Thursday, 30 April 2009

LAMB (its aint just any meat) BALLS

Lamb is my favorite meat, period. Yes, I know, pork has more cuts and fat;that i can cook it and all its bits in so many ways…but i love all things lamb…spicy sausages, charred chops, braised shoulder…too me man can live on lamb alone…

As we here in the UK are already having wonderful late sunsets that keep us outside till almost nine pm…there is nothing better than a light dinner of meatballs and sauce and a salad on the side after a great day in the sun…Why, because they can be made ahead of time, grilled if you want, baked, and fit my craving for something i can pick up and pop in my mouth while drinking a nice chilled rose as the sun is fallin!!!

The idea here is you can simply make the mix and do a variety of things from that point. One, you can put them in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes and they will be happily medium rare, and be ready to eat. As well you may take these and freeze on a flat surface in the freezer now and then when frozen, toss em in a storage bag…and take out whenever you like for quick snacks. As well you may pass on the healthy baking option and get even more flavour by firing up the grill and finding a nice warm spot ( and one that is very clean and oiled) place the meatballs on the grill and enjoy as a nice appetizer at a bbq or with some nice garlicy grilled bread and the sauce that will follow in next entry…

You may be wondering why I am not frying my meatballs in a pan…yes they taste great that way…but to me…there is enough fat in the meatballs, so to keep it a bit healthy and to lessen the number of pans in use…i go for bake or grill. As well most people add a bit of bread crumbs to the mix…usually I add a bit of panko (Japanese style bread crumbs), but I have been trying to always incorporate whole grains, so this time i tossed in some leftover cooked millet to add body, balance, and a great texture.



2 # GROUND LAMB (or any other meat, or mix)

2 Eggs ( helps binding process and adds moisture)

4 CLOVES GARLIC( can mix half and half with ginger or shallots as well for more spicey feel) ( smashed with side of knife to lose the skin, then keep smashing till you have a paste…sprinkle salt on crushed cloves of garlic to help them crush better…kind of like sand paper effect…as you smash garlic with side of knife drag the knife across the cutting board…dragging ever finer bits of garlic with you…)

1 large red onion ( any color onion will do…dice as fine as you can…or pulse in a food processor, pulse lightly a few moments to do the equivilant of lots of chopping, not puree!!!)

1-2 cups MILLET (Or cooked rice, quinoa, etc…As much as you like to balance the meat and texture)



1t spices ( this is where you can have some fun…spicy blend add chile powder, cumin, and cayenne…or add crushed cumin, coriander, turmeric and chile powder for more curry esque flavour…or simply add some paprika)

1/2 cup fresh herbs
(parsley and or cilantro preferred), choppedfine

BOLD METHODS (and commentary)

In large bowl mix meat with garlic and onions till incorporated ( over mixing is not only unnessary, but will lead to a heavier meatball).

Add egg and dried spices ( quick mix…only a few stroked of spoon, or smashes with your clean hands)

Add millet and fresh herbs ( again only a few gentle squeezes with your clean hands…this is not one of those finger licking recipes, sorry)

Heat a small frying pan on stovetop

Make one small lamb-ball, flatten and heat in oiled fry pan till cooked (this is your tester, since you cant taste the mix raw to know if the final product is correct…so try one, if it is to your likin…rock on…if not…add what you like…more salt, more herbs, other spices…and then fry another one…NO…dont keep eating meatballs all day…now you know why they say, never trust a skinny chef!!!)

Lightly oil a large baking tray ( or any vessel you can fit into your oven) or heat up the grill!!!

Clean up your workspace: all you need is your bowl of lamb, a small bowl of water, and your baking sheet.

With clean wet hands start taking large spoonfuls of lamb mix (i suggest 2oz portions which should be about two bites, or small enough to still be toothpick friendly for a fancy appetizers, and two finger pick up for more of a friends free for all!) and lightly rolling them between the palms of your hand to make a smooth ball…and place on baking sheet…repeat…again and again ( washing hands as necessary to keep clean and wet so the meatballs do not stick to your hands).

