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Posts from the ‘Not-so-quick Dinners’ Category

Tipperary Lamb + New Potato Curry

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Things are going to go a bit crazy in the next few weeks. Someone recently made fun of me and my penchant for list-writing, so I think I’ll go ahead and write this post in list form.

  1. My daughter is going to preschool on the first of September. My daughter. Is school aged. I could have sworn we just brought her back from the hospital. I could have sworn I wasn’t old enough to have a child in school. But there you go. Next week, my baby will be taking her first step toward complete and utter independence from Mama. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
  2. My other baby is going to be minded by someone other than me for a few hours a day while Maeve is in school. I’m not sure how this is going to go either, but I’m happy enough knowing she’s being cared for by a good friend and I will literally be across the street the entire time.
  3. I’m starting a business. I have no capital, no “starting a business” experience and no idea how this is going to go. I’m giving it a shot. I’m giving it a year. If it works, great. If not, I’ll be content in the knowledge that I started off small enough to (hopefully) not lose that much money.
  4. “Janine! You’re starting a business?! What business?”, I hear you asking. Well, readers, maybe I’ll be ready to speak more about it next week or the week after, but since I’m still waiting on a few things I will keep a lid on the details for now.

So yeah. Things are happening. Scary, exciting, crazy things. I hope you tag along with me for the journey.

A good curry always calms me down at the end of the day – especially lamb curry made with delicious Tipperary lamb from Lacey’s Butchers in Thurles and new Irish potatoes. I threw in some spinach to make it look healthier, but honestly – it’s not a bad dish. It’s made with really great ingredients, a little olive oil and lots of spicy TLC (and salt). A bit of basmati rice, a dollop of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh coriander bring it to proper meal status.

Tipperary Lamb + New Potato Curry

Ingredients: 

1 lamb shoulder, deboned and cut into large-ish chunks

500g new potatoes, cut in half or thirds (make them the same size as the lamb chunks)

1 really big onion, or two smaller ones

3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 L (4 cups) hot beef stock

Salt, to taste

Juice of one lemon

Natural yogurt and Fresh Coriander, for serving

Directions:

  • Heat a large dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed, large pot on the stovetop on high. It needs to be smoking hot before you start cooking.
  • When it’s well heated, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, then add the chopped onion. Cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Then add the lamb to brown.
  • When the lamb is browned, add the garlic, ginger and spices. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until fragrant (don’t get scared if the bottom of your pot is starting to look brown – that’s all flavour).
  • Add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly through the other ingredients, cooking an additional minute. Then add the hot beef stock. Bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down so the curry is at a simmer. Cook until the lamb is slightly tender and the sauce has reduced by half (about an hour), then add the potatoes. (If you need to add more stock at this point, go ahead. Even some hot water is fine if you think the sauce is too thick).
  • Continue to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, the lamb is completely tender and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add the fresh spinach and stir through until wilted.
  • Season to taste using the salt and lemon juice. I like lots of acidity, but some don’t. Just go with your gut.
  • Serve over hot rice or warmed flatbreads, a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

PS: I wasn’t asked to write nice things about Lacey’s Butchers in Thurles. I just really like their stuff. They don’t even know I’m writing this, or that I made this delicious curry with their gorgeous lamb.

 

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The Whole Duck, and Nothing But.

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The other day, I was doing a quick shop in Lidl when I saw they had a special on whole duckling for roasting.

Now, if I want a good duck, I’ll get it from a local butcher. It’s worth the money because the bird is meatier and fattier – better for roasting as you’ll end up with much more of the succulent meat. But these whole ducks at Lidl were €8.00! For an entire duckling. I couldn’t pass it up. I mean, we are a family on a budget.

So I got this duck and wasn’t sure what to do with it. The thing about roasting whole duck is that the different parts are at their best cooked different ways. I like roast duck. The best I ever had was in an old restaurant called Hua’s on “Ghost Street” in Beijing – it was expensive, but the duck at this place was so good, my friend and I ended up ordering two. But I prefer a nicely seared, pan roasted duck breast and slowly confit’d duck legs.

