Jamie Oliver Inspiration: Spicy Braised Mutton

Ain’t got nothin’ on my mutton!  (Can’t take credit for that line – thanks Friend)

My memory of mutton was from growing up in Singapore where it was commonly on Indian menus.  Some say mystery meat, I say it’s one of the most fantastic and flavourful meats I’ve ever had…when it’s done right.  If the Prince of Wales says it’s his favourite dish, then come on, you gotta at least try it, right?Spicy braised mutton stew with brown rice

I recently read about Jamie Oliver’s plea for people to start asking their butchers for mutton – which used to be a staple in Western diets before World War II.  American GI’s during the war were shipped canned mutton as their staple – not exactly the best way to cook this meat.  As a result, many of them avoided mutton completely upon their return.  Check out this NY Times article if you want to read more about why this meat is so prevalent in other countries but not in Western ones.

It’s almost impossible to find local lamb at the local grocery stores – so mutton is pretty much out of the question.  So when I saw that Jay Springs Lamb Company from Kamloops, BC, a butcher at my local farmer’s market had pasture-fed, free-range mutton stew for half the price of lamb, I was all over it.

Here’s what I did with it…

Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
– 2 carrots
– 2 celery
– 1 onion
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 2 cups of stock (beef if you have it; I used leftover turkey stock from Thanksgiving)
– 1 cup of red wine
– 2 lb of mutton stew
– 2 tsps of Kitchen Bachelor’s Magic Blackening Spice

Simple Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F
2. Pat the mutton dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper before browning the mutton in a pot
3.Once browned on both sides, remove the mutton from the pot
4. Add onions and saute for a couple minutes – scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pot
5. Adding garlic and the vegetables and saute
6. Bring the mutton back to the pot and add the blackening spice
7. Add the wine and the stock – liquids should come to just about the middle of the meat for the braising effect
8. Stir to mix the flavours
9. Cover the pot and leave it in the oven for 3 hours
10. Serve over brown rice and some steamed veges

Take a chance and try mutton the next time you wonder over to the farmer’s market.

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Memories from Espana: Paella

One of the daily staples that I devoured while travelling through Spain in 2003 was Paella.

Paella is an intoxicating Saffron rice dish usually served with seafood and meats like chicken and sausage.  In Barcelona, my buddy and I were treated by our over-the-top hospitable friends to homemade and authentic Paella which has always made this dish a special memory.  They then took us out to a bunch of bars where a bunch of cross-dressing trannies performed a walk-off.  I try to forget “that” memory!

PaellaBarcelona FriendsParc Guell by Antonio Gaudi

As with any rice dish, there are risks of burning, too much moisture, too dry, and a number of other issues that I’ve personally encountered.  There’s quite the art in cooking Paella, even special pans coincidentally called “Paella” as well.  True Spaniards also swear by cooking Paella over hot coals outdoors.

I tried a new recipe this week stolen from one of my favourite shows, Chuck’s Day Off, and it was probably the best my rice has ever turned out.  Here’s a twist on the recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4)
– 2 cups Arborio rice
– 4 cups chicken stock
– 8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
– 3 chorizo sausages – sliced into edible rings
– Your choice of seafood (prawns, mussels, squid work great)
– 1 cup frozen green peas
– 1 red pepper
– 1 yellow onion
– 3 cloves garlic
– Healthy pinch of saffron
– 2 tsp of paprika

Steps:
1. Clean your chicken, dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan at med-high (8 out of 10 is a good number)
3. When oil is hot (but not smoking), brown chicken on both sides (adjust heat up or down to not burn)
4. While the chicken is browning, in a separate pot, add the saffron to the stock and bring the stock to a boil
5. Once browned, remove chicken and set aside
6. Add the chorizo and brown them for 3 minutes
7. Then add the onions for a couple minutes while they become translucent
8. Add garlic, paprika and saute for a couple minutes
9. Add the rice and toast it for a couple minutes – the rice will take on the colour and flavour of the pan
10. Add the boiling stock to the pan, stirring to mix the ingredients
11. Place the browned chicken back into the pan, pushing them into the rice
12. Turn down the heat to low (about a 2) and cover with foil for 30 minutes
13. After the 30 minutes, add the seafood to the top of the rice.
14. Cover with foil for another 10 minutes to cook the seafood
15. Add the red peppers and frozen peas just before serving
16. Garnish with a lemon and some parsley

Grab a glass of Rioja, eat Paella and dream of Barcelona!

ps. Oh yeah, my personal pet peeve: the double l’s in Paella are pronounced like a “y”, not an “l”.

The Magic Blackening Spice

One of my go-tos for simple rubs (“insert joke here”) that really kick starts any protein dish is a blackening spice.  This can transform a simple snapper fillet, stewed beef, chicken thighs, pizza or Quesadilla into something amazing.Magic Blackening Spice

I put this spice mix together after watching an episode of  the Food Network Canada show “Crash My Kitchen”.  Chef Corbin Tomaszeski helped a yuppie techie guy get out of his rut of frozen dinners by introducing fresh ingredients that was kicked up a notch with this blackening spice.

Here are the ingredients to make a batch that you can store and reuse:
– 2 tbs onion powder
– 2 tbs garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
– 1 tsp chilli powder
– 2 tbs paprika
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tbs black pepper

Once you have this base, you can modify it just a touch for certain dishes.   For example, to roast some ribs add some brown sugar and cinnamon; or add cumin to fish or prawns if you are feelin’ a curry kick .

Ahhh, enjoy the black magic!

That "Hitch" Date Factor

You know that scene in Hitch when Will Smith’s character says, “No woman wakes up saying “God, I hope I don’t get swept off my feet today!…no matter what, no matter when, no matter who… any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet; he just needs the right broom.”hitch

Next time you want to impress a date and don’t want to do the atypical Starbucks date or blow your load on a 5-star restaurant, check out some of these date ideas:
1. Be tourists in your own city
2. Go to a free wine tasting (Taylorwood Wines in Yaletown on Thursdays 4:30 to 6:30 pm and Sundays 3 pm to 5 pm)
3. Take in the views from QE Park or the Bloedel Conservatory
4. Check out homes in Shaughnessy, or go to some open-houses for fun

I found this website by accident – a great resource of fun things to do in Vancouver that you may have forgotten or just didn’t know about.  It’s written by a family about all the cool things they do together in our city but it may inspire some ideas.

Good luck out there!