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Lamb stuffed eggplant October 21, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb, Vegetables, Wolfe recipe.
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Wow. It has been a while between posts, hasn’t it? Remember a while ago when I said I wanted to have a full Relapse and not come out of the brownstone? Well, I’ve been on a bit of a self-inflicted Relapse, but not one which involved fun food experimentation, but one which instead involved my brain being stuffed full with so many things I had no time or brain space to cook or write. Fun!

As penance, I have for you another Nero Wolfe recipe,  one cooked as part of his lamb Relapse when he cooked lamb in 20 different ways. While I love both lamb roast and slow cooked lamb, I’m always pleased to try recipes which use lamb in different ways – in this case, mince.

To start with, I cooked some rice as I needed some pre-cooked rice for the recipe and didn’t have any lying around. Once it was cooled a bit, I mixed together all the ingredients that made up the filling: the rice, lamb mince, capsicum, pine nuts, parsley, dill, tomato juice and an onion. I should note that this recipe called for a grated onion and I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve had to grate, instead of dice, an onion. The result is best described as ‘onion goop’! After I mixed all the ingredients together, this is what it looked like:

Next, it was time to prepare the eggplant. I had chosen two large eggplants, and sliced them in half. Using a knife, I cut most of the eggplant flesh out, leaving about a 2cm ‘outline’ of eggplant. I found it was necessary to use a knife, rather than just scooping it out with a spoon as the recipe suggested, as the flesh was fairly firm. Now, the reason I’m telling you this in such detail is because I was *so* intent on cutting out eggplants, I didn’t take any photos! I do apologise.

After I’d prepared both the eggplant and the filling, I set up my cooking apparatus. The recipe instructed me to place a rack in the bottom of a casserole dish which I was then to cover with parsley. However, I had no rack which would fit inside my casserole dish, so I improvised. I put a small baking dish upside down in the bottom, and then put the inner plate of a spring-form pan on top. Here’s a shot of it half assembled:

I roughly chopped up more parsley and put a layer on top of the ‘rack’ I’d assembled. I filled each of the eggplants with the lamb mixture and put some butter on top. I added water and wine to the pot, and set it to simmer (with the lid on) on the stove.

The recipe stated that it would take about an hour to simmer it until the eggplant was tender; however, when I checked them after 40 minutes, they were quite soft.

While they were cooling, I made the sauce. I took some eggs and added some lemon juice to them (the recipe called for lime juice but I had no limes). I slowly heated this mixture in a saucepan until it thickened, and then added some of the cooking stock. Once it had been incorporated, I added paprika and a little bit of mustard. This was the end result.

As you can see the eggplants were quite large and held a great deal of filling! We did end up with a fair amount of leftover filling from this dish so please bear that in mind if you are following the recipe in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. As for the dish itself – the filling was very tasty and I particularly enjoyed the combination of the lamb, dill and pine nuts. The texture of the eggplant was also something I enjoyed as it was soft but still ‘meaty’ at the same time. The flavour of the filling had partially penetrated the eggplant which also contributed to its flavour.

The sauce was something I could have done without. It reminded me a bit of a hollandaise or bernaise-type sauce, but without the butter it was thin and I didn’t think it complemented the lamb very well. However I really enjoyed the lamb filling and will definitely be keeping this recipe in mind next time I’m making hamburgers!

With this recipe from Nero Wolfe’s Relapse being very nice, I am hopeful that other recipes from his Relapse are equally good. I realise a Relapse is a hit and miss affair so I hope the next Relapse recipe is another hit!

Braided bread with lamb filling May 12, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Bread, Lamb.
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“…where is some meat?”
“Oh”. Perrit sounded chilly. “Maybe I’ve got you lined up wrong. You want a slice of the meat racket?”
“No. I want slices of beef and pork. I want some meat to eat. Lamb. Veal.”
-Nero Wolfe in Before I Die, part of the Trouble in Triplicate short story collection.

After reading through the last few posts, I realised that I had inadvertently posted a number of meals on the lighter side – with not much meat included. You’ll be pleased to know that this post rectifies this situation with the bringing together to two essential elements: meat and bread.

I started with lamb shoulder. I got a rolled lamb shoulder from my butcher – which I promptly unrolled and placed in a pot. I added onion, garlic, carrots, olives and some olive brine, chilis, and salt and pepper. I also added some stock I had left over from a previous roast, which I had stored in an icecube tray in the freezer.

In preparing the lamb, I roughly followed the Pioneer Woman’s drip beef recipe. After I had everything ready, I put it in the oven on a low temperature and left it for a few hours.

For the bread, I used the recipe here for braided bread. I saw this and thought it looked so nice I wanted to try it! I decided to make a half recipe, as she divided the dough in half and froze half, and I knew if I froze some dough I’d never use it up – and that it would remain in my freezer like a goose from christmases past…

I started with putting yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl and let it sit until it went creamy.

I added enough flour until it formed a ball, and kneaded it for about 10 minutes. I added a little bit of oil and made sure the dough was coated in it, and then left it to rise. After about an hour, it had doubled in size, and I punched it down, reformed it into a ball, and left it to rise again.

In the meantime, the lamb was ready. I had tested it a few times and continue to let it cook for longer until I could pull the meat apart with two forks. I estimate the total cooking time for the lamb to be around 3-3.5 hours.