So when I got home, I got out my sharpest boning knife and broke the duck down completely. I used every single part, getting four meals out of one bird. Here’s how I did it and what I made:

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  1. Make sure the bird is right side up. That means, the breasts should be facing the ceiling and the legs should be facing you, the butcher.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice down either side of the breast bone (or the back bone). It’s found at the very top and goes vertically from one end of the bird to the other. Give it a good slice on either side.13868049975_2e415afcc4_z
  3. Once you’ve done that, choose a side to work on. Now’s the time to remove the breast meat. You probably won’t be very good at this the first time you do it (I would practise on some chicken first, since there’s less breast meat on a duck and you wouldn’t want to waste any). Using your knife, lightly scrape (don’t slice) down the side of the duck, leaving as little meat on the rib cage as possible. Once you have enough of a cavity made, you can use the tip of your knife to scrape down the sides. Once the breast is nearly severed, slice through the remaining skin and fat to remove it completely.13868047445_cf2acbbcca_z
  4. Now, do the same thing on the other side to remove the other breast.13868422344_09f927e03f_z
  5. Once the breasts are removed, it’s time to take off the legs. Use your hands to move the leg around. Once you feel where the hip joint is, give the leg a good twist to dislocate the joint. Once the joint is dislocated, use your knife to slice through. First, hold the leg to one side to tighten the skin around the joint, then slice through it. Once you’re through the skin, you can see where the leg joint naturally separates from the body. Use your knife and slice through the hip joint.
  6. Again with your knife, slice through the skin above the leg to see where the thigh meat is located. Once you see it, scrape down the rib cage until you’ve removed the thigh meat.13868420284_f26983f7c4_z
  7. Repeat this on the other leg until both are removed.
  8. Once you have the major joints removed, take off the wings. I just, again, find the main joint, give it a good twist to dislocate, and then slice through the joint with my knife, removing the wing.13868066933_766f5efd49_z
  9. Now it’s time to remove all the skin and fat from the duck. There will be a lot of fat in the skin and a lot of fat in between the skin and meat and, also, just inside the cavity. Remove all the skin and fat from the bird and, also, clean the joints and breasts of any excess fat. Save all the skin and fat.13868038265_56b61ff328_z
  10. You should be left with the carcass (the body cavity). You can use a larger knife to chop through the bone or, if you have a big enough pot, leave it whole. Congratulations, you’ve just deboned a duck.

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Here’s what I did with the different parts:

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The Breasts:

  • Lightly score the skin of the breasts with a sharp knife or razor blade. Season well with salt and pepper – rub it into the scoring marks. Leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a frying pan on medium-high. You want the pan hot enough to render all the fat from under the skin of the breast, but not so hot that you burn the skin in the process.
  • When the pan is hot, do not add any oil or butter. Lay the breasts, skin side down, onto the hot pan. The fat will render almost immediately and will begin to crisp up the skin. Let the majority of the fat render from the breast – cook it on the skin side for the majority of the cooking process.
  • When the fat is mostly rendered and the skin is crispy and brown, turn over the duck and immediately transfer the pan to a hot oven (about 200 degrees Celsius). Depending on the size of the breast, cook for 7-12 minutes for a nice medium-rare.
  • I served the duck with green beans amandine (made with lemon, olive oil and toasted slivered almonds) and a buttermilk mash.

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The Skin and Fat:

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  • When all the skin and fat was removed from the carcass, I transferred it to a Dutch oven and immediately put it over a medium- low heat to slowly render all the fat.
  • As the fat rendered, the skin got extremely crispy. When the skin was completely crisp and golden brown I knew all the fat had been rendered.
  • I strained the duck fat into a container to save away and seasoned the crispy skin with some sea salt. I squeezed some sriracha chili sauce onto a plate and Pat and I had a delicious snack of crispy duck skin to eat while watching Game of Thrones (the best way to spend an evening, in my opinion).

