeat until all four steaks have been made into rolls.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in a small skillet, and brown the zrazy on all sides. Remove the zrazy to a plate, and deglaze the pan with the wine and the broth. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and place the zrazy back in the braising liquid, along with the reserved mushroom pieces. Braise the rolls for an hour, or until very tender (now you can start preparing the Kasha, if you like). Remove the rolls to a plate, and remove the strings or toothpicks from each piece. Take 2 tablespoons of cold water and dissolve the cornstarch in it (or you can harvest a bit of the braising liquid in advance, at let it cool first). Add the cornstarch mixture back into the braising liquid and bring to a boil. Let it simmer and reduce, stirring frequently, until thick and sauce-like. Put the zrazy back into the sauce, and spoon some over each roll. Serve with Kasha and some vegetables - I've chosen pickled beets and a cucumber-sour cream salad with dill.

I won't lie to you - the inclusion of beaten egg in the below recipe seemed kind of optimistic. But it all turned out wonderfully! Apparently the egg gives it a sort of fluffiness, and it certainly was fluffy. Sometimes it pays to follow instructions.

Kaszą/Kasha
Adapted from From a Polish Country House Kitchen

Serves 4

1 cup toasted buckwheat groats
1 beaten egg
2 cups boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper

If your buckwheat groats are not toasted, you can toast them yourself in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until they smell lovely and toasted. Let cool before proceeding with the recipe.

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg well. Add the cooled, toasted buckwheat groats, and stir until very well integrated.

In a sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid, over medium heat, add the buckwheat/egg mixture. Stir continuously, until the grains start to separate themselves from the mass of eggy/buckwheat goo. Then, add the boiling water (having a kettle on standby for this is helpful), the salt and pepper, and give it one last stir before turning the heat to low, covering, and letting cook for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the pan from the heat (leave it covered) and let stand on a cool burner or other safe place for another ten minutes. Fluff with a spatula, and serve as though it were rice.

It turns out that the Kasha likes the beef and wine sauce from the zrazy quite a bit.

May 28, 2016

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

This recipe (or rather, its "impossible" antecedent) dates back to at least as early as 1971, but really gained fame shortly thereafter when it was printed on the back of the box for Bisquick, a shelf-stable, pre-mixed baking blend of flour, leavener, salt, and fat, intended to make biscuit-making faster and easier. Bisquick itself has been around since the 1930s or so, and its parent company, General Mills, marketed the recipes for various "impossible pies" as a further use for the baking mix. It appears to have been at least loosely based on old Southern recipes for a type of coconut pie, but the addition of the baking mix and the switch from sweet to savoury gave the concept much bigger legs. Tragically, General Mills (via its Betty Crocker brand) now refers to the pies as "impossibly easy" -- presumably because people were put off by the assumed difficulty of an impossible pie.

There are a lot of impossible pie iterations out there: taco, enchilada, and lasagna versions (and many more) all have their fans. It is an easy dish to put together, and hits all the comfort food buttons from the first time you ever try it. It is potentially closer to being a quiche than a pie in terms of structure, but arguably a quiche is a kind of pie, too, so it becomes circular. The important thing is that you don't need to make a separate crust; the crust forms itself from the flour, creating both a thin upper and (usually also) lower crust while the pie bakes. This is the impossible bit. Or the amazing bit. Or at the very least, the easy bit.

I don't keep baking mix on hand, so this version is done without Bisquick or any of its competitors. Really, all you need to do is scale your own biscuit recipe to a half cup of flour, and you're good to go. But just in case, I've written it right into the recipe below.

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

Serves 4 - 6

250 grams lean ground beef
250 grams lean ground pork
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon beef base (such as Better than Bouillon)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
150 grams aged cheddar, grated (divided)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F, with a rack in the middle. Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray, or lightly grease.

Sauté the ground meats over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned, and then stir in the diced onion, garlic, the beef base, pepper, ground mustard, Worcestershire sauce and powdered onion. Continue to stir until it is well-integrated, and the onion is soft. Spread the mixture in the prepared pie plate, and sprinkle with 3/4 of the cheese.

In small mixing bowl, stir together the flour, ground mustard seed, salt and baking powder, and cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender. Combine the beaten eggs and milk, and stir into the flour mixture with a fork or whisk, beating vigorously. It will be alarmingly wet. Pour evenly over the meat and cheese in the pie plate. Hold onto the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, then top with the rest of the cheese and return to the oven for a minute (if necessary) to let it melt. Let the pie stand for five minutes before slicing and serving. It cuts and lifts quite neatly. Serve with pickles and sliced tomato to enhance the "cheeseburger" effect, and a green salad for some extra vegetables.

