I had intended this post to publish last week with the idea that I could write it on our Spring Break road trip. We were planning a trip to Portland and Seattle and I figured I’d have about 18 hours of time, a little less maybe because I would be driving some of the time, but still enough to get down a post. Continue reading
One more summer adventure to tell you about and then I’ll be done. I can then get down to some serious pumpkin cooking and baking….not. I’m glad to see though that the pumpkin craze is a bit milder this year. Honestly, how many dishes can you really destroy with pumpkin before people revolt? OK, OK, I’ll stop with the pumpkin negativity 🙂 I know there are people who wait all year for this season and I don’t want to ruin it for them.
The last fun event I was fortunate enough to attend and work, was a dinner that was sponsored by Specialty Appliance, and Kitchens by Wedgewood. I had the fortune to be asked to cater the dinner and the event. The purpose of the dinner was so our clients could welcome their guests to the newly remodelled kitchen where they could admire the new cabinetry, the Raw Urth range hood and the new Thermador appliances in action.
I supplied the action, and the dinner, of course. It was pretty nerve wracking to take over someone else’s brand new kitchen to cook a whole dinner! However, the clients were so wonderful and put me at ease and I went about doing what I do best (amongst other things 🙂 ), cooking.
I had met with the hosts of the dinner beforehand so we could discuss what kind of menu appealed to them and what kind of food they’d like to serve that evening. They are really laid back and casual and a fun couple. They have such a beautiful home up in the mountains by Boulder Canyon.
We decided on a Moroccan inspired menu and I set about making a menu. Since Morocco has such a strong French influence, I used a lot of French inspiration with a Moroccan twist. Rather than write, I’ll let the photos show most of the evening.
The recipe I want to share today happens to be the Harissa Roasted Lamb I made for the dinner. However, the lamb made that evening was made on the rotisserie that’s a feature available in the oven they purchased. It was quite a sight! And took no longer than a regular oven to cook.
Not everyone has rotisseries in their ovens so the lamb I’m posting today is cooked in a regular oven. It comes out just as juicy and tender as the rotisserie version; you just don’t get the show.
Serves: 10-12 servings
- The lamb can be marinated the night before and refrigerated.
- Unroll the boneless leg of lamb and lay flat.
- Smear half the Harissa paste on the inside of the lamb, sprinkle with half of the Ras El Hanout spices,
- add pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Flip the lamb over and repeat on the top side.
- Roll the lamb back up and tie neatly to form a uniform roll.
- Place in the fridge overnight or at least 4 hours.
- Before roasting, pull out the lamb from the fridge and leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
- Place the lamb on a rack in a baking sheet or roasting tin.
- Add a temperature probe and set for desired doneness.
- Place in the oven and roast.
- For a 4½ pound piece of lamb, it takes about 20 minutes a pound for rare and 30 minutes a pound for medium.
- It took me about 90 minutes to get a nice pink medium.
- In the rotisserie, the lamb turned beautiful golden brown by itself while rotating.
- In the oven, in the last 15 minutes, turn up the oven to 500F/220C to get a nice, crispy brown outside.
- Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before slicing into thick slices.
- Serve with Harissa vinaigrette if desired, or this herb sauce
The chermoula sauce that was used to marinate the Herb Grilled Chicken goes wonderfully with this lamb as well.
I used the last of my homemade harissa on this lamb and bought some extra from Whole Foods, which is quite excellent. You can either make your own or buy a jar.
As you might remember, I’m not a fan of lamb at all….and I mean, at all. Lately though, I’ve been making lamb for my dinner parties because everyone else in my family enjoys it and this way, most of it gets eaten. Everyone raves about it so I guess it’s good, I, however, will never know, and that’s all right by me!
For you lamb lovers out there, try this, it really is good, juicy and tender with a lovely hit of spice.
On the topic of dinner parties, I am a little curious of dinner party etiquettes that I know exist and that I’m quite sure I follow. I was just wondering what you guys think they are? First off, I must say that in this day and age, I don’t expect anything from anyone. It just seems that’s the society we’ve become.