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The Carcass and Wings:

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  • I could have kept the wings and fried them for some crispy duck wings, but I didn’t really feel like it. I added them to the carcass, put the carcass and wings in a stock pot, added a chopped carrot, two chopped onions, some chopped celery, a few peppercorns, some whole star anise, some coriander seed, some lemongrass and ginger, a bay leaf and fresh parsley and coriander.
  • I covered it all in cold water and gently simmered for 2 hours. It made a beautifully aromatic broth.
  • I put the hot broth in the fridge overnight. As it cooled, the fat collected at the top of the container and I easily scraped it off the next day.
  • I made pho with rice noodles, rose oyster mushrooms, crispy fried cod, scallion, basil, fresh coriander and sriracha. I seasoned the duck broth with lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha and some tom yum paste I had in the fridge. It was amazeballs.

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The Legs:

  • I saved this for last because I haven’t actually cooked the legs yet. They’re in the freezer. The duck fat is in the fridge. This Friday night I’m making duck confit with lentils and Toulouse sausage. Traditionally, you’d have duck confit with cassoulet but that’s a bit too much work for a Friday night!
  • I’ll season the duck fat with bay, peppercorns and juniper berries before scooping it (cold or room temperature) over the legs. Then I’ll cook them in at a low heat in the oven for a few hours, until tender.

Say what you want about Lidl, but €8.00 for a whole duckling is a steal. They’re Irish ducks, too and they’re still available.

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Butternut Squash, Sage & Buffalo Mozzarella Lasagna

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We’re back at our house in Waterford after spending nearly two weeks at our family home in North Tipperary for the holidays (where we have no internet and fewer TV channels but do have more time for friends, family and food). I’ll miss the busy country house with the constant background chatter of my in-laws, but here in Waterford it’s quieter, which means Maeve is sleeping more soundly, and we have an excellent internet connection here, allowing me to Skype with family and friends back home in Canada.

Enjoying Canadian Winter on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

Enjoying Canadian Winter on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

The weather has been up and down in Ireland – though certainly not as bad as the ridiculous snow-stormy weather they’ve been having in Canada – we have had a few blustery, rainy, cold days (especially in Tipperary, where it always seems much colder than Waterford). I missed having a white Christmas just a little bit, but I’m happy to not have to shovel my way to the car every morning.

As for New Year’s, my husband and I relaxed on the couch with a bottle of Beaujolais and watched the second half of Falling for a Dancer, which is an excellent two-part film, and The Graham Norton New Year’s Eve Special, which was hilarious. Flashback a few years ago when we’d be spending New Year’s in Seoul partying in nightclubs until 7 am and you can see how different our lives have become (for the record, I think it’s nicer). We’re looking forward to 2014 – to travel, to making some healthier lifestyle changes, and taking the time to enjoy our family and our surroundings. Happy New Year to you all!

Puppies! The best picture I could get of them...

Puppies! The best picture I could get of them…

We’re also expecting another addition to our little family. No, not a new baby (before any of you get unnecessarily excited). At least, not a new human baby. On the farm, we’ve been gifted with six gorgeous collie pups, sired by our faithful farm dog, Ben. There are three girls and three boys – they all look like their dad with soft, black and white fur. Hopefully they all inherit their dad’s gentle temperament, as well. We’ll be taking one of the girls and raising her not as a farm dog, but as a pet, and we’ll call her Erin.

We introduced Erin to Maeve briefly this morning and Erin growled. But eventually they’ll like each other; I have faith.

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To ring in the new year, here’s a vegetarian lasagna recipe made with béchamel, butternut squash, sage and buffalo mozzarella. It’s not entirely diet-friendly, but we’re thinking of it as one of our final, creamy indulgences before our diet begins on Monday. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I made my own pasta for this recipe, but feel free to use store-bought lasagna sheets. If you do want to make your own pasta but don’t have a pasta roller, just make sure the dough is so thin you can see through it. Like, paper-thin.

