When Is the Last Time You Cooked Lamb for Dinner? Tips on how to cook and choose your lamb.

Lamb is not the kind of meat that everyone would like to cook at home. Its strong flavour and not quite knowing how to cook it makes many of us pass it up for more familiar and popular cuts. If you are a lamb lover, don’t let this unfamiliarity deter you from cooking a succulent piece of lamb. Because if you think about it, cooking lamb chops is no different from cooking pork chops and braising a lamb stew is pretty much the same as braising a beef stew.

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Slow-braised Lamb Ragu with Paparadelle

For all meats, whether they come from a cow, a pig or a lamb, the types of cuts are very similar because these animals all have 4 legs and move in the same way. Therefore the muscles and parts of their bodies that are used (or not used) are pretty much the same. The tenderest cuts will be the loin chops and tougher cuts will be their shoulders, legs or shank area. For example, lamb chops can be quickly pan fried just like pork chops or steaks. Tougher cuts such as leg of lamb or brisket area are best to braise slowly for 2-3 hours.

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The strong flavour (gamey flavour) of lamb that some people don’t like mainly comes from the fat. You either love this taste or you hate it. There is really no in between. So if you want to try lamb but cannot stand the strong flavour, try trimming away as much of the fat as possible. The strong taste of lamb is also more subtle if you cook the lamb to about a medium to medium-well, with just a touch of pink in the middle. Another way to slowly incorporate lamb into a dish is to use mince lamb, where you can start with mixing minced lamb with minced beef, pork or chicken to make meatballs or burgers.

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Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Port and Cherry Sauce

 

Lamb is actually a very versatile meat when it comes to flavour combinations. With lamb having such a rich and meaty taste, it is best to season the meat with fresh herbs and spices that will bring some freshness and contrast. Rosemary, mint and lemon zest are classic combinations. Aromatic spices such as curry, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper are good choices for warm stewing dishes. Lamb also goes very well with fruits such as apricots, pomergrante and any sweet chutneys.

 

150617 - Blog 2 - Stuffed Leg of Lamb with black olives and apricots

Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Black Olives and Dried Apricots

If you are still not convinced, take a look at one of my July cooking videos here – “Summer Roast Rack of Lamb with Vegetables and Fresh Mint Sauce”.

Batch 5 - Roasted Lamb Rack with Tomatoes and Olives_2_V2

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www.facebook.com/Charmainecooks

 

 

 

Summer is here!

I love all the colourful fruits and vegs available in the summer for me to mix and match them in my recipes. It makes grocery shopping so much happier and more enjoyable. Picnics and barbecues always come to mind. And although fried chicken, grilled meats, potato salads are usually the stars of these gatherings, I love to make a few refreshing sides to go alongside these heavier and indulgent dishes.

So …. making good use of a summer fruit, here is the recipe for my refreshing

Watermelon Salad with Fresh Mint and Olives

Watermelon Lime Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1/2 small baby seedless watermelon (or you can use a few slices from a big watermelon)
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil
  • 10 – 12 pitted black olives
  • 30g feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Dice up the watermelon into cubes and take out the seeds if any. Place them in a big bowl.
  2. Finely slice the red onion and cut the pitted black olives in half. Place them in the same bowl as watermelon. Toss to mix together.
  3. Pick out the leaves of the mint and basils and add them to the watermelon.
  4. Add in lime zest and juice. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and see if you need to add more seasoning.
  5. Spoon into serving platter or bowls, and top with crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top and serve.

Enjoy!

 

My Top Five Chinese Home Cooked Dishes

 

I must admit, cooking Chinese food is not my forte. I love Chinese food but there was never any need for me to cook them as I get them every night from home either from my mom or at occasional times at my grandma’s. The times that I do cook more Asian influenced dishes are during special family celebrations, such as Chinese New Year.  Now that I live by myself, I want to create these Chinese home cooked dishes in my own kitchen. I want simple homey dishes with the familiar tastes that I grew up with. DayDayCook has answered my calls! Here are my top 5 Chinese dishes from DayDayCook that I absolutely loved to make when I want a nutritious and delicious Chinese home cooked dinner.

Red Date Braised Chicken with Chinese Xiao Shing Wine

Chicken Yellow Wine

http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=28251

This was one of the first recipes I followed from DayDayCook. I was having a girls’ dinner at my place and wanted to cook Chinese meal as a few of my girlfriends have not had a proper home cooked Chinese meal in awhile. This Red Date Braised Chicken with Yellow Wine is absolutely divine! Is simple to make and is extremely nourishing for women.