Leftovers, should you be so lucky (or have a small household), reheat very well, and a squiggle of Sriracha sauce (or ketchup, to fit the theme) on top freshens it nicely.

November 17, 2015

Lamb & Guinness Stew


This delicious stew is built using my base model for meat stew: brown the meat well on at least two sides, braise the meat with onions for a good long time, add vegetables and cook until tender, season to taste.

We had this bread the first night with thick slices of rye bread from our bakery, but just about any kind of bread would be good with this. The remaining half-batch of stew was put into a freezer container to be pulled out later in the month when we're feeling particularly in need of an effortless, homemade meal. Depending on my energy level at the time, I might, or might not, decide to make biscuits or dumplings to go along with the stew.

In Germany, the supermarkets and farmers' markets have a pretty wonderful concept: Suppengrün. Literally translated, it means "Soup greens" and consists of a single bundle containing at least a wedge of celeriac, a few carrots, a section of leek, and some parsley. Some of them will have part carrots and part parsnips, and some of them will add a whole bundle of fresh herbs instead of just the parsley, but that's dependent on the individual character of the vendor. The basic version is always available, and is nicely sized for one pot of soup or stew. This is not only perfectly sized for small German fridges, but also helps keep food waste to a minimum. One package of Suppengrün just exactly what you need for a recipe without having to buy a whole bag of carrots, for example, or an enormous celery root or bunch that you might not be able to use up in time before it gets squishy in the vegetable drawer. It takes care of the crisper portion of the mirepoix in one item, and even the fancier ones are well priced. I hope this idea catches on worldwide.

Lamb & Guinness Stew

Serves 4 - 6, depending on sides

900 grams cubed lamb shoulder, lightly salted
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or other oil for frying)
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced celeriac or 2 stalks of celery, diced
3 large carrots (or a mixture of carrots and parsnips)
2 large waxy potatoes
1 can or bottle of Guinness
2 cups lamb or beef broth or stock
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water

Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat, and when hot, add the oil. When the oil is also hot, add a sparse layer of lamb cubes, and allow to sear on one side, before turning to sear on a second side. Remove the lamb from the pan to a holding plate, and repeat until all of the lamb cubes are seared on two sides. Add the diced onion, the leek, the bay leaves, and the minced garlic to the fond in the empty pot, and add a little splash of water if necessary to prevent scorching. If you are using stalk celery instead of celeriac, add that now, too. Stir and scrape up the brown fond in the bottom of the pot, until the onions are starting to turn translucent. Add the tomato paste, and stir through again, being careful not to let it burn. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the mustard seeds, and the ground white pepper, and stir through.

Then, add the Guinness, and stir through, making sure to scrape up the bottom of the pot very thoroughly. Add the lamb or beef broth or stock (it's okay to use a good quality concentrate that you like the flavour of), and return the seared lamb to the pot. Simmer, covered at a low temperature for 1.5 hours, for meltingly tender lamb.

While the lamb simmers, prepare the remaining vegetables. Peel the carrots and cut them into large bite-sized chunks. Same for the potatoes. The celery root should be heavily peeled, and diced fairly small.

When the lamb is tender, combine the flour and the half cup of water in a small, sealable container, and shake vigorously (holding it shut the whole time) to make a smooth slurry. Pour it into the dutch oven and stir it through. It will not look very appealing, at first, and it won't do much to thicken the stew until it comes up to a full simmer, but it needs to go in now because it takes about a half-hour to cook out the raw taste of the flour.

Add the prepared vegetables, stir through, and bring up to a simmer again (the slurry and the cold vegetables will bring the temperature down very quickly). Turn the heat back down, cover the pot, and simmer for another 30 - 45 minutes (testing larger chunks of carrots for doneness seems to work well). Alternatively, you can put it (covered) in the oven at 350 F for the same amount of time.

Serve with a fat slice of bread, or a bun, or biscuits, or dumplings. Leftovers, should you be so lucky, keep nicely in a sealed container in the freezer for up to a month without loss of quality. Be sure to cool the stew thoroughly before freezing, for best textural results. I like to leave it in the fridge overnight, and then transfer it to the freezer in the morning.

