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Roasted Leg of Lamb

13 May


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Spring has totally sprung here in Maryland. The temperatures are nice and warm most days, and we’re getting daily rain showers – perfect for new grass but not so great for taking our new dog for a walk. Oh yeah, we got a new dog. I’m not sure why we didn’t earlier; having a dog around has basically doubled my time outside, guaranteeing that I go on daily walks and hiking on the weekends.

Roasting a leg of lamb is a spring tradition in many cultures, particularly surrounding Easter and Passover. While roasting a leg of lamb may sound intimidating, it’s one of the easiest roasts to get right. The meat is naturally tender, so no marinating is required – in fact, marinating is often discouraged since adding acid would denature the tender meat.

As my friend Chef Schneller (who I met while touring the Culinary Institute of America last year) points out, the term “spring lamb” refers to a lamb born in the spring and eaten in the summer. Lambs sold in the early spring are typically from a particular breed (English Dorset) that are born in the fall, milk-fed through the winter, and feed on young grass before slaughter. Generally, a lamb is around six months old when slaughtered, although any sheep under a year old is classified as lamb.

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Moroccan Goat Curry (Tagine Makfoul)

15 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Tagine Makfoul is a traditional Moroccan curry made with goat or lamb. When my friends Brent and Heather of Virginia is for Hunter-Gatherers recently invited us over for dinner, promising some goat shoulder to accompany their excellent company, I knew that this recipe was the perfect choice; goat becomes tender after extended cooking, and serving it with makfoul (caramelized onion and tomatoes) adds a deliciously sweet and fresh dynamic to an already tasty dish.

This post is actually the second of a joint collaboration with Brent and Heather – be sure to check out another dish that we made on that same day, Tom Kha Gai, which is hosted on their wonderful site.

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Lamb Tenderloin Gyros

18 Jun


Last year I made a gyro meat recipe based on Alton Brown’s method, which I really like. It’s a great way to use ground lamb, and it produces some really great results. The only thing that prevents it from being an all-time great is that it involves a bit of work – blending everything in a food processor, wrapping it with plastic wrap, letting it sit out for two hours, then roasting it in a water bath. It’s not a huge deal, but not a quick and easy meal by any means. So I’ve always wanted to work out a grilled gyros recipe that produces similar tastes but with minimal work. When US Wellness Meats asked me to try their new lamb tenderloin, it was time to put my new idea to the test.

Gyro meat, often referred to as doner or shawarma meat, is meat roasted on a rotating vertical spit and shaved off. Most Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern countries have some variation of this dish as a common street food. Depending on where you’re getting it, the meat can be made of lamb, beef, goat, chicken or a combination of meats.

Slightly off-topic, but I was recently a guest on the Born Primal podcast, where I talked about my health history and some of my culinary inspirations. Let me know what you think.

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Lamb Sweetbreads with Spring Greens and Apple-Pear Reduction Sauce

7 May


I have a feeling that if you asked a child what sweetbreads are, and then asked a chef, you’d get wildly varying answers. The word “sweetbread” first popped up in the 1500s, and it’s hard to tell what part of the animal they were referring to: historians generally agree that it’s likely the thymus gland or pancreas. Today, the word is often used for many small organs, from the sublingual gland to (gasp!) the testicle. Common sense assumes that these glands were eaten regularly throughout history, and was probably highly sought after due to their rarity (in relation to the rest of the food you get from an animal) and delicacy.

When my friends at US Wellness Meats offered to send me some of their lamb sweetbreads to try, I jumped at the opportunity; I hadn’t made them at home before, and I was up for a challenge. It turns out that they are relatively simple to make, they just take a little finesse and patience. To fill out the dish, I wanted to add something hearty and filling (cauliflower purée), something sweet (a pear reduction sauce), and a firm texture to make sure the dish didn’t turn out to “mushy” and to add a sharper taste to everything (spring greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette). It all turned out beautifully.

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Attukal Paya (Lamb’s Feet Soup)

8 Jan


Attukal Paya (sometimes spelled as Aattukaal Paya or just Paya) is a hearty soup made with lamb, sheep, or goat feet served in South India. What fascinates me about this dish is that it’s often served for breakfast – initially this sounded strange to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; why not start your day out with some nutritious bone broth soup?

I also love the idea of throwing together a bunch of ingredients at night and waking up to breakfast already made!

