That smells so good!

It can be hard coming up with new recipes all the time.  I’ve been working a few extra p/t jobs since my husband is still out of work and it seems like we get in a rut of the same ol’ same ol’ rotation of foods.  But with summer trying to spring upon us (if the damn rain would just hold up for a while) new foods (and some summer-time favorites) are getting into our weekly menus.  

At the supermarket the other day I saw a special on shoulder lamb chops from Down Under (NZ/Australia) and scooped up a few packs.  I thought it would be nice to put a dry rub on them instead of just grilling/cooking them with just salt and pepper.  


sprinkle spice mixture on lamb

Since it was pouring out we cooked them inside.  My suggested rub was fabulous and the house smelled so good while they were cooking (I’m not a big fan of cooking-lamb smell)!  You could imagine yourself in some Middle Eastern or Northern African bazaar.  

Lamb with Aromatic Spices
In a small bowl mix together these ground spices:

2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp turmeric
½ Tbsp coriander
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cayenne
½  tsp sumac
1 tsp salt

I used ½ inch thick shoulder lamb chops. 

Preheat oven to 350°F or get outdoor grill started. Sprinkle spice mixture on lamb, let sit for a few seconds before rubbing in/around.  You don’t need to use up all the spices, just lightly coat. (Using gloves help prevent staining, eases cleanup) Let sit for 10 minutes.
For oven method:  in a hot iron skillet (on medium-high) place a tsp neutral oil and sear the meat until brown then place in oven to finish.  Cook approximately 15 minutes (depending on thickness).  For grill: place on indirect heat (so that spices don’t burn) for 8-10 minutes each side. 

Sear in iron skillet

Sear in iron skillet

finish lamb in oven

finish lamb in oven

My husband and I came up with a delicious sauce too– plain yogurt with fresh chopped mint, sriracha and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. We served them with boiled new potatoes, corn off the cob, haricot vert and broccoli.  All the boys love each of those vegetables, but I wasn’t sure about the lamb.    I thought it might be too spicy for my youngest two so we left two small chops naked. 

It was a good call.   Everyone enjoyed it all and there were no tears or cries of “too spicy”.  And now I’ve got a new item to add to our rotation.

Lamb perfect in taste and texture

My husband and I are embracing sous vide cooking.  Recently he prepared a leg of lamb —dividing it into more reasonable portions for a family of five, marinating it with rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil, vacuum sealing each portion and freezing two that we would eat at a later date.  He could have done each lamb portion with different marinades, but kept with his favorite, classic choice. The remaining portion he cooked in a water bath with an immersion circulator (which was a wonderful gift from my generous brother).

I absolutely love the way lamb is cooked a la sous vide. I don’t think I’ve had a more perfectly cooked leg of lamb. I usually like my lamb on the medium side of done rather than medium rare or rare like I like beef.  This method cooks the meat the same temperature all the way through– not more well done on edges and more rare in the center. 

It might not look it from this photo, but the lamb is medium.  
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Lamb/Marmite: Kids can eat this

“I don’t like lamb!” is how my middle son reacted to the news that we were having lamb for dinner.  It was a locally-raised, grass-fed lamb that we got through our CSA.  And for me it was the best part— the leg.  We roasted it in the oven for several hours at 250ºF until it was 135ºF internally and my husband made a delicious rosemary and red wine sauce. (Reduce red wine, veal stock then add garlic and rosemary until slightly thick. Pour into pan to get drippings too.)

Think we need to rotate it during cooking for more even color.

So, I knew it would be delicious but I didn’t know why my son announced this (or I should probably more correctly describe as “whined it”!) seemingly out of the blue.  We eat lamb fairly often, at least often enough for my kids to eat it without thought/complaint.  It seemed bizarre to us that he’d have an aversion to it suddenly.  I know many meat-eating adults who don’t eat lamb, mostly because they didn’t have it when growing up and it’s got a stronger flavor than beef.

If you notice what foods you will eat as an adult often have a root in what you were given as a child.  In the U.S. there aren’t many people I know that eat Marmite or Vegemite, but in NZ, England and Australia kids are brought up on it — on toast, in sandwiches, added to gravies, etc.  Having a kiwi mum I grew up on English Marmite here in Connecticut. My mother would scour the stores for the sticky, salty, strong malt extract from England.  At 16 I went to NZ for the first time to live with Mum’s friends and go to her old school.  I quickly switched to the NZ version (less sticky, less pungent and slightly sweeter) and also enjoyed Vegemite.  I bring it back whenever I’m in NZ or ask friends to bring me a jar when they visit.  And now, due to the earthquake last year, NZ’s Marmite is running out and there is a “Marmageddon” declared.  Anyway, my kids too like Marmite on toast.  It’s what they’ve been brought up on. If you introduce something when the kids are young enough, I believe they develop tastes for things that others, who haven’t grown up with it/them might think odd. 


Back to my son with the lamb… he cried when it was served.  We didn’t make a stink about it, it was on his plate and we just reminded him how tasty it was; eventually he tried it.  And he said, “Oh, I do like lamb!” and proceeded to eat all of his portion and then ask for seconds. 

