Monday, April 27, 2015

Dinner with Friends

Same post but different day. This week we host the Baumers after an invite for some fine dining. The offer was to go out or me to cook. The decision was Indian at our house and I quickly took a boneless lamb leg from the deep freeze.

Brenda is not crazy about lamb so I also decided to make a chicken tiki masla for her. We hit the local Indian grocer twice Saturday and picked assorted fried goodies from the cart as well as supplemented my arsenal of Indian spices and a few sauces. We, of course had to eat one samosa hot out of the case. Delicious. I planned to make Na'an and Roti but had time only to make the Na'an. I bought pre-made, uncooked roti and cooked them myself.

I used a Tandoori marinade for the chicken this time and laid off the heat. The Butter Chicken I made last week was a bit over the top with heat so I went a slightly different route this time. I used nearly a quart carton of yogurt this time around between the Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Tiki Masala and the Na'an dough.  The lamb simmered close to four hours in the oven  and was meltingly tender.

4 pound boneless lamb leg cut into 2 inch cubes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup sliced fresh ginger
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion, chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 cup yogurt

1. Place lamb in a large resealable plastic bag. Whisk together cider vinegar, oil,
salt, tamarind concentrate, and garam masala in a bowl, and pour into the bag.
Squeeze out excess air and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours or
2.Heat 2 tbls oil in a Dutch Oven.
3. Remove marinated lamb and season all
sides with salt. brown in batches and set aside.
Reserve marinade in the bag.
4. Combine 1 onion, garlic, ginger, cherry tomatoes, and water in a blender and pulse on and off until smooth. Set aside.
5. Combine cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, dried mustard, and black pepper in a small bowl.
6. Melt clarified butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook and stir 1 onion
until softened and well-