Tag Archives: apricots

Spiced Goat & Rice Pilaf (Sindhi Biryani)

photo 3-23

From an American perspective goat meat might not be the first protein you might think when it comes to picking a meal to put on the dinner table but in some parts of the world, it is a dietary staple.  While not as plentiful as lamb, in Albania goat is often an item found on the menus of the better traditional restaurants.  I had never tried the meat prior to coming here but once I did, I was a fan.  When cooked correctly it is tender and meaty tasting but less gamey than lamb.  I quickly decided I wanted to cook it at home but was just waiting for the right inspiration.

And I found that inspiration close to a year ago when Saveur magazine published an article on Pakistani cuisine that featured this goat pilaf.  I was immediately enamored and knew I wanted to try the dish.  But a problem arose.  While the recipe said you could use beef as an alternative meat, I really wanted to make it authentic and use goat.  Finally after a lot of asking around last month I found a butcher that could procure some fresh goat meat so I thought I was good to go.  But then I couldn’t find cilantro, and with the recipe calling for two cups of the spicy leaves, it was a key ingredient in the spice paste that forms the base of the dish.  Then I heard that the local Carrefour was now carrying the herb.  I managed to buy what little they had in stock and supplemented parsley for the rest (grocery items are always hit or miss in Albania. I’ve learned that if I see something I want I need to buy it immediately because they might not carry it again) so now I was truly set.

This is definitely not a weeknight dinner.  There are just too many steps and an extended cooking time to make the dish a practical option for an after work dinner. Plus the ingredient list, including all of the spices, is lengthy.  Having a well stocked pantry that I am trying to cook down before we move, I actually had all of the spices already on hand!  However, if you are looking for a weekend dinner that is flavorful and satisfying, give this dish a try.  Use beef if you can’t find goat; mix in parsley if you don’t have enough cilantro.  The results will be well worth your efforts.  (And this dish just might inspire me to start growing my own cilantro).


2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped (or a combination of cilantro and flat leaf parsley)

1 cup mint leaves

10 garlic cloves

10 small green chiles, stemmed

1″ piece ginger, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 cups canola oil

5 medium onions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 pounds goat shoulder or beef chuck, cut into 2″ cubes

3 tablespoons ground coriander

40 whole black peppercorns

16 whole cloves

12 whole black cardamom pods

10 whole bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

2 cups plain yogurt

6 dried apricots, quartered

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes then drained

10 drops orange food coloring

  • Puree the cilantro, parsley, mint, garlic, chiles, ginger, and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor.  Set the paste aside.
  • Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.  Add 2 of the sliced onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a paper towel to drain.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the Dutch oven.  Add the remaining onions and cook until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
  • Season the goat with salt and pepper and add it to the pan with the onions.  Cook until browned, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add the reserved paste, the ground coriander, and half each of the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay  leaves, and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring, until the paste is caramelized, approximately 6 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the yogurt.  Continue to cook until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Add the apricots and cook until they are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the remaining peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon in a 4-quart sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the rice, salt, pepper and 4 cups of water to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is al dente, about 7 minutes.  Drain the rice and set it aside.
  • Mix the food coloring with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Transfer half of the goat mixture to a bowl.  Spoon half of the rice mixture over the goat remaining in the pot.
  • Drizzle half of the colored water over the rice then top with half of the reserved onions.
  • Top with the remaining goat mixture, rice, food coloring and onions.
  • Cover the pot and cook over low heat until the rice is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Mix the rice and meat together then serve.

Serves 6-8

Lamb w/ Dates & Apricots


The northern African country of Morocco is on my bucket-list for travels.  Every time I hear about or read a new article about the country my wanderlust grows.  And naturally, it is the cuisine that inspires me the most.  I’m sure I would love every bite of food there.  So until I actually make it there, I must satisfy my Moroccan food cravings  out of my own kitchen.  With the right ingredients, however, this is quite easy to do.