 Middle son putting on more sauce

So, stay calm and give them lamb… or Marmite… or those pesky vegetables. 

Fred Flintstone at 5

We recently got our lamb and beef “shares” from our CSA/Shared Harvest.  The other day I mentioned the lamb burger my middle son initially whined about.  Today we had shoulder lamb chops.  My husband had made a marinade last night for them— olive oil, rosemary (from a friend’s garden), garlic, salt and pepper.  Simple, but oh such a wonderful combination of flavors that complement the lamb so well.  He grilled them over whole wood charcoal and served them with couscous and haricot verte (thin green beans). 

My middle son had said earlier that evening, after asking what was for dinner, that he didn’t like lamb because it was chewy, but I reminded him of the burgers and he instead helped my husband grill the meat and was very keen to try it.  My eldest also helped in the preparation of the dinner, plus he’s usually very good with most foods.  But the most surprising thing around dinner tonight was my youngest.  Not only was he wanting the lamb, he wanted my lamb. 

If you notice the kids usually have colored plates (blue, green) and adults have white, but tonight my son wanted the bigger piece of lamb. (Last night it was the plate with the largest portion of green beans.)One that hadn’t yet been cut.  So, I took what was meant to be his plate.  He was just so eager to eat the grilled chop that he didn’t want an already cut-up piece, he wanted the Fred Flinstone portion. Which also meant he had more couscous, which my eldest kept trying to steal.  

It was so funny and also so nice that they all loved everything on their plates with no whining in earshot!

This isn’t a hamburger!

Well, it happened again… my middle son ended up in tears when he found out was for dinner.  After we’d spent most of the late afternoon scouting out the best tree from the tree farm and cutting it down, we were just up for a quick meal.  We were having a hodgepodge of some leftovers—ratatouille and beef bourguignon that a caterer had made for a party I’d organized the night before.  My husband also made lamb burgers from the lamb delivery we’d recently gotten from the farm at which I “belong” to the CSA program. The lamb (and also beef) came frozen and it was wrapped in old fashioned butcher’s paper in different cuts— ground, chops, leg etc.  I’d defrosted the ground lamb originally to make meatballs, but didn’t get around to it.

So we knew my son wasn’t going to want to eat the ratatouille even though it’s full of vegetables he likes, but because they’re all mixed together. He was told he didn’t have to have any, but that wasn’t the only thing he was whining about— but the burgers.  My kids love lamb (and I know plenty of people who don’t like it) and I was rather surprised at his reaction.  He said it was because he “only likes hamburgers and cheeseburgers not lamb burgers!”  Ah. Well, my husband, who’d cooked them, easily coaxed him into trying just a taste.  From there it was hard to get him to stop! 

He not only liked it, he was eating it so quickly— it was still so hot he could barely eat it, but that didn’t put him off from blowing on it and getting it into his mouth pronto!  We served broccoli as our green vegetable (knew there wouldn’t be any complaints about that) and I hadn’t pushed the ratatouille.  I figure getting him to eat one thing he thinks he wouldn’t like is enough for one meal.  The other boys both loved the beef stew and my youngest son convinced my eldest to give him his lamb burger (they were mini burgers) because he too loved it. Next time I’m going to spice it up a bit by sautéing some onions and cumin and adding it to the meat.   Love lamb and cumin together.

I guess like many of my past posts I’m trying to share the same message.  You may be surprised that your child will actually eat something especially after they may have had a meltdown over it. It’s often my middle son who complains the most about any food (that’s mostly his personality) but he’s also a great eater who actually has a varied diet.  If it’s not just offered but actually given they often come around.


Spoiled by a real chef

My husband, the chef, was home from work for 4 days in a row, a much deserved and overdue break.  During that time he spoiled us with wonderful meals that I’m not as likely to make— only in that they include the wonderful sauces derived from his demiglace.  Demiglace that he makes from scratch (roasted veal bones & roasted veggies made into stock with aromatic herbs) that I don’t have the time or impetus to make myself.

One night for dinner he made a veal saltimboca. (I never buy veal, although we may be getting some this year with our “meat share” of our CSA.) Veal medalions pan seared then topped with sliced prosciutto & sage sauce. 

The kids loved it although my youngest didn’t like the look of the veal at first and it took a bit of coaxing to convince him to just try one little bite.  I don’t push them to finish something they don’t like but I do usually try to get them to at least taste something new.  If it gets too difficult, then I will drop it.  I don’t want to force them and know that they’ll be more willing to try if they see us all enjoying it instead of fighting it off.  And at least he loved his vegetables: broccoli, swiss chard, and peas.

The other wonderful meal that my husband made was a roast leg of lamb. Now, I can make a great lamb roast but my chef showed me a new way of doing it that resulted in a wonderfully tender and evenly roasted meat.  The lamb was a boneless leg from New Zealand that I purchased at Trader Joe’s (it’s not lamb season in NZ now) and I know NZ lamb is grass-fed and have such a great delicate flavor.