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Butternut Squash, Sage & Buffalo Mozzarella Lasagna 

Ingredients:

For the pasta:

4 eggs

2 cups flour

For the béchamel:

1/2 cup butter

1/2-3/4 cup flour

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, lightly crushed

1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)

2 1/2 cups whole milk

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper, to taste

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the lasagna:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled & seeded

2 balls fresh buffalo mozzarella

1 cup caramelized onion (store bought or homemade)

1 recipe béchamel sauce

1 recipe pasta dough

Directions:

  • Make the pasta dough: pile the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Add the eggs into the well in the flour.
  • Using your fingers, gently work the flour into the eggs until you have a sticky dough. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it’s smooth, elastic and bounces back slightly when you make a dent with your finger.
  • Shape the dough into a ball. Set the dough aside and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Make the béchamel: in a saucepan, heat the milk and cream with the bay leaf and crushed clove of garlic until almost boiled. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add enough flour to the butter to make a dry paste, similar in consistency to play doh (also called a roux). Cook the roux for one minute. Strain the hot milk/cream mixture over the roux and stir immediately. Whisk out any lumps. Continue to stir over medium heat until the sauce has thickened. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Prepare the butternut squash: using a potato peeler, peel the entire butternut squash so you have long ribbons of squash. Set aside.
  • Slice each buffalo mozzarella in half. Finely chop the fresh sage. Set both aside.
  • Prepare the pasta: using a knife, cut the ball of dough into four equal portions. Roll the pasta out using a pasta roller or with a rolling pin on a well floured surface. Roll each portion of dough to fit your lasagna tray.
  • Assemble the lasagna: smear a ladle-full of béchamel on the bottom of the tray. Place one sheet of pasta over the top. Evenly spread 1/4 of the butternut squash ribbons over the top of the lasagna sheet, followed by 1/2 of one of the balls of mozzarella (just tear the mozzarella and spread it out over the squash). Sprinkle a bit of sage and some caramelized onion over the top, followed by a ladle of bechamel (try to spread it evenly over everything). Top this with another sheet of pasta and repeat the process. When the last sheet of lasagna is added, spread a bit of béchamel over the top and sprinkle more cheese and sage.
  • Bake in a 375 (190 degree Celsius) oven for an hour. Serve with a fresh spinach or rocket salad.

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Haddock, Tarragon & Lemon Fishcakes

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I am a true East Coast girl in every sense of the word. I like nothing better than swimming in rivers and oceans, picking wild blueberries, drinking Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale (the pride of Nova Scotia), BBQ-ing on the deck and gossiping with my mom and aunties.

Also, I’m kind of obsessed with seafood.

Mussels, lobster, clams, scallops, cod, haddock – these are some of my favourite things to eat, if they’re cooked right. Cooked right how? Well… barely cooked and served with some drawn butter is usually perfect, in my humble opinion.

No visit home is complete without a few trips to my favourite seafood-eating joints. I go to certain places for certain things. For example:

Lobster Sandwiches: The Herring Choker Deli, Nyanza, Cape Breton

Steamed Lobster Dinner (with all-you-can-eat chowder and mussels!): The Lobster Suppers, Baddeck, Cape Breton

Crab Legs, Mussels and Seafood Platters: The Rusty Anchor, Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton (Le Gabriel in Cheticamp also does a good platter)

Fish and Chips: The Cedar House, Bras D’or, Cape Breton

Fancy for wining and dining: The Chanterelle Inn, North River, Cape Breton

Seafood Chowder & Fishcakes with biscuits: Charlene’s Bayside, Whycocomagh, Cape Breton

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Fishcakes are some good eatin’. You’ll find them cooked different ways depending on where you are in the world. In Cape Breton, a fishcake is usually made with salt cod or haddock, onions and mashed potato. They get fried up and served with biscuits, baked beans and green tomato chow (only the yummiest condiment known to man). I love Charlene’s fishcakes so much, I asked her to cater my wedding and requested fishcakes with green tomato chow as the starter.

