If I had to pick one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of my life it would be…
But if I had to pick three types of cuisine, then I’d settle on Mexican, French, and Indian. The amount of joy that I get from those types of dishes is beyond amazing. They’re like the trifecta of food in my opinion.
The other night it was my turn to make dinner and Indian food just felt right. Normally, when we make Indian food it tends to be an all day affair. We love making chana masala, butter chicken and garam masala, but those all take a while to make. But what about dal (some people spell it daal, dahl, or dhal – whatever you prefer)? Now that’s a winner – and it’s fast.
I’m partial to red lentils, so making masoor daal sounded just right. Masoor dal is made with red lentils, which I absolutely love. I didn’t have a recipe in mind, so a quick Google search lead me to this recipe. I made a few modifications, namely using coconut oil instead of veggie oil, fresh onion instead of dried onion, and adding pink Himalayan salt and some Meyer lemon juice. What resulted was a fast, delicious, and very easy to make Indian dish, ready to go in 20 minutes.
Now that’s my kind of meal.
Masoor Dal with Cumin Seed Oil
Adapted from allrecipes.com
1 cup red lentils
About 3 cups of water
1 piece of ginger, 1-x1/2-inch thick, peeled
1/4 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/2 Meyer Lemon
Cumin Seed Oil
4-5 teaspoons coconut oil
1/4 of an onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
In a medium size pot pour in the red lentils. Fill the pot with enough water so the lentils are covered with about 3/4 inch of water. Toss the ginger, turmeric, salt, and cayenne pepper in to the pot with the lentils. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes. Scrape off any froth. Squeeze the Meyer lemon juice in about 2 minutes before the lentils are done. If there is an excess of water, allow to cook uncovered to reduce.
While the lentils are cooking, put the coconut oil in a small sauce pan on low to medium heat. Finely dice the 1/4 onion and throw into the sauce pan along with the cumin seeds. Sauté for 5 minutes. Mix the Cumin Seed Oil in with the lentils while they cook.
To Serve: I served this on a sprouted brown rice and sprouted bean mix which was heavenly and topped with fresh cilantro. You can serve this on your favorite sprouted rice, quinoa, or it’s great as a stand alone or side dish to other Indian food.
Happy St. Patrick's Day from the bloggers at Stir It Up!
Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots is a traditional boiled Irish dinner.
Corned beef and cabbage slaw sliders on St. Patrick’s Day are quick enough to let you come home from the parade and have enough time to throw a party.
Lamb and root vegetables team up for a hearty, satisfying lamb stew.
Irish Colcannon is potatoes mashed with boiled kale or cabbage.
Boxty is a classic Irish dish to celebrate with on St. Patrick's Day.
Traditional Irish soda bread is made plain, without sugar or raisins.
Irish soda bread made American with a bit of sugar and currants.
Looking for a vegan Irish soda bread recipe? This one has no eggs, and is super easy and fast to make.
A green tea cake for a festive St. Patrick's Day
A perfect green ending note for St. Patrick's Day.
A fusion food twist on a St. Patrick's Day favorite for holiday leftovers.
I bet that right now, in your pantry and fridge, you have everything you need to make this pretty little cake. It’s a Green Tea Cake, but there are no powders or potions required – just a few tea bags! And bonus points for those of you looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a semi-classy way, because with just a few drops of food coloring, this tea-flavored cake becomes super-seasonal.
I used Zen green tea, which is infused with lemongrass and spearmint. The resulting cake was lightly minty-fresh-tasting and not too sweet. The frosting balanced it out nicely and added some necessary sweetness.
A lot of people seem to think that as a cake-blogger, things in the kitchen always go well for me. This is sooo far from the truth! One of the best things about baking is getting creative and experimenting … which inevitably results in some super-successes, but also some major baking-fails. This cake was almost a baking fail, but one that I managed to salvage into awesomeness.
Let me tell you how things went down: I envisioned a green tea layer cake, with a light and sweet marshmallow frosting, so I doubled the cake recipe to make two layers. Then I started on the frosting. It takes a long time to get the sugar to soft-ball temperature, so I waited and watched and waited and watched … until I kinda forgot to watch and it got too hot and started to caramelize! I poured it into the egg whites anyways, hoping it would work. It didn’t. What was supposed to be light and fluffy marshmallowy goodness turned into an off-white sticky mess. Bah. I tried to salvage it, but finally wrote it off as a total waste, and to my dismay had to dump it all and start over.