He put the seasoned (salt and pepper) leg into the oven at 200ºF oven for an hour then raised the temperature to 225°F for another 2½-3 hours until the internal temperature of the lamb was 140ºF.  And then let it sit for another 30 minutes outside the oven. It was very tender by roasting it at a lower temp for a longer time. It retained the moisture and reduced shrinking (a similar method he uses to make a prime rib roast).  To the pan he then added juices shallots, garlic, rosemary, demiglace and red wine then brought it to a boil and scraped any bits off the bottom.  Then he transferred the sauce to a sauté pan and reduced it until it was much more concentrated. 

Both the lamb and the sauce were delicious!  The boys loved it all.  The eldest two had extra sauce on their mashed potatoes once they tried it on the lamb.   We had zucchini and spinach to round it off.

So glad to have had such high caliber dinners this week.  I love that my kids are mostly open to eating all types of foods too.  I think by putting the food in front of them and giving them the opportunity to actually try it— they do.  Especially if you eat with them.

Curry Love

I guess I’ve been on a curry sort of kick.  I love curries.  In my early twenties I worked for a few months in an Indian restaurant in Wellington, NZ.  Every Friday night, a night off, my friend and I would go out to dinner.  I always wanted to eat curries.  I guess it was being around them the rest of the week, smelling them, seeing them but often not tasting them that intensified my desire.  Living in Wellington, the capital of NZ, allowed me to try curries from all over, not just India.  I’d have Thai, Cambodian, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese curries. Growing up on the East Coast of the US I didn’t even know there were other curries besides Indian or Thai until I lived in Wellington.   I love the spices that are in Asian curries and thanks to the Silk Road also in many North African and Middle Eastern dishes. 

I am passing on this love of curries to my kids.  They might not be eating Vindaloo yet, but if I keep the heat down, they really like it. 

I didn’t use a recipe for this lamb curry I made the other night, I figured out the ratios since I’d been using so many similar spices in other dishes.   My mother came over for dinner and she also loves curries and lamb (she’s a Kiwi by birth), so it was a win-win all round! 

Lamb and Chickpea Curry

  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala (Punjabi)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust for heat)
  • 1 pound lamb shoulder or other stew cut, boned, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes or skinned
  • 10 small or 4 large potatoes, cubed (I used many tiny just harvested potatoes)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Sauté onions then garlic in olive oil over med-high heat.  Add spices and stir for a couple of minutes.  Make a well in middle and add lamb. (I also threw in the bones that I couldn’t get all the meat off, as it eventually fell off in cooking.) Turn so all sides are browned and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock, stir couple of times, cover cook for 20 minutes.  Add potatoes, chickpeas, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Serve over basmati or jasmine rice.  You could put lentils instead of chickpeas and add a green veggie— spinach would be nice. 


We all loved it.  Even my middle son.  And believe it or not, he didn’t even complain when I put it on the table!  My youngest wanted more meat, so I kept giving him some of mine.

It’s a great dish for ease of clean up since there’s only one pan and maybe another for rice.

From here or over there

A good friend and neighbor got some local lamb and is now proud to be called a “locavore”.  I am so excited for her; I am always touting the benefits of buying local — environmental, health, supporting local economy.   Anytime you have the opportunity, grab it!

I do realize it can be tough for some people due to location and what’s available.  It made me remember some articles I read from Otago University Magazine and the New York Times about NZ lamb and it’s carbon footprint or foodmiles.  So if you can’t buy any local grass fed lamb, don’t fret, get some NZ lamb.  Same goes with NZ beef, if you can get it in the Northern Hemisphere.  With NZ and Australian (I’m pretty sure they also grass feed their sheep/lamb) lamb available in places like Trader Joe’s and Costco, you too can have grass fed, low carbon footprint, delicious lamb. 

A friend in NZ, where it is winter right now, commented on my seasonal slant of my blog.  The following lamb rack recipe is for any season, but you probably don’t want the oven on in swelteringly hot summer days.

Rack of Lamb

Preheat oven to 400F.  Trim excess fat off bone, leaving some.  Get a pan really hot with a tsp of oil.  With tongs hold the rack (careful not to burn yourself) and sear the outside of the meat on all sides that you can.  You’re not really cooking it, just searing the outside to seal in juices, it should still be cold on inside.  Put in fridge. 

Make breadcrumbs. In Cuisinart blend:

·         approximately 2 cups of bread

·         Tbsp fresh parsley

·         salt and pepper to taste 

·         optional—clove Garlic, Tbsp fresh rosemary and/or parmesan

Chop/mix together and add olive oil through top until consistency is moist enough to hold together when you press them with your fingers. 

Take rack out of refrigerator and spread sides with dijon mustard— enough to that breadcrumbs have something to stick to.  Press crumbs onto rack top and sides.  Cook at 400F for 25 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 125F for med-rare.  Take out and let rest while you finish vegetables, etc.  Cut in between bones.  And scoop any fallen breadcrumbs onto plate- they’re crisp and yummy!

My kids love grabbing the bones and eating them like you would drumsticks. 

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