Tag Archives: lamb

Stuffed Peppers

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Cooks have been stuffing vegetables for centuries.  Whether it be squashes and peppers or grape and cabbage leaves, vegetables serve as the perfect vessel for holding meats and grains.  Growing up my Polish grandmother would stuff cabbage leaves with meats and rice and we would eat them as fast as she could cook them.  When I went through a phase of cooking Greek food I would patiently stuff and roll grape leaves with rice, herbs, and dried fruits before steaming them.  All of this work was time-consuming but worth it.

Peppers are a much easier vegetable to stuff since they don’t require the tedious rolling process.  Bell peppers aren’t always readily available here in Albania but you can use any variety of peppers you like. I like to use red and yellow peppers since they are sweeter but green peppers work as well.  The larger the pepper the easier it is to stuff but smaller ones are ok too.  If you can’t find ground lamb in the market feel free to substitute a lean ground beef.

STUFFED PEPPERS

6 whole peppers

3/4 pound ground lamb

1/3 cup red onion, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup long grained white rice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
  • Carefully remove the stems and seeds of each pepper keeping the pepper whole and intact.
  • Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and boil for three minutes.
  • Remove from the water and drain on paper towels.
  • In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, cook the lamb and onion until the meat is cooked and the onions are soft, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juice, the water, rice, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, salt, and pepper to the meat mixture and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue to cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Off the heat and add half of each cheese to the mixture.  Stir to combine.
  • Stuff each pepper with the meat mixture until filled and place in a shallow casserole dish.  If you have additional filling place it in the dish around the peppers.
  • Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake the peppers for 15 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
  • Allow the peppers to sit for 3 minutes before serving.

Serves: 6

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Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and today, regardless of your ancestry, everyone is Irish. So what better way to celebrate the day with a bit of Irish comfort food. I first ate Shepherd’s pie in my elementary school cafeteria. There is was a bland plateful of unseasoned meat topped with instant potatoes. I wasn’t impressed and therefore avoided the dish for years. But then years later, sitting in an Irish pub in Boston, Massachusetts on Saint Patrick’s Day I tried it again and discovered what the dish is supposed to taste like. And I loved it.

This recipe from Epicurious features ground lamb, onions and carrots cooked in a rich broth. A layer of tender corn kernels are then topped with real mashed potatoes. The results are a satisfying and comforting dish that the entire family will love. If you will be pressed for time, you can assemble the dish ahead of time then pop it in the oven when you are ready to put dinner on the table. If it has been sitting in the refrigerator, let the dish come to room temperature before baking and increase the cooking time by ten minutes.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 pound ground lamb

1 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary

1 cup corn kernels

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

Paprika, for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Warm the oil in a large skillet, set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrot and lamb. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Drain off any fat and add the broth, tomato paste, parsley and rosemary to the skillet. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 additional minutes.
  • Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
  • Top with the corn and set aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, bring the potatoes to a boil in a pot of salted water.
  • Cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain.
  • Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk and salt.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat and corn.
  • Sprinkle with the paprika.
  • Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  • Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

 

Meat & Stout Pie w/ Blue Cheese Crust

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Tis the season when everyone is a wee bit Irish so why not celebrate with food?

For me, pot pies are the ultimate in winter comfort food. Chicken and turkey are my usual fillings but since my family eats a lot of beef stew I began playing with making a beef pot pie that was reminiscent of meat pies I’ve enjoyed in Great Britain. And I found success. If a rich beef stew is good, it is even better when encased in a flaky crust. But I didn’t stop there. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day I adapted this pot pie from Williams Sonoma into an Irish tribute. Both beef and lamb and slow cooked in a rich Guinness Stout broth which infuses the entire meal with flavor. And best of all, it is topped off with a blue cheese crust. Yum.

I’m not going to lie; this is a time consuming dish to make. But you can do as I often do and make this dish is two steps over two days. The filling and dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the pot pies and eat them. Simply reheat the filling until it is hot and bubbling then fill the pie dishes and proceed as directed. By doing this, you can easily serve up hot pie pies as a fast weeknight meal.