Round 2 of the frosting I decided to stick to simplicity and just make a vanilla glaze. Though the cake didn’t turn out as I had originally envisioned, it did turn out delicious.
Green Tea Cake with Vanilla Glaze (printable recipe)
For the Cake:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons green tea leaves (about 2 tea bags)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Green food coloring and green sprinkles (optional)
For the Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons as needed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 9-inch baking pan.
With an electric mixer, or by hand, cream together butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pinch of salt, and green tea. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is slightly coarse and sandy. This takes about 5 minutes.
Add in milk, egg, and vanilla extract. And beat until incorporated and the batter is smooth. Drop in food coloring until the batter reaches your desired green-ness (keep in mind that color tends to dull in baking, so if the batter looks a bit too bright you’re probably OK).
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool completely before frosting.
To make the glaze: Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until it reaches a glaze-ish consistency. Spread the frosting on top of the cake and decorate with sprinkles if you’re using them.
For a printable recipe, click here.
There was a pub I frequented when I was a graduate student in England. They did serve food, it wasn’t gourmet, it wasn’t even all that great, but they did have these potato cakes that I was very fond of. They were cheap and filling, which are two of the top criteria for any student’s good food list.
It was only many years later, when I concerned myself primarily in recipe reading and research, that I came across boxty, and realized it was the same dish I’d eaten those years ago. I’ve since searched them out at pubs that do specialize in good food, and found the principle was pretty much the same.
My research revealed that boxty (pronounced bach-shtee) is a classic Irish dish. A potato cake made with mashed and grated potatoes, often using leftover mash and that last potato in the drawer. I follow the traditional method I’ve read in recipes over the years, but I add the bite of green onions, as is traditional in Champ, the classic Irish mashed potato dish.
And, as usual, I prefer the tang of buttermilk. Boxty aren’t pretty, but they are tasty. The creamy mashed potatoes with the texture of the grated potatoes sets them apart from most other versions of potato cake. I honestly can’t remember how they were served at that pub, but I have since had them as part of a “full English (or Irish)” breakfast, with bacon, sausage, tomatoes and egg all fried in the same pan. I love them with a good pat of butter melting on top, but they make an excellent side dish, and would be brilliant with corned beef and cabbage or soaking up the gravy from a stew.
Boxty Irish Potato Cakes
Makes 12 – 16
2 pounds (3 to 4 large) baking potatoes
3 spring onions, white and light green part, chopped
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter
Heat the oven to 200 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Peel two of the potatoes and cut large pieces. Place the chunks in a large saucepan, salt generously, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook the potatoes uncovered until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, drop in the chopped green onions. When the potatoes are soft, strain them through a colander and return to the pan. Mash them with 1/4 cup of the buttermilk until they are smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
While the potatoes are cooling, peel and grate the remaining potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and place on a clean teal towel. Gather the towel into a ball and squeeze out as much moisture from the grated potatoes as possible.
Beat the remaining 1/2 cup of buttermilk and the egg together in the measuring jug. Fold the grated potatoes into the mashed potatoes and green onions. Fold in the buttermilk mixture, flour, and salt until incorporated. You should have a pretty stiff batter. You can add a bit more flour if needed.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Add enough butter to lightly coat the bottom when melted. Drop 3 mounds (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the pan and flatten each to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until the pancake bottoms are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Place on a baking sheet and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter.
You might call this a pre St. Patrick’s Day post, except here in Boston I’m a little bit late. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations start the weekend before March 17 because there just simply isn’t enough time to get in all the Irish-related festivities in just a day or two. We may not dye our river green the way Chicago does, but this is still the home of the Boston Celtics. Plus, we are geographically closer to Ireland than Chicago, so I think this qualifies us as more authentically Irish-American than our Midwestern cousins. Somehow.