May 13, 2015

Easy Weeknight Risotto Bolognese


This was inspired by Nigella Lawson's recipe for Risotto Bolognese from her book Kitchen, but to be honest, I didn't really follow it. I skimmed the ingredient list and directions and decided that it was more about the idea, the fact of combining two normally discrete dishes into a delicious juxtaposition, and then I just ran with that. Consequently, my ingredients, ratios and even my method ended up being quite different from hers.

The shortest possible version of this recipe goes something like this: Build a bolognese sauce, and then use that as a base to build a risotto on top of. That of course depends on the cook knowing what normally goes into both of those things, and otherwise being willing to take the rest on faith. Fortunately, that's me. This is a true skillet dinner, without the need to remove anything to a separate plate or pan at any point during the cooking process.

I won't claim that this is a really serious Bolognese (note the use of "Easy Weeknight" as a modifier), but it's a meaningful nod in the general direction, and for this dish, that's good enough for me. Although, if you happen to have some genuine Bolognese tucked away in your freezer that you want to use instead, go for it. It's not a lightning-fast dish to make - risotto takes time, after all, but it's very straight forward, and if you use a chop-and-drop method, it all comes together surprisingly quickly.

Easy Weeknight Risotto Bolognese

Serves 4

4 thin (or 2 thick) slices of bacon, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
400 grams minced beef/pork blend (or meatloaf mix)
2 teaspoons beef stock paste (such as Better Than Bouillon or Alnatura Rinderbrühe)
pinch dried oregano
big pinch dried basil
big pinch ground white pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 400 gram can of finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup arborio (or other suitable risotto rice)
4 cups hot water from a recently boiled kettle
Fresh basil, for finishing and garnish
Freshly grated parmesan

In a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, fry up the bacon until it is a bit crispy and releases its fat into the pan. Add the olive oil and stir through. Add the onion and garlic, and stir through. Stir and cook until the onion is thoroughly softened and translucent. Add the grated carrot, and stir through, cooking for about five minutes until wilted and starting to become tender, and the excess liquid has evaporated.

Add the minced meat and stir, breaking it up with a big wooden spoon as you go. Fry and stir until the meat is a little browned, and then add the stock paste, oregano, dried basil, white pepper, and the vermouth. Stir and scrape up the bottom of the skillet while until the vermouth has evaporated. Add the milk in two stages, stirring until mostly evaporated in each case. Add the tomato paste, and stir through. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and stir through.

Let the mixture get completely hot and bubbly, and then stir the rice in. Reduce the heat to medium. Add a bit of water from the kettle, and stir until the extra water is absorbed by the rice. Basically, at this stage you just keep repeating that, adding the water a bit at a time, stirring between additions until the water is mostly absorbed, until you've either used all the water, or the rice is cooked to your liking. The rice will slowly absorb not only the water but the juices from the sauce itself, the grains swelling to full size and taking on a creamy appearance. The combination of the carrots and the tomatoes will give the finished dish a uniquely orange-red tone, quite different from most meat/tomato based sauces, but it coats the rice grains beautifully.

When all of the water is absorbed and the rice grains are cooked to your satisfaction, spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with basil and freshly grated cheese. And maybe some garlic bread.

If you have leftovers of this, it reheats very nicely in a covered casserole in the oven (you will want to add in a bit of water, and poke some holes to allow speedier reheating), and I imagine it would reheat well in a microwave, too. If you must reheat it on the stovetop, try not to over-stir it. While it's stirred to death during the making, after it is fully cooked, cooled, and reheated again, it can get a bit mushy if you stir it too vigourously.

April 17, 2015

Kofta B'siniyah - Beef & Lamb Meatballs with Pine Nuts


This is another fantastic recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I do wish that my serving platter were a bit bigger, because they're a little crowded-looking here, but this was a spectacular dish that we're very keen to make again as soon as possible.

Do not hesitate to include the tahini sauce that provides the bed for the kofta to lie upon - it goes so beautifully with the kofta that you'll probably find yourself dabbing each bite into a little more sauce.

You can find the original recipe here on The Telegraph's website.

Kofta B'siniyah

adapted from Jerusalem

Makes 10 Kofta

300 grams minced lamb
300 grams minced beef
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
50 grams toasted pine nuts, divided, half roughly chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 large hot red chile pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 tablespoon canola oil

Sauce
4 tablespoons tahini paste, well stirred
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons water

To Finish
2 tablespoons butter, browned
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts (the whole ones, from above)
sweet paprika, to garnish (or you could use sumac instead)

If your pine nuts aren't toasted, do that first, in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Then prepare your mise en place - mince the onions, crush the garlic, mince the parsley and the chile, prep the seasonings - everything but the oil.