MEAT & STOUT PIE w/ BLUE CHEESE CRUST

For the meat filling:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, quartered

1 cup pearl onions, peeled

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound lamb roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 1/2 cups Irish stout, divided

1 cup beef broth

1 cup carrots, cut into chunks

2 cups red potatoes, cut into chunks

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced

One 16-inch round blue cheese pastry

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms, onions, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
  • Place the flour and remaining salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Dredge the beef and lamb in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. When the oil is hot add half of the meat and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Transfer the meat to a separate bowl.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the Guinness Stout to the pot, stirring to scrape up any brown bits. Pour the liquid into the reserved meat.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining oil, meat and 1/4 cup of stout.
  • Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
  • Add the meat, reserved liquid, remaining stout and beef broth the the pot, stirring to scrape up any browned bits.
  • Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is very tender, about 3 hours.

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

16 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup ice water

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

  • In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and sugar until blended.
  • Add in the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal; about 10 pulses.
  • Add the water and pulse an additional 2 to 3 times. The dough should be soft and hold together when squeezed but not sticky. If necessary, add additional water, by the tablespoon, until the dough is the right texture.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands a few times. Shape into a disk, wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Roll into a rough 12 by 16 inch square.
  • Sprinkle the blue cheese over half of the  dough then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll the dough again until it it is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

To assemble the pot pies:

  • Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place 4 2-cup oven proof ramekins on a rimmed baking dish and fill each one with the meat mixture.
  • Using a sharp paring knife and your baking dishes as a guide, cut out 4 circles of dough, adding 1/2 inch to each piece of dough.
  • Place the dough on top of each pot pie, crimping the edges to form a seal.
  • Cut 3 or 4 silts into the top of each pie.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until the tops are browned and flakey.
  • Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Yields: 4 2-cup pot pies

Cassoulet

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Cassoulet is a classic comfort food when it comes to French cooking. Slow cooked beans and meats are combined with a healthy dose of garlic to create the ultimate in comfort food. I’ve seen recipes that use entirely one meat or a combination of several. This recipe is based on one from William Sonoma but I’ve taken the liberty of adding duck to the combination of meat. Duck is commonly used as is pork or lamb and no cassoulet would be complete without the addition of garlicky Toulouse sausage. This may sound complicated but making a cassoulet is more time consuming than difficult. Think of the meats listed as suggestions and keeping the quantities the same, substitute whichever meats you can find. Or reduce the amount of meat you use while increasing the amount of beans.

But as I already mentioned, making a cassoulet takes time but I think of it as the perfect weekend cooking project. I’ll start by soaking and cooking the beans on Saturday then brown the meats on Sunday morning. Then all I have to do that afternoon is assemble the dish and pop it in the oven. Cassoulet is good out of the oven but I think it tastes even better the next day which is perfect since unless you are feeding a crowd, you are sure to have leftovers.

CASSOULET

2 1/2 cups dried Great Northern beans

1 yellow onion pierced with 10 whole cloves

1 lb. thickly sliced bacon, finely diced

3/4 pound boneless leg of lamb

1 duck leg, about 1 pound

1 pound pork loin

1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 pound Toulouse sausage

8 garlic cloves, minced

8 fresh parsley stems

4 fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 1/2 cups fine dried bread crumbs

  • Pick over the beans and discard any misshapen beans and stones. Rinse, place in a bowl and add water to cover generously. Let stand for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Drain and place in a saucepan with the onion and water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, until almost tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain, discarding the onion and reserving the liquid.
  • Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  • Place the duck leg in a large ovenproof stew pot. Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the fat has been rendered.
  • Pour off the fat and reserve for another use. Remove the duck from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the bacon to the pot and fry until it begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Reserve the drippings in the pot.
  • Season the lamb and pork with salt and pepper and add to the stew pot along with the duck leg.
  • Place in the oven and roast, basting occasionally with the bacon drippings, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
  • Remove from the oven, let cool and cut the pork and lamb into 1-inch cubes. Remove the meat from the duck leg, cut into 1 inch cubes and discard the bones. Set all of the meat aside. Do not wash the pot.
  • While the meat is roasting, prick the sausages with a fork. Place in a medium sized frying pan and add enough water to cover the sausages halfway.
  • Simmer gently over medium high heat, turning once, until almost cooked through, about 12 minutes total.
  • Drain the sausages and let cool before slicing on the diagonal.
  • Place one-third of the drained beans in the reserved pot.
  • Sprinkle with half of the bacon, lamb, pork, duck, sausage, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Using kitchen string, tie the parsley stems, thyme sprigs and bay leaves into a bundle. Add to the pot.
  • Repeat the layers, using half of the remaining beans and all of the remaining meats, sausage and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and top with the remaining beans.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 cups of the reserved bean liquid. Pour into the pot just to cover the beans.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour; adding more bean liquid, if necessary, to prevent the beans from drying out.
  • Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until golden, about 1 hour more.
  • Discard the herb bundle and serve directly from the pot.
Serves 8 to 10.