I’ve only been to the St. Patty’s Day parade in South Boston once, right around the height of Riverdance mania and Southie-based “Good Will Hunting” winning an Oscar. It was fun with lots of kelly green shamrocks fluttering in the breeze, high stepping Irish dancers on flatbeds being towed by trucks, and waving Irish-American politicians. But once was enough, really. I mostly duck and cover on St. Patrick’s Day because the crowds rival those of New Year’s Eve.
Baking traditional Irish soda bread is a quieter, humbler way to celebrate the day. I think St. Patrick, who is said to have used the three-petaled shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, might have approved of the breaking of bread as way to mark his contributions to his countrymen.
Irish soda bread starts to appear in the grocery stores in Boston a couple of weeks prior to the holiday, and these are usually raisin filled and sweet. Traditionalists take great umbrage with this since Irish soda bread was the hearty sustenance of hard working farm families who couldn’t afford things like sugar and dried fruit.
Flour is typically made from soft wheat in Ireland, so using a cake or pastry flour with lower levels of gluten will be the most similar to the flour used by traditionalists, but all-purpose flour works just as well. The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda bread is very serious about defending tradition, and you can read more about what not to put in your Irish soda bread here.
“Real” Irish soda bread dough is simple, with just four ingredients. If you want to be even more “authentic,” you can bake it in a Dutch iron pot, or an iron skillet, similar to the bastible pot that was set directly on hot coals in place of an oven. The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread suggests baking the dough in the oven sandwiched between two cake pans. Or you can simply use a baking sheet.
The result is a dense, doughy bread with a crunchy crust and a stick-to-your-ribs interior, a perfect companion to corned beef and cabbage or Irish lamb stew. It’s so simple to bake, you won’t need to rely on the luck o’ the Irish to pull this off. Don’t forget, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
Traditional Irish soda bread
4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt (any salt is fine; sea salt adds an extra crunch)
1-3/4 cups of buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar and 1-3/4 cups milk)
If you are going to sour regular milk instead of using buttermilk, start this process first. Add the vinegar to a large measuring cup and then add the milk. Let rest 5-15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine. Create a well in the center and add the buttermilk or sour milk gradually, stirring until all the flour has been gathered into a sticky dough. If you have extra floury flakes, you may need to add a bit more milk.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, 10 seconds or so (do not overknead or the dough won’t rise as much).
Set the rounded dough into the cake pan. Cut a cross into the top of the dough. Cover with another cake pan or pot of same size. If you don’t have cake pans, you can set the dough on a baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the upper pan and bake for another 15 minutes until crust is just beginning to turn golden.
The bottom of the baked bread should have a hollow sound when tapped. Cover the warm bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.
I like the easy way out. I’ll admit it. When I see a recipe so simple that even I think it might not work, I have to try it out. The temptation to create something wonderful from a minimum of effort is too great a lure. This must be why I copied down a recipe for blender lemon pie many years ago and filed it away. When I came across the recipe again in an old community cookbook, it was like fate calling me toward this simple idea. Then I saw a similar recipe in an even older community cookbook. And so my quest began for the perfect blender lemon pie. A few misses, but a couple of great hits got me where I wanted to go. I have now made this pie many times. At first for testing, but since I got it right, just ‘cause.
So, what is Blender Lemon Pie? Easy, that’s what. And lemony and sweet and tangy. In short, prepare a piecrust – in the spirit of taking the easy way, I buy mine. Place a lemon – a whole, seeded lemon – in the blended with the ingredients. Whizz, pour, bake, voila!
Now, there is a little secret. The lemon needs to have a thin skin, which can be kind of hard to figure out when buying them. Too much white pith makes the filling bitter. Look at the pointy end of the lemon – if it’s very elongated, there is likely to be a thick skin. If the skin feels tough and hard, as opposed to having some give when you press on it, it’s likely to be thick. You can poke through with your fingernail to see what you’re looking at. Buy a couple of lemons with appropriate skins. Cut into them and use the thinnest skinned one. I have also used the naturally thin skinned meyer lemons to great success.
Blender Lemon Pie
I happily use a store-bought rolled pie crust fit into a pie plate then blind-baked. This is all about easy.
1 9-inch pie crust
1 thin-skinned lemon (about 4 to 4-1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the edges as necessary. Line the crust with waxed paper and fill with beans or pie weights and blind bake the crust for 12 minutes until partially cooked. Set aside to cool.