I don’t expect a “hello” from the friends of my daughters that come through my door for whatever reason, I don’t expect a “thank you” when I drop them off home at times, I don’t expect a RSVP unless I hunt one down, I don’t expect a “thank you” email or text after a party I’ve hosted and I certainly never expect a hostess gift when I host a party. I may be wrong to not expect general courtesies, but I’m tired of being disappointed so I just don’t care now.
This doesn’t mean that I have taught my children to do the same, no. They are always to hold a conversation and to always be courteous and polite with all adults, especially their friends’ parents, and I’m glad to say they do. This is probably why they are the favourites of those parents.
I always RSVP and send a thank you email, text or phone call. I never turn up at a party empty handed, but maybe this is just me. Your turn to chime in. What do you think is the expectation?
My time off, so far, isn’t spawning any brilliance or creativity. In fact, I am further behind now than I was while I was regularly blogging! If that isn’t bad enough, we lost an hour yesterday with Daylight Savings. There is no way I’m catching up with anything.
How is everyone doing? Is anyone having a leisurely time of it? Or are we all as hectic as each other in our respective routines? I have been working on some projects however, and once they get going I will tell you all about them.
One productive thing I have done the last few weeks, is finally getting some business cards printed! It only took 3 years but here they are; what do you think? I had my own photographs printed with all my essential information on the back. I love them so much that I don’t want to give any away!
In between my hectic weekdays, we do get a calm weekend and if it’s the weekend my husband is off, it’s incredibly relaxing! We just seem to lounge the day away. On one of these relaxing weekends when I wasn’t running around with my head chopped off, and had a bit of time, I made these Moroccan spiced and Harissa laced Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Phyllo Cigars for a lunch time snack.
I had cooked and mashed the potatoes a day before and also had leftover spiced ground beef from dinner, so these were put together quite quickly. Of course, if you’re not adept at tackling phyllo dough, it may take you longer. I find phyllo dough totally frustrating and so, usually buy the #10 thicker sheets. This time however, I had the #4 thinner sheets and yes, they drove me crazy.
When you’re finally biting into the crunchy, flaky pastry you forget the torment it caused you and relish the tasty morsels; enticingly exotic from the ras el hanout and deliciously spicy from the Harissa. I alway think that something creamy inside the crispy pastry is a great combination. The sweet potatoes add the perfect creaminess with the ground beef and the flaky pastry.
- 2 large sweet potatoes, medium chunks, boiled till tender
- 1 tablespoon or to taste, Harissa paste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- salt to taste
- 1 lb/455g lean ground beef/chicken
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix
- 1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Salt to taste
- 12 sheets phyllo, cut in half
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Mash the sweet potatoes until no big lumps exist.
- You want the mash to be fairly lump free and smooth.
- Add the Harissa paste, cumin, coriander and salt.
- Check the seasonings and adjust as desired.
- Add more Harissa if you'd like it more spicy.
- In a large fry pan, heat the oil on medium and add the chopped onions.
- Cook until lightly browned and add the garlic and ras el hanout.
- When the garlic and spices are fragrant, add the ground beef or chicken,
- Cook until the ground meat is no longer pink and fairly dry.
- Add salt to taste.
- Add the mint and cilantro.
- Add the milk to the melted butter and keep aside.
- Unpack the phyllo sheets from the box and plastic wrap and lay on a tray and cover with a damp towel.
- Take a sheet of phyllo dough and lay on the counter or chopping board and carefully cut in half if not done already.
- Make sure the rest of the phyllo sheets are covered back up with the wet towel.
- Brush liberally with the melted butter and milk mixture.
- Lay a couple of teaspoons or so of mashed sweet potato and a teaspoon of ground meat in a log shape at one end of the phyllo sheet.
- Now, gently roll up the edges into an egg roll shape.
- Brushing with more butter and milk if needed to keep the roll moist and able to stick.
- Place on a baking sheet until you finish rolling the rest.
