Category Archives: meat

Robbie Burns night

Hey! It’s the 200th entry! Woot!

Today, January 25th, is a pretty big day for two reasons. As I type this, the State of the Union is being delivered to millions of TV sets and will outline public policy in the U.S. for the next year. The other reason is one that is centuries old, and while it may only meet the amount of drinking as the first, it certainly yields good food: Robbie Burns Day.

Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet, despite the fact that he died 215 years ago. His friends celebrated him after he died, then all of Scotland did, and now pockets of people all over the world do. There’s a program of events that involves readings, toasts, and of course lots of scotch drinking. We prepared a night of Scottish food and helped three people celebrate their first Robbie Burns night, which is always fun.

We started the evening with Scotch eggs, which I just tasted two years ago. They always seem to please. Of course, deep-frying anything is a pretty good way to make it enjoyable. We made it with a mustard sauce which I found here that was easy to make and matched the eggs very nicely. The recipe for Scotch eggs themselves didn’t come from that site, but from a book from way back titled The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors with the entertaining subtitle “Recipes you should have gotten from your grandmother” and is reproduced below. A note on the recipe: if you buy spiced sausage meat as we did, you’re good – the meat can elevate this dish from good to fantastic quite easily. If you buy unseasoned, use the seasoning in the link above – it looks pretty tasty and would have pretty much the same effect. Either way, seasoning is the way to go.

The haggis was next, with full pomp and poetry (my terrible Scottish accent got complimented, but only because I was the only one willing to read Address to a Haggis), along with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes, mashed and roasted) and peas (not a Scottish tradition, but some colour was needed). We ended up making Pretend Haggis, as 1) it’s very difficult to get the real haggis ingredients without lots of planning, and 2) our plan for haggis with some organ meat got put off by a butcher who didn’t order a heart. Fake haggis it is! It was still quite tasty – the oats provide a pleasant, different texture, and the lamb and liver gave a very different taste to the entire project. No picture, as it just looked like a meatloaf – no sheep stomach or sausage links to put it in.

tablet

Finally, we finished with Scottish shortbread and tablet, two treasures I discovered when I was in Scotland. The shortbread turned out great, though it wasn’t as buttery as I remember it from Scotland. I think they used twice as much butter as I did, and I used a lot of butter – butter makes any dessert heavenly. The recipe also came from The Frugal Gourmet book.

I was quite nervous about the tablet, though, which I got from A Wee Bit of Cooking, which is a really good cooking blog. There were lots of warnings in the recipe about how you could screw up, but somehow I managed to evade the dire predictions and have it turn out. I think the key is patience, low heat, and arm strength (for stirring). You can’t ever stop stirring and you have to be able to stay there and do that for up to an hour before you can walk away. That’s hard, especially if you have something else on the go. I did the shortbread first and was going to start the tablet while it was baking, but wisely decided to separate the two activities.

All in all, a successful meal and a successful celebration of Robert Burns. And maybe we’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne!

Scotch Eggs

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, at room temperature
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1.5 lb bulk pork sausage
1 c dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
6-8 c peanut oil for deep-frying (I used vegetable oil)

Coat each hard-boiled egg with flour. Divide the sausage into 8 equal parts (or just grab a bunch as needed and smash it out, like I did).
Make a patty out of each bit of sausage and use it to to each egg completely. Mix the bread crumbs, sage, and salt. Dip the sausage-coated eggs into the beaten eggs; roll in bread-crumb mixture.
Heat the oil to 375* for deep-frying. Deep-fry the eggs, 4 at a time, 7 minutes’ minimum. Drain. Serve hot or cold.

Scottish Shortbread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 c sugar
1/2 lb butter, softened

Place all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well. If you have a heavy-duty electric mixer, cut in the butter with the machine. If not, do it by hand with a pastry blender.
Knead the dough by hand for just a moment and form it into a circle 3/4″ thick on a nonstick baking sheet and flute the edges (I had to put some flour down and roll it with a rolling pin, then use a thin plastic sheet to pry it up and place it on a baking sheet. Then again, I wanted a nice, smooth top. Definitely flute the edges, though.) Prick the whole circle with a fork. Bake in a preheated 325*F oven for 30 minutes or until it just begins to turn a light golden brown. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then remove it to a rack for final cooling. When cool, the cookie can be cut, but the Scots simply break it up into pieces and serve it with tea.

If you wish to form smaller cookies from this recipe, just remember to watch the baking time. Smaller cookies will cook more quickly.