I like to make fishcakes myself every now and then. I play around with the type of fish and flavourings, but I always – always – make my fishcakes with mashed potato. It’s comfort in a small, disc shaped package. Fishcakes can be a lot of work if you make it a lot of work. I always do that – sautéeing, setting up an elaborate breading station, baking in the oven after frying… it really doesn’t have to be that complicated.

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In this case, though, I think I hit the mark. These fishcakes are simply flavoured, lightly breaded and seasoned so well you don’t even need a sauce with them. Since they’re made with potato, your starch is already taken care of. Lightly sauté some greens, or make a quick salad as a side dish, and dinner is taken care of. I served these haddock, tarragon and lemon fishcakes with some peas and spinach sautéed with garlic. And I’m salivating in remembrance.

What are your favourite spots in Ireland for seafood?

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Haddock, Tarragon & Lemon Fishcakes

Ingredients:

2 fillets fresh haddock, skinned and de-boned (I do this myself but you can get your fishmonger to do it, too)

4 medium sized potatoes

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh tarragon (you can use dried as well; add it in while the fish is cooking)

3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

11/2 cup bread crumbs

3 eggs

1 cup AP flour

Oil for frying

Directions:

  • Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Cover with salted water and boil until fork tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions and bay leaf in the butter. Add the haddock fillets and, as they cook, break them up with a fork.
  • Add the lemon juice to the onion/bay/haddock. Cook until the haddock is opaque and the lemon juice has reduced. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
  • Finely chop the parsley and tarragon, if using fresh. Add the herbs and lemon zest to a mixing bowl. Add the haddock mixture to the same bowl and mix well.
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain well and mash with salt and pepper. Add the mashed potatoes to the haddock/herb/lemon mixture and mix well. *Taste the mixture to check for seasoning at this point, while it’s hot. Food tastes differently at different temperatures, and you’ll be eating these fishcakes hot.
  • Lightly mix one egg and add to the potato/haddock mixture. Mix quickly so the egg doesn’t scramble. If you’re in a hurry, put the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. If you’re preparing the fishcakes in advance, pop the mixture in the fridge for an hour.
  • While the mixture is cooling, set up your breading station. You need four plates – one for flour, one for eggs, one for breadcrumbs and the last one for the finished, breaded fishcakes. Season the flour with salt and pepper; whisk the eggs with a fork. Set them up in the right order – flour, egg, breadcrumbs, finished.
  • When the haddock mixture is cool enough to handle, portion into equal sizes and shape into discs. Lightly coat each fishcake in the flour, then coat in egg and breadcrumbs. Place the finished fishcakes on the clean plate. This mixture will make 5-6 large fishcakes (about 1/2 cup mixture per fishcake).
  • At this point you can continue to chill the fishcakes until you’re ready to serve, or you can heat up some oil in a pan and fry them on each side until they’re golden brown. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius) and pop them in for 10-15 minutes after frying to ensure they’re cooked all the way through.
  • Serve hot with salad, sauteed greens, baked beans (these would be great with French-style cassoulet), chutney or country relish.

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Braised Lamb Gnocchi

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I’m not sure what I was expecting for my first summer in Ireland, but it definitely wasn’t the gorgeous warm weather we’ve been enjoying. I mean, yes, some days are chilly, grey and rainy. Sometimes I have to turn on the heat in the house. But for the most part, the summer here has been lovely. Maybe not as warm as it would be in Cape Breton, but other than that the weather trends have been similar. I have been preparing for an Irish summer my whole life and never even knew it.