When the crust is cool, cut the lemon into quarters lengthways, the cut each quarter in half. Carefully remove all seeds. Place the lemon in the carafe of a blender with the water and blend until smooth. Add the sugar, flour and salt and blend until combined, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Add the eggs and melted butter and blend until everything is smooth and completely combined.
Pour the filling into the pie crust and carefully transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the pie is slightly puffed up and wobbles only a little. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature and refrigerate covered with plastic warp until chilled, preferably overnight.
Related post: Southern Pecan Pie
Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner … hands-down my favorite holiday for eating corned beef, wearing green, and celebrating my Irish heritage.
Having already shared some delicious recipes for traditional corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and shepherd’s pie with you, I wracked my brain for some interesting twist on a corned beef and cabbage meal. And I’ve got just the thing … corned beef and cabbage egg rolls!
My Irish ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves. But this is quite possibly fusion cooking at its best. A simple filling of leftover corned beef, sauteed with very thinly sliced cabbage and carrot, gets rolled up in egg roll wraps and fried until crispy! Dip them in Thousand Island dressing or your favorite mustard for a fantastic day-after St. Patty’s Day treat!
Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls
Makes 4 Egg Rolls
1 cup leftover corned beef, chopped
2 cups cabbage and carrots, very thinly sliced (prepackaged cole slaw mix works well)
Salt and pepper
4-8 egg roll wraps (My grocery store sells them in the refrigerated produce section.)
Thousand Island dressing or mustard, for dipping
To prepare the filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To assemble the egg rolls: Arrange an egg roll wrap with one of the points facing you. (If desired, you can layer two egg roll wraps, for a chewier egg roll.) Place a mound of the corned beef filling in the center of the wrap. Grab the point closest to you and wrap it up and around the filling. Then, grab each of the side points and fold them in towards the center. Brush the points with a bit of water to help them stick. Brush the top point with a little water, then continue rolling up towards the top point.
To cook: Heat about 1/2″-3/4″ vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Give it a few minutes to get good and hot. Carefully place a few of the egg rolls into the hot oil. They should sizzle when placed in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on all sides, until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel before serving.
Simply put, this curry is "the bomb."
Although the recipe below calls for green beans, kabocha squash and chard you could just as easily substitute spinach or kale for the chard, turnips or carrots (or both) for the squash, add some potatoes, etc., etc. Likewise, though I've listed curry powder below, you could toast your own spices if you're a purist or you could also use one of the Thai curry pastes with delightful results. The basic concept is very flexible so feel free to experiment.
That said, the kabocha squash is truly excellent in this curry – its dense, starchy flesh lends lots of substance and its sweet, meaty flavor complements the coconut milk nicely.
Besides tasting really good, one of the nicest things about this dish is its simplicity. It's a great way to work a bunch of fresh veggies into a delicious meal. I'd recommend serving it with short grain brown rice and a salad.
Quick Coconut Vegetable Curry
1 small to medium-sized kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch chard, washed, stems removed and chopped into 1-inch pieces, leaves cut into ribbons
2 big handfuls of green beans, washed and trimmed
2 medium onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 cans of coconut milk (my Thai cooking teacher recommends the Chao koh brand)
3 cups of vegetable broth (I use Better than Bouillon and just add boiling water -- it's great stuff)
A very large handful of fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons curry powder and/or garam masala (you can use more if you like)
2 tablespoons canola oil or ghee
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1. Start by prepping the veggies: Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes (there's no need to peel kabocha squash). Wash the chard and remove the stems, chopping them into 1-inch long pieces. Cut the chard leaves into ribbons. Slice the onions and mince the garlic and ginger. Wash and chop the cilantro.
2. Once all the veggies are prepped, put your rice on to cook. I recommend either short grain brown rice or basmati rice for this curry.
3. In a large pot, sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and chili flakes in the oil or ghee for several minutes, cooking until the onions have begun to soften and become translucent. While that stuff is frying, boil the water for the vegetable bouillon and mix it well (unless you're using prepared vegetable broth).
