Archives for posts with tag: Lamb

Lamb chops are something that have always daunted me.  I save lamb for restaurants where a more experienced chef can masterfully prepare them for me without the stress and over thinking that would be occurring in my kitchen.  The pros can  handle red meat better than I can.  What I’m scared of the most is overcooking a good piece of meat.  Why spend the money and then “accidentally” cook a juicy steak or lamb chop to well-done.  (No offense to those who like their meat well-done.)

My husband has been asking me to make him rack of lamb for five years.  Five years!  I’ve tried to maneuver my way around the issue and make him roasted leg of lamb or lamb shank.  But something about the rack of lamb scared me.  Every year on his birthday, he requests rack of lamb and every year I get myself out of it.  Since this year we have celebrated five birthdays together, I just made the dive and we both went to the butcher and got the rack of lamb.  I needed the support, that’s why we both went.

Once we got home, I contemplated what I should do with the lamb, the over thinking had begun.  After all, I’ve eaten lamb many many times at restaurants, so I calmed myself down and went with my instincts.  Herbs became the main attraction followed by lemon and nuts.  I raided my pantry and came up with a herb, walnut, lemon, capers crusted lamb.  I let it marinate so the flavors would penetrate the meat.

I roasted it and it came out perfectly, medium rare bordering medium.  (I do love steaks at medium-rare, but for me, lamb needs to be cooked a tad bit more.)  While it was roasting I also prepared a shallot and dijon sauce, which was lovely with the lamb.  When we sliced through the rack, I finally got over my fear and could do it again and again.  The end result makes you want to step back in the kitchen and expand your culinary horizons.  For now I’ve tackled rack of lamb, let’s see what comes up next.

Rack of Lamb with a Walnut and Herb Crust

Serves 2 with leftovers

Ingredients

1 french rack of lamb, 8 chops in total

1 cup chopped fresh herbs (mint, parsley, thyme, chives) + extra for garnish

5 cloves of garlic

juice and zest of 2 lemons + plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and black pepper, to taste

for the sauce:

olive oil

2 shallots or 1 large shallot finely chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cups chicken or beef stock

1 heaping tablespoon crème fraîche

fresh chopped parsley

salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

To make the crust: in a food processor, combine the herbs with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, capers, walnuts, flour, salt and pepper.  Pulse lightly until everything is crumbly yet a little sticky.

Salt and pepper the rack of lamb and then cover both sides with the crust and marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.

Before baking preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the lamb in an oven-safe pan or dish for 25 minutes.  If you like your meat cooked well-done, add another 7-10 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, prepare the sauce.  In a saute pan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan on medium heat and once it comes to temperature, add in the shallots and cook until translucent and on the verge of turning light brown.  At this point, add in the Dijon mustard, chicken or beef stock, salt, black pepper and allow it to reduce.  Once reduced to your liking, add in the crème fraîche and parsley.  Once the lamb is cooked, let it rest outside the oven covered in aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Serve the lamb with the sauce and garnish with some fresh lemon and chopped herbs.

I also added some asparagus in the pan with the lamb, towards the end of cooking.  I served the lamb with a sunchoke mash as well.

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Marrakech personified

My husband and I recently returned from a vacation to Morocco.  We spent most of our time in Marrakech.  Morocco is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages and when the opportunity arose I was set on traveling there.  Marrakech, in some ways reminded me of Pakistan–the haggling shopkeepers, the crowds, the homes, and the hospitality.  We were lucky enough to do a great deal of exploring despite the rainy weather boooooo!  The few days when the sun was out were amazing!  But, more than anything we ate and ate and then ate some more.  I have fallen off the healthy eating boat and am going to get back on it now that I’m back *fingers crossed.*

Moroccan Salads at Le Tanjia

Chicken Tagine with Citrons Confits

The Djemaa el Fna or the central square in the old city of Marrakech is bustling with food stalls serving up traditional Moroccan fare such as cous cous, sujok, tagines, and pastilla.  If you enter one of the many alleys you are led to different quarters; one for spices, meats, vegetables, fruits, seafood.  It is like manipulating a maze.  My husband and I had no idea where we were going exactly but without fail stumbled upon a multitude of food “destinations.”

Djemaa el Fna

I loved the spices available there.  Sacks full of spices topped off in a pyramid shape were at every corner perfuming the air.  The fragrant aromas of cumin, saffron, ginger, and ras el hanout permeated the city.  Vibrant colors always catch my eyes and Marrakech was definitely bliss for my senses.

Bright, vibrant colored lemons and oranges were a daily staple for me.  I have never loved eating oranges on their own but being served fresh tree picked clementines and oranges daily can change a person’s perspectives.  The citrons confits or preserved salted lemons also utterly transformed my food journey.  The flavors exploded in my mouth– mellow yet tangy, bright and pungent.  Oh and the olives!  How can I forget the olives.  I have never consumed so many olives on a daily basis in my life.  Let me tell you, the olives in Morocco taste so much better than any other olive I have ever tasted.  My husband who *detests* olives was chowing them down like they were bon bons.  They were mild and not as vinegar laden as many other olives you find in North America.  Often times, they were marinated in lemon, thyme, garlic and other spices I could not quite discern.

Mint tea was another thing I consumed in enormous quantities.  Making mint tea is a real art.  Holding the teapot then raising your arm in an acrobatic motion and pouring just so the right amount of froth can cover the tea and then discarding the first glass so that all the impurities are taken out of the tea is almost scientific.  Huge bunches of mint were used in this tea creating such a pronounced yet delicate flavor.  Another thing that tasted like a completely different thing was honey.  Mind you, I only buy local and organic honey but this honey in Morocco beats any other honey I have ever tasted.  The bread was also another highlight of the trip.  Carb counters beware!  This bread is thick, dense, and chewy.  There is also a little honey added to it, creating a phenomenal taste.  Absolute heaven!

One thing I must say is that my perception of Moroccan food was a little off.  My husband and I took a cooking class with Lala Nazha, a famous cooking instructor in Marrakech.  I was speaking with her about how I would prepare cous cous.  First of all it would probably be instant whereas in Morocco they use a couscoussiere and is about a three hour process of steaming, and fluffing with olive oil and water.  Also, stewed meat is served on top and nothing is mixed in with the cous cous itself.  When I make cous cous I stir in nuts, dried fruits, herbs, vegetables and so on.  I told Lala Nazha this and she labeled my version “false cous cous.”  (Truth be told, I think I prefer my version of cous cous better, this could be because I felt the cous cous needed more flavor and texture.)  But, other than that the food in Morocco was truly memorable and I most certainly wish to return at some point because I only dipped my toe into the ocean that is Morocco and Moroccan cuisine.

Oh yes!  Before I forget, if anyone is traveling to Marrakech you must stay at Riad Dar One.   It was an absolute delight.  The owner, Jean Peres, and his staff are so friendly and helpful.  I have never had such a pleasant stay at a hotel.  The Riad itself is gorgeous and the rooms are modern yet have a distinct Moroccan flair.  I have nothing but praise for this establishment!

Here are  more pictures of the trip.  Enjoy!

Delicious honey, butter, and marmalade

Tagines

Eggplant and Tomato Dip

Cafe Arabe


Saffron growing in Ourika

Fresh Salt harvested outside Ourika by a Berber family