 

Ma Po Tofu

ma po tofu

http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=24401

I now understand why this is one of Norma’s favourite dish to make for Sam. Is simple, delicious and packed full of flavor!

 

Stir Fried Mung Beans

mung beans

http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=2053

I have always love to eat Mung Beans. This dish reminds me of one of the dishes from my hometown, Hoikken Pancakes (福建薄餅), where the filling is filled with various shredded vegetables, dried bean curd and such. This is a short cut version of it, with fewer ingredients but still the same great taste. If there is any leftovers, I love to eat it as a salad the next day.

 

Steamed Pork Patties with Pumpkin Shio Koji

minced pork

http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=38470

DayDayCook’s website is the place where I’ve first heard of “Shio Koji’. When this ingredient was featured as their weekly theme, I was very curious about this ingredient. Shio Koji is very popular in Japan and has many health benefits. It is an all natural seasoning made from fermenting salt and water mixture. I love the taste of Shio Koji. It is less salty and brings a slight sweetness to the dish. This steamed pork dish is one of my favourite out of the 7 under the Shio Koji theme and it has definitely replaced my grandma’s version in my kitchen. (Sorry Grams)!

 

Pumpkin and Clams Congee

pumpkin congee

http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=176991

I was never a congee person as I have this idea that only sick people eat congee as most congees are quite bland. When I do make congee, I’d make it plain or just add a bit of salted egg to it. But after I saw this Pumpkin and Clams Congee, my perception changed. Mixing in pumpkin and clams in to the congee is such a great idea. It instantly elevated the congee, giving it a subtle sweetness and is very nutritious too! I love it!

Photos and recipes from DayDayCook website: http://www.daydaycook.com 

The Pantry Pasta

There are days when I get these inexplicable urges to cook something simple and satisfying for myself. This usually happens when I haven’t looked after myself ‘properly’, meaning I have been too busy to have any real alone time in the kitchen and cook something for myself.

Happy to say that I am one of those who always try to keep my pantry well-stocked with dried goods in case of any emergency food cravings. Here are a few things that I feel are essential to have in your pantry AT ALL TIMES:

– good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

– a few vinegars that you like for salads (ex. Red/white wine vinegar, balsamic, etc)

– Dijon mustard

– any type of dried chilli flakes

– dried pasta and rice

– jars of anchovies, olives, capers and gherkins

– garlic, shallots, onions and lemons (these can be left at room temperature)

Sometimes a girl just needs to have a “carb-kind-of-day” … to have something of substance and starchy. My go-to has always been a comforting pasta dish. Rummaging through my fridge and pantry, I’ll usually find all of the above; and if I am lucky, I’ll have a  pack of frozen prawns stashed in the freezer.

Here’s the my “Pantry Pasta” recipe.

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Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 100 – 120g dried spaghetti
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small shallots, finely sliced
  • 1-2 anchovies
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • optional: frozen prawns, spoonful of pesto, leftover tomatoes which you can dice up, handful of fresh herbs such as parsley and basil

Directions:

  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Add 2 big spoonful of salt and cook the spaghetti for 8 – 10 minutes, or until al dente.
  2. Heat a big glug of extra virgin olive oil in a medium pan (by big glug, I’d say around 60ml. Sounds like a lot but this is the sauce for your pasta) over medium low heat.
  3. Add in anchovies, garlic and shallots and gently cook them in the olive oil for 5 -6 minutes. Make sure the heat is medium low to prevent the garlic from burning.
  4. Add in chilli flakes, salt and black pepper to taste. At this point, you can also add finely chopped up parsley stems to the mixture. This will give your dish a subtle herb-y taste.
  5. If you have prawns and/or tomatoes, now is the time to put them into the olive oil mixture. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.
  6. Check if spaghetti is done. if they are still a bit chewy, is ok, as you will be tossing them in the pan with the garlicky oil for at least another 3 -4 minutes.
  7. Transfer pasta directly to the pan using tongs. Turn up the heat to medium and toss the pasta with the olive oil mixture.
  8. Add a ladle of the pasta water to the spaghetti to moisten it up. The pasta water will also help to thicken the sauce.
  9. Season with salt and black pepper. Turn off heat stir int chopped fresh herbs. Plate up and drizzle a bit more extra virgin olive oil on top. Add a spoonful of pesto if you wish.