Monthly Archives: October 2017

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

I am reposting my most searched recipe as I have updated it with a little more information on this curious cut of flavorful meat, (as well as tweaking the recipe). Hopefully this will prompt you to try it out now that the weather is getting colder and we are craving more luscious comforting food.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

The picture of this dish says it all. Just looking at it makes me want to run to the butcher shop for some luscious Irish lamb chops! I may be bias, but at this moment I have to announce that there is absolutely no better lamb in the world.

The Most Beautiful Train Trip Ever

Fields and fields of sheep with their lambs. They can be seen everywhere munching down on the famous green grass in Ireland. (Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford)

I grew up eating the best lamb stew in the world and only realized that fact when I moved away and could not find lamb that equalled it anywhere.

The cut of lamb that I prefer for lamb stew is the gigot chop, and if you can find them, you are on your way to making something fabulous.

What is a Gigot Chop?: It is a cut from the leg of an animal (I usually think of lamb but gigot pork is also a common cut). This chop has a small bone in the center helping provide a wonderful sweet flavor to a dish like a stew or any type of slow braise.

Lamb Gigot Chops

If you cannot find gigot chops, a good alternative is a cut from the shoulder.

Gigot Chop or lamb shoulder chop stew

Yum

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You will need:

3 tbsp extra-virgin or regular olive oil

4 to 6 lamb Gigot chops (if they are large, use 4. If you cannot find gigot chops, use a cut from the shoulder)

coarse sea-salt or kosher salt to season chops (about 2 tsp)

Several grinds of black pepper (optional)

10 small onions, halved

4 medium carrots, cut into thick diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, washed & quartered

2 parsnips, peeled & thickly sliced

3 or 4 small/medium potatoes, cut into 4 wedges each (I used golden or yellow potatoes as they have a nice creamy sweetness and hold up well to long cooking)

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp coarse sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)

several grinds black pepper (optional)

1 cup white wine

4 cups veggie or chicken broth (or 1 good quality bouillon cube & water)

Method:

Preheat oven 450*

1 – Season the chops with salt (and freshly ground pepper if you like), and sear in large saute pan on high heat in olive oil. Make sure to cook in one layer at a time, adding olive oil as you need it. Transfer to plate as you go and set aside.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

sear chops

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the onions and rosemary and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

saute onions and rosemary

3 – Add carrots and parsnips and continue to saute for another 5 or so minutes, letting them take on a little brown color. Add the flour and stir into veggies. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add carrots and parsnips

4 – Add the wine and stir to a thick paste. Next, add the broth (or water & bouillon). Turn heat up to high and stir everything together. Let the liquid come to a boil. When it bubbles, turn heat off. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if it needs it (until you are satisfied)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add liquids, next meat and top with layer of quartered potatoes

5 – Add the chops back to the pot in an even layer (meat will overlap slightly and that’s fine). Next scatter the quartered potatoes on top of the lamb. Cover with a lid.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

top with potatoes and cook in hot oven

6 – Place in preheated oven and cook undisturbed for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from oven and leave to cool down and settle for 10 minutes.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

serve

Divide chops between six plates or shallow bowls and top with lots of vegetables and broth. You can also serve with other things such as rice, pasta noodles, bread, cooked greens or leafy side salad.

My Easy Dinner: Pizza with a Fried Egg…Seems so Obvious Now

I know its hard to make dinner after a long day, but… if you don’t make it a monumental task, it can be done! I am one of those people who really likes a little activity in the kitchen in the evening. I have to smell something cooking to feel that “Ah, I’m Home” feeling. Last night this is the quickie dinner I came up with. Why didn’t I think about doing this a long time ago.

Pizza Fried Egg

I had the amazing luck to live in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago and obviously fell in love with the food. I finally tasted authentic Italian pizza and one that stood out to me was a pizza topped off with a fried egg. Eggs are poached and fried and featured as a sort of garnish in all sorts of not-so-obvious dishes…in ramen noodle soups, salads, Mexican dishes, middle eastern dishes…the list is endless. So why not Pizza!

Pizza in Rome

To see how to do it right, check out my post  Pizza in Rome This pizza is called the Montecarlo and it is from an amazing pizzeria in Rome called La Montecarlo

The one thing that can be frustrating  is ordering a pizza that will satisfy everyone. There is the squabble over meat or veggies, black olives or mushrooms and the person like me who wants onions! I solved that one a long time ago by getting a plain pizza and then adding whatever anyone wanted that happened to be in the fridge or pantry. The ONE THING I always have on hand is pesto. Pesto is as common in my fridge as ketchup or mustard. I make a batch of pesto as soon as it runs out. We use it on toast for breakfast, in sandwiches, quick pasta dishes, and you guessed it, on my plain pizza!

fried egg on pizza

Well last night I brought home a large plain pizza and discovered that besides my trusty jar of pesto, there was not much else to scrounge from? Then I remembered my pizza in Italy and problem solved. I warmed up the pizza, slathered on pesto and topped each slice with a softly fried egg, (the egg can also be poached instead of fried). I drizzled a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper flakes on my egg and it was complete heaven.

