Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tikka Kebabs

This was a fantastic recent find of mine.  I have a couple of amazing cookbooks by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  They are a couple who travels in different parts of the world (mostly Asia) and learn to cook in villages by the locals.  They have the most wonderful recipes in beautiful books.  This recipe came from Mangoes and Curry Leaves:Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent.  It just so happened that this book was the end book on my cookbook shelf.  The back cover picture kept staring at me calling my name until I became determined to find out just what that dish was.  This is it.  As my husband said, this was the best marinade he's ever had.  And this is a man who is serious about eating good meat!
The recipe is supposed to be for lamb kebabs (not much in the way of beef recipes in India) but seeing as we do eat beef here and good lamb is harder to come by, I used beef instead of lamb when we did these up.  We've had them twice in the past 2 weeks, once without the yogurt in the marinade as I didn't have any on hand and once with.  Both versions were good.  I even managed to convince my husband to BBQ them for me in the snow - isn't he great?

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder (I used stewing beef in substitution)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp minced garlic (or garlic mashed to a paste)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper (optional)
lime or lemon wedges

Trim the meat of any excess fat and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.  Set aside in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, coriander. oil, 1 tsp of the salt, the cayenne, and black pepper.  Pour over the meat.  Stir with a spoon or your hands to get all the meat surfaces coated with marinade.  Cover  and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 12 hours. 
Thread the meat onto metal skewers, without pressing them tightly together, grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until browned on the outside and pale pink in the centre (or all the way through if you prefer).
Just before serving, sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt over the meat.  Put out lime or lemon wedges so guests can squeeze on fresh juice.
Serve with flatbread.

A few Valentine's Pics

 It's a good thing that I took a picture of these sugar cookies when I did, they didn't last out the day!

Our Valentine's feast went well.  The salad was an avocado one that I don't think I'd make again.  It was slightly too oily.  I liked all the ingredients though (avocado, tomato, feta, corn), maybe next time I'd up the amount of lime juice and hold back a bit on the olive oil.  The steak I did in Montreal Steak Spice and fried it in the cast iron skillet with the onions.  It was perfect!.  The shrimp were cooked in garlic butter and also came out perfect (don't you like the hearts I made with the shrimp?)

The potatoes were the find of the evening.  I tossed them in a little olive oil with herbes de provence and roasted them for over an hour in a baking dish (turning occasionally).  So yummy!  We did follow up with strawberries in chocolate, but no picture for that.  Hope your V-Day feast was just as yummy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Plans for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is one of those holiday/non-holidays that I can take or leave.  When I was single, I spent many a Valentine's Day dressed in black with my other single girlfriends, treating ourselves out to a nice dinner and then having a fantastic time letting guys buy us drinks and dancing the night away.
When my husband and I began dating I made him cookies for our first Valentine's Day.  He loved that.  He's a sucker for homemade gifts.  The cookie theme stuck throughout our courtship (including me express posting packages of them to him when he was in college across country).  Incidentally, we had cookies for guest treats at our wedding instead of the traditional party mints to keep with the theme.
We've had a variety or Valentine's dates over the years.  One of the most memorable we spent at a cooking class that was advertised as a romantic night of cooking for two.  There were other couples there ready to learn and feast with this great chef.  The funny part (and unromantic part) was the lone single woman who kept inturrupting the chef and the company host who insisted that the chef portion out small to us.  She was also a rather brash personality that just did not add to the ambiance of it.  We ended up picking ourselves up a burger afterwards so we wouldn't go hungry.  Ahh well, we tried.
This year we are on a rather strict budget so no going out date.  We have become experts at the at home date, once the kids are in bed. 
Kids see Valentines Day as something special too.  What kid doesn't get excited about all the cards being exchanged with friends.  Never mind all the heart cut-outs and small school celebration attached to it.  Anything to break the routine of day to day school.
I like to do a little something for my kids on Valentines day - nothing too big (it's not a second Christmas) but a little treat because I love them.  I went to a card-making craft session on Friday and make everyone some cute Valentines.  And I've stocked up on Hershey's kisses and cinnamon hearts to have on the table on Monday.  Do you want to see the cute jam heart breakfast sandwiches I'll be making?  I got this idea on Chatelaine's website here.  Cute eh?
What I didn't realize until today is that I do not have heart shaped cookie cutters of my own.  That's just not right!  I did pick some up at the dollar store this afternoon.  I'm planning on making some sugar cookies with my boys tomorrow.  Always a great treat.
Here's my favorite sugar cookie recipe.  It is from Mrs. Field's Best Cookie Book Ever.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 325*.  In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt with a whisk, set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat until well mixed.  Add the flour mixture, Blend on a low speed just until combined, don't overmix.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten the ball into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate one hour until firm.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into fun shapes.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

And for our Valentine's dinner - here's the planned menu (shh, don't tell my husband, it's a surprise for him!) - Basically, it's his favorite meal.  Avacado salad, Shrimp in garlic butter, steak, baby potatoes followed with strawberries dipped in chocolate.  Sounds good, doesn't it?
What kind of plans do you have for your Valentine's Day this year?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I love this recipe for a cold winter's night.  It is the tastiest shepherd's pie I've ever had.  I use Jean Pare's recipe from Cooking for Two, but I double it each time.  Here are the measurements for a double recipe (which feeds my family of 5 nicely).  You can of course halve it to make the smaller 'for 2' dish.

2 tsp cooking oil
1 lb lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups chopped onion

2/3 cup water
4 tsp beef bouillon powder
2 medium carrots, sliced thinly or diced (I dice them)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
sprinkle each of salt and pepper

2/3 cup frozen peas

3 cups cooked mashed potatoes
2 tbsp milk (to mix into the mashed potato)
sprinkle of salt (to mix into the mashed potato)
sprinkle of paprika

Heat cooking oil in frying pan.  Add ground beef and onion.  Scramble-fry until beef is browned and onion is soft.  Drain.

Combine the next 7 ingredients in saucepan.  Stir.  Heat to boiling.  Cook slowly until carrot is tender.  Add peas.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add ground beef mixture.  Stir.  Pack into a casserole dish. 

Cover with mashed potato.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake, uncovered in 350* oven for about 30 minutes, until very hot.