If you can buy the meat from the butcher already combined, that will ensure the greatest level of integration of the beef and lamb, but not to worry if you buy them separately. Into a large mixing bowl, break up the meat with your fingers - pinching a little bit off the packet at a time and dropping it into the mixing bowl - so that when it has all been pinched out, you have a fluffy, aerated pile of ground meat(s). Add the prepared mise ingredients for the kofta and mix together lightly with your hands to distribute all of the "bits" evenly throughout the meat. The smaller your onion pieces the better they will integrate (although don't crush them to mush in a food processor, or you will make the mixture too wet).

Divide the meat mixture into ten pieces, and shape each one into an oval or "torpedo" shape.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet, and, working in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, fry the kofta over medium heat until browned on all sides.

If you want to be doubly sure that they are cooked through, you can pop the pan into a hot oven for five minutes or so after they're well fried, but if you have good quality meat from the butcher, a little rare in the middle is delicious.

While the kofta are frying, stir together the ingredients for the sauce, and separately brown the butter.

Spread the sauce onto a serving platter, and arrange the kofta evenly over the surface. Scatter parsley and pine nuts over top, and dust with a pinch of paprika or sumac. Spoon a little of the browned butter over each kofta, and serve.

January 11, 2015

My Mom's Chinese Beef & Greens


My mother used to make a version of this quite regularly, served over brown rice as was the custom of our household. I don't know where she got the original recipe, or what modifications she might have made to it. As both her knowledge of and exposure to Asian cooking of any kind was severely limited during the time we kids were growing up, and the availability of such ingredients in our small town was quite restricted, her version did not contain either sambal, fermented black beans, or even fresh ginger, and it was thickened with flour rather than cornstarch or tapioca flour (my version still is). It still tasted wonderful, and was a family favourite.

As I began to make the dish for myself as an adult, I gradually added the black beans, sesame oil, and exchanged some of the ground ginger for freshly grated ginger root. Plain button mushrooms were switched for shiitake, straw, or shimeji/beech mushrooms (although I'll still use buttons if that's what is available to me).

Normally there's about twice the amount of bok choi that you can see in the picture - it turns out that I had less on hand than I realized when I went to make the dish. It was still excellent, but had slightly less greens than usual. The baby corn is the most recent addition to recipe, and it's an absolute keeper. This recipe continues to be requested on a regular basis in our household.

Mom’s Chinese Beef & Greens

Serves 4-6 (over rice)

500 grams extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, halved and sliced, pole-to-pole
3-5 cloves of garlic, sliced or pressed
200 grams mushrooms, sliced or quartered if necessary
1 large head of bok choi, washed & sliced or 4 heads of mini bok choi
1-2 carrots, peeled & sliced into coins
200 grams fresh baby corn, sliced once each horizontally and vertically (optional)
1 thumbs-length of fresh gingerroot, sliced, minced, or grated
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably a less sodium type)
1 tablespoon black bean sauce or Chinese fermented black beans, rinsed and mashed
1 teaspoon sambal oelek or other chile paste or chile oil
1 cup stock – beef, chicken, bouillon cube – whatever you’ve got
1 large tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of cold water
1/2 teaspoon toasted pure sesame oil

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or cast-iron pan, over high heat, brown the beef until any liquid has boiled off and the meat is frying gently. If you are not using extra lean ground beef, you may wish to drain any excess fat.

Add the chopped onions, garlic, ginger root, baby corn, and carrots, and stir well until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms, white pepper, ground ginger, black beans (or black bean sauce) sambal oelek and soy sauce. Stir well. Add a smidge of water if it’s starting to stick on the bottom, and/or lower the heat a little.

Let the mixture fry a little until the mushrooms start to get tender, and then add the stock or broth. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan so that nothing burns on. Bring to a gentle boil. Mix the cold water and flour together with a whisk, or shake together in a plastic lidded container until smooth. Pour into the meat mixture, stirring constantly, and bring back to a boil to thicken the gravy. If it gets too thick, you may need to add a little more water or stock. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Slice the bok choi is sliced into large, bite-sized pieces (they will shrink a bit as they cook). Pile the bok choi on top of the meat mixture – don’t stir it in – and cover with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat for about five minutes, or until the greens wilt and decrease in volume. Then, stir carefully into the beef mixture underneath. Add sesame oil and stir through.