- Repeat with the rest of the sheets.
- Bake 12 rolls on a tray and space them apart.
- If you want to bake them immediately, preheat the oven to 375℉.
- Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
I hope there are signs of spring like weather where you are and it’s bringing you great inspiration and promise of sunnier days (though I like the not so sunny days) We’ve had some great days lately and this weekend was wonderful, albeit a little windy. Trace and I drove with a couple of the kids up by Longs Peak and Estes Park with hopes of maybe getting in a hike. It was so windy we couldn’t stand up straight! The weather was beautiful though with just the right amount of sun to make Lake Estes glimmer beautifully. The wind however, was having a blast blowing snow off the mountain tops.
Today, we’re expecting snow again, and my weather app says its 3 snowflakes worth…which I think means, it’s a lot 🙂
The weekend before Christmas, Trace and I got together with some long time friends for a couples night out. It’s so nice to go somewhere with adults! It was a perfect evening for a date night; the snow was falling, it was cool and crisp but not horrendously cold, and just very festive all around.
We chose to meet at a British pub in downtown Denver called The British Bulldog. I like this place for a number of reasons:
- It’s called the British Bulldog
- It’s a pub (even though I don’t drink, that evening they had a great mulled cider)
- It has great food
- They show British football games (complete with the yobs that come with that whole scene)
What’s great about their menu is that along with the traditional British pub fare, they have quite a good selection of Pakistani/Indian food. I am sure you know that Indian food is very popular in the UK and so finding this menu at the pub was no big surprise to me. We’ve come enough times for me to have tried almost everything on the Indian menu, except for the lamb and that’s not going to happen anytime soon. They also have proper chips.
I ordered a chicken masala dish which was excellent and I love how they don’t skimp on the heat. It’s perfectly spiced. My friend, Chris, ordered the Chapli kebabs which are a North Pakistani/Afghani kebab. They are called Chapli because they supposedly resemble the sole of a sandal (chappal). Thankfully, they aren’t named after the texture of the sole of a sandal!
I have yet to find an authentic Chapli kebab recipe and it just could be that it’s different regionally. Once, I have perfected mine to my liking, I will share it with y’all. One characteristic of the Chapli kebab is the tomato slice stuck to one side of the kebab before it is fried. However, I’ve also seen the tomatoes diced into the meat mixture and some, like the Bulldog, do not use any at all. They, however, use dried pomegranate in theirs.
Now, as you can imagine, here I am sitting eating my chicken masala and yet, my mind is churning wondering how fresh pomegranate arils would work in a kebab recipe. This particular recipe has been knocking around in my head for a couple of weeks now and I only managed to make it the other day.
It had been undergoing some refinement in my head and finally, having swapped out the minced beef for chicken and some additional spices, here it is, Pomegranate Chicken Kebabs. I also ended up moving away from an Indian spiced kebab to a more Persian/Moroccan one.
Ok, so these kebabs aren’t life changing or anything, but they are pretty good and they’re different. If you like your kebabs smooth and without texture, then these aren’t for you. Why? Well, because they have pomegranate seeds and a lot of sweet crunchy texture.
They are not overly spiced but what’s in there adds a background flavour and if you are a saffron fan, they are fragrant and heady. I am not a huge saffron fan, but I liked the addition. These also release a bit of juice which is great drizzled over the rice.
I fried my first test batch; they don’t take long and you don’t need a lot of oil. They do splatter a bit but you can prop a lid or a screen. The second test batch, I broiled them and they also turned out well. Of course, the fried ones are a tad bit juicier. Surprisingly, the pomegranate seeds managed to stay embedded. I think I lost only four my entire batch. The patty shape works better here than a long kebab purely because of the pomegranate seeds.
- 2 lbs/1 Kg ground chicken
- 1 cup pomegranate arils, about one pomegranate
- ½ small red onion, medium dice
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- ½ teaspoon all spice, ground
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- generous pinch saffron
- generous handful, chopped fresh mint
- oil to fry
- Pretty easy!
