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.

 

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Albania-mania

July 28, 2014

Second in our alphabetical edible tour of the world is Albania, situated on the Adriatic Sea. A handy way

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

to remember where it is on a map, is that if Italy really was a boot, Albania would get nicked by the heel on the back swing. Now that’s settled on to the food!

I had a little trouble, not for the last time I’m sure, finding a dish that was Albanian specifically. So many empires and countries have controlled the areas in and around Albania for so long, it is unsurprising that a national culinary identity might be difficult to pin down. Under Roman and then Byzantine control for hundreds of years, this was followed by incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1431. Independence was not recognized until 1913 and only lasted for a scant few years before Italian and Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Following the end of the war and some power struggles, Albania was a communist state until 1992. This turmoil left little time to develop a citizen based culture in which food could be explored.

Much like other countries in the area, they use fresh vegetables and rely on olive oil heavily. I settled on a simple green bean stew which reminded me very much of Italian and Greek cuisine. This one pot stew is incredibly easy to make and very tasty. There are two flavors which really stand out and give this dish a unique punch. The use of liquid smoke adds a wonderful aroma and flavor without the need to fire up the charcoal. The hero of the dish which separates it from other Italian and Greek preparations is the use of Paprika. It is not uncommon to have it sprinkled on dish of humus for example as an accent, but I rarely find it playing the lead role in seasoning. This trait is more common in Hungary and Romania, which is actually not that surprising, as they are situated only one country away from Albania on the other sides from Italy and Greece.

This stew comes off as almost a thinner, more tomato based goulash, but the green beans playing a lead role keeps it lighter and fresher, more like an Italian dish. You can cook it down to the thickness you prefer and can serve over rice or bread if wanted. I usually only look to green beans as a nice side to pair with a main course but they really step up making this dish healthier. I would absolutely make this dish again, it is fast, easy, tasty and would be a perfect entree anywhere from late summer through early Spring.

Next up, our first trip to the African continent with Algeria…

IMG_2988 IMG_2996

 


Albanian Green Bean Stew

Serves: 2

1 1/2 cups chicken, cut into bite size pieces

2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half

1 small red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

3 -4 garlic cloves

1 medium tomato, diced (or one half of a large tomato)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

smoked salt, to taste

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Directions:

1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot enough, add the chicken and saute until golden on all sides about 4-5 minutes. Towards the end at the liquid smoke and Smoked Salt. Remove from pot and set aside.

2. Now add about 2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil to the pot. Add the onions and saute for a good 8 minutes until they are translucent and tender. If your pot has burned pieces, deglaze it with a bit of vegetable broth. Add the garlic and saute for a minute until fragrant. Now it’s time to add the green beans and potatoes. Saute the green beans and potatoes for about 5 minutes.

3. Now add the tomato, paprika, oregano, chili flakes and season with salt and pepper. Saute for another two minutes. Add the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil and then to a simmer. After a couple of minutes add the chicken that you have set aside. Simmer the stew for about 45-50 minutes until the green beans and potatoes are tender. If the stew starts to get dry simply add some more broth. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Let the stew sit for 15 minutes or you can eat it has soon has it finished cooking.