Taste to adjust seasoning, then serve over rice. My family liked to add a final drizzle of soy sauce at the table.

If you have leftovers, they can easily be reheated in the microwave or the stovetop, but my mother's usual approach was to combine the rice and beef mixture thoroughly, and then reheat it in the oven, covered, in a casserole dish (with maybe a tiny sprinkle of extra water to keep it from drying out. We liked it just as much on the second day as the first, even though we referred to it as "horse mash" because my sister thought the combined dish looked much like the cooked porridge that was fed to horses recovering from strangles (equine distemper), in the stables where she worked.

February 01, 2014

Malaysian Rendang


Rendang ist a wonderfully spicy meat stew, originally from Indonesia, but which has traveled well and evolved a number of delicious, location-specific permutations. I've made both Indonesian and Malaysian versions in the past, but there are also Indian, Thai, and Philippine versions to be had. It is classed as a "dry curry" based on the volume of liquid in the finished dish being on the low side, although mine here is a little wetter looking than it might otherwise be, as I didn't use quite the prescribed amount of meat.

The steps in this recipe are fairly simple, especially if you are using ground spices and/or have a processor or mini-prep to help. However, even in my (currently) low tech kitchen, it was pretty easy. I used a mortar and pestle for the whole spices that I had on hand, and also to pound the onions. A less messy alternative for grating/pulping the onions and ginger is the microplane grater, of course. Choose one a little larger than you would use to zest a lemon, say one you would use for somewhat coarsely grated parmesan. A box grater is not ideal for this, because its holes are variously too big or two small, but it will do in a pinch.

The prep is all up front, and then you can leave it alone to simmer on low heat, or in an an oven at 150 C / 300 F for a couple of hours (it would also work in a crockpot), while you relax with a refreshing beverage.

Malaysian Rendang
Adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook

Serves 4-6 as part of a rice based meal.

900 grams chuck steak, cubed
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
3-5 long red chile peppers, seeded
1/2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
400 millilitres coconut milk
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1-2 large strips of lemon zest, pith removed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate

Finely grate the onion and garlic, and finely chop or puree the red chiles. You can do this in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk if you like, pulsing until it becomes a sort of paste.

In a dutch oven, or other large, heavy pot, heat the peanut oil until just shimmering. Add the onion paste along with the dry spices, lemon rind, and meat. Stir until the meat is thoroughly coated with the spices, and then add the remaining coconut milk. Simmer over low heat for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the liquid has mostly disappeared into a thick gravy.

Once the meat is tender, and the oil starts to separate from the gravy (you will see it start to form little tiny pools on top of the gravy), add the lemon juice, the sugar, and the tamarind, and stir it gently through. Serve with steamed rice. Curry-roasted cauliflower makes a great side.

You will note that this recipe does not call for salt. It may not need any. Taste it after you've added the tamarind, and decide if you would like to add a little salt to the dish as a whole, or simply allow individuals to adjust their own servings accordingly.

Bonus: This tastes even better the next day, so if you want to make it for a potluck or dinner party, it's easy to knock it out the day before, and then just gently re-heat the next day, while you set about the rice and any other condiments. It also freezes very well for up to about a month.

November 07, 2013

Heart & Blade Burgers



These were intensely, astoundingly, beefy. I got the idea from Jennifer McLagan's book "Odd Bits" where she exhorts the reader to make burgers entirely of heart, but for my inaugural attempt at cooking beef heart I decided to go with her further suggestion of cutting the heart 50/50 with non-organ muscle meat. She suggested brisket, but, based on the availability of the day, I went with bottom blade. For four patties, I used 250 grams trimmed heart, and 250 grams bottom blade, making each patty roughly a quarter pound.

I do not have a meat grinder, which is the only reason that it took me this long to make these. However, I cribbed from Alton Brown's instructions for making ground meat using a food processor, and that worked incredibly well:

Heart & Blade Burger Patties

Prepare the beef heart by trimming any muscle sheath, silverskin, tendons, or veins that may be clinging to the outside. Using a chef's knife, dice the meat into short, thick strips about 5 centimetres long. Next, trim and dice the blade meat into the same sized pieces.

Place the meat in a metal pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes, so that the meat begins to freeze and stiffens, but is still somewhat pliable.

