Lamb Koftas

Lamb Koftas

So I’ve been a little obsessed with Lebanese food for a while now, particularly lamb koftas. I always thought they were complicated to make but then I saw Gordon Ramsey making it on his Ultimate Home Cooking show and he made it look so darn easy.  Like WAY easy.  So I gave it a go.  And you know what, it WAS that easy.  That dude was telling the truth.  I actually love that tamer version of Gordon Ramsey – where he’s making like normal-ish food at home and not swearing/freaking out all the time.  I spend many a weekend morning learning a thing or two from his show.

I ‘ve been twerking tweaking this recipe on and off for the last half a year, adding a pinch of this and that to get it just so.  I actually didn’t change too much except try to make them as efficiently as possible, which involves my trusty food processor.  Just add the onions, mint, parsley, garlic and chili flakes to the processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Then you add the mixture to the meat with a few more spices and mix.

I used a cast iron skillet to grill these but I’m sure they’d be great in a frying pan or on the BBQ.  These little guys are small and cute and grill up super fast – ready in about 6 minutes cooking time.  I enjoy koftas at home with some hummus-y sauce – which is just hummus that I thinned out with some fresh lemon juice.  This is the easiest, fastest ‘sauce’ ever and goes great with lamb kofta.  A simple salad and/or some rice on the side and dinner is ready.   Fresh, fast, simple – ultimate home cooking indeed.

Lamb Kofta

I always thought they were complicated to make but then I saw Gordon Ramsey making it on his Ultimate Home Cooking show and he made it look so darn easy.  Like WAY easy.  So I gave it a go.  And you know what, it WAS that easy.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, mint, nut-free, soy-free
Servings: 4
Author: ness

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

  • Food Processor

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chilli flakes (optional)
  • 500 grams ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper
  • Sesame seeds and sumac for garnish (optional)
  • Canola or vegetable oil

Hummus 'Sauce'

  • 1/4 cup store-bought hummus
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Add onion, garlic, mint, parsley and chilli flakes to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add lamb to a large mixing bowl and add onion mixture, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper. Gently mix with a wooden spoon or by hand until combined.
  • Form meat into small golfball sized balls and flatten slightly into hockey puck shape. Place on an oiled plate or platter and brush a teaspoon of oil across the tops of the kofta. Place in fridge for 10 minutes or more to allow the lamb to firm up which helps hold it's shape during grilling.
  • Prepare hummus sauce. Combine hummus and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir until consistency is a bit runny - add more lemon juice if needed. Set aside.
  • Heat a large heavy bottomed frying pan or skillet on medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan. Place the kofta onto the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning half way to brown both sides. Remove from heat and garnish with sesame seeds and sumac. Serve with fresh lemons wedges and hummus sauce.
Recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsey.

Mexican Lamb Adobo

Mexican Lamb Adobo

Most of my recipes are fast, accessible, and light.  But every once in awhile, I like to enjoy a deeply rich meaty stick-to-your-ribs caveman type of meal.  The kind of meal that has you leaning back in your chair in a satisfied adobo sauce-induced stupor.

ancho guajillo pasilla

I used to live in the mecca for Mexican food in Scottsdale Arizona.  And instead of learning to cook great Mexican food, I went to great Mexican restaurants.  A lot.  Like all of them.  There wasn’t a nacho in sight that didn’t get eaten.  And in my non-stop eat-fest, I gained a true appreciation of how awesome and diverse Mexican food can be.

On a memorable visit to Sedona, D and I stopped in at one of my favourite Mexican restaurants, Elote Cafe, and after a three-hour wait and many margaritas later, we got to enjoy lamb adobo for the first time.  My mind was blown.  Meat so tender that it was falling off the bone, drenched in a sauce with a complex meld of flavours, a little smoky, sweet, sour, salty, perfect for being sopped up with corn tortillas.  Is your mouth watering yet?

