On Cookery and Recipes and Other Things

If you follow this blog on the semi-regular basis that I update it, you’ll know that Dina In The Kitchen is generally a bad idea. I’ve gotten mustard on the ceiling while making fried chicken.

Don’t ask. Just…don’t. Don’t even think about it. You’ll hurt your brain. Just take my word for it. This is a story that is often told by my mother whenever I go into the kitchen to do something as simple as put the kettle on for tea.

It’s just a bad idea.

Now, having said that, this post will contain recipes. (Recipes involving meat, for those who don’t want to read about such things – you’ve been warned.)

Those familiar with this blog and my vlogs know that I have a character who enjoys cooking more than a little.

A few months back, I was in a local kitchen store and saw one of these – a wonderful Moroccan clay pot called a “tagine”.

It should be noted here that I’m a complete sucker for Moroccan/Lebanese food.

Anyway, this tagine came with a 8.5×11″ piece of blue folded paper that served as both instruction sheet and recipe guide. I also found some other useful recipes online, and have since bought a few books on both Moroccan and clay pot cookery.

Remember what I said about Dina In The Kitchen being a Bad Idea.

Now, having said the above, I am a fair hand at baking and making fudge. I do, also, have the ability to create serviceable fare for hungry people. I can cook. It’s not a good idea, but it is theoretically feasible to have me prepare sustenance if necessary.

Did I mention this was a bad idea? I thought so.

Anyway! I have this tagine. It needs to be used at least once every couple of months or it will need to be “reseasoned” – a process that takes no less than fourteen hours for this particular pot, involving soaking in a big plastic tub and reheating in a “cold” oven.

I haven’t made a tagine in awhile, so this needed doing, and our local Costco has just started stocking beautiful pieces of lamb.

It just so happens that one of the recipes in the aforementioned booklet was for “Lamb with Preserved Lemons and Olives”.

Now, I didn’t have any preserved lemons, nor was I able to locate any locally, and the recipes for them I found online involve a sort of canning process and a month in the refrigerator.

That wasn’t going to help with tonight’s dinner plans. So, I improvised. More on that in a minute. I did find preserved lemons online, and will order them for the next time I attempt this recipe.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Aw, what the heck! Let’s cut it short, shall we?

It was FREAKING AWESOME. I’d upload a pic for you, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to do that on this new blog. I’ll figure it out eventually and edit it for you. For now, it’s over on Twitpic.

Here’s the recipe. Remember, this is for a tagine/clay pot, so you should have one before you attempt this. From the little booklet from Le Souk Ceramique provided with my Cookable Tagine, I give you:

Tagine Of Lamb With Preserved Lemons And Olives

Ingredients:

1lb of lamb stew meat*
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. saffron OR tumeric (I used saffron ’cause I’m cool like that)
1 tsp. ground ginger (I cheat and use the nice stuff in the green tube)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup GRATED onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups MINCED onion
1 cup green or black olives (I used green ’cause I love them best)
2 preserved lemons, julienned (which I didn’t have, so I used a generous helping of lemon juice instead)

Toss the lamb with spices, salt and GRATED onion.

Slowly heat olive oil in tagine, then add lamb and cook lightly on LOW heat.

Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on LOW heat for one hour, adding more water if necessary.

After one hour, add MINCED onions and cook (uncovered) until meat is tender and sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, slice and pit the olives and remove pulp from preserved lemons and rinse thoroughly. Add lemons and olives ten minutes before serving.

*Cuts of lamb that work well in stews are lamb shoulder, leg of lamb (both cut into 1.5 inch cubes), lamb knuckle or lamb shanks on the bone. (Emphasis on the different onions mine, as the recipe is totally unclear on a few things so I edited it a bit for clarity’s sake.)

Total cook-time in my case – about 3 hours. Of course, I made double the recipe, so naturally this would extend the cooking time. Also, a tagine is a slow cooker, so if you’re in a hurry for your dinner, this isn’t a thing you should think about getting. I happen to be a “throw it in the pot and leave it”-kind-of-cook, so it works nicely for me.

Like I said, I improvised and used generous squirts of ReaLemon juice (as a few other recipes call for lemon juice and I have it on hand for when I don’t want to juice actual lemons by hand ’cause I’m lazy). I also used nice lamb chops (2lbs) with the bone in (they were lovely!), and they worked fine.

It was so, so good. I can’t tell you how awesome it was. The pic shows you that there are no bones to speak of, because the meat literally fell off them and I used two forks to just pick them out of the pot. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Even if it is a bad idea to have me in the kitchen.

But wait! There’s more!

As this is the holiday season, some of my gifts will be of the homemade variety, and that means Mom’s Fudge.

This recipe was given to my mother sometime before I was born, and if I’m not mistaken, it comes from Good Housekeeping magazine circa 1970-something. No matter when or where it came from, it’s been altered by this family member and that, and passed down to me. I make it yearly, and I’m warning you now – a little dab’ll do ya!

Without further ado, I give you:

Mom’s Fudge

You will need:

1 buttered cake pan (I like the 9″x13″ size)
1 pkg (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (or whatever – butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips)
7 ½ oz marshmallow crème (1 small jar or ½ large jar)
1 can (12 oz) EVAPORATED milk (*NOT* condensed!!)
1 stick of butter or margarine (I like butter best.)
4 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup nuts if desired (walnuts are best)

Instructions:

Combine sugar, milk, & butter in large pot. While stirring constantly, bring to a FULL, BUBBLING boil.

BOIL for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. (This is important, or your candy won’t set.)

(Are you getting the STIR CONSTANTLY part? Good.)

Remove from heat after 8 minutes.

Stir in chips, marshmallow crème, & vanilla (nuts as well if you’re using them).

Stir well, then pour into buttered pan.

Cool and cut into SMALL squares (believe me, it will be plenty!).

Makes 5 lbs.

Wait…there’s still more GOODNESS!

What winter cookery would be complete without a nice, hearty soup to warm your insides? This recipe was given to me by the head chef of what had been one of my favorite eateries around here. They went out of business in spite of my loyal patronage, which is a pity, because they made the most awesome soups, salads and sandwiches. Though you can follow the recipe and it will turn out just great, it takes about 2 days to make it my way, from prep to finished yum depending on how you do it, but it’s so, so worth it! I don’t like green pepper so I leave it out and it’s still yummy! It can also be altered to be completely vegetarian and still taste wonderful! Bake up some nice cornbread to serve with it! It will do you good!

Enjoy!

Charlotte’s Gourmet Bean Soup

1lb assorted beans, soaked overnight (I like the 15-bean assortment)
1lb Italian sausage, sliced (I prefer the “mild” kind)
1 large onion, diced
1 green and 1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 – 12oz can diced tomatoes
1 – 6oz can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
8 cups water or chicken stock (the stock works best and is so good!)
Olive oil

– Saute onion in oil with sausage until done
– Add garlic and peppers, saute two minutes more
– Add everything else, bring to a boil, simmer on low 2-3 hours
– (or Dina’s way – in a crockpot on high heat until simmering (about an hour), then on low heat overnight)

So! That’s all the goodness I have to share with you tonight! What can I say? The holiday season gets me all domestique.

That, and I just had to share the tagine of awesome with you!