Last week, I definitely wasn’t expecting the day to be hot and sunny when I defrosted the lamb shanks my father-in-law had gifted to me the previous weekend (he has a deep-freeze full of lovely, tender lamb joints). I thought it was supposed to rain, and so planned to braise the shanks all day and have them with gnocchi for dinner that night. As soon as I got the shanks in the oven to braise, though, the sun came out, the grass dried and before I knew it Patrick was calling home to ask what we were grilling for dinner.

It had turned into the perfect BBQ day. The lamb would have to wait.

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Finally, even though the weather was nice last Thursday, I took it out of the fridge and we had the dinner I had planned several days prior. It worked out well in the end, since all the major work was done. All I had to do was whip up some gnocchi. I once spent several months making vast amounts of gnocchi every day, so it didn’t take long (especially when you’re only making it for two people as opposed to 500!). We were driving to Tipperary that night to help bring in the silage so the quick dinner was well appreciated.

The lamb in Ireland is so, so good. It must be from all the lush, green grass they and their moms get to munch on. The flavour just can’t be compared to any other kind of lamb I’ve tried – I’m hooked!

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Braised Lamb Gnocchi

Ingredients:

For the lamb:

2-3 lamb shanks, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

5-6 whole peppercorns

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp tomato paste

2 cups good red wine

1 can tomatoes

2 cups hot beef stock

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

For the gnocchi:

6 large baking potatoes

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2- 2 cups plain flour

salt

pinch of nutmeg

extra flour, for rolling

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Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • In a large dutch oven or lidded pot (that is oven-safe), heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil on high heat until smoking. Sear the seasoned lamb shanks in the hot pot until dark brown on all sides (not burnt – if you think the heat is too high, reduce it to medium-high).
  • When the shanks have been browned, remove them from the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and then add the onion, carrots and celery to the same pot. Brown the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and bay (you can put all of these things in whole as long as they’re washed – the aromatics/flavourings will be strained and thrown out, eventually).
  • Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir until the vegetables/aromatics are covered in the paste. Cook for one minute, then return the lamb shanks to the pot. Add the wine, tomatoes and beef stock.
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Once a boil has been reached, cover the pot with a lid and put it in the 325 degree oven. Braise the lamb shanks for at least 1.5 hours and preferably for 2.5-3 hours. If you haven’t braised the lamb long enough, it will still be tough. You know the lamb is ready when the meat falls away from the bone easily.
  • When the lamb is finished cooking, remove the shanks from the pot. Using two forks, removed the meat from the bone (and remove any large pieces of fat, as well). Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and cook over medium heat on the stove top until the liquid has reduced to a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. When your sauce has reduced, add the shredded lamb to the saucepan.
  • Adjust the seasoning. You may have reduced the sauce enough that it doesn’t need any extra salt. Taste it first, then add salt and pepper as necessary.

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  • Make the gnocchi: wash the potatoes and prick each potato with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree (190 degrees Celsius) oven for about an hour, until the potatoes have cooked through and are tender (easily pierced with a paring knife).
  • While the potatoes are still hot, slice them in half and scoop out the flesh (it will be hard to handle – you can use a clean dishtowel to handle the hot potatoes). Put the baked potato through a potato ricer or mash very well to get out any lumps. Add  about 2 tsp of salt to the potatoes and the pinch of nutmeg, then quickly mix in the beaten eggs. You need to mix the egg quickly or it will begin to cook!
  • When the eggs are incorporated, add 1 1/2 cups of flour and knead slightly until you get a soft dough. The mixture should be slightly sticky, but if it’s too sticky to handle add another 1/2 cup of flour until it’s workable.
  • Divide the warm dough into 4 quarters and work with one quarter at a time (the remaining dough should be kept warm under a tea towel until ready to use – once the dough gets cold, it gets very sticky and hard to work with).
  • Set up a baking sheet lined with parchment and generously sprinkled with flour. Set aside.
  • Generously flour your work surface and, by hand, roll the gnocchi dough into long, snake-like strips of dough. Using a pastry scraper or a knife, cut the gnocchi into 1 inch-long pieces. Place the finished gnocchi on the baking sheet.
  • Repeat the process with all of the gnocchi dough. You can cook the gnocchi right away, or save in the fridge for several hours before boiling.
  • To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of seasoned water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and wait for it to float to the surface. It’s done! You don’t want to overcook gnocchi or you’ll end up with rubber bullets for dinner.
  • As a general rule, 12 pieces of gnocchi is a good sized serving. This recipe will make about 4-5 servings. Plate the gnocchi and top with the braised lamb and sauce. Garnish with torn basil and/or pecorino cheese.