Place meatballs on greased baking sheet (Dont crowd them…we all need space to breath) in preheated oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, turning one time ( 5 minutes will give you just cooked ones so you can freeze and then reheat, chill and reheat, or let rest and they will still be medium rare…10 minutes should make them perfect to eat straight from the oven…)

take em out…pop in yer mouth and enjoy…with the upcoming sauce recipe…

Sunday, 26 April 2009

beet threesome

I love em i really do…beets beets beets i can eat em all day and all of the night. In the post regarding sole the other day, I roasted some beets and boiled some beet stems ( not the greens…save for a bit later)…so check that post to see how to roast em properly and boil the stems till they are pasta like. I also had another chorizo sausage left over so i decided to make a nice “pasta” dish with my sausage and a threesome of beets…threesome you say…whats the idea…to use one ingredient in multiple of ways to taste new flavours and cooking ideas from the same ingredient …

Pasta with red sauce with greens and sausauge…what could be simpler and tastier than making it all with beets…the sauce, the pasta, and the greens…all from one bunch of beets and in less than one hour ( if you roasted and boiled previously…its all about doing things in advance..)


6 medium sized Roasted beets ( peel if not scrubbed)dice

1 onion, peeled and small dice

1 shallot, peeled and small dice

4 clove garlic peeled, smashed and chopped( reserve 2)

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Parsley, cleaned and chopped ( or any herb you have around)

3 oz red wine vinegar

liquid to cover ( veg stock or water with a splash of EVOO, or add more wine and reduce)

beet greens( from same bunch of beets) or use spinach, chard, kale if your beets had no greens

beet stems ( from same bunch of beets) or use chard stems, etc…


EVOO( extra virgin olive oil)

2 sausages (cooked and sliced thinly) or some pan fried spicy tofu, grilled shrimp, etc

BOLD METHODs and commentary

1. Heat pan over medium high heat till very hot ( sprinkle some water in to test…pop, pop, sizzle YES)

2. Add a small amount of oil to coat pan, swirl it, and then add onions, garlic, and shallots

2. Sweat these down ( cook down till translucent, no browning…so stir, and add a touch of water if necessary)

4. Add your chopped beets, tomato, red wine vinegar and enough liquid to just cover top of beets.

5. Simmer (liquid slightly bubbling) till beets have softened considerably.

6. Using a blender, food processor, stick blender, or not ( if not available then skip the excess liquid and keep veggies chopped even finer to have a chunky sauce), add all product including the parsley into blender and quickly pulse to get everything moving.

7. Once you have a somewhat saucy mix and no beets all over the ceiling, then drizzle a little bit of olive oil into the blender as you mix on a low setting…it should nicely emulsify (incorporate into a silky sexy sauce) and you can add a bit of water if its too thick or more EVOO for more richness…now you can taste it...does it need salt, pepper, some acid ( squeeze a bit of lemon juice, zest some lemon in it or a splash of vinegar)...this is when we season and finalize...

8. Place sauce in a closed container, wash out your blender and get ready to eat in five minutes!!!

9. In the same clean sauce pan, heat over medium high heat, add small coating of oil, and then add your beet greens and saute for 1 minute.

10. Add your sliced sausage and beet stems to the mix and stir till warmed. Taste, season and turn off stove.

11. One each plate pour a nice circle of the beet marinara, with tongs spiral up a mound of beet pasta, greens and sausage…and serve as is or add some shaved parmesan, some crusty bread, a nice simple salad, and whatever feels right…and to me making an entire meal out of one bunch of beets and two sausages feels very very right!!!


While making this dish i boiled off some chick peas ( soaked day before) and used some of the garlic, lemon juice, and parsley that we chopped for the beet dishes, to make a nice batch of hummus ( 1 cup chick peas, 2 cloves garlic, 2 T tahini, juice of 1 lemon, s,p, drizzle of olive oil) and also have a cup of chick peas cooked in the fridge for a nice salad tomorrow…speaking of emulsions… and my favorite pasttime … whisking dressings!!!

One should never worry about having extra of your herbs, onions, veggies, etc…it will always get used another day, another way, and will save you time and effort and allow for quick morning omelettes, easy salads, simple dressings and like this evenings threesome…a sexy sauce…

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Harissa fried rice, fried chorizo and cumin roast zuchinni

So sometimes in the immortal words of Ferris Beuller, “Life moves pretty fast…” and we change our food plans…and i was in a bit of a rush tonight so did not feel like playing with my big old beets…nope i did it quick and easy…and it tasted like Tina and Ike said…Slow and Easy…….so save the beets from yesterdays meal and I will do em 3 ways this weekend ( thats why some nights we cook more, to have things ready for other nights…1 hour cooking max per night thats all you need to prep, cook and clean up)


Oven at 375

4 Chorizo sausages ( or any type you like…but i like em fatty and spicy)

2 small zuchinni cut into big half circles, trapezoids, whatever you like, just cut them all the same size so they cook in the same amount of time.