Quickie about Sedona: Aside from Elote Cafe, Sedona is known for having 4 vortexes, these energy sources. Read more about it here.

adobo seasoningslamb shanks

After returning to Toronto and wanting to recreate some of those authentic Mexican meals, I wanted to make that lamb adobo from the Elote Cafe cookbook (the best Mexican cookbook bar none).  That’s when I realized I needed an education in chiles.

The recipe calls for three types: ancho, guajillo, and pasilla.  So off I went to my local market to the Latin specialty shop looking for fresh peppers, only to discover that the chiles I needed were actually dried.  The kind shop owners were eager to help me find my chiles, even writing down the names of the peppers on the little plastic bags so I’d be able to figure out which was which when I got home.

lamb with sauce part 1lamb in adobo part 2

If you live in Canada, you probably won’t find these chiles in your local grocery store.  I found this online store that ships all the chiles and spices needed for this recipe.  Once you hunt down the necessary ingredients, the process for making this braised dish is actually very simple.  Boil sauce ingredients and blend.  Brown the meat (the most important step), then add the sauce, cover and bake in a dutch oven for 2.5 to 3 hours.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and radishes, and enjoy with rice or corn tortillas, picked onions and a fresh salad.

I considered adjusting the recipe, to substitute more easily accessible ingredients for the chiles, but I decided to keep the recipe as legit as possible and keep my adaptations to a minimum.  Sure you can swap out the dried chiles for chile powders, or swap out the lamb for your favourite cut of meat, but I figure that will happen anyway.  Recipes always have a way of morphing and evolving in different kitchens.  I love how friends and readers who try my recipes add little tweaks here and there to suit their taste buds – your comments are great so please keep them coming.

PS – That is our friend Donkey, a mini pinata that we like to put out on our table whenever we enjoy Mexican food.  He’s totally kitschy and silly but he makes everyone smile.   Well, him and the lamb adobo.

plated lamb adobo close up

Mexican Lamb Adobo

Most of my recipes are fast, accessible, and light. But every once in awhile, I like to enjoy a deeply rich meaty stick-to-your-ribs caveman type of meal. The kind of meal that has you leaning back in your chair in a satisfied adobo sauce-induced stupor.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-Mex
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: egg-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, nut-free, soy-free, spicy, tacos, tortilla
Servings: 4
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Lamb shanks (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Adobo Sauce:
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 3 dried ancho chiles (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • 2 guajillo chiles (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • 1 pasilla negro chile (rinsed, stems and seeds removed)
  • one 3" stick of cinnamon
  • 2 teasspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • Garnishes
  • Radishes and fresh cilantro
  • Pickled Onions
  • 1 cup red onions (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place a medium sauce pan on medium high heat. Add garlic and toast until browned. Add remaining adobo sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, when chiles are softened. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick and set aside. Cool slightly and puree until smooth.
  • Combine all pickled onion ingredients together and set aside until lamb is ready, about 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large dutch oven on medium high heat, add canola oil. Add lamb shanks and brown all over, about 10 minutes. Be patient as this is the most important step. When they are well-browned, add adobo sauce and reserved bay leaves and cinnamon. Cover and bake for 2.5 to 3 hours (depending on the size of your shanks), turning the shanks after 1 hour. The shanks are done when the meat is falling off the bone and fork tender. Skim some of the excess cooking fat from the surface of the gravy with a spoon before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro, radishes, and pickled onions and serve with rice and/or corn tortillas.
Recipe adapted from Elote Cafe Cookbook
Aloo Chap (Spiced Meat and Potato Cakes)

Aloo Chap (Spiced Meat and Potato Cakes)

Home cooking is a concept that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last couple of months since my last post back in May.  Since then, I moved from Scottsdale, Arizona back to my hometown of Toronto and in that time, l have lived in 5 hotels, my parents’ house, my inlaws house (AND gone to 5 weddings) before moving into our own loft downtown.  And back in Scottsdale, we were in a temporary furnished rental for 3 months with our things in storage.  So it’s been a long LONG time since I’ve seen a good deal of my stuff.  And with this transient lifestyle, I’ve eaten at so many restaurants out of necessity that home cooking is something I’ve truly been craving.