Of course you can do what you want. If you have leftover mushroom pizza, or a meat pizza….any pizza can be warmed up and topped with a fried egg and you too can transform the hum-drum into an unctuous delicious meal!

Pizza in Rome

La Montecarlo Pizzeria, Rome

 

OUI Yogurt By Yoplait: A Great Yogurt or Great Marketing? …Perhaps Both?

Oui 1

I was rushing through the aisles of my supermarket as I so often do the other day, to grab a couple of things for dinner when, my eye caught something that made me stop and linger. This is a hard thing to compel me do, so I went with it. These little glass pots of yogurt had the same effect on me as the dish ratatouille had on the food critic Anton Ego in the beloved movie of the same name and I hadn’t even tasted it….yet! 

oui 7

Even at a quick glance you can immediately see how it so different-looking from absolutely every other yogurt in a world that is now yogurt mad. The variety on the shelves today is mind-blowing…from the new craze of greek-style yogurt to yogurt that is touted to flatten your belly and keep you regular. Today it is so much harder to get people’s attention in a world where the choices for positively everything border on overwhelming. Why did this simple little thing do it for me?

oui 2

I could immediately see that this jar and the packaging was meant to transport me to the days where housewives made their own jams and jelly to use themselves and to sell or give away to neighbors. Their little glass pots would have handwritten labels that were cut with those zig-zag dressmaking scissors and glued onto the glass, all sealed with a round piece of colorful cloth held on with a sturdy rubber band. And here it was again before me, this quaint and comforting image that made me feel happy and homesick at the same time.

And I knew what was happening, and fully aware that the guys and gals in the marketing department had spent many hours getting the appearance of this yogurt to make me feel just that, but I didn’t care. I decided to fall for it and grabbed a couple of jars “just to try it” The price of this yogurt alone should have stopped me ($1.49: nearly twice the price of anything I usually buy) but those little pots with their old-world feel were too persuasive.

oui 4

I noticed it was made by Yoplait, a company that was started by six humble dairy farmers in France in 1965.  It is the only yogurt I remember growing up with in Ireland, so the Yoplait company had staying power.

So…was it good? I nearly wanted it to taste ordinary and run-of-the-mill just so I could say: while packaging is hugely important (hugely!), the actual product had to win me over if I was going to buy this again. But…it was sublime.

So why did it taste so dang good? I had to get the inside scoop? I learned that pretty much every other yogurt (including the yogurt made by yoplait), is made in large batches and poured into containers fully set and ready to eat. Oui yogurt is made more like how you and I would make it (but obviously on a huge scale), where  whole milk is added to yogurt culture, sugar, and fruit (if you choose). It is then poured into  little glass jars and there it sits to set for 8 hours before it is ready to eat. (And apparently glass also preserves the integrity of the favor better than any kind of plastic counterpart). This is why it tastes homemade and as you know, homemade is always a very good thing.

oui 3

Oui yogurt does not have the “tang” that permeates the newly popular Greek yogurt. Instead, it subtly sweet with a creaminess that feels like the best ice cream in the world. My favorite flavor so far is the tart cherry. I am one of those people who needs a little something sweet after dinner and it completely satisfies my craving. And there is something so wonderful about eating out of that sweet little glass jar wih its homemade label, (and yes, I am fully aware it is just a clever representation of a homemade, handwritten label, but I applaude the idea).

Some reviewers tout all the different ways the jar can be repurposed, but there are only so many pencil and Q-Tip holders you need, and, since there is no lid it cannot really be used to store condiments like my homemade pesto or leftover dressing etc. So if you become addicted to this lusciously creamy pot of heaven, make sure to recycle the glass!

oui 5

The last word is that this yogurt is worth trying as it satisfies all of the criteria to make a wonderful eating experience: it creates a mood that reminds you of simpler days with its pretty homespun packaging, and, it tastes like a sweet treat that you perfected and made using milk from your very own cow grazing out in the pasture. This is a very idyllic take on a yogurt made by what is now one of the biggest food companies in the world (General Mills and Sodiaal) but I have to give them credit for finding a clever strategy that won me over both body and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepping for Christmas October 11, 2017 The Other Not-So-Common-Ingredient for your Christmas Pudding Adventure: BEEF SUET