Scrape the meat off of the pan into a food processor fitted with a metal blade, about 250 grams at a time - you don't want to overload the machine. Pulse the processor's blade repeatedly until the mixture begins to look like ground beef. Empty the processor, and repeat until all of the meat is chopped.

At that point, I put all of the meat together in the processor, added a tiny dribble of olive oil, and gave it another few pulses, simply to integrate it into a single mass and make sure there was enough fat to keep the meat from drying out.

Remove the metal blade and season to taste. We wanted to go with simple, almost stark burgers, so that we could really taste the meat. We used only a good pinch of kosher salt, but you could season these any way that you like to season your burgers.

Next I turned all of the meat out onto the counter, and shaped the mass of fluffy meat into four patties, which we fried over medium-high heat in a little butter (you could also use olive oil, of course). I worried that the patties might not hold together nicely, but they did. I was struck by how dark a red they were - lots of iron, for sure. These patties are quite lean, because heart meat is inherently lean. I patted them out quite thinly, because I wanted good bun coverage, but a thicker patty would work fine, too. If you're making them very thick, you might want to poke a hole through the centre to speed up and even out the cooking process, but that's up to you.

Now, I won't lie to you: there is a faint trace of gaminess, of "organ meat flavour" that one gets from the heart, but it is quite mild compared to, say, liver or kidney, and the overall effect is so overwhelmingly meaty tasting that the general impression that you get when biting into your burger is simply that of beef (and rightly so). I suspect that the all-heart burgers would be a little gamier, which would certainly be fine with me, but these were a wonderful introduction into cooking beef heart. Piled up onto a bun with all of the fixings (not pictured, sadly, because we fell on the finished burgers ravenously, and I forgot to take pictures), it made a delicious dinner.

So, what's next? All-heart burgers? Heart Loaf? "Heart"y Meatballs? There seem to be an awful lot of options, and I'm looking forward to further experimentation.


September 23, 2012

Autumn's here: Cabbage Rolls


Cabbage rolls are one of those quintessential comfort foods for anyone with even a passing relationship to the cuisines of northern or eastern Europe, and of course the middle east, central asia, and the eastern mediterranean regions also have stuffed leaf and vegetable dishes with considerable similarities. Did I leave anyone out? Probably. (Sorry.) Stuffing food with other food and wrapping it up, whether you start with dough or a leaf, just seems to be a universal development in almost every cuisine.

If someone tells me that he or she is making cabbage rolls, my first question is "Oooh, what kind?" - closely followed by offers of help eating up any pesky leftovers, of course. In western Canada we tend to favour either the Ukrainian or Polish styles most of all, and the ones I've made here are a sort of unholy hybrid of every cabbage roll that I've ever found to be delicious. These ones are made with meat (beef, specifically) and rice, but there are plenty of options for vegetarian/vegan fillings (I would suggest a rice/walnut/mushroom blend, for starters).

A lot of recipes will suggest that you braise the cabbage rolls in tomato soup. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while already know that I shy away from tinned soup as an ingredient for my casseroles and such, and I am not recommending tins of soup here, either. Rather, I humbly suggest my very own Simple Tomato Soup recipe (expired link removed, please see recipe in the comments section below), made exactly as listed. It comes together really quickly, and you can also make it a day ahead (or stash some in the freezer, and simply thaw it out when you are ready to make cabbage rolls). One recipe of Simple Tomato Soup is perfect for one tray of 12 large cabbage rolls.

I recommend savoy cabbage, which is easier to peel without tearing the leaves.

Cabbage Rolls

Makes 12 rolls
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 3 - 4 hours

1 Savoy cabbage, whole
500 grams lean ground beef
1/2 onion, very finely minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon water
100 grams (1/2 cup) long grain rice (uncooked)
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon mushroom base (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (to finish)

1 recipe Simple Tomato Soup, made as directed in the comments section below. You could also use a thin, tomato-based pasta sauce, or even simply use beef, chicken, mushroom, or veggie broth, and serve the rolls "dry" with sour cream. You will need about four cups of soup/braising liquid.

Prepare the soup, or, if defrosting, heat the soup until it is serving temperature.

In a small saucepan, bring water and mushroom base to a boil. Add the rice and stir quickly with a fork. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes, then turn off and leave for another 10 minutes. The rice will be slightly underdone - chalky. That's perfect. Combine with the onions and garlic, and let the mixture cool a bit while you deal with the cabbage.

