image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

If you looked at a list of world countries by area, you would see our previous entry Austria, and one spot above: Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan. The name alone brings back the cold sweats of spelling tests. But what do we know of this land or its peoples? “It’s one of those Russian-y countries that’s not really Russia anymore I think”… “Isn’t it by like Georgia or something?… No, I don’t know where Georgia is.” These common refrains have stood for too long! Although to be honest, those were probably quotes I myself have uttered in the past, but no longer.

It is located on the Caspian Sea, is part of the Caucuses, and has the capital of Baku. The country name itself has an interesting history dating back to the time of Alexander the Great and often translates to “land of fire”. This is a reference to the oil fires burnt in the temples of Zoroastrianism. They briefly had independence from 1918-1920 before being incorporated into the Soviet Union, however those scant two years were very important. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic which existed has the distinction of being the first secular and democratic republic in the Muslim world. The country also proclaimed its independence two months before the official dissolution of the USSR in 1991. What I’m saying is, they have always been on the forefront of cultural change in a very static region.

Their cuisine shares characteristics with many others from that area of the world. Pilafs are very popular, as is the plenty of fresh seafood. That being said, mutton and beef are also indicative of Azerbaijani fare. Since I am clearly on a lamb kick…let us venture forth!

Now, if you had asked me to name the dishes that eggplant could be used in up until recently I would have said “Eggplant Parmesan”…then paused for a while and excitedly said “Oh! Baba Ghanoush!”. I feel as though most people would say the same, but as someone who prides themselves on being generally knowledgeable and a food lover to boot, that just won’t cut it anymore.

Here is another application of eggplant, once again in the same part of the world as we have seen it featured time and time again. Instead of simply being mashed this time, the vegetable in question is fully incorporated into the main dish and really shines. I like this dish for a few reasons. It is very healthy. If you choose your cut of meat wisely there doesn’t have to be an overabundance of fat, however some will of course lend unctuousness to the broth.

The most interested reflection I have on this is that when cooked correctly the eggplant takes on the gelatinous consistency of fat. I know that sentence sounded disgusting and I apologize, but I meant it in a positive way. It allows you to have the sensation and texture of fat without the detrimental health aspects. One of the nicest parts is that this is a one pot dish and very easy to make. You simply stack your ingredients and let the heat and steam do the work. I also continue to appreciate the use of peppers more and more. I would highly recommend this dish for any time of the year as it was delicious.

Next up…the Bahamas and a Lord of the Flies favorite! PIGGGGY NO!!!!!!

 

    IMG_3107IMG_3104


Adjab-Sandal

Serves: 4

1 lb (450 g) boneless lamb or beef
2 large eggplants
1 large onions
2 large tomato
1 large green bell pepper
½ bunch of parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)

——————————————

Directions:

Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. In a large saucepan, add butter and cook the meat over medium-high heat until it is lightly brown on all sides.

Then, add approximately 1/3 cup of water and season the meat with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is almost cooked. Stir the meat occasionally to prevent it from burning.

Remove the stems of the eggplants and peel the skin lengthwise in approximately ½-inch strips.

Slice the eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes into circles (approximately ½ -inch thick).
Slice the bell pepper and onion into half circles.

Place layers of sliced onion, potatoes and bell pepper on the meat.

Then place layers of sliced eggplants and tomatoes, and top it off with chopped parsley.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and steam over a low heat until all the vegetables are tender.

At the end, add salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

Advertisements
image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

After a lengthy break we are back! I have a stockpile of meals to write about so let’s start with Austria.On a side note I learned over the last few years that my ancestry is 1/8 Austrian and I would truly love to visit there someday.

Probably the only Austrian that anyone can name these days is Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose assassination is credited with triggering World War I. It is actually a very interesting lesson in diplomatic agreements if you examine the chain of alliances which pulled the whole world into conflict because of Austria and Serbia. That is for historians to discuss as this is a food blog. I will leave you with the fact that although he was heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, his children would not have succeeded him. He agreed to these terms so he could marry his true love who was not of royal lineage and thus could not take part in his royal privileges, or be seen with him at royal events.

When I saw the recipe for this dish, my mouth started to water uncontrollably. Lamb + Latkes (potato pancakes) = OMG. It was a difficult procedure to assemble but I did my best and there is no doubt that the flavors came through as they should have. For most of my life I have been averse to peppers. The bitterness always turned me off, even when eating one of my favorite American Chinese dishes Pepper Steak, I would often leave the peppers aside for my mom to enjoy. Throughout this culinary experiment I am slowly learning to appreciate the subtle use of peppers especially in sauces.

These are the kinds of dishes I am really having fun with. Even though it was a very difficult and messy assembly and procedure, it used techniques and culinary applications that are alien to me. The chicken and cream mixture as a buffer between the meat and the potato struck me as so weird. But I think it is a way to add another flavor profile as well as using the fat layer to protect the crunchy crust from any sogginess from moisture within.

Making thin enough potato cakes to encapsulate the lamb seems nearly impossible to me, but I’m sure with enough practice it would be. The bright greenness of the beans offsets any grease from the entree. The red pepper sauce also cut the fat and provided a nice sweet and salty counterpoint to the light gamey character of the lamb. I would eat this anytime, anyplace…

Next we go to Azerbaijan, where you will learn about the history of the many names of eggplant…whether you want to or not.

 

 


Roast lamb in a potato fritter jacket

Serves: 4

14-20 oz Lamb fillets ( about 4 fillets)

  • 18 oz Potatoes (russet)

  • 5 oz Chicken breast

  • 2 Red peppers (pureed)

  • 11 oz Green beans

  • Tabasco sauce

  • 1 pinch Sugar

  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch

  • 3.5 oz Cream (cold)

  • 1 piece Egg

  • 1 tbsp Basil pesto

  • 1 tbsp Butter

  • Thyme (for garnishing)

 

Directions:

Peel the potatoes and either grate or cut length-wise into very fine strips. Salt well and leave to sit for about 5 minutes, then squeeze out the juice.

Add the nutmeg and cornstarch and make 8 thin patties from the mass (approx. 4.5”). Heat the vegetable oil, and place the patties into the pan, press flat and fry a golden brown.

Drain well on kitchen paper and, with a round cutter; cut pieces about 4” from the patties. Allow to cool.

For the stuffing, cut the chicken fillet into small cubes and mix with the cold cream, salt and egg. Push through a colander or sieve and spread some stuffing thinly onto 4 of the fritters.

Cut the lamb fillet into slices about ½” thick and season with the pesto, salt and pepper.

Place the fillets on the fritter and spread a thin layer of stuffing over the meat.

Spread the rest of the stuffing over the fritters and place these, stuffing side down, on the meat.

Press down and shape roundly over the top of the meat. In a teflon-lined pan, heat vegetable oil and fry the patties a golden brown on each side.

Place a rack into the roasting dish and put the meat on top. Roast for 10 minutes in a preheated, oven at 325 F. Remove and cover with foil. Allow to stand for 8 minutes.

In the meantime, simmer the juice from the peppers until it reduces to a third. Stir in 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, Tabasco sauce and sugar, making a thick sauce. Cook the beans al dente in salt water and toss in butter. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on warmed plates.

Cut the lamb in half, and arrange on the plates. Pour over sauce to serve. Garnish with thyme.