4. Add the vegetable broth and the coconut milk to the pot then toss in the cubed kabocha squash and season it all with curry powder, garam masala, pepper and sugar (there's most likely no need for salt since the vegetable broth should be fairly salty.) Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the squash is beginning to feel tender when poked with a fork.
5. Add the green beans and the chard stems and simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until the green beans feel done to your liking. Then toss in the ribbons of chard leaf and the cilantro and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly and serve over the warm rice.
Related post: Curried Cauliflower with Spinach and Ginger
You may recall some weeks ago that I was complaining about the aftertaste of boxed mix biscuits. I had been in a mad dash between activities but was still craving a just-from-the-oven biscuit to go along with a bowl of cheddar corn chowder. Even though I added some dried Rosemary to the dough for a lovely flowery taste I could still tell that these were convenience biscuits.
For some reason, short cut foods make me feel really … lonely. I have no other way to explain it. Chalk it up to the mystery and power of food to strengthen, comfort, and express love. If you are going to break bread alone, lonely-filled biscuits are not the way to go, because you’ll just eat more to get rid of that empty feeling.
Despite how sad I know you are feeling for me right now, I didn’t really give those biscuits another thought once I left my dishes in the sink – until I got an e-mail from the Scone Lady at Victorian House Scones.
Like a sympathetic kitchen fairy godmother she wrote,
Your post on cheddar corn chowder caught my eye – and particularly the comment about the aftertaste of scone/biscuit mixes.
Should you ever be interested, I am the owner/founder of Victorian House Scones. We manufacture (by hand) fabulous scone and biscuit mixes – for I too object to the box taste of many mixes. Baking should be fun, it should be easy, and you should be happy with what you put on your table – whether you have all day to play in the kitchen, or whether you are like most of us and have a few hectic minutes each day.
If you are interested, I’d be happy to send you a bag of scone or biscuit mix to try – we’d love to prove that not all boxed mixes have that aftertaste.
I have to admit, I was charmed and comforted a bit to know that someone out there cared enough to rescue me from bad boxed mixes.
Plus, I adore scones.
I wrote back,
“I would love that! Yes, please send me some samples.”
Each mix makes about 16 scones/biscuits, which is a lot for someone who often sits down to a table set for 1. (When I mentioned this surplus to my swim teammate friend Monica she suggested that I simply bring the rest to our ritual morning coffee after Saturday swim practice. I would have, except for one problem: I gave half to my brother’s family and then ate the rest. Sorry, Monica.)
The Victorian House Scones, unlike the Proper English Scones I make, call for buttermilk. The problem with buttermilk for an intermittent baker like me is that I’m always left with a half-empty carton of buttermilk that goes off before I get around to figuring out what to do with the rest of it. But this is easy to rectify. I simply “soured” some regular milk using the short cut trick of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per 1 cup of milk and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Other than that, the scones were easy to mix and assemble and they were delicious eaten warm and smothered with butter and raspberry jam. No from-the-box taste at all! A word of note: Victorian House Scones are sweet-tasting (there is sugar listed in the ingredients). And personally, I like a scone that isn’t as sweet. In general, Americans have too much sugar in their diets and any opportunity to cut back on sugar, do it. With a scone, you can rely on fresh jam to deliver the sweetness you crave. But that speech aside, Victorian House Scones are delightful.
I knew I would be hard to please when it came to scones, but what I was really interested in was the biscuit mix. Would my biscuit standards be met? A winning point before I even began rolling out the dough was the Scone Lady’s suggestion to freeze the biscuit rounds on a cookie sheet, and then seal them into a freezer bag so I would have them handy whenever I wanted a fresh biscuit. Simply set a frozen biscuit round on the counter while the oven preheats and then pop them in for the usual 10 minutes or so. I love this idea! And that is exactly what I did.
Not only were the Victorian House Scones head and shoulders above regular boxed biscuit mix, I’ve been enjoying them here and there for nearly a month, with each one tasting fresh, warm, and full of comfort. So, thank you Scone Lady and Victorian House Scones for making my table set for 1 feel a little less lonely! We all have busy lives, and quality “short cuts” like Victorian House Scones allow for the creative act of pulling something you made out of the oven without sacrificing good taste.