Cut the cabbage deeply, all the way around the core (about half an inch out from the core knob). Peel the outermost leaves, starting from the base of the cabbage, gently pushing up until the leaves come free. You can do this step a day ahead, and loosely bag and refrigerate the leaves (they will take up a lot of room). You will want 12 good, big, whole leaves, plus a couple of spares.

Trim the leaves by shaving down the thick central spine with a paring knife, and cut a small, thumb-tip sized v-shape at the base of each leaf to remove the toughest bit.

Bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to a boil. Add cabbage leaves and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until softened, and drain. You can also soften the cabbage leaves by dipping them in water and microwaving them, 2 at a time, for about 60 seconds.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the raw beef (broken into tiny bits), cooked rice mixture, egg, salt and pepper, and parsley, along with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste combined with one tablespoon of water. Mix thoroughly, using your impeccably clean hands, until everything is nicely integrated.

Prepare a 9x13" baking dish by ladling about half a cup of the tomato soup into the bottom of the dish, and swirling it to cover the bottom thinly. Some folks like to chop up the core of the cabbage, along with any leftover leaves, and put that in the bottom, too, as a bed for the cabbage rolls. This is a great way to use up the rest of the cabbage, as well as making sure you get plenty of veggies in your dinner.

Divide the beef mixture into 12 portions, and roll them up: this bit is awesome, but messy: Dip the softened cabbage leaves in the tomato soup/sauce, and microwave them, two at a time, again (unless they are completely floppy) for about 30 seconds. This tomato-dipping of the leaves is optional, but very flavourful.

Lay a limp, tomato-y cabbage leaf on your plate or cutting board, and add a portion of the meat to the lower third of the leaf. Flip the bottom (stem edge) up and over, bringing the points of the "v" closed so that it makes a tight package. Hold that with one hand, while you tuck the sides in (as if you were making a burrito, or an envelope), and then finish rolling up the leaf. A little practice, and this isn't as difficult as it might sound.

Place each roll, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. You should get two rows of six, filling the pan. Pour the tomato sauce (or any other braising liquid of your choice) gently and evenly over each roll, using all of the soup, cover with tinfoil, and place in a cold oven. Set the oven to 325 F, and set the timer for 2 hours. Remove foil, and sprinkle with smoked paprika before serving.

Serve with sour cream (or plain yoghurt), mixed with a little dill. Perogies (pierogies), naturally, make a fantastic side dish, but so do plain boiled potatoes, or roasted carrots. Obviously, if you need to hurry the process up a bit, set the oven to temperature before you start rolling up the cabbage leaves, and bake for 90 minutes.

These freeze excellently, as well. Make your own ready-meals!

For the curious, here's a picture of the cabbage rolls just before they go into the oven (see how perky the cabbage still is!):

September 20, 2012

Meatballs & Polenta

Technically, not new recipes, simply a serving suggestion: the meatballs are my all-beef Italian-seasoned version of these meatballs here, and the polenta is my all-purpose polenta recipe which you previously saw when I was making polenta fries. This is just how easy it can be to get a good dinner on the table, when you have a stash treasures, such as meatballs, in your freezer (I haven't tried freezing polenta, but I imagine the texture would suffer). We had a tossed salad on the side, but you could add any extra vegetable you like to round out the meal (roasted fennel, anyone?)

The meatballs are somewhat smaller than usual, about half the size indicated in the linked recipe, as they were originally made up as part of a big batch designated for meatball subs, and I find slightly smaller meatballs are preferable in that context (so that you can have more of them, of course). I used a two-tablespoon disher (60 mL, or 1/8 cup) per meatball, and baked them in my usual fashion. Leftovers were briefly frozen on a baking sheet, and then tipped into a freezer bag for storage for another day.

The polenta recipe is particularly unchanged, simply necessitating that you pour it into individual serving bowls as soon as it is cooked, and serve it hot. The texture is a little bit like mashed potatoes - the creamy, finely whipped restaurant style, that is. If you have extra polenta (the recipe makes four servings, served in this manner), you can simply pour it into a baking dish or other small container, and let it set up to make fries (or simply re-heat and eat) at a later date. It would work wonderfully in a bento, although I didn't think of that in time to deal with the leftovers in such a way - I simply plunked slab of cooled polenta on top of the remaining meatballs in sauce, in a standard plastic container.

For the tomato sauce, you can use any one you like, of course. This was, again, a "freezer treasure" - the sauce leftover from making the same meatball subs. Essentially, a simple combination of a little onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil, a 398 mL tin of high-quality diced tomatoes (don't you hate opening a tin and finding it full of stem ends?), fresh oregano and basil, and a little simmering time. Your mileage may vary, of course. A few chile flakes wouldn't be amiss, either.

