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Monday, 30 December 2013

Ending 2013 with a determined resolution: "adventure, explore & discover"

Are you ready for 2014?
I had started 2013 in Istanbul and somehow managed to also end it in Istanbul! In a way this reflects perfectly on the whole year as I am ending it right where I started on all fronts.  What a year it has been! A roller coaster with many highs and just as many lows. But without a doubt a tremendous one. I had worked on so many projects this year and had met so many fabulous people, some of whom have become very dear friends for whom am ever so grateful.
I could not have been happier, more grateful nor any busier :)) but all for good causes so feeling very blessed and excited about sharing some of the outcome with you guys.
I am now very ready for a new year and looking forward to what 2014 has to bring. Because from this point I am looking for adventure and all things new. And it so happens that I am starting 2014 with a huge adventure and looking forward to what I will discover.
I will have so many things to share with you throughout 2014 and I know you will enjoy following my upcoming journey as I know that through it you too will explore, discover and hopefully be inspired,  somehow. So do stick around, keep in touch and continue to give me your feedback :) you know I love nothing more ;)
Wishing you all a very happy new year and yet another great year ahead filled with adventures,  explorations and discovery.
♥ from the beautiful and vibrant Istanbul
2014 BRING IT ON....

Monday, 9 December 2013

Thyme flavoured Crown Rack of Lamb with A side of Potato & Pumpkin au Dauphinois

Rack of Lamb with Sweet Potato & Pumpkin au Dauphinois

The flavour of lamb is very unique, no other meat has the same depth in flavour. It can be cooked to an almost melting - most people's preferred lamb texture - if roasted in a slow oven over an extended period of time, and then it just falls off the bone and gives you the most tender and succulent rich experience. It can also be had slightly pink, especially good using young lamb or what is known as spring lamb. Here the lamb is seared then finished in a hot oven to give you firm meat that is still succulent and rich. Two very different results and experiences, yet both very decadent, lamb is one type of meat that is very versatile. You can cook it in sauce, marinate and roast it, BBQ it, stew it and whatever you do with it, it always turned out good.

While my absolute favourite cuts of lamb is the shank, another really delicious cut is the rack. Whether you crust it with assorted spices or peppers, herbs or even nuts (pistachio is a classic and fabulous pair to lamb), or if you simply bake it in the oven, the rack is always a glorious cut to serve. As I am one who likes to cook with real ingredients, I never use meat tenderisers, but also like tender meats. The trick is that meats on the bone are always more tender (and more deeply flavoured), cooking meat on the bone always results in more tender results. Fats also aid in more tender meats, so the combination of some kind of fat and the bone works just as well as a meat tenderiser. The rack comes with the complementing fats, however because no one wants to consume too much fat, when trimmed and kept to a minimum this natural fat component aids the tenderness of the meat and really compliments the flavour. These also create drippings from which you can make a sauce or gravy to dress the meat or its sides.

photo by Meat & Livestock Australia

For a dramatic an impressive presentation of a rack of lamb, you can make what is called a crown rack of lamb. This is basically a whole rack of lamb (or two racks), french cut (read below) and curled into a circle. If you are using two racks you will curl and attach the two then secure them with a kitchen string. This is excellent presentation especially if you have a side of vegetables or rice...etc. as these can be polaced in the middle as filling. A crown rack is a beutiful dish to serve and since December is a month when you will most likely entertain, especially if you celebrate the festive season, this dish will always look glorious on your table.

I have made a smaller version crown rack (see the post picture), not big enough to enclose a filling, however it still looked good and impressed my guests, so even if you are not entertaining a big group of people you do not have to miss out on the glorious festive food. And since it is a festive season and we all want to go a little out of the box with presentation, do try these smaller versions of crown rack. In fact, these make for an interesting presentation of the rack if you are plating the dinner individually or serving seated courses.

During this time of year, I really enjoy cooking and eating sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin. Therefore, my festive dinner will always include at least one dish with some of these ingredients. Here I went for a potato and pumpkin au dauphinois, which I flavoured with thyme that works especially well with cream and lamb. This is one extremely delicious dish, but I have to worn you it is quite the rich one as well. This is not the type of food you want to cook and serve very regularly, but hey this is what celebrations are for! Occasionally it is fine to let go and indulge, and if you are to do that, then do it right and really enjoy some succulent flavours :))

French cut rack of lambphoto by Simply Recipes

Before I jump right into this mouthwatering recipe, I thought why not get to know how to french cut a rack of lamb?

In case you are not familiar with the technique and do not have access to a butcher who can prepare it for you. I found this link, and it includes a step by step tutorial on french cutting a rack of lamb. Make sure to check it out, it is always good to know how things are made ;)

Thyme flavoured Crown Rack of Lamb with 
A side of Potato & Pumpkin au Dauphinois 
Serves 4

Dauphinois is a method of preparing potatoes that is the speciality of the region near the French/Italian border. This is a type of gratin, where the potatoes are usually cut into thin circles and arranged with single light cream and baked in the oven. Some types of gratin Dauphinois can include the addition of milk, butter, egg and grated cheese. 

You Need
For Potato & Pumpkin Au Dauphinoise
1/2 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into very thin disks (best achieved with a mandolin)
1/2 Kg pumpkin, peeled and sliced thinly using a mandolin
Light Cooking cream to cover
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 spring fresh thyme,
Shredded cheese

For the Thyme Flavoured Rack of Lamb
4 racks of lamb (6-8 chops), French cut
Salt & black Pepper to taste
3 Fresh thyme Springs
¼ cup butter
2 cups vegetable stock

Start by making the dauphinois. Preheat oven to 350F.

Blanch the sliced potatoes and pumpkin in salted water until ever so slightly softened. This reduces the baking time. Drain and set aside.

Place the softened butter in a bowl and mix with the crushed garlic, salt & pepper. Brush your gratin dish with the butter mixture. 

Layer alternating the potatoes and pumpkin slices, sprinkling each layer with a little black pepper and adding a few thyme leaves. Cover all with the light cream.

Cover and bake in the preheated oven 35 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove the cover, add a layer of grated cheese and cook uncovered until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

To make the Crown rack, heat ¼ cup butter in an oven proof pan, then add the trimmed and seasoned lamb racks and seal for 4-5 minutes or until slightly browned on all sides.
Remove the lamb from the pan and pour away the fat then deglaze the pan with the vegetable stock. Add the fresh thyme springs and reduce the stock slightly.

While the stock is simmering, curl the rack into a circle and secure with a kitchen string to hold the shape. Return the lamb to the pan of reduced stock. Add a few fresh thyme springs extra and cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes in very hot oven 475F.


Serve and enjoy! Hope you enjoyed this post and that this recipe is tempting your taste buds enough to give it a try. Do because I know you will like it.

It is the Season
So make sure to be JOLLY !!