For those interested in trying Victorian House Scones, check out their ordering information here. Their website also has lots of ideas for creating different flavored scones (I’m going to try some of the other fun flavors myself) and you can also order cookie mixes and gift boxes.
This week’s recipe was born of disaster. I spent much of Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, filling it – and the entire apartment, in fact – with heavenly smells, if I say so myself. The taste of the finished dish delivered on the aroma, and the dish was acceptably photogenic. Sadly, it was also irreparably dry and chewy.
At moments like this, I sometimes question what I’m doing here in the food blogosphere.
But everything seems brighter and more hopeful in the morning, even in bad horror movies. Monday morning rolled around, and I decided I would figure something out. And I did. Inspiration came from a very different lamb meatball recipe, one for spiced lamb meatballs to be used as a pizza topping, in the current issue of Bon Appétit. As delicious as they sounded, I was in the mood for the thyme and fresh peas and carrots that had all figured into my unfortunate Sunday adventure. The dish as you see here pretty much formed itself in my head in a few minutes.
Lamb is eaten almost everywhere, as I pointed out in my Moroccan Lamb Chop. But often when I think about it, I remember tooling around the UK one summer with my brother and seeing sheep grazing in every churchyard, on every hillside … virtually anywhere grass was growing. It wasn’t much of a stretch to see how the fresh peas and thyme would give the recipe a vaguely English flavor.
I recently made a Lancashire hotpot, a traditional English dish with lamb, potatoes and, yes, thyme. And almost exactly two years ago, I made a vaguely Irish lamb stew (also with thyme – I’m spotting a trend here). Those both call for chunks of stew meat that, in turn, call for long, slow cooking. As a result, flavors meld together into something hearty and soul satisfying, perfect for a cold winter’s night.
Ground lamb, however, cooks quickly, and individual ingredients maintain their separate identities, even as they play nicely together. And while the lamb meatballs and potato wedges give this dish a stick-to-your-ribs quality, the sweetness of the peas and carrots and the fresh garden taste of the thyme offer a promise of spring. And considering its origins in disaster, it was really, really delicious.
Lamb Thyme Meatballs with Vegetables
Serves 3 to 4 (see Kitchen Notes)
1 pound ground lamb
1 scallion, white and pale green part only, minced
1 rounded tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, divided (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium potato, about 1/2 pound (I used Yukon Gold)
1-1/2 cups fresh peas (you can substitute frozen – see Kitchen Notes)
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
1 medium shallot, sliced
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
Break up ground lamb in a large bowl. Add the minced scallion and half the thyme. Season generously with salt and pepper and work the lamb with your hands to combine. Form meatballs of the lamb mixture, about 1-1/4 inches in diameter or so, and place on a large plate. You should get 18 to 20 meatballs from the lamb. Set aside.
Peel the potato. Slice in half lengthwise and cut each half into 4 wedges. Rinse in cold water to remove excess starch and place in a covered, microwave-safe container, still wet. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender – the tip of a knife blade should pierce potato wedges easily. Let cool until you can handle and blot dry with paper towel. Toss with a drizzle of oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the peas and carrots in a pot of boiling water until just tender, about 15 minutes. If using frozen peas, follow package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Cook the meatballs. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the meatballs. Brown, turning a few times, for about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate (the same one you had them on before cooking will do fine). Drain the fat from the skillet and wipe with a paper towel, but do not wash.
Cook the potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat over medium flame. Add the potato wedges and cook until nicely browned, turning occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate (it can be the meatball plate, if there’s room).
Cook everything all together. Add the shallot to the pan and sauté until it begins to soften, stirring frequently to avoid burning, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining thyme and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add carrots, peas, broth and wine. Scrape up any browned bits and return meatballs and potato wedges to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lamb and potatoes are heated through, about 3 minutes. Divide among shallow bowls or plates and serve.
How many servings? This will easily serve three people. Start with a salad or appetizer and add a generous dessert at the end and you can stretch it to four.
Fresh is best. I’ve been finding pre-shelled fresh peas in the produce section of some supermarkets these days. If you can find them, the flavor and texture really are wonderful. If not, look for the plainest, least messed with frozen peas you can find. No butter, no nothing.