Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Curry Lamb and Lentil Stew

I really love cooking stews. Every 2 weeks or so, usually on friday, I make a stew of some sort. It's so comforting when it's -20 outside, like it is now, and it makes the house smell amazing. Most of the time it ends up being a beef stew, because beef is cheap, but this week at the grocery store there was some surprisingly cheap lamb cubes...oh joy. I rarely eat lamb because it's so pricy, so I jumped at that occasion. Now forgive me, I don't remember exactly how much there was, so I can't tell you the amount of meat in there, but it was around a pound. Maybe a bit more...
Anyway the exact amounts in dishes like this is not too important. The end result is what counts!

For this lamb stew I was gonna do it like I do a beef stew, with red wine and rosemary, and some potatoes and onions. But after browsing around some food blogs I got inspired by an indian cooking blog and decided to go for a curry stew. It's quite different in taste, but the procedure is exactly the same!
Here's what you'll need:

About 1 lbs lamb cubes, cut into 1 inch cubes
2-3 TBSP flour
1 big yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 cm. No need to chop it...
1 cup whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup tomato juice (from the can of whole tomatoes...)
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
1 big carrot
1 branch celeri
1/3 cup red lentils
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 bay leaf

For the spices, I used a curry mix I got as present a while ago, it's called "Panch Phoran". It's got cumin, mustard, nigella, fennel and fenugreek seeds. And I added other spices I really like and that go great in a curry:

2 tsp Panch Phoran, or curry spice mix
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp crushed chili
salt and pepper

Throw all the spices in a morter and pestle and grind away! The smell will be a-ma-zing!

So for the stew. Firt of all, toss the lamb in the flour with about 1 tsp of the spice mix.
In your favorite heavy bottom pot heat up (on medium high) 1-2 TBSP oil and brown the meat on both sides, in batches, until nice and brown. Remove and set aside.
Add a bit more oil and sautee the onion, garlic and ginger with salt and pepper, until the onion is semi-soft. Carefull not to burn the garlic! It might be a good idea to turn the heat to medium for this. Then return the lamb to the pot and mix well, add a bit more spices, about 1/2 tsp. Since these spices can be quite, uh, spicy, I add only a bit at a time and check later if it needs more. Too much is not good, but not enough can be corrected later!!
To deglaze, pour in the tomato juice, and scrub the bottom of the pan to lift those brown bits! Brown bits=flavor!!
Add the tomatoes, broth, sugar and a bit more spices. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low, cover and let it go for about 1 hour.
After that hour as passed add the carrot, celeri and lentils, check and adjust the spice status, re-cover and let it go again until the veggies are soft and the lamb falls appart at the touch of a fork, about 2-3 hours. The longer it simmers the tender the meat! And the less the cover gets lifted the better, too! I know it's tempting to look every 15 minutes but let it have its heat! Patience is key.
When it's all nice and cooked, add the tomato paste. Wait 15-20 more minutes or so to let the tomato paste do its thickening job, and it's ready!

You can enjoy this with rice, coucous, pasta, or by itself with some nice bread.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Seafood and Salmon Casserole

I had no idea what to do for diner tonight. There was a little piece of salmon leftover from a few nights ago, half a zucchini and a few mushrooms about to turn, and a nice chunck of Fontina cheese begging for mercy. This called for some freestyle cooking! I didn't want to just warm up the salmon, cook some rice on the side and fry up the zucch's and shrooms. Bo-ring...So here's what I did:

I started by cooking some rice, in a bit more water than usual so there'd be some liquid to moistened everything else later! Then I sauteed some onions, garlic, zucchinis and mushrooms in a bit of oil and butter until soft, with some salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. Meanwhile I defrosted a bit of seafood mix. Yes, a frozen seafood mix. It comes in very handy when it's winter time and fresh seafood is not really available...
When the veggies got soft I added the seafood and cooked them for a few minutes, until semi-done. Then I added the rice and the little bit of water left at the bottom of the the pot, along with the already cooked salmon and a bit of milk to tie everything together*. And a bit more salt and pepper.
*I originally thought of making a bechamel sauce but I decided to keep it semi-healthy...
All of this wonderful stuff went in to a baking dish, dotted with a few knobs of butter and got covered in Fontina and some Parmesan.

In a 450 oven it went, for about 5 minutes, then on broil until it got nice and golden.