Reheating the meatballs in the tomato sauce saves time and dishes. Adding a little extra fresh basil as you reheat gives a little lift to the sauce, and makes you forget that you're essentially just eating up leftovers. This can happen almost untended while you stir up the polenta.

Parmesan, of course, is the natural finisher. Mozzarella would also be good, or any grating/melting cheese you fancy.

Now, for those of you following the "convertible to vegan" tag, I haven't completely lost my mind! Here's the fix: Instead of meatballs, use roasted cauliflower chunks, and simply toss them in the sauce for a few minutes before ladling onto the polenta. And as for the polenta, with its pesky sour cream and parmesan? Omit those ingredients in favour of a little silken tofu (beaten well until creamy) and a bit of prepared vegan shredded cheese-substitute. You may need to adjust the salt to your taste, depending on the brand you use. Change the chicken broth to vegetable broth (or just use water, as I sometimes do), and presto: converted to vegan.

September 02, 2012

Khoresht e Gheimeh: Persian Lamb & Yellow Split Pea Stew

The first time I had this dish my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. Well, that's what it felt like, at any rate. The rich flavour of the slow-cooked lamb, the thick, savory tomato gravy plus the wonderfully tart notes of lime seemed so very right that I knew I was going to want to eat this again and again and again.

I first tried a version without sourcing the all-important dried limes (lemons, actually, it turns out), using the internet-suggested substitution of lime juice added at the end of the cooking time. It was tasty, but it didn't taste right. I shelved the dish, mentally speaking, until I could find the proper ingredient.

So, when I discovered an unassuming-looking bag of "dried lemons omani" in my local eastern mediterranean deli, a little research showed that this was exactly what I had been waiting for. I set about the internet once more, looking for likely recipes. In the end, I synthesized my own out of several offerings, and was really happy with the result (and thanks to my co-worker Laya, who assured me that putting fried potato on top was important). This recipe is slow food, so it may not be great for weeknights, unless you like to eat a little later (or you do the prep ahead of time), although we made it mid-week and thought it well worth waiting for.

I used a lot less oil than most of the recipes I could find, but the recipe didn't seem to suffer for it. I made up for it by frying the potato in oil, although you could oven-bake them for a healthier option. The stew itself is quite healthy, especially if you use lean, trimmed lamb, and go with six servings.

Khoresht e Gheimah

Serves 4 - 6
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 120-150 minutes

500 grams lamb stew meat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 cups canned diced tomatoes (no salt added)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 dried lemons / black limes / limu omani
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups shoestring or thin-cut fried potatoes

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and cook the onions (sprinkled lightly with the salt) until softened and just starting to brown. Add the lamb chunks and stir frequently until some of it is browned, and the lamb has lost its raw appearance.

Add the turmeric and tomato paste, and stir through, scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula or wooden spoon, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir for a minute or two, and then add the tomatoes and enough water to cover the surface by an inch or so, stirring well and scraping up the bottom of the pot so that nothing burns. The dish will have turned quite red. Lower the heat to the lowest setting. You can use lamb vegetable broth instead of water, but watch the salt content, if you do.

Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Add the yellow split peas (washed and drained), and enough water to cover by an inch (if necessary). Stir well, and add the cinnamon, and the dried lemons. For the lemons, crack them in half with a hammer, and drop them into the stew (the insides of the lemons should be black or dark brown). Simmer, covered, for another 45 minutes, or more, until lamb and peas are both tender. Remove the lemon peels (some of the insides will now be floating in the stew, that's fine). Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with fried potatoes and serve with rice and yoghurt on the side.

***

I should probably confess that I put the peas in right away, in the picture above, rather than waiting the 45 minutes. However, while the overall dish was excellent, I felt that the peas got softer than they should have, and lost their shape, which is part of the reason that you can't really identify them visually in the photograph. The next time I make this, which will probably be in about a month, I'm going to do the 45 minute delay, because yellow split peas only take about 30 - 40 minutes to become tender, and I'd like to have more of their texture in the dish. If your yellow split peas take longer to cook, add them before you start simmering.

The rice that I served with this was a rice-cooker adapted version of Bhagali Polow - a dill-and-fava rice with a tadig, a recipe that I am still developing. Plain rice is probably more traditional to accompany this khoresht, though.