This easy hands-off recipe, adapted from an old Cooking Light Magazine, brings together some of my favorite flavors of all time.  The earthy flavors of cumin, coriander, and saffron contrast with the sweetness of the apricots and dates in this Moroccan inspired lamb dish.  You can easily adjust the amount of seasonings to suit your taste buds.  Serve the lamb over a bed of couscous to complete the Moroccan theme.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless leg of lamb, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots

1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced

1/2 cup pitted dates, halved

2 tablespoons chopped mint

2 cups cooked couscous (for serving)

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Saute for 8 minutes or until it is browned on all sides.  Remove from the pan.
  • Add the onion, orange juice, and garlic to the pan; cook until the liquid has evaporated, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.
  • Stir in the cumin, coriander, and saffron and cook for 15 seconds.
  • Return the lamb to the pan and add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the carrots, apricots, and dates and cook for an additional 18  minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the mint and adjust the seasonings.
  • Serve over the couscous.

Serves: 4

Chicken Tagine w/ Apricot- Poppy Seed Sauce


I love the rich and complex flavors that accompany Mediterranean food.  The combination of herbs and spices commonly used in this part of the world never cease to surprise me; sometimes it is the most unlikely flavor combinations that are the most palette pleasing.  Moroccan food is especially flavorful but it is these complex flavors that can make a dish seem especially complex and time consuming.  When we were living in the Washington DC area I could fulfill my food cravings by choosing from a variety of good Moroccan restaurants.  Here in Albania I satisfy my hunger by making the food myself.

This dish is inspired by Hassan M’Souli’s Moroccan Modern.  I’ve pieced together a variety of recipes to create a recipe that fulfills my desire for Moroccan food and uses ingredients I have in my pantry (while providing me with the opportunity to use my new tagine).  I’m not going to kid you; this recipe is difficult but it is time consuming.  But plan ahead and spend a lazy weekend day in the kitchen,.  I promise your efforts will be well worth it.


Charmoula Marinade

1/2 tablespoon dried crushed chili

1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 onion, diced

1 bay leaf, crushed

4 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 preserved lemon, sliced thinly

1/4 olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour before using.

The charmoula marinade may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Yields:  1 1/2 cups

Chicken w/Apricot- Poppy Seed Sauce

4 chicken leg quarters

1 1/2 cups Charmoula Marinade

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup water

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1/4 cup poppy seeds

7 tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Pinch saffron threads

1 pound dried apricots

  • Place the chick in a large casserole dish and coat with the Charmoula marinade.  Use your hands to coat all sides of the chicken pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is browned.  Turn and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan and place in the bottom of a tagine or oven-proof dutch oven.
  • Add the water, cinnamon sticks and cloves to the skillet and bring to a boil.
  • In a small skillet, dry toast the poppy seeds for about 30 seconds to toast them lightly.  Add to the water mixture.
  • Reduce the heat in the skillet to medium and add the butter, sugar, ground cinnamon, and saffron threads.  Stir to combine.
  • When the butter has melted add in the apricots and stir to coat.
  • Pour the entire mixture over the chicken in the tagine.
  • Cover the tagine and place on the lowest rack in a cold oven.
  • Turn the oven on to 325 degrees and roast until the chicken is cooked through, 30-45 minutes.

Serve over couscous or risotto.

Serves 4

Apricot – Cherry Muffins


Muffins are one of my favorite breakfast treats.  They are so versatile as they can be sweet or savory, filled with fruits, nuts, vegetables, or even chocolate.  I will bake up a batch with whatever ingredients I have on hand and the sweet smell of them baking with wake the rest of the house.  Any leftover muffins make for afternoon snacks (perfect with a cup of tea) or week day breakfasts on the go.

This recipe is adapted from Boston’s Flour Bakery.   I’ve substituted Greek yogurt for the creme fresh the original recipe calls for since I can easily find it in just about every market and grocery store here in Albania.  The add-ins represent the best of our seasonal fruits and the I’ve added almonds for crunch (and because I have a five-pound page that I need to use up before we move!).  I brought these muffins along when we were weekend house guests and they proved to be a hit.  Enjoy!


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup milk, at room temperature

1 cup Greek yogurt, at room temperature

2 teaspoons almond extract

3/4 cup fresh apricots, pitted and diced

3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted and diced

1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Ground nutmeg (optional)

  • Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and melted butter.  Gradually stir in the milk, Greek yogurt, and almond extract.
  • Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Fold in the apricots, cherries, and almonds (if using).  Be careful as to not crush the fruit.  The batter will be thick and lumpy.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.  The cups should be very full.  Sprinkle the muffin tops with the nutmeg.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

The muffins taste best when they are eaten immediately or they can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.  Refresh them in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Yields:  12 large muffins

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