Easy and delicious. Can't really beat that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blueberry Muffins with Quinoa and Flax

Blueberry muffins are pretty much a classic. In any good bakery you can find a berry muffin, most of the time it's blueberry. I know when I worked at Moguls in Whistler the blueberry muffin was our biggest seller. I'd make at least 2 batches of 24 every morning and by noon they were almost gone. It's quite a good breakfast, especially on the way up the ski hill!

There's no more ski hills in my life now, but I still love my blueberry muffins! The basic of this recipe is my go-to muffin recipe, easily adaptable, and it's low fat and packed with protein. It's from the "Healthy Oven" baking book, by Sarah Philips.
Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cup whole wheat PASTRY flour, or all-purpose.
3/4 cup quinoa flakes
1/3 cup ground flax sseds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 1/2 TBSP canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Set your oven at 350F and set the rack in the middle. Spray a muffin pan with canola oil.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and set aside.
In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients and whisk until frothy, about 2 minutes.
Make a well in the dry mix, add the wet and stri until just combined. Add the blueberries and mix lightly. Carefull not to overmix otherwise your muffins will be a bit tough.
Bake fo 22-25 minutes, until a kinfe inserted in the middle comes out clean.
*My oven is a bit "difficult", it doesn't brown things easily, so for the last 2 minutes I turned on the broiler. But if you do this DON'T WALK AWAY!!
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, unmold and cool completely on a rack.

Have a great day!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Onion Bread

First of all, Happy New Year! This is the first post of 2011, and it's quite fitting that it's a bread recipe, since I learned to make bread in 2010 and there's SO much still to learn. I plan to bake a lot of bread and bread-related stuff in 2011. I want to try sourdough, I'd like to give a shot at fresh yeast; pizza dough and cinnamon buns are also on my to-do list. Stay tuned!
Today I had the day off, and the last loaf I bought was kinda so-so (price to pay for not making it myself...). Plus I was craving a ham&cheese sandwich so I thought I should make a fresh new loaf. I paced around the kitchen for about 15-20 minutes trying to come up with a "flavor". I wanted to keep it simple, but I wanted something new to put on this blog. Plain white bread would have been boring. In the end this bread is still pretty simple but it has a nice sweet taste, thanks to the onions. The only thing I would change would be the thyme...I didn't put enough! I love thyme and I thought it would come out but it's VERY subtle! Oh well...
Here's the recipe:

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 TBSP butter
3 TBSP olive oil, divided 1TBSP-2TBSP
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1-1 1/2 cup warm water, at 120F
1 tsp sugar
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (but if you love thyme like I do put 3-4!!)

First, cook the onions in the butter and 1TBSP oil, plus salt and pepper, on medium-low heat until they're transluscent:

Carefull not to burn them, you want them to turn sweet but not caramelized! Actually, that might be good too but this is not what's happening this time..!
When they're cooked transfer to a little bowl and cool a bit. Also, do not throw any oil leftover in the pan! That can go in the bread too!!
Then, for the dough, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and thyme in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Set aside.
Mesure out 1 1/2 cup warm water at 110-120F and add 2 TBSP oil to it. Mix and add in the middle of the flour/yeast mix.
With a fork, mix slowly from the center out and incorporate as much flour as possible to the water. It will come together in a ball, or kinda...
Transfer to a clean and floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft. Add the onions about half-way through the process. I didn't really need to add more flour, maybe 1/4 cup more total. When the dough is soft like an ear-lobe, put it in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel, store it in a warm place and let it rise for about one hour, until it's doubled in size.
Take out of the bowl, flatten it a bit to "de-poof" it and shape it however you want to. Here I decided to make a braided loaf, so I cut the dough into 3 fairly equal pieces, rolled them into thin logs and braided them.
Then, put the dough in a oiled loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 40-45 minutes, again until doubled:

Turn on the oven at 450F, brush the loaf with eggwhites. When the oven hits the right temperature put the loaf on the middle rack and turn down to 375F. Bake for 35 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 180F, and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a rack.

I must apologize here for the lack of the "inside view" pictures, they didn't come out right. BUT I did have a wicked ham&cheese sandwich, with Polish ham and brie cheese.

A bit margarine on both sides of each slice (yes, it's greasy. That's how I eat my grilled-cheese sandwiches!!), a little dijon mustard inside, pan-seared until golden. Yum-oh!

I'll send it to Yeastspotting for next week!!