Lamb

The word tagine (tajine, الطاجين) is both the name of a North African stew, and the conical earthenware pot in which it is usually cooked. The use of ceramics in North Africa was the result of Roman influence, and these dishes have been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Tagine pots are unique in that they trap steam and return the condensed liquid to the dish, enabling chefs to make tender foods with minimal added water, which is ideal in areas where water is scarce. For today’s recipe, I’ve provided instructions to create this dish with a dutch oven or deep skillet; so long as the lid has a very tight seal, you should be able to closely mimic the original dish – some folks like to cover their pots with tin foil before adding the lid, to ensure a completely tight seal.

There are countless spice options when preparing a tagine, but for this particular recipe I modeled my approach after a traditional Mrouzia, a tagine that is often served during Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice). This Muslim celebration honors Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command, only to be provided a sacrificial goat at the last minute instead. During this celebration, a lamb (or sometimes goat) is ritually sacrificed and shared among family, neighbors, and the needy; in many settings, they prepare Mrouzia using the sacrificed lamb.

Mrouzia is served with toasted (blanched) almonds, and typically flavored with saffron and Ras el Hanout, a popular North African spice mixture. Commercial versions of Ras el Hanout exist, but it’s not too challenging to put together your own fresh spice blend (my recipe is below); you’ll likely have most of these spices in your pantry already, except perhaps for mace. While potatoes aren’t a typical accompaniment to Mrouzia, I find that they add a hefty balance to the sweet/salty mixture of the dish; steamed basmati rice (or couscous, if you’re not gluten-averse) also works well as a starch.

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For those of you following my recently updated approach to recipe development, you’ve probably already guessed that the recipes in my new cookbook will cover a variety of traditional and international dishes. So far we’ve highlighted cuisine from France, the Caribbean, and the American South. Today we’ll be exploring Scandinavia, with this Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew.

Originally from Western Norway (Vestlandet), Fårikål has become a widely-loved autumn staple, to the point where it was named Norway’s national dish in 1972. Scandalously, in 2014 the Norwegian Minister for Food & Agriculture demanded a new national dish be voted on–via email, no less! Fårikål won by a landslide, grabbing 45% of the vote and easily beating out Kjøttkaker (meatballs) and Raspeball (potato dumplings) for the top spot.

The traditional preparation of this dish couldn’t be simpler: layer some lamb, salt, and cabbage in a pot, then add water, potatoes, and peppercorns and simmer until everything is tender. I made a couple tweaks to complement the dish, such as dropping in the potatoes later in the process (so they don’t lose their body), and broiling the meat at the end for a nicer texture. In the end, this is still one of the most basic stews you’ll find anywhere, but Fårikål carries with it a rich flavor you may not expect from such a simple preparation.

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I’m not sure what it is about 2017, but I’ve really appreciated ground meat more than usual. Much like last month’s Beef Tinaktak, I appreciate the ease and brevity that comes from these quick meals, both done in less than 30 minutes.

Today’s recipe for Keema Matar is a North Indian and Pakistani dish characterized by mincemeat (typically lamb or goat) and peas. The word “Keema” (mincemeat) appears to have a universal origin; in addition to being the same word in Hindi (क़ीमा), Punjabi (ਕ਼ੀਮਾ), and Urdu (قیمہ), similar words can be found throughout Europe and Asia, like the Greek κιμάς (kimás), Turkish kıyma, and Armenian ղեյմա (gyemah). This has led scholars to believe that the Greek “kimas” and English “mince” may share the same origin, from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey-, a word that translates to “small, little”, and eventually led to our modern words like “minute”, “diminish”, and “minimum”. Others believe that the Greek “kimas” is derived from the Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), which translates to “piece, that which is cut off”, and which later became our modern word for “comma”. Isn’t language fun?

While many diners may not recall experiencing Keema Matar as an entrée, they’ve likely seen it before, used as a common filling for everybody’s favorite Indian savory pastry, the mighty samosa.

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Scouse is a form of stew popular in Northern Europe. The English word scouse is a shortened form of lobscouse, taken from similar words like the Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojs, and Danish labskovs. The dish, which likely originated in the Baltic, is a traditional sailor’s stew consisting of salted meat or fish and thickened with ship’s biscuits. Today, the word is closely related to the port city of Liverpool, to the point where inhabitants of Liverpool are colloquially called “Scousers”.

In my research, I focused on the modern Liverpool interpretation of Scouse, and quickly found that there is a certain pride in preparing what’s known today as a “proper Scouse”. A proper Scouse, it seems, is low on ingredients, indicative of the dish’s humble origins. Today, the dish is prepared with lamb neck, onion, carrots, and potato – and not much else. In keeping with this tradition, I kept the ingredients list to a minimum; no fancy parsley here. This dish is typically served with pickled cabbage or beets, so grab those when you’re at the market, too.

My main purpose in creating and sharing this recipe was to treat it as an exercise in restraint, relying only on salt and pepper to perfect the stew’s subtle profile. To round out the flavor, many will serve HP Sauce with the finished stew (HP Sauce is a UK-based brown sauce that is like a cross between ketchup and Worcestershire sauce). As a concession, I flavored my stew with Worcestershire near the end, for those of us without access to this condiment.

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Bobotie is a baked mincemeat dish and one of the more recognizable foods to come out of South Africa. It’s commonly believed that Bobotie was first derived from the Javanese dish Botok, as Dutch colonists brought the dish to South Africa from their settlements in Indonesia (née Dutch East Indies) in the 17th century. While Botok is made with minced meat wrapped in banana leaves, Bobotie is often seasoned with curry powder and dried fruit and baked with a egg custard topping – a reflection of both local ingredients and European colonial tastes.

This dish joins the ranks of other dishes on my blog, like Mulligatawny Soup and Sukuma Wiki, as exotic-tasting meals that can be created using items you likely already have in your pantry. These are some of my favorite dishes to create and share, as they have a fairly low barrier to entry but can expand your palate and culinary repertoire.

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Vindaloo is a curry dish originating in the Goa region of West India. It is actually the Indian interpretation of the Portuguese dish Carne de Vinha D’Alhos (Meat with Wine and Garlic), borrowed from the Portuguese colony in Goa. The original dish is seasoned with vinegar, and that slightly sour taste remains in most Indian interpretations today.

While you’ll find potatoes in Vindaloos at many Indian restaurants worldwide, Vindaloo purists will argue that the dish shouldn’t have potatoes; what’s interesting is that the original Portuguese dish does indeed feature potatoes. So they were lost at some point, only to find their way back again. The Indian dish does stray from its source, though: Carne de Vinha D’Alhos is usually made with pork, and the Vindaloos you’ll find in Indian restaurants is most often made with lamb. Likewise, the Indian dish is moderately spicy, unlike its Portuguese counterpart. For this recipe, I kept the heat fairly mild; to spice it up, simply add more chili powder.

After such a warm reception to my pressure-cooker Instant Stew recipe from a couple weeks ago, I decided to make this dish using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker as well. For those of you without a pressure cooker, fear not: stovetop instructions are included. At its essence, the recipes are the same; the pressure cooker just cuts down the cooking time considerably.

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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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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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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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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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