Spaetzle

The first time I ever made, or even heard of, spaetzle was during culinary school. My idea of German/Eastern European cuisine was pretty skewed, at that time. I thought of sausages, schnitzel – the usual suspects. I never realized how hearty, comforting and delicious Eastern European food could be.

Everything changed after I made spaetzle for the first time – a world full of warm, bacon-laden sauerkraut, white asparagus, zingy potato salads, paprikash and head cheese (yes, even head cheese) was opened up before my eyes. I never looked back, and Eastern European remains extremely high on my list of favourite ethnic foods.

A soft, eggy, noodle-type dish, spaetzle is something Patrick repeatedly asks me to make. You can have it plain with butter, mix in soft cheeses or pair it with grilled or roasted meat. At the restaurant where I used to work, we would make huge batches of spaetzle, then, to order, would sear it in a hot pan with some spinach and caramelized onion. A large portion of perfectly braised, falling apart pork shoulder would be placed on top, followed by an apple gastrique. It was one of my favourite dishes and is still on the menu, as far as I can recall (if you’re in Toronto, the restaurant is called Bannock).

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At home, our favourite way to eat spaetzle is with chèvre and caramelized onion. Since I usually serve it with roasted pork, I also like to throw in the pan juices to make it extra creamy and savoury. Like I said, Pat asks me to make this all the time, but I don’t because it’s not the easiest thing to clean up after. There is a special tool called a “hopper” which makes spaetzle-making a lot easier, but I have yet to invest in one. The way I make it at home is how we made it at the restaurant – with a palette knife and a clean, plastic cutting board. You can also use a colander and a spatula, but it’s just as messy.

Like anything delicious, it’s worth the effort (and prying batter off the gas range for the following week). We had a gorgeous meal last night of roasted pork loin, goat’s cheese and caramelized onion spaetzle and a red cabbage slaw I made the day before.

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Spaetzle

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp grainy dijon mustard

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, add the eggs, flour, mustard, salt and half the milk.
  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the batter. It should look like a thick pancake batter. If it’s too thick, add the rest of the milk, bit by bit, until you get the right consistency.
  • Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  • When you have the right consistency, continue to beat the mixture for about three minutes on medium speed. You want to develop the gluten in the flour.
  • When the water is boiling, put a ladle-full of batter on a clean plastic cutting board. Using your palette knife, spread batter evenly over the cutting board. Then, also using your palette knife, scrape ribbons of batter into the boiling water. Alternately, you can add a ladle-full of batter to a colander (or any perforated object) and press droplets of batter through the holes with a spatula, directly into the boiling water. If using a hopper, you’re set for life. Just add the batter into the moving compartment and scrape it back and forth, directly over the boiling water.
  • Boil the droplets/ribbons of batter  until they float to the surface. This will only take about 30 seconds or less and you do not want to overcook the spaetzle. Only boil one ladle-full of batter at a time.
  • Using a perforated spoon, remove the spaetzle from the boiling water and set on a baking tray lined with a clean dishcloth to cool, if you don’t plan on serving them right away.
  • Repeat this process until all the batter has been used and don’t get too upset when you realize half the batter is now all over your kitchen counter and stove top.
  • Reheat with caramelized onions and chèvre, or butter and spinach, or anything else you’d like! Just check the seasoning before you serve.
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