- Mix everything together and shape into patties.
- You can make the mix ahead and chill in the fridge until ready to cook.
- Wet your hands with some water before shaping, makes it easier.
- If you're frying the patties, pour a a thin layer of oil in a fry pan and shallow fry the patties till lightly browned on both sides.
- They will take barely 5-7 minutes.
- I didn't make my patties too thick since I prefer them thinner and browned.
- If you want to broil them, lay them on a baking tray and broil till firm and lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.
So, I hope you try these and tell me what you think. I liked them and so did my family. Then again, there’s meat, spices and pomegranate seeds, what’s there not to like? And they look so pretty on the plate, bejewelled kebabs.
I hope you’ve all had a great start to the New Year. I know the North East is seeing a bit of snow! Stay warm everyone. I am going to leave you with a couple of photos of our New Year’s Day trip to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It was windy (like all our picnics) but invigorating!
I don’t know about you guys but, I’m feeling heavy, full, over comforted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get to be too much. Our Arctic blast here in Colorado, left the State with below freezing, negative digit temperatures. Oh, it was cold, very cold. We were waking up to -11℉ (-24℃) and it was only warming up to like 3℉. It was pretty insane. I know there are colder places on this Earth but when you’re used to the sun shining and pretty nice temperatures even during winter, it’s a bit of a shock!
Of course, salad was not on the menu. Our bodies were rebelling against everything cold and so, I was making a lot of carb laden, warming foods. Most of the time it was spicy Indian curries so the spices would warm us up or stew and chilli like dinners.
Finally, our temperature is back into the double digits and we’re enjoying a balmy 34℉ (1℃) these days. After 10 days of over whelming, heavy foods, I made a refreshingly light dinner the other night. It still had some carbs to fuel us and spices to keep us warm, but it was a nice, light variation.
I don’t know if it was the change of pace or the fact that it really was good, but I really enjoyed every bite of my Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad. It was incredibly delicious, spicy and filling. The vegetables were roasted with the Moroccan spice mix; Ras el Hanout, Harissa and olive oil. The smell of the vegetables roasting gave me a great preview of what I was to enjoy. They smelled heavenly.
A generous handful of pomegranate arils, some salad leaves and a drizzle of Harissa vinaigrette completed the salad. To boost up the protein, I did serve ours with some baked chicken breast and a fried egg on top. Let me tell you, the fried egg; great addition. I enjoyed that better than the chicken. So this salad is versatile enough to be vegan, vegetarian or non vegetarian. I liked all the variations; and don’t forget the pomegranate, it adds amazing texture and fresh flavour with the spicy roasted squash and sweet potatoes.
I am sure this can be made with different winter squash and sweet potatoes. I wanted the deep, golden, colour of the butternut with the white, sweet potatoes. All I can say is that you must make this salad, especially with the Moroccan spices. I can’t emphasise how great it is, and if you are a winter squash lover, you will be in heaven.
Serves: 6 servings
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced, medium chunks
- 3 or 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, medium chunks
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout spice mix
- 2 tablespoons Harissa, homemade or store bought
- salt and pepper
- 1 pomegranate, peeled and deseeded
- 12 cups salad leaves, I used a spring mix
- 6 eggs, organic, fried or poached, optional
- Harissa Vinaigrette
- Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃.
- Mix the extra virgin olive oil, harissa and Ras el Hanout together in a large bowl.
- Toss in the cubed butternut squash and sweet potatoes and mix around till well coated.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Spread out onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.
- Bake for about 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.
- On individual serving plates, add about 2 cups of salad leaves.
- Place the roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes on top.
- Add the fried or poached egg on top and scatter the pomegranate arils over the plate.
- Drizzle with the harissa vinaigrette.
Hope everyone is keeping warm, or cool for those of you who are in the Southern Hemisphere. Christmas is just around the corner, have you all done your Christmas shopping? I know the baking is coming along since I see such wonderful confections everyday. Have a great rest of the week and weekend! Happy baking!