Atora Shredded Suet 200G

I am in the process of Doing the Work so that the Christmas holidays this year are extra special. It is so true that what you put into a thing is what you get out of it. I have most definitely found out that, hoping for something to happen is very different from, making something happen. I am in the making-things-happen mode of my life right now and one of the things on my list is that Christmas this year isn’t a disappointment. I have control over so much of what happens and food plays a major role. I have experienced all sorts of Christmases, and the ones that were the most fun and memorable were the ones where I worked hard in advance. Some say that happiness can be attained by achieving a goal, but also that the end result is not an isolated type of joyous accomplishment. The joy is elevated by all the things that made what you wanted possible. In other words, the laborious task of say making something like this Christmas Pudding, becomes part of the joy. So my looking on this as a pain-in-the-butt project (and it is a little) will only serve to making me hate the whole process. What’s the point in that? When I think about the joy factor that will come with it (me carrying it beef fat_000017219051_Small.jpglit to the table after our Christmas Dinner feast, and then getting to taste it), I can make this with a very happy heart. Oops, the cornball in me is rearing its ugly head, but no apologies for that whatsoever.

 So, one of the other things you will need, that you almost positively don’t have on hand (along with a Pudding Basin/Mold), is a packet of Beef Suet. Sounds awful right? It is that magical mystery ingredient that is used to make traditional pudding-based foods such as Yorkshire Pudding, soup dumplings, chicken pot pie crust, as well as this Christmas Pudding, moist and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It is an odd-looking and very solid slab of fat. It is unlike the fat from drippings (the fat collected from cooking something such as bacon and can be used to flavor dishes and fry with). Suet is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys and has a very high melting point. Because of its consistency and chemical make-up, it has so many uses  It is used in products from shaving soap, lubrication for engines, to leather conditioners, as well as making a dynamite shortening for this Christmas Pudding!

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Chocolate-based Christmas Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cram and Toffee Sauce

When you make your pudding, you will disperse little flakes of it through the batter (as you might use butter to make a flaky pastry). This is why it is best to grate it into the batter OR do what I do: buy it already made into little gravel-y bits that you simple mix into the batter.

You can probably find this in your supermarket (but like shopping for a Pudding Basin in person and not buying it via a website, asking where it might be/or if it is in stock, is 99% pointless. “Hello, can you tell me what aisle the beef suet is in please?”. See what I mean).

You can find Beef Suet on a short list of websites (I know Amazon carries it), but peruse your supermarket next time you are there just in case.

Turkey 1

Turkey: another labor of love at Christmas

So get your pudding basin and beef suet and we can get on with the task of making happiness happen!

 

 

 

Christmas Dinner prep October 10, 2017. What is a Pudding Basin and Where can I get One?

 

Well, if you live in Ireland, England, Australia, India even, or wherever the English have influenced culture, you probably do not need me to tell you what a Christmas pudding basin is. However, the majority of the United States (where I live now) is pretty much clueless, and that’s not me being mean. It is the cooking pot used to make a dessert made once a year, (literally).  Beyond that, unless you are some pudding-making addict, this object sits in the nether regions of your cupboard until around this time of year (I usually have to hunt for it because I never remember where I stash it).

chocolate toffee pudding

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter (Hard Sauce), and Fresh Cream

This is a pudding my mother made each and every year when I grew up and it was always a bit of a mystery to me. I never helped her make it. The kitchen was not very big and with six children ( yes, six!) underfoot my mother didn’t have the time or the patience to squeeze in cooking lessons on top of everything else she had to do. But I watched my mother cook for years and when she did let me cook (and it was pretty often after the ripe old age of seven), I had full reign of the kitchen. It was all or nothing: I suppose she rightly figured that two was too many cooks at one time, so she would plant me in our tiny kitchen and walk away.

I would try my hand at anything, and everything I made was my attempt at trying to make things that were staple meals my mother made or I would find a recipe somewhere and follow it to the letter. At that time there was no such thing as computers and I don’t think my mother even owned a cookbook, so I used to find recipes in my mother’s weekly magazine (I think it was called Woman’s Own?) and later I used my Home Economics school book as another source of inspiration and instruction (and in those days only girls were taught that subject, the dark ages indeed)

batter for christmas pudding

Mixing Pudding Batter

But I never got the pudding recipe. This time of the year would roll around and I would see my mother mixing flour with spices and various dried fruits, and there was that sweet smell of cinnamon, mixed with ground cloves and other mysterious sweet things that wafted through the whole house when this laden pudding cooked for hours on the stove. The only hand I had in it was every couple of weeks she would give me a bottle of sherry and I had to pour a little of it over each pudding (since she went to the trouble of making one, she decided it was just as practical to make 3 or 4!) to “cure it”. I didn’t even know what that meant…what was wrong with it that it needed curing?