aloo chap ingredients on board

It’s taken a while for me to get back into the swing of cooking at home.  Time to find new grocery stores, find enough surface area to work on in our open concept kitchen, and find places to store all the stuff we unpacked.  Finally, I feel like I’m there – home.  And ready to get my home-cooking on.  And for me, that means aloo chap – an Indian-Chinese word we use for potato cakes stuffed with spiced ground meat.  It’s one of my family’s specialties.

mashed potato aloo chap
aloo chap meat in potato
aloo chap meat + potato

Aloo is the Hindi word for potato – I thought it was a Chinese word until I was in my 20s.  My first memory of eating aloo chap is going to one of my aunt’s houses a kid, my aunties working away to make a zillion aloo chaps assembly line style, and all of us cousins smothering the little potato rounds in ketchup before stuffing our faces.  My aunts made two kinds – spicy for the grown ups and non-spicy for us kiddies.  I think they must have used entire sacs of potatoes and half a cow to make enough aloo chaps to satisfy our entire family, and to have enough for leftovers to send home with everyone.

prepped aloo chap

Now that I make them at home, I use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, and gluten free breadcrumbs.  Also, I pan fry them instead of deep frying for both health and cleanup laziness reasons.  I know my adaptations are A-OK since I made these for my parents and they said they were just as yum as the ones my aunt’s make.  This is a MAJOR compliment since these aunties are awesome cooks renowned for their massive spreads of all sorts of insanely delicious eats at our family functions.  And now that I’m back in TO, I can enjoy this regularly.  So happy to be home.

aloo chap in frying pan

 

Kids bbq

This is some of the cousins at a party sometime in the 80s. I'm absent in this picture... just like I was absent in many pix when I was in AZ. See how sad everyone is??? Except smiley Kim.

Aloo Chap (Spiced Potato Cakes)

Now that I make them at home, I use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, and gluten free breadcrumbs. Also, I pan fry them instead of deep frying for both health and cleanup laziness reasons. I know my adaptations are A-OK since I made these for my parents and they said they were just as yum as the ones my aunt's make. This is a MAJOR compliment since these aunties are awesome cooks renowned for their massive spreads of all sorts of insanely delicious eats at our family functions. And now that I'm back in TO, I can enjoy this regularly. So happy to be home.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, nut-free, potato, soy-free, spicy, yeast-free
Servings: 4
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

  • 5-6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes (peeled)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (plus more for frying)
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (finely minced)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger (finely minced)
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder or 1 finely diced chili pepper (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lb ground turkey (chicken, or lamb)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup gluten free bread crumbs

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a medium pot, boil potatoes for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, mash, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat in a wok or frying pan. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, chili/pepper, cilantro and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.
  • Add ground meat and peas and continue cooking until meat is fully cooked and quite dry. Add salt and lemon juice.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine mashed potatoes and meat mixture and stir until fully blended. Spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into your hand and shape into a round patty. Gently roll patty in breadcrumbs until coated and set aside on baking sheet until ready to cook. Repeat until all the potato mixture is used.
  • In a medium frying pan add about 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat. Add a few patties at a time and cook on each side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gently flip and cook the other side until golden brown. Continue until all the patties are done.
  • Serve hot with ketchup. For extra heat, add Tobasco or Mexican style hot sauce to the ketchup.
  • PS - you can also make these smaller and serve them as appetizers.
Viet-Lamb Vermicelli Salad (Bun)

Viet-Lamb Vermicelli Salad (Bun)

I still remember my first time trying bun. Not ‘bun’ like ‘hamburger bun’ or ‘buns of steel’ but ‘bun’ the Vietnamese dish made of vermicelli rice noodles, veggies, fresh herbs, and meat.  I remember swooning over the fresh ingredients, tasty chicken, and tangy/salty/sweet sauce.  It was a work trip to Edmonton, where my doppelganger cousin Mel and her Vietnamese hubby Paul had me over for dinner.  Always thoughtful, Paul and Mel knew I was craving some healthy home cooking – and ‘bun’ it was.  Paul’s a great cook from a family of great cooks (good going Mel) – I’ve tried bun in restaurants but it’s never as good as the homemade version.