1 T Cumin seeds( i would toast whole seed and then toss em in your coffee grinder, mortor and pestle or put in a bag and wack em with a can of tuna!!) Do you know how much you pay for little bottles of old tastless powdered spices…a handful of toasted whole spices served whole or crushed will make a world of difference…buy bulk!!!

1 yellow onion ( or red or leeks, or lots of shallots)sliced thin

2 green peppers ( or red or yellow…you get the idea)sliced thin and same as peppers

2 clove garlic smashed and chopped roughly

2 T harissa paste ( spice up some tomato paste w/ cumin & chili powder in a pinch)

Leftover rice ( or leftover taters for a more bangers and mash feel)

1 lime

handful of green onions chopped ( or cilantro or parsley)


METHOD ( with lots and lots of extra thoughts and hopes of your own culinary meanderings)

On a sheet tray ( cookie tray, pyrex, whatever fits in the oven) drizzle some oil and place the sausages on top…

Toss chopped zuchinni in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, cumin , s, p and then toss them around the sausages and throw the tray in the oven for 20 minutes( Depending on size of sausages and cut of zuchinni time will change…so taste a piece of zuchinni, if you think they are done…take em out).

Get a saute pan that is big enough to place veggies in it without crowding them and get it nice and hot…then place some cold oil in the pan…swirl and add onions and peppers(if you cook them slower at a lower heat you can carmelize them, if you want them more crunchy…then saute ( jump veggies jump) them for just a few minutes), but dont forget to add the garlic ( the longer you wait the stronger the flavour…which can be nice with the chorizos and harissa)…taste em…add a touch of salt…if you want you can take veg out of pan now…or you pour a couple ounces of white wine or beer or water in the pan over high heat to loosen up the sucs( goodness stuck to the pan) with a wooden spoon...take veggies off heat and let rest in a covered bowl…save pan

wait for sauasges to be finished cooking and take out of oven, let rest and then slice or serve whole…( save juices/oil from zuchinni and sausage)

In same pan, turn up to medium high, add some of the accumulated chorizo oil ( or fresh veg oil if you want a less fatty option) add a couple T of harissa to pan and stir with wooden spoon to soften flavour ( some people would add some shallots or onion here…its your time) now add your leftover rice( or add some smashed leftover potaotes and milk/butter and/orveg stock to soften them) and stir fry for a minute to heat up…toss in some fresh herbs, squeeze over some lime ( and grate some lime zest in if you want) and put in a serving dish with sausages and zuchinnini and garnish the top with the onions and peppers

Obviously you can easily increase quantities to have leftovers…you an substitute some paprika and cumin dusted tofu or salmon seared hot in a pan or roasted in your oven…

But the main idea is the flavours should be fresh and the meal should take very little time to prepare and much more time to savour sittin down, sippin some rioja, drinkin a nice pilsner, or doing what we should all be doing…drinking water all the damn day long…

Thursday, 23 April 2009

SOLE ful dinner and contemplative tomorrows

So Sole it is…I flew back from a vacation with my friends and family in the U.S. and slept soundly last night. This morning I was up and out early to spend a day working for the local Oxfam shop here in Durham, UK. By the time I took a lunch break, I knew it was time to hit the fish stand…so i bought a lil sole that was fresh and some sampphire ( sea asparagus) and then hit the produce stand for some essentials to stock my fridge till my weekly veg box gets delivered next week. I bought some carrots, fennel, parsley, beets with their greens, huge leeks, potatoes, etc…

When the day ended and the sun was still shining, I knew it must be spring here in England

…and it was time for a bit of Soulful Sole...


6 cups boiling water

oven at 375

2 cups brown rice, rinsed

1 leek, cleaned and slice the white into thin rounds ( save dark green in freezer for stocks)

1 cup samphire ( soaked in cold water for 10 minutes)

1 bulb fennel-core removed, bulb cut in half, and sliced thinly

s,p ( salt and pepper)

2 T veg oil

Flour ( wheat, corn, soy…any that is in the cabinet)

lemon (use any citrus you desire)

parsley( use any fresh herb).. cilantro with lime, parlsey with lemon, orange with dill, etc…play around

tabasco sauce


1 Sole ( 4 filets, i suggest learning to filet the fish yourself to save the bones for a soup base…but email me if you want that next level of info)

So the idea is to always get the longest cooking items started first…

1. Pour boiling water in pan, and add a touch of salt and the rice…bring to boil and simmer uncovered till cooked (depending on rice type time will change…I would give 30 minutes for brown…this style of cooking rice is as if its pasta…lots of water, lot less rice) and then strain rice into a colander and put back in pot off heat to steam for 10-20 minutes.