Lamb, Orange & Chile Kabobs

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Fire up your grill and impress your guests with these flavorful lamb kabobs from The Food Republic. Cinnamon and garlic pair with chili peppers and orange to create a surprisingly tasty combination that is sure to wow. Because they marinade overnight the spices really permeate the meat. Lamb is best but if you can’t find it feel free to substitute a lean cut of beef. This is one of those dishes that takes some planning since the meat does need to marinate overnight. However, once you are ready to grill the meal comes together quickly. (Prep your meat on Thursday night and you could even make this as a Fast Friday dinner). To compliment the flavors and the quick factor, I served these kabobs over a bed of couscous. Yum!

 

LAMB, ORANGE & CHILE KABOBS

4 double metal skewers

2 1/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed

1/2 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 tablespoon sea salt

2 bay leaves, finely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large orange
2 red chilies, halved lengthwise and seeded
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
honey, to drizzle
  • Cut the lamb into 2 1/2 inch pieces and place in a large sealable plastic bag.
  • Add the oil, crushed garlic and salt, bay leaves, cinnamon and all spice and seal the bag. Massage the bag with your hands until all of the ingredients are combined and the meat is well coated.
  • Add the orange zest and chiles to the meat then juice the orange and add to the bag.
  • Reseal the bag and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When you are ready to cook, remove the lamb from the refrigerator, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature before proceeding.
  • Cut the orange zest and chiles into pieces.
  • Threat the lamb onto skewers alternating with the pieces of chile peppers and orange zest.
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Grill the skewers over direct heat, turning occasionally until the meat is cooked through, approximately 12 to 15 minutes depending upon your preferred level of doneness.
  • Remove the meat from the grill and drizzle with honey. Tent the meat with foil and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 4

Lamb Ragu

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Nothing says winter more than a house filled with the aroma of a flavorful sauce that has bubbling on the stove all afternoon.  Since a slow cooked sauce only improves the longer it cooks, you can put the ingredients in a pot early in the afternoon then let it cook away until it is time for dinner.  But all sauces are not the same.  Whereas the main ingredient in traditional “spaghetti”  sauces are tomatoes which are accented with meats, herbs, or other vegetables, a traditional ragu is primarily meat, or a combination of meats, with a touch of tomato added in.

This ragu is an adaptation from a recipe from Kara Zuaro;  I’ve substituted and added ingredients based on I had in my refrigerator and pantry.  And that is the true beauty of a ragu; regardless of the ingredients the method remains the same.  It is made with small pieces of lamb that I cut into bite sized pieces before allowing it to simmer for hours.  It is also heavily seasoned with herbs and spices but you can adjust the flavors to your own preferences.  It is better to be light handed with the dried chili peppers since the flavors only intensify the longer they cook.  The result?  A dark and rich sauce that is the perfect topper for a bowl of steaming pasta.  Add a bit of freshly grated cheese and a glass of Barolo wine and dinner is ready.

LAMB RAGU

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds lamb meat, cut into  1 inch cubes

1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes

3 bay leaves

1 cup red wine

6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 dried chili pepper, crushed

1 cinnamon stick

5 whole cloves

2 tablespoons fresh minced sage, plus more for garnish

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

Freshly grated pecorino cheese, for serving

  • In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender.
  • Add the meat and turning occasionally, cook over high heat until it is browned on all sides.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and wine.
  • Add the garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sage, oregano and red wine vinegar.  Generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Simmer on low on the stove top with the lid to the pot slightly ajar.  Stir occasionally for at least 2 hours but longer if possible.  The meat should be completely tender and most of the liquid evaporated.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and adjust the seasonings.
  • Serve over hot pasta topped with the grated cheese.

Serves 4

Honey Braised Lamb Shanks

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I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it.  Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat.  There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it.  The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender.  I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy.  Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend.  As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already.  Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can  soak up all of the yummy juices.

HONEY BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 lamb shanks

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup whole almonds

2/3 cup honey

Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  • Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices.  Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
  • Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 4

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