veggies on board for bun

I’m no expert on Vietnamese food, but I do know this – it’s delicious and flavourful.  Vietnamese food is most commonly associated with pho – a clear beef broth with rice noodles, various cuts of beef or meat, and fresh herbs. Comforting and filling, yet light at the same time, these soupy noodles are normally served in pretty generous portions and are fairly inexpensive (I don’t do beef, so I get the seafood version instead).  At home, I find it easier to whip up bun over making pho stock.  My version is a slight twist on tradition though – I use a Vietnamese flavoured marinade on lamb steak instead of the usual chicken/pork/seafood.

vietlamb marinade ingredients

vietlamb marinade part 1
vietlamb marinade part 2

I marinated the lamb in a variation of a Vietnamese lamb rib recipe from a recent issue of Fine Cooking.  I modified the ingredients so they more intensely flavour the meat, and swapped for a lamb steak. The marinade can be whipped up in no time, especially if you have a mini chopper, and would also be great on chicken, steak, or pork.  And of course, you can always adjust the spice factor with the chili sauce.

vietlamb marinade part 1
Slicing lettuce shreds

 In restaurants, bun is normally served with a few shreds of lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, and fresh herbs.  I like to up the veggie factor and make it more of a salad.  When slicing the carrots and cucumber into matchsticks, first cut into thin slices on the diagonal. Then stack a few slices and cut into matchsticks. PS – They had purple carrots at the farmers market.  So rad.

three squeezed limes

The guac nom sauce is crucial for adding flavour – it’s a perfectly balanced blend of tart (lime), sweet (sugar), salt (fish sauce), and spice (garlic/chili).  You just pour it over the veggies, noodles, and meat and dig in.

guac nom w jalapenos

In terms of plating, I squished everything into a bowl here but the bowls were a bit too small.  Now when I make this dish, I prefer using a plate which means no pre-cutting the steak. Any way you slice or serve it, this version of bun is healthy, delicious and perfect for hot summer days. (PS – I don’t claim that this is authentic Vietnamese, just yummy).

vermicelli in bowl for bun
bun with veggies for bun

VIET-LAMB VERMICELLI SALAD (BUN)

I modified the ingredients so they more intensely flavour the meat, and swapped for a lamb steak. The marinade can be whipped up in no time, especially if you have a mini chopper, and would also be great on chicken, steak, or pork. And of course, you can always adjust the spice factor with the chili sauce.
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, noodles, nut-free, pasta, rice & grains, sauces & dips, spicy
Servings: 2
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

Lamb

  • 1/3 cup shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp GF soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil (plus more for cooking)
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chili sauce or Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 lamb steaks (about 3/4" thick)

Guac Nom Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp chili (optional)

Bun

  • 2 cups cooked vermicelli noodles (prepare according to package instructions)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (cut into matchsticks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup radish (thinly sliced)
  • 2 sprigs green onion (finely sliced)
  • 1/4 coriander leaves
  • 2 Tbsp mint leaves
  • Chili sauce or sriracha sauce (optional)
  • Hoisin sauce (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Lamb

  • To make marinade, puree all ingredients except lamb to create a paste. Add marinade and lamb to a container just big enough for the lamb or large zip top bag. Make sure lamb is fully coated with the marinade and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours up to overnight.
  • Remove lamb from fridge about 10 minutes before ready to cook. Add 2 teaspoons of canola oil to a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Remove excess marinade from the lamb and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest in the pan for 5 minutes until ready to serve.

Guac Nom Sauce

  • Combine all the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.