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Lamb Tagine

6 Dec


NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

A tagine is a type of slow-cooked Moroccan stew, which gets it name from the pot it is usually cooked in, also named tagine (طاجين). It is often spelled as tajine as well. A typical tagine is made with cheaper cuts of lamb or beef, like shoulder or shank, but can also be used with chicken and seafood. Seasonal fruits like dates, raisins, and apricots are often used, as well as honey and preserved lemons.

For this recipe, I decided to make a baseline lamb tagine dish – no frills or gimmicks, just a simple template for you to follow. Feel free to experiment with tastes, especially different veggies (potatoes and olives add an interesting dynamic) and meats as you see fit. Since preserved lemons aren’t the easiest thing in the world to find (although making them yourself seems pretty easy), using chopped lemon rind works almost as well, and it’s what I usually use at home. Lastly, while tagines are very pretty looking, that’s a lot of cookware just for one type of dish – my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven worked out beautifully, as always.

Also, don’t forget that I am hosting a $50 gift card giveaway for Lava Lake Lamb this week! I used their delicious lamb shoulder for this recipe, and I can’t say enough good stuff about how well it turned out.

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Shepherd’s Pie

18 Sep


NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Although meat pies have been eaten in the British Isles since the Middle Ages (14th Century, last I heard), Shepherd’s Pie as we know it today coincided with the arrival of the potato in Europe. The Spanish brought potatoes to Europe in 1520, but they didn’t catch on until the 18th Century in Great Britain. Shepherd’s Pie appeared shortly thereafter – although under its original name, Cottage Pie, and made mostly with beef. The term Shepherd’s Pie followed about a hundred years later, along with the idea that it should be made with mutton. Today, Shepherd’s Pie can be made with beef or lamb, or sometimes both, while Cottage Pie usually refers only to the beef version of the dish.

Another interesting thing about this dish is the fact that it’s prevalent in many other cultures, with some pretty amusing names, like Pâté Chinois (“Chinese Pie”, French Canada), Картофельная Запеканка (“Potato Baked Pudding”, Russia), and Escondidinho (“Hidden”, Brazil).

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Rogan Josh (Kashmiri Lamb Curry)

10 Jul


NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Rogan Josh is a popular Kashmiri dish that is believed to have originated in Persia before making its way to Northern India and beyond (in Persian, “rogan” means clarified butter and “josh” means hot or passionate). Its signature red color is historically the result of mild red Kashmiri chiles which were used in making this dish. Over the years, many restaurants started using tomatoes in the dish to bring about that red color easily. My recipe follows the more modern interpretation of the dish, mostly because you and I don’t have the money to travel to Kashmir for some chiles! Well, maybe you do, but I most certainly do not.

An excellent cut of lamb for this dish was the other half of Lava Lake Lamb’s beautiful lamb shoulder (the other half was used to make shashlik). This slightly-fatty cut imparted a ton of flavor into the dish, which just tasted better and better the longer it simmered.

I’m also happy to announce that this is my first recipe that features a printer-friendly version! I’ll be sure to do this with every recipe from now on, and as I get the spare time I will go back and make printer-friendly versions of all my recipes.

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Shashlik (Russian Shish Kebabs)

19 Jun


NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab commonly found in Russia and the former Soviet republics. It was likely brought to Moscow from Central Asia in the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular summer food cooked over an open fire at social gatherings. It’s traditionally prepared with lamb, but chicken, pork, and beef variations are becoming increasingly prominent. With summer in full swing throughout the country right now, I thought it would be a great time to share this tasty dish!

There are a few tricks that I came up with when developing this recipe that I think are pretty sweet. While the dish is traditionally marinated in either vinegar or lemon juice, I found that the combination of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gives the meat a tangy and subtly sweet flavor. Secondly, leaving the salt out of the marinade and saving it for the last stage of the recipe provides for a really great complementary texture to the tender and juicy meat.

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Grilled Lamb Sirloin

29 May


There’s an old saying: lamb is a meat best grilled. Okay, that may not be an old saying, but it should be. Something about lamb and direct heat go together really, really well. So when Lava Lake Lamb sent me some of their lamb sirloin for a recipe, I knew it was going directly on the grill.

This recipe uses a simple marinade that combines maple syrup and spicy brown mustard to complement the lamb’s natural deliciousness.

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