I wasn’t really in love with Christmas Pudding when I was young. It was thought of as a grown-up dessert. I hated the candied mixed-peel fruit that my mother used in the batter, and the addition of sherry made me winch. No child likes the taste of alcohol and so as far as I was concerned, the sherry was the nail in the coffin. I never bothered to ask how it was made as I never though I would ever want to make it. 

Trifle for  Crappy Kitchen Goes to Italy

Trifle was my favorite Christmas Dessert growing up (this is the version I make)

Well that turned our to be wrong, so a little word of advice here: ask as many questions as you can of your parents and relatives about everything and anything, because one day they will be gone, and like me, there will be moments when you say to yourself, “why didn’t I ask about that when I had all the opportunity in the world?”

Not that I wanted to make my pudding the same way as my mother. I still do not like sherry in desserts and store-bought candied mixed peel is still a tragic way for any fruit to end its life! Suffice is to say that I have been making Christmas pudding for several years now in the spirit of my mother but with my own sensibility.

I will talk about what this pudding consists of  later but first you will need to get yourself a pudding basin! This pudding is steamed and it needs to be in a tight-as-a-drum container and withstand four to five hours of low bubbling in a pot of water, that constantly needs to be topped up. It’s a simple thing but kind of hard to find if you decide to trek around town looking for it. And forget about asking for help as no one will know what you are talking about. 

You are looking for something like this (above is a metal basin. I have this kind and it lasts forever). This one is from Fox Run Craftsmen: Pudding basin/mold

https://i2.wp.com/www.jarrold.co.uk/userdata/root/images/products/kitchen-craft/17/142/kc-basin-1pt570ml-1.jpg

Or like this. This is a Plastic Pudding Basin and is just as effective.

If you want to make this completely amazing and different Christmas dessert, this is the first step The other thing you will need and is not a common ingredient anymore), is SUET, and I will talk about that next. When you are schooled in these two not-so-common things, we can make our pudding together.

*AND I RECOMMEND A 3 PINT PUDDING BASIN*

 

 

 

 

 

Let Me Focus on Something Else: Christmas Pudding. Please Please Make One with Me!

I was driving home the other day with my daughter when she started to sing Jingle Bells out loud! “Oh my God”, I said, “please not Christmas songs already!” She said she knew it was a little ridiculous but that the song just popped into her head. She loves Christmas for all the reasons one should (okay, I know it is a religious holiday too, but am not focusing on that right now) : Family, Food, Wintry Weather and a mountain of Presents under our over-decorated garish Christmas tree. 

Christmas tree 2014

Jingle All The Way

We have had a bit of a tough year and it seemed like if I focused on this lovely final event of the calendar year, it could be a time when everything is put to rights. I think my daughter was thinking the same thing when she said right after her belting out Jingle Bells, “I want this to be a good Christmas”. I think we both simultaneously decided to pin our hopes on a time in the year that has always been magical for us all, and we could use all of that good stuff to propel us into a great 2018, or something like that…

Baby Back Ribs For Tom's Christmas Party

Evidence of Santa’s existence

For that to happen, something else would need to happen! There is a line that I have always loved and quoted (half-joking, half in earnest to get my point across during one of those annoying motherly conversations when I’m trying to make my kids understand  that nothing in life is free, or is just handed to you) from the movie Julia and Julia where she, Julia Child, and her two partners are sitting together discussing how one of the partners is not pulling her weight but is still demanding equal share when the book they are writing is published. Julia and Simone Beck, (one of the partners), are politely trying to tell Louisette Bertholle, (the other partner), that she is not doing enough to merit a third of the share of the profits. But, as Julia is talking, and being way too politic about it, Simone Beck gets exasperated and cuts through all the bull and yells in a very polite but firm tone, “YOU DON’T DO THE WORK!” Well , that ended that conversation and everyone was crystal clear.

christmas crackers

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

So…If I didn’t feel motivated to write about anything all year, focusing on something that my daughter wanted badly, A Good Christmas, was motivation enough for me to “DO THE WORK!”

And this is the perfect time to make that very traditional dessert that you absolutely love or you absolutely abhor: Christmas Pudding. I will use food, as I have done so often, to inspire me to plan, make, and write my way to Christmas Dinner, December 25th, 2017. Stay tuned for Pudding recipe (now I need to go out to buy ingredients that I certainly never have on hand!)

getting the christmas tree

Time to Work