Bun

  • Place vermicelli in a bowl and arrange half the carrots, cucumber, radishes, and lettuce on top of the noodles. Add sliced lamb and garnish with green onion, coriander and mint. Serve with guac nom sauce - spoon over noodles, rice and vegetables.
Lamb Gremolata with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Lamb Gremolata with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Everyone needs that go-to entertaining recipe that will make their guests feel honoured, yet is easy to whip up.  Inlaws dropping in?  Hot date?  Hosting Easter dinner?  Don’t worry, try this lamb recipe and you’ll look like a star without breaking a sweat.  The mint, lemon, and parsley in the gremolata are the perfect flavours for a springtime supper.  Make this, and you’ll be able to entertain with ease.

gremolata ingredients close up

What’s a gremolata?  It’s a fancy word for a garnish made of parsley, lemon, and garlic.  I’ve added some fresh mint to the mixture – mint and lamb go together so nicely.  Throw in some gluten-free bread crumbs and you have a delicious breading for your lamb chops.  I use my trusty mini chopper to do the hard work for me.

ingredients in mini chopper gremolata
Bread in chopper gremolata

When zesting the lemon, make sure to only grate the yellow peel part and not the white part underneath – it’s bitter tasting.  I used day-old gluten-free bread and threw it in the chopper and blended until everything was combined.

gremolata in chopper breading

Cutting a rack of lamb is super easy – just use a large sharp knife and cut along the bone.  One rack feeds 2-3 people, depending on the size of the rack (usually 8 pieces) or how hungry your guests are.

raw rack of lamb on board
slicing lamb rack with knife

Once you have the lamb cut into individual chops, you just firmly press some of the breading into the meat on both sides of the chop.  You can totally do this ahead of time – allowing the meat to chill in the fridge with the breading actually helps the breading stick to the meat.

breaded lamb gremolata in dish

 

Mint Gremolata Lamb Chops (Gluten Free)

Everyone needs that go-to entertaining recipe that will make their guests feel honoured, yet is easy to whip up. Inlaws dropping in? Hot date? Hosting Easter dinner? Don't worry, try this lamb recipe and you'll look like a star without breaking a sweat. The mint, lemon, and parsley in the gremolata are the perfect flavours for a springtime supper. Make this, and you'll be able to entertain with ease.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: dairy-free, gluten-free, lamb, meat, mint, nut-free, potato, soy-free, vegetables
Servings: 2
Author: ness

INGREDIENTS

Lamb Chops

  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 slices day old gluten free bread
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rack of lamb

Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes (Dairy-Free)

  • 6 - 7 yukon gold potatoes (peeled)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion (yellow or spanish onion)
  • olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
  • 4 Tbsp soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chives (finely diced)

Minty Peas

  • Frozen peas
  • Vegan butter
  • Finely chopped mint
  • A splash of fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Lamb Chops

  • In a mini chopper or food processor, combine the first five ingredients and blend until finely chopped. Break up the day old bread and add to the chopper and blend. Add a pinch of salt and combine. Slice the rack into individual chops by holding onto the bone and cutting along the bone through the meat. Season the chops with salt and pepper. Press about 1 teaspoon of the topping into each side of the lamb chop - the breading should be firmly pressed in an even layer. Place in a dish and refrigerate for 1 hour up 4 hours.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add some 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and swirl around to coat the pan. Add the lamb chops to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Turn the lamb chops to cook the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving for medium-rare chops.

Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes (Dairy-Free)

  • In a pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add onions. Continue cooking for 10 minutes or until onions are golden brown but not burnt. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until easily pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes, reserving 1 cup of liquid, and return potatoes to the pot. Put butter and soy in a bowl and microwave until butter is melted. Pour mixture into potatoes and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add onions and chives and blend with an immersion blender for smooth texture or a masher for a chunkier mash. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and continue mashing until desired texture is reached. Potatoes should be moist but not wet. Garnish with store bought fried onions.

Minty Peas

  • Boil frozen peas in boiling salted water until cooked (follow package instructions). Drain and return to pan. Add some vegan butter, finely chopped mint, a splash of fresh lemon juice and salt to taste.

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