I pulled all the meat apart until I didn’t have any large chunks left, and left it to cool while I prepared the dough.

After the dough had risen a second time, I rolled it out into an approximate oval shape. I became super scientific, and got out a tape measure and measured the dough at its widest point, and divided it into three. I measured 2cm strips down the two outer pieces and cut them out.

Once I’d cut all the strips out, I piled the lamb mix into the centre. I mushed up the carrots slightly, just to make them easier to deal with, and added some mozzarella on top.

Then I began to wrap the outer flaps/strips over the centre, to create a braid-type pattern. This dough was so soft and stretchy, it was very easy to press into place – but it was also easy to over stretch it. It wasn’t completely uniform when I finished, but it wasn’t too bad! I folded the ends in to finish it.

By the way, it is worth noting that I prepared it on a piece of parchment paper that I’d measured to make sure it would fit on my baking tray. That way, after I wrapped it up, I just had to lift the parchment onto the tray, rather than trying to maneuver the soft, filled dough. A Silpat would work even better, I’m sure, and as soon as I get one I’ll be sure to use it for just this purpose!

I put an egg wash over the bread, and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes, until it was brown on top. Here it is once I’d taken it out of the oven.

While this looked completely and utterly awesome, the main thing it reminded me of was a sandworm from Dune! I think this probably just shows that I spend too much time watching sci-fi movies, rather than any reflection on the recipe used.

Anyway, it may look like a sandworm but I’m sure it tasted a whole lot better! The bread was so soft to cut into! As you can see it held its shape well, and while the lamb fell out a bit, it mostly remained contained within the bread.

The lamb filling was tangy, spicy and just a great collection of flavours after being cooked for so long. This was then surrounded by soft delicious bread – comfort food if I ever saw it! Overall the dish was lighter than I was expecting – while the bread was soft, it wasn’t overly dense; however, I wouldn’t call this a light summer dish!

Well I don’t know about Nero Wolfe, but I certainly got some meat to eat. As we are heading towards winter, I’m sure I’ll do more slow-cooked meats, casseroles and so on. I will continue in my quest for different meats as I’m sure Nero Wolfe will!

Lamb with pomegranate marinade March 21, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Lamb.
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I had read about pomegranate-braised beef cheeks and for some reason my brain morphed that into beef marinated in pomegranate. I got all excited and bought a pomegranate before I realised that the recipe wasn’t what I wanted at all, but I decided to press on and make up my own marinade to go with my pieces of lamb backstrap.

To start with, I removed all the pomegranate seeds. There are several instructions and techniques out there for removing the seeds, but I find the easiest way is to cut the crown of the pomegranate off, then cut the pomegranate in half. If you are sensible you can then put the halves into some water, break the pomegranate up under the water, and the seeds will fall to the bottom of the container. You can then remove the rind and fleshy/membrane-y parts. If you are not sensible, like me, you can follow the same technique but without using the bowl of water to contain everything. This will result in pomegranate juice shooting all over your counter tops but for me part of the fun is seeing where the juice goes! It is less fun cleaning up the juice afterwards…

Once I’d removed all the seeds, I set about preparing the marinade. I took about 3/4 of the seeds, and squished them so they released their juices. Although usually the skin and pulp of the pomegranate is discarded, I boiled them in some water and ended up with lightly flavoured pomegranate water. While not juice by any stretch of the imagination, it gave a bit more depth to the marinade when mixed in with the juice from the seeds. I added oil, garlic, salt and pepper, cumin, and some chives. I left the lamb to marinate overnight in the fridge.

The next day, I took the lamb out of the fridge and poured the whole lot of marinade (and the lamb) into a baking dish. I decided to cook it with all the marinade to further allow the flavours to infuse the lamb. I put the baking tin in the oven at 180 degrees and set about making the vegetable bake I had decided was accompanying the lamb.

I sliced up zucchini, sunburst squash, onions and parsley. I layered these one by one in the pan, and then added salt, pepper and the parsley. Then I added my secret ingredient: two icecubes of lamb stock. When I had last made lamb shanks, I had made them in a mixture of coffee, chilli and spices inspired by the chilli I made a while ago, instead of the more traditional red wine and vegetables. The resulting stock was delicious, and I had tipped some into an icecube tray so I could retrieve individual portions as I required.

Why yes, I do have bottle-shaped icecube trays! Somewhat ironically, they were the ones I used for the stock, leaving my drink glasses sadly unadorned and requiring use of normal shaped (water) icecubes. Unless people want lamb broth in their drinks, in which case I am more than happy to oblige!

Anyway, back to the veggie bake. I added another lot of the zucchini, sunburst squash and onion layers, and topped it off with more parsley, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs. This also went into the oven, uncovered to allow the breadcrumbs to go crispy.

So: the final result. The lamb ended up a little overcooked but it was still tender and delicious. It had absorbed the flavours of the marinade very well and had a little citrus kick from the pomegranate juice. The lamb contrasted nicely with the veggie bake, and the vegetables had absorbed the lamb stock, again adding more depth of flavour. I added some of the remaining pomegranate seeds to the lamb to complete it.

Even though this recipe came about quite by accident with my addled brain misremembering something else entirely, I was very happy with the outcome. I was glad that the pomegranate flavour came through with the lamb, and didn’t get lost in the other flavours. I hope that next time my brain translates a recipe into something else entirely, it is as successful as this was!