2. While rice is starting to boil, simmer sammphire in a small pan of water for 2-3 minutes until less salty and still crunchy…Drain and rinse in cold water till chilled ( or place in bowl of ice water to chill).

3. ONce rice is steaming it is time to heat a saute pan ( i prefer black steel, but non stick is easiest, and any any any pan will do) over medium high heat. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and a lil flour .


4. Add small amount of veg oil to pan. Take one filet in your hand and while holding the pan in your other hand, set the fish in the pan by brushing it AWAY from you into the pan as you move the pan to make sure the fish does not stick…then continue setting this piece of fish in the pan and shake the pan to again make sure it does not stick…once you get the hang of it you will find this proccess to be one continuous motion…as if you were painting the pan with your piece of fish (AWAY FROM YOU ALWAYS TO KEEP OIL SPLATTERS FROM HITTING YOU)…so then repeat the proccess with the other pieces of fish and cook for about 1 minute on each side if very small fillets (less than a few ounces) or a bit longer if necessary…then with a spatula, gently turn the fish filets over, again making sure not to do this in the direction that would cause sizzling oil to hit your wrists!!!

5. Welll that was a bit wordy…but now that you have cooked the fish without it sticking…place them on a platter and cover it off the heat. IF you have not burned your pan, add a bit more oil if necessary and toss in your veggies ( fennel, leek, sammphire or any other veg you got) and saute ( which means to JUMP…so shake that pan) for a minute and the veg is still crunchy…add a few drops of tabasco, a grind of pepper ( no salt if you have samphire…as its already salty) and then remove from heat

6. Throw the veggies on top of the fish filets…sprinkle with fresh herbs, add a squueze of citrus and serve with your brown rice…

CONTEMPLATIVE TOMORROWS…making leftovers while the main meal is cooking…and yes we will still be done in an hour

While the rice was simmering …i washed 8 small potatoes, tossed them in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in the preheated oven…always nice to have some baked lil potatoes to use for a snack( baby stuffed potatoes), smashed, or to bulk up a soup

I also took a bunch of beets, washed them, and put them in a small casserole with s,p, red wine vinegar and olive oil ( just enough to cover bottom of pan)…put tin foil on it and placed in oven as well……they will take about an hour depending on size of beets ( test by inserting a small knife in one…if the knife can enter the beet easily…they are done)

As for the beet greens, I saved the leaves and blanched ( quickly boil till softened but not soft) the red beet stalks

And i soaked some dried chick peas in water for the next couple days ( hummus is always a good snack food to have around, as well chick peas are great in simple salads to add a bit o protein)

What is the plan…not sure…but i love eating beet stems as if they were pasta..and maybe i will pull some local sausages from my freezer, and make a nice lil dish of beets three ways ( stems blanched, saute of leaves, bulb made into a quick sauce) with spicy lamb or pork sausage????

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


ANY WAY YOU WANT…i write these recipes for me and my friends…change things as you like ( but please email me with questions)…dont wait to cook…cook now…you dont need new pots, knives and any silly gadgets that unskilled tv personalities are trying to sell you…all you need is a desire to enjoy food...appreciate your effort…cook with those you love…cook enough for the next couple days…relax, its not rocket science its a craft ( I am a professional chef…and i am letting you in on a secret…cooking can be artful…it is not art!!!)…taste a local veg and one from half a world away...”so thats what a carrot tastes like… Please take time to cook…you take time for tv, reading, jogging, napping…

i want to help people make amazing food in an hour…thats what you need…i cant find you extra time, save time, borrow time or make time… if enjoying real food that is healthy, sustainable and truly edible is actually worth one hour of time…then no worries…but if its more important to watch tv then feed your friends and/or family real food then by all means continue with the take out food, frozen meals, canned soups, proccessed, salt soaked, artificial sugar laden products that must really be hitting the spot ( wallet, heart, belly, etc…)…

The point…eat real food…cook with and for those you love…enjoy!!!