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south american dinner

Chris’s mom hosted a local book launch at the library this past Wednesday, so we attended and listened as she talked about her visit to Chaitén volcano in Chile, which the novel is based around (it’s an eco-thriller). Chris snagged a recipe for some delicious chocolate-chili cookies (probably to be posted at a later date) and also won a bottle of Chilean wine. We decided to make it into a South American-themed night a few nights later and concocted a couple of dishes out of one of the recipe books we acquired in South America. As we didn’t spend much time in Chile, we couldn’t do a Chilean night, but thankfully the Colombian cookbook we had offered a few delicious opportunities.

We hauled out our Spanish copy of Secrets of Colombian Cooking (we recently discovered it was originally publish in English then translated for the author’s home country – here we figured we were getting an inside Colombian scoop!) and settled on Pollo Sudado, as it looked fairly easy (though time-consuming) and had pretty common ingredients. It’s a lot of FLURRY OF ACTIVITY then wait then FLURRY then wait, but in the end, it tasted like something we would’ve had for lunch in a Colombian restaurant, which was a good sign.

Pollo sudado

12 chicken thighs
1/3 c onion, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c onions, sliced
2 c tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp achiote (we used turmeric; see below)*
1 cube chicken bullion
1.5 lbs (about 12) potatoes

In a big bowl combine the chicken, chopped onion, 2 tbsp of oil, mustard, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes.

In a big pot over medium heat warm 1 tbsp oil and saute the onions for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, the other 2 tsp of salt, Worchestershire, achiote, and bullion and fry for 4 more minutes.

Add the chicken mixture and 1 cup of water or chicken broth. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes, cover again and cook until the potatoes are finished, about 20 minutes.

It says to serve with white rice, but we thought the potatoes were enough. It’s very South American to have two or three carbs in a meal at the same time, though.

*We didn’t have any achiote spice, so we just used turmeric. It might have a slightly different flavour, but tasted close enough for us in the end.

How can you top a delicious dish like this? How about with a wonderful version of the dessert that appears on nearly every South American menu – arroz con leche (rice pudding)? This dessert was possibly the best arroz con leche I’ve ever had, and I LOVE rice pudding. It takes a long time to make – an hour of soaking, at least 40 minutes of cooking, then cooling time – but it is worth every second (and it’s easy). The spices saturate everything and the rice is so soft that it melts in your mouth. It recommends serving it cold, but I love a nice warm rice pudding. Either way, it’s really good.

Oh, and how was the wine? It was OK – a little on the dry side, though the finish was nice. To be honest, the food kind of drove out thoughts about the wine. At least it was a good instigator!

Arroz con Leche

1.5 c rice, washed
1/4 c sugar (the recipe calls for 1/2 c, but we found half of that was enough)
2 sticks of cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tsp salt
2 c whole milk
1 c sweetened condensed milk
1 c cream
1/2 c raisins (optional)

Mix the rice, 6 cups of water, and the cloves and cinnamon in a bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for one hour. Do not stir.

In a pot over medium heat, place the rice, water, and spices, 1/4 c of sugar, and the salt. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the water is gone. (It only took about 40 minutes for us, though it overboiled at first.)

Uncover, add the other 1/4 c of sugar, the milk, the condensed milk, and the cream. Mix with a wooden spoon, cover, and cook at a simmer for 5 minutes.

If desired, add the raisins and cook for another few minutes.

Uncover and let sit until desired temperature reached.

arroz con leche

kebap file: adana kebap

We came, we saw, we ate in the bus station. That was our experience with the Adana kebap, one of the other famous types of kebap in the nation. I wish we had had time to go into the city and find a proper place to experience this variation on the almighty kebap, but a couple of hours between buses on our way to Gaziantep limited our options rather severly.

Adana is the gateway into the spicy southeast, home of the pistachios, chili peppers, and the Kurdish rebellion. Does the spiciness of the food get in the blood? Not that we could see, everyone here is so wonderfully friendly. Yet the spice remains. The Adana kebap is a skewer of meat, liberally spiced with the spicy red chili pepper of the region, and grilled to perfection. Served with the typical peppers, tomatoes, parsley, onion-and-sumac salad, lemon, and flatbread, it’s a make-your-own-wrap-lover’s delight. The spice is palpable, it’s definitely not there just for decoration. It wasn’t long before our plates were empty of meat and we were sipping tea, reflecting on kebaps past and kebaps to come.

kebap file: the iskender kebap & pidelı köfte

Iskender Efendi was the guy who started it all. At least, according to him. Back in the 19th century, it was his idea to turn the spit from a horizontal position over fire to a vertical one beside a fire and slice chunks off. ‘The Greeks’ took the idea with them when they left and created (and exported) the gyro, but the seed is resoundingly Turkish, as goes the story. Iskender’s creation lives on, both in the restaurant he created, still managed by his descendents, and the variant of the cooking style he ‘created’ that still bears his name: the Iskender kebap. Sliced meat on pieces of pita covered with a tomato sauce, served with yogurt, tomato, roasted peppers*, and, in this case, pureed eggplant. And the crowning glory? The meat and tomato sauce is doused with melted butter, giving everything that wickedly delicious taste that no heart specialist would ever professionally endorse. Eat bite is a little bit of heaven – a bit of meat and sauce, some pita, a dab of yogurt.

