Two birthdays

I am writing in spoonglish again after two months. I obviously did not follow through with my new years resolution. Is anybody surprised? Not only I left my blog aside, but also I forgot spoonglish first birthday, which happened this month without me even thinking about it. We didn't celebrate! I also had my birthday this month, 27 years old already, but we did celebrate that one.  What a selfish b**ch I have become!

Some days ago, I made my favorite lamb tagine recipe. I had a piece of lamb shoulder in the freezer since do-not-ask-me-when, and I decided to take it out some morning to make this dish that I love and that I hadn't made in a while.

The first time I ever ate tagine was at a Moroccan restaurant called El Jardín del Califa, in Vejer de la Frontera. If you ever happen to go to this little village in Cádiz (Spain), you have to go eat at El Califa, it is a wonderful culinary experience.

I use the recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The first time I made it I loved it. This time, I had to substitute some of the vegetables to use up the things that were in my fridge, and I liked it even more.

Lamb tagine with vegetables, prunes and dried apricots
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, serves 4.

Tagine gets its name from the dish in which is traditionally cooked in the north of Africa. It is a shallow ceramic casserole with a conical lid. If you have one, that's what you should use to make this, but if you don't, just use whatever you have, as did I.

You can substitute any vegetables you like for the ones in this recipe. Good ones are summer squash, winter squash or sweet potato. I really like the prunes and apricots, but I guess you can also use raisins or other dried fruits instead.

2 lb (1 kg) lamb shoulder 
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 carrots, pealed and sliced
2 small parsnips, pealed and chopped or sliced
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 tsp honey
1 pinch of grated nutmeg or to taste
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Cut lamb from bones and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a cast-iron pot or skillet or just regular pot heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb meat and bones, in batches, about 5 minutes per batch or until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pot and add onion and celery. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Return meat and bones to pot. Add 1 1/2 cup (350 ml) of water, saffron and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the lamb to a plate. Discard the bones. Add carrot and parsnip to pot, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are barely tender. Add ginger, cinnamon, prunes and apricots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until fruits and vegetables are tender.

Return lamb to pot. Add honey and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with nutmeg to taste. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Serve with couscous. 


My american idol

I don't really ever talk about other food blogs, but the truth is that I read an insane amount of blogs. Well, to be honest, I do follow a lot of food blogs, but I only read a handful of them. Among those, there is one that whenever I see there is a new entry, either on Facebook or on my Google reader, I stop whatever I am doing and read it from beginning to end. That blog is smitten kitchen.

I am not the only one who likes Deb's writing and recipes. Her 6 year old blog has almost 112,000 fans on Facebook  and her book has been among the top sellers since it was released earlier last fall.

Her witty writing, her perfectionism when cooking, her beautiful pictures and her lovely toddler combine to perfection to make smitten kitchen one of the most read blogs in the world, and the envy of every blogger. Her cookbook, which I got for Christmas, is not only loaded with delicious recipes and pictures, but also makes a great read because every recipe comes with a story or an essay that will make you laugh.

I don't think there is any recipe in the book that I don't want to make. As of these short ribs, I have already made them twice. I thought that no braised meat could ever beat my pork cheeks. However, these short ribs are as good, if not better. I adapted the recipe just a bit, because I always like to blend the vegetables with the sauce for a richer flavor and thicker consistency.

If you make it, DO NOT SKIP the parsnip puree. The combination of the parsnip and horseradish flavor of the puree with the sauce of the meat is just AMAZING.

Balsamic and beer-braised short ribs with parsnip purée
Serves 3-4, adapted slightly from The smitten kitchen cookbook

5 lb (about 2 kg) bone-in short ribs( about 6 to 10 depending on the size), separated and trimmed of excess fat
1 large red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup (120 ml) balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bottles (24 oz or 660 ml) dark beer
2 to 3 cups (475 ml to 710 ml) beef stock
Olive oil, salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy pot or dutch oven over high heat and add olive oil to coat the bottom. Brown the short ribs on all sides, in batches, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Remove all but one tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Add the red onion and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant,  about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add the vinegar, beer and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the brown bits stuck in the bottom of the pot. Return the ribs to the pot, meaty side down if you have space to arrange them in one layer, or vertical if you don't. Add beef stock so it covers the ribs completely. Bring to a simmer.

Turn of the heat, cover and put in the preheated oven. Braised for about two and a half to three hours, or until the meat is super tender and falling off the bone.

At this point you have two options: refrigerate over night or keep going. If you choose to refrigerate it, the next day discard most of the fat that will have solidified on the top and put the pot back over low-medium until heated up. 

Remove the ribs from pot. Puree the sauce in a blender to give the sauce a better consistency. Pour sauce back in pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until reduced by a third. Arrange the ribs on a serving platter or in plates and pour the sauce over. Serve with parsnip purée. 

Parsnip purée

2 lb (1 kg) parsnips, peeled and sliced into big chunks
4 tbsp (55 g or 1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
1 tbsp prepared horseradish sauce or freshly grated horseradish
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot combine parsnip with enough cold water to cover. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Drain.

Puree hot parsnips,horseradish, butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper until smooth.



Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family and loved ones. 

I decided to start this year with a good breakfast at 2 PM, and made those good-looking pancakes my first meal of 2013. They are pumpkin and chocolate chip pancakes adapted from here. And they are deliiicious. I made them in a cast iron skillet that I have had for a while and was never brave enough to use it because it requires seasoning. Well, it wasn't that hard. Just washed it with water and spread some oil on it after I used it. No big deal. So from now on I will be using it more.

I usually don't have a lot of new year's resolutions, as I think that any day is a good day to start a new project or try to achieve something. Actually, I think that any day is a good day to decide that you are starting something the following monday. However, I do have a resolution for this year:

To cook more and to blog more about it.

As I have been a very good girl this year, Santa brought me four new cookbooks full of delicious recipes that I can't wait to try and share with you.

Besides all the cooking and blogging, so many other exciting things are happening this year. I will probably be moving to a new city and I will start a new job. And the most exciting of all, I am getting married!

I wish you all a wonderful 2013 full of adventures and good things and pancakes. I probably won't be having many more pancakes though (wedding pressure is starting).

Pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen, makes 10.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons lightbrown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 ground cloves
1/8 ground ginger
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. 

In another bowl, add the cream and the milk. Add the egg and lightly beat. Next, mix in the pumpkin puree until completely blended. Pour in the slightly cooled melted butter and mix some more. 

In two batches, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. The batter should have some small to medium lumps.

Heat up a heavy skillet over medium low-heat and brush with 1 tablespoon of butter. Scoop the batter, using a 1/4 cup measure, to the warm skillet. Top each pancake with desired amount of chocolate chips. I added about 10-15 chips per pancake. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancake and then flip. Cook on opposite side for about 40 seconds, or until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter.