Moroccan Lamb Soup

Mother Nature has been messing with us a lot this past week.  Winter had a lot of periods of spring weather and so far spring has ushered in winter weather.  We’ve had freezing temps and snow.  Not amused!  Fortunately we haven’t had anything in the garden yet and the bulbs seem to be holding their own which is good.

It did present a perfect time for baking and soup last weekend.  I found some nice stewing lamb at the co-op and I was in the mood for Moroccan flavours.  Something to take the chill off.

This is an easy soup to throw together.  In a bowl add 1/2 a cup of flour, a tablespoon of ground tumeric, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of paprika.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix thoroughly.  I got about a pound of lamb for this meal.  Cut it up in small pieces, an inch/2.5cm square or so.  Toss in the flour mixture to coat.

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In a large saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Brown the lamb in the saucepan for several minutes.

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Chop up a small onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Add to the pan and saute for a few more minutes.

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For some reason, I spaced on taking pictures for the next few steps.  Don’t know what I was doing!  Add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon to the pan.  I use a paste mixed with water rather than the dry cubes.  For this I kept it on the light side so the flavour was subtle.  Grate a piece of fresh ginger that is about 1 1/2 inches/3-4 cm square.  Simmer for a couple of hours at a low temp.  Cube an aubergine and add to the soup in the last hour of cooking.  After it simmers for awhile check the seasoning and adjust as needed.  I added a bit more tumeric and paprika to mine.  When the lamb is tender and cooked so it’s falling apart it is ready to serve.

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You can’t go wrong with lovely crusty bread and butter with this.  As warming this soup was I am looking forward to the weather behaving itself so we can get back to grilling and salads.  I am ready for spring!

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Rustic Red Wine Lamb Stew

It was no surprise last week that I got to the point of being really tired of turkey.  Given that it is a large bird, you have to be very creative with leftovers to use it up.  I needed something different!  It was a raw and rainy day so it also had to be comfort food.

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I had some stewing lamb to use so I thought a red wine stew would do the trick.  Very often the stewing meat comes in large pieces so I cut them down to smaller pieces.  Makes it easier to eat.  Dredge the meat in flour and season with sea salt and pepper.

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In a large saucepan heat up some olive oil and start browning the lamb.  While that is browning, cut up a scallion and a few cloves of garlic.  Finely chop up a small handful of rosemary.  Add it all to the saucepan.

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Cook for a few minutes more then add about a cup of good red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add a couple chopped mushrooms.

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Add 3 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Keep it on a low simmer for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop and the meat to get nice and tender.  Closer to dinner time add either potatoes or pasta.  I chose pasta for this stew.  I also added some sliced carrots.  I didn’t add them at the beginning because I don’t like mushy carrots, just like I don’t like mushy peas!

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Add buttered rustic toast and it was a great bowl to enjoy in comfy pjs and a bit of tele.  I’m not complaining about the raw rainy day though.  This winter has been mild so far, may it continue!  Saves on the heating bills.  🙂

Seared Lamb with Pear Sauce and Not Enough Hours in the Day….

I’m loathe to talk Christmas before Thanksgiving.  Growing up nothing remotely Christmas would show up until the day after Thanksgiving.  Now?  I see stuff in September.  I mean, seriously, 3-4 months of Christmas?  By the time it rolls round, we’re burned out.   I do, of course, make an exception for the lists.  Budget wise, it’s silly to try to do it all in one month.

So we were trading lists and I asked for things to match my interests.  We don’t need stuff, per se.  Honestly, those that love shopping, where do they put it all?  But I love to get books or gadgets that match our interests of gardening, photography, beer and cidre making.  Of course cooking!  Plus, we learning (or trying to learn) different languages.  The list is long.

My mum’s response?  Fabulous, I’m amazed you find the time for it all!  And there’s the rub.  I don’t have the time needed to do all the interests.  I do hope with the physio for my neck and hips, when everything is healed I can just fill the hours with productive stuff rather than icing or heating the injuries. They have taken up way too much of my time over the past several years.  I’m trying to be patient but I’m chomping at the bit to get healed and do bunches of stuff.

In the meantime, it’s one foot in front of the other.  And try to catch up with the blog posts.  It’s not tax season, this is crazy that I’m having trouble finding time to post and read all the ones I follow.  I was reading Jovina Cooks Italian a little while ago and she mentioned trying lamb with pear.  I thought I pinned it but I can’t find that post.  So, Jovina, please feel free to put the link in the comments!  But I was intrigued and thought it would be a great pairing to try.

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When I mentioned the idea I think my husband was worried it would be too sweet.  We had some dried red currants on hand that would balance the sweetness.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown both sides of the lamb.

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Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C.  In the skillet, add half a chopped onion and two small chopped pears.  Throw in a small handful of the currents.

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Cook for a few minutes to allow the onions to soften and to have the pears to start to break down a bit.  Add a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of a dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer and season with sea salt and pepper.

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Simmer until the lamb is finished.  Let the lamb rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  I also roasted potatoes and cooked up some corn for the sides.

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I’m really glad I tried this flavour combo.  It is a very easy sauce to make with a great balance of tart and sweet over the lamb.  It just goes to show, you should always think outside the box!

Greek Lamb Burgers and Going Batty

We were destined not to have a good night sleep the other night.  There is the usual noise of the dogs shaking at times and our cat sleeping by my head. She has an incredible talent for purring.  Loudly.  But you get used to the normal noises.  We weren’t getting the normal noises this night.

In the fog of my brain I heard what I thought was one of the dog peeing by the side of the bed.  Which didn’t make any sense at all.  So I dismissed it but then I realised Guinness was sniffing around the window by my side of the bed pretty intently.  At the same moment I remembered the craft bag with the jumper I’m knitting for my husband so I leapt out of bed (not a good idea for my back) and felt round and found everything dry.

So what was the sound?  The window is about 6 feet by 4 feet and has the winter plastic still on it because the window is a bit drafty.  Guinness kept alerting and sniffing at the window.  I hear what sounded like wings at first.  I was thinking a bird but there isn’t anyway for a bird to get in.  Then it sounded like a bug buzzing.  Then I heard the wings again.  So something got in.  A tiny bat.  Though big enough I still can’t figure out how it squeezed through.

Then we were stuck with how to get it out without killing it or it getting into the room past the plastic.  The end result was my husband going out through the guest room window and along the porch roof to our room to remove the screen. I sliced the plastic to unlock the window.  At this point the bat was up at the top of the window and still as could be.  I honestly thought it might have died.  Of course I was keeping my fingers crossed that his little friends wouldn’t join him and we’d wake up to a crowd of bats.  Luckily he eventually left.

We were so exhausted!  So I needed a quick meal because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything complicated.  I had some ground lamb and I was in the mood for some Greek flavours.  A burger and a salad would do the trick.

Greek lamb burgers 1 2015I’m so proud of myself.  Well I should say ourselves.  We grew herbs in pots.  Inside.  And they lived.  My skill set for gardening definitely lends to the outside bit of gardening.  One of the herbs we grew is oregano.   In a bowl chop a few cloves of garlic and add a teaspoon of fresh oregano.  Then add a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar and olive oil, a tablespoon or so of panko bread crumbs, and half a cup of feta cheese.  Season with salt and pepper then mix well without overworking the meat.  Form into patties.

Greek lamb burgers 2 2015While the grill is heating up mix up the tzatziki sauce and greek dressing.  Grill the burgers until they are done making sure you get a nice sear on them.

Greek lamb burgers 3 2015Throw together a quick salad and serve with the dressing and sauce.

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This was really good with a cabernet.  And gratefully last night was uneventful.  No more uninvited guests!

Roast Lamb and Mint Cream Sauce

Hallo, hallo, hallo.  Been awhile since I’ve sat down and typed something other than tax figures.  It’s been crazy working a lot of hours plus I hurt my hip again so an equal amount of hours have been spent horizontal.  Boy, does that get boring!  I thought I’d complete the injuring myself by slicing my thumb.  Does that make me a real chef now?  I’m hoping my streak of self-inflicted bad luck is at an end.

But this is all peanuts compared to how yesterday went.  It ended with my sister being in a terrible accident while skiing.  Now she will be all right but she has a good 6-8 weeks to heal.  And quite frankly it could have gone in a direction that she wouldn’t be with us anymore.  So we are counting our lucky stars she will be fine in the long run.

It struck me how closely we skate to the edge.  It doesn’t take much.  Which brings me to the way the day started.  In our town it’s against the law to use skateboards, bicycles, and scooters on the sidewalk.  Common sense on why but we’re stuck with the young guys whizzing about.  I came out of a shop yesterday and almost got hit by a guy flying on a scooter.  As I was thinking that it would really hurt if he knocked me down I see him go flying over the bonnet of a car.  The driver was completely shocked, there wasn’t any way she would have seen him.  Luckily she wasn’t going very fast as she just turned onto that road.  Then he’s complaining about it being the third time being hit!  But he wasn’t hurt.  This is what drives me crazy.  My sister isn’t rash, uses common sense and gets badly hurt.  The idiot who is rash, does dumb things, and gets hits repeatedly brushes off and goes about his way.  There are times where it’s hard to not think life is grossly unfair.

Definitely looking for the luck of the Irish this week. It was just my husband and me for St Patrick’s Day and I wanted to make a special meal in honour of it.  Which means no corned beef and cabbage!  You’d think that is the only Irish food given the way social media lit up with corned beef and cabbage.  And I really don’t like that particular dish so I decided to roast lamb.  I took my inspiration from the cookbook The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.  Her recipe is called Noisettes of Lambe with Sorrel-Mint Cream Sauce.  I chose this before I found out sorrel is impossible to find so I had to adjust a bit.

I found a lovely piece of lamb to roast.

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Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Sear all sides of the lamb.  In the roasting pan add a few sprigs of rosemary, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a few splashes of dry white wine.

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Roast until it is medium rare or until you achieve the desired doneness.  Meanwhile in the skillet add about 3/4 cup of chopped onion.  Let the onion soften a bit then add a 1/3 cup of the dry white wine, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and start reducing.  Take a handful of fresh mint and chiffonade into thin strips.  Add to the sauce.

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Allow the sauce to reduce by a third to a half.  Once the lamb is finished have it rest for about 10 minutes.  Just before the dinner is to be served add about 1/3 cup of heavy cream and the drippings from the roasted lamb to the sauce.

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Slice the lamb and serve with the sauce.  As a treat for my husband I sauteed Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes to go with the lamb.

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What a crazy week but we are so grateful that my sister will recover and for all the nuttiness that can happen in life that is the most important bit.

Lamb with Prosciutto Mushroom Sauce

Every once in awhile we’re confronted with how fast life really moves.  This weekend our daughter had her semi-formal at the middle school.  It was a masquerade ball which was a fabulous idea.  I wish we had that theme in one our school dances.  I had a great time help our daughter get ready.

It was striking to us though as it was obvious that she is no longer a little girl but a wonderful young lady.  I kept thinking back to the first time I helped her do her hair and makeup.  It was seven years ago for Halloween and she wanted to be a geisha girl.  She was small enough I had to have her on the bathroom counter so I could do her face.  Not being used to make up she kept twitching as I tried to do her eyes. 🙂

This time, as she is nearly as tall as I am, I had to reach up to curl her hair and do her eyes.  It seems like the past seven years have gone by in a flash.  And, if you don’t mind me saying so, she was stunning.  We are just so proud of how she is turning out.  Beautiful inside and out.

I was able to find time earlier this week to do some cooking and wanted to play around with prosciutto.  I thought prosciutto with mushrooms would be a lovely pairing.

In a skillet melt a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb steak with salt and pepper and sear both sides of the lamb.

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Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C to be medium rare. In the same skillet melt a little more butter and add a cup or so of sliced shiitake mushrooms and saute until they start to brown.  Then add a few cloves of garlic that have been finely chopped with a teaspoon two of fresh thyme.

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Allow this to cook slowly to soften the garlic.  If the mushrooms soaked up a lot of the butter then add a bit more.  Add 1/2 a cup of dry white wine and let it slowly simmer and reduce down.  As the lamb is resting add about 1/3 cup of chopped prosciutto and stir well.

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As a side dish I roasted golden beets, parsnips, and potatoes.

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We need the good food to distract us from this crazy winter.  We got another 6 inches or so dumped on us this weekend.  We’re running out of places to put it!  Some spots in our garden are about 4 feet deep.  The actual snow fall is now mid-thigh to me.  We have a slight problem of our greenhouse being snowed in and we can’t get the door open.  Unfortunately our potting soil and pots are in there!  Our seeds have arrived so we need to get this sorted out within the next week.

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Spring can’t come soon enough this year!

Lamb Gyros and a Near Disaster

One of the blogs I follow, Cooking in Sens, was lamenting the lack of taste in lamb here in America because it is grain fed.  Fortunately I can get grass fed lamb in our area.  A local farmer rents pastures from various home owners and he rotates round with his crops and livestock.  It’s a great system and his lamb is always flavourful.

Don’t know why it popped into my head but for some reason I was in the mood to make gyros.  I’ve never made them and I haven’t had one in ages.  But I saw the lamb and thought now was a good as time as any!

The gyro bread is very easy to make and I found this recipe to use.

You will need:

1 cup hot but not boiling water

2 teaspoon of active or instant yeast

2 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

In the mixer add the water and yeast and let it proof for about 5 minutes.

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Add in the rest of the ingredients.

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Once the dough comes together put the mixer to medium speed to knead for about 8 minutes.  I found that the dough wasn’t kneading well enough in the mixer so I finished it by hand.  Knead until the dough comes together in a smooth ball.

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Cover and let the dough rise for an hour until it is doubled in size in a lightly greased bowl.

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Divide into 8 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface.  Cover with cling film while the pan heats to medium high.  Lightly spray with olive oil.

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Roll out the dough.  The recipe I followed said the pieces could be rolled out to 8-9 inches and be 1/4 inch thick.  Not really.  So I went with a compromise and tried to get in the middle of the measurements.  Place the first one into the pan and let cook for 30 seconds then turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

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Then flip again and cook for another minute.  These have a tendency to blow up like balloons so gently press the air out as it cooks.  If you want them to be like pita then the air is ok but for this press the air out.  Once cooked keep covered with a tea towel.  Do this for all 8 pieces.

I made up the tzatziki sauce I’ve done before and then did up a marinade for the lamb using olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and salt and pepper.  I also sliced up some onion to grill.

And we come to the near disaster.  I got the onion on the grill with the lamb and put the extra marinade on the lamb.  Some of it dripped down and caught fire.  It was quite something.  As big a fire you can get without actually damaging the grill.  The temp gauge was well past 600F/320C.  The whole bottom of the grill was like the gates of hell.  So we removed the tank, closed the lid and let it burn out.  So I don’t have any pics of the grilling part of the meal.  So tomorrow it is on my list to scrub down the grill and get all the soot off of it.  Fortunately I didn’t ruin the lamb!  So all sorts of disasters were averted.

Once all the excitement had died down and the lamb was rested and sliced I began assembling the gyros.  Spread the tzatziki onto the gyro and layer the lamb.

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I added the onion, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce.

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Wrap it up and enjoy!

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Preferably without any singeing of the eyebrows.  🙂

Irish Luck Was Not With Us But The Lamb Was Delicous

The past couple of weeks have been very difficult.  The kind where having then engine blow up requiring a new one wasn’t the worse thing to happen.  Fortunately things are looking up again and things getting back on track.  I did manage to find time to make an Irish meal for St Patrick’s Day for the two of us.

I found the inspiration for this dish on pinterest and it was for a rack of lamb with a mustard shallot sauce.  I couldn’t find a rack of lamb but I was able to find 4 lamb chops which were the perfect size for us.  And as it was a week night I had the added bonus of it being really easy to put together.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Season the lamb chops with sea salt and pepper.  In a skillet heat up some olive oil then place the chops, fat side down, into the skillet to brown.  Brown all sides for a couple of minutes each.

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Roast in the oven until it is cooked to the doneness you desire.  We prefer medium rare heading towards the rare side.  In the same skillet, reduce the fat about half and add about half a cup to 3/4 cup of chopped shallots and cook until softened.  Add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.

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Add 1/2 cup of veg bouillon, a 1/3 cup of dry white wine, and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of stone ground mustard.  I used the garlic flavoured one that we have.

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Simmer until it’s reduced to about 1/3 of liquid you started with.  After you let the lamb rest for a bit serve with the sauce.  I also served this with roasted potatoes and some yellow beets that were simmered in homemade chicken stock.

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I loved this sauce.  It would be fabulous on all sorts of proteins.  I’ll be trying this on grilled fish once the weather warms up.  The rate we’re going though it will be awhile!

Morocking the Casbah with Lamb

Now I have that song in my head and it’s my own fault.  🙂  Though we don’t eat it often I really like the Moroccan flavours.  I was first introduced to it by a young woman who came stateside in an arranged marriage at the age of 17.  It was to a really nice guy I knew and he tried hard to make her feel at home.  But it was too much of a culture shock and she didn’t know any English so it didn’t last long.  But in the short time she was here I got introduced to Moroccan food and it’s wonderful.  I remember one dish she made with chicken and couscous.  We ate it the traditional way with our hands round a coffee table as you eat sitting on the floor.  It was a delightful evening.

We had some ground lamb on hand and aubergine to use up so I decided to do lamb meatballs in a Moroccan sauce.  I forgot to buy couscous (it’s been a nutty week) so I served it with rice pilaf.

I prepped the lamb by keeping it simple.  I just added one egg and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

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After mixing by hand and forming into balls I chopped up the other ingredients for the sauce.  I chopped up 4 cloves of garlic, about 1 1/2″ x 1/2 ” piece of fresh ginger, half an onion, a handful of dried apricots (natural ones are not bright orange once dried!), and about a cup of aubergine.

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In the skillet I heated up a bit of olive oil then browned both sides of the lamb meatballs.  Do not cook these all the way through as they will be finished off in the sauce.

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Set aside and saute the garlic, ginger, and onions.

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Once they soften a bit add the apricots and saute for a couple of minutes then add a cup of vegetable broth.  I kept the broth on the light side as I didn’t want it to overwhelm the other flavours.  You can always add a bit more bouillon if needed which I did.  Add in the aubergine.

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Bring to a simmer.  Add in a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and a few dashes of cumin and cook for a couple of minutes then add in the lamb to finish off.

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Serve over the rice or couscous.

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The kids loved it.  My husband was a bit quiet as he was eating it and I worried he didn’t like it as he is not a fan of aubergine.  However, he finished and said I could make this again.  🙂  Score!  This dish can easily be vegetarian, just take out the lamb.

 

It’s all Greek to me….

15 years ago I actually got to say that in Greece.  🙂  I was navigating the drive and trying to give directions but as everything was in the Greek alphabet (go figure, I know) I threw my hands up and said “I don’t know it’s all Greek to me!”  Things like that just crack me up.  It was an amazing trip and I would love to go back.  And of course, the food!  So I thought I would do a Greek dinner.  I had a bit of lamb shoulder and some gorgeous veg from the garden.  I made a marinated grilled lamb with tzatziki sauce and a Greek salad.  A real Greek salad.  No lettuce allowed!  Not sure how lettuce snuck in over here but the greek salads of my youth, you know the one with the iceberg lettuce, were anemic compared to the ones you get in Greece.

For the lamb marinade I used inspiration from the Barefoot Contessa.  However, as her marinade was for 4-6 servings I definitely had to make it my own.  To start I was making dinner for two.  And as we don’t eat a ton the piece of meat we were sharing was just under 1/2 a pound.  I needed to pick out a good dry red wine for this so I decided to use this wine from Spain.

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Next in a bowl I added 2 cloves of garlic chopped, a sprig of rosemary chopped, a good sprinkling of dried oregano, just over 1/8 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/4 cup red wine.

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Place the lid on the bowl and give a good shaking.   This would be made easier with some good tunes.  🙂

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Next season the lamb with salt and pepper.  Sea salt or Kosher salt is best.

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Place it in the marinade and set aside.  I did this about an hour ahead.  Next I made the dressing as I wanted it to have time for the flavours to meld.  Again I used Barefoot Contessa as a guide for this one.  In a small bowl mix 2 cloves chopped garlic, a small spoonful of stone ground mustard, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper.  Whisk it well.

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Then while continuing to whisk add olive oil until you have the consistency you want.

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Set aside in the fridge until it is time to serve.  I waited to do the tzatziki sauce until I had the lamb cooking on the grill.  I slow cook the lamb on the grill so it doesn’t come out tough.  For the sauce I chopped up a large clove of garlic, no vampires with these dishes, and added it to a bowl with chopped cucumber.  I used about a 1/2  cup of cucumber for this.

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I added a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon juice.  Then I chopped up about a tablespoon of dill and added salt and pepper.   To bring it all together I added a cup of Greek Yoghurt.  I used fat free for this and it still came out thick and creamy.

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Now it is always important to clean your recyclables.  With yoghurt pots I have a team to help me.  Guinness always gets the pot so poor Murphy has to settle for the lid.  He doesn’t agree with this as you can see from his face.

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About this time I check on the lamb as I don’t want it to overcook.

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Making the salad is incredibly easy.  The veg is chopped so it is nice and chunky.  Except for the onions, I don’t like big chunks of raw onion so I do slivers.  We have a few varieties ripening in the garden for our tomatoes so it makes for great flavour and colour.

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I also chopped cucumber and peppers.  I garnished with the feta cheese and kalamata olives.  By this time the meat was done and rested and it was time to serve.

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I was very pleased how all the flavours came together and it was a great pairing with the Spanish wine.  It was a good dry drinking wine.  🙂