Here at Iskender, their mutton is all oregano-fed, the butter and yogurt are freshly-made, and everything is top-notch. For the price you pay – 18TL for a portion, twice what you would at any regular stand – I would hope so, but the taste and autenticity make it more than worth it. It’s not often you get to taste a dish in the restaurant where it was created 200 years ago. If you’re eating in Bursa, this restaurant is a must-visit. All you have to do is ask where the Iskender restaurant is – I think every local should be able to point you in the right direction.

I’m going to add in a similar dish, only found in one neighbourhood in Bursa out of the whole country, one remarkably like the Iskender kebap – the pidelı köfte. In fact, it’s the same dish, but with köfte, those spicy little meatballs found on every menu in Turkey. Just on the edge of the bazaar downtown are a collection of restaurants serving this tasty dish, done up the same was as an Iskender kebap – sauce, pita, butter, yogurt. Chris deemed this her favourite dish in Turkey, as the köfte was less filling than the kebap. The environs were also nicer – many of the restaurants were open and sunny, some even having tables outside, while Iskender was in a restored home, rather dark and gloomy. Both are quite good, both are found in Bursa, and both deserve to be devoured with the reverence deserving of a good meal.

*The peppers here look like chili peppers, but they’re not. They have a wee bit of spiciness to them, but are much closer to capsicums than chillis. I rather like them.

they eat all of the goat

We visited a little restaurant tonight that dealt in local specialties. Chris ordered the local version of baba ghanoush, known as moutabal, which was only mediocre compared to Egypt’s killer version. I went for the very special local specialty – boiled goat’s head. Due to the graphic nature of the pictures, I’m only posting links to them – before and after. Seriously, even Chris didn’t really like looking at them during and after dinner.

The meat was not nearly as good as the mensaf – it was little rubbery, and the cheeks were a little strange. The tongue was rather tasty. To be honest, it wasn’t all that filling – goat’s head does not have a lot of meat. Why anyone would order this except as a fun experiment (outside of old times when you ate everything because you had to) is a little beyond me. Maybe people who developed the taste when they were young and never lost it. Well, I’ve tried this anything once so that you don’t have to.

mensaf

Welcome to Jordan! There’s a lot of food here similar to Egypt, but a a fe differences for us to investigate. First and foremost of those is mensaf. We tried it three times in total – twice with delicious lamb (how it’s typically made, cooked to falling-off tenderness) and once with chicken. It’s actually not a lot more than meat cooked very well, often for hours, on rice with some nuts on top (we had it with roasted peanuts once and roasted almonds the other times). The special addition is the yogurt. Traditionally made from goat’s milk, plain yogurt is mostly used today. A sauce with the consistency of heavy cream is created with the yogurt and the meat drippings. It is usually poured over the rice and meat, though I enjoyed dipping every bit in instead, just so I didn’t waste any sauce and got a delicious taste of yogurt with every bite.

We tried the lamb in restaurants and the chicken as a semi-homecooked meal in our hotel outside of Petra. The traditional way of eating is with a lack of forks. There are thin pieces of unleavened bread provided, and you are supposed to use them to scoop up chunks of rice and meat. Because a giant plate of rice isn’t filling enough. 🙂

This dish is sometimes served at weddings, we were told, as it is huge and contains lamb, which seems to be the national meat. For a wedding, they might buy 1-2kg of lamb per person. Yeah, could you eat that much meat? Could your grandma? Imagine everyone eating that much lamb. Crazy.

This is definitely a dish that we will be sharing with friends and making for ourselves. You can find recipes for it on the net simply by googling it. I recommend cooking for as long as possible – a pressure cooker would be a big help in this regard. However you do it up, enjoy!

shish cooking

This one’s easy. Shish kebab is one food from this region that everyone knows. Spiced meat on a stick cooked up, straight up. Delicious. Pictured here they had removed the stick and arranged them all nicely. Great meat, kind of like meatballs in this place.

Shish tawook is the same idea, but with chicken. It’s the specific name for this dish – chicken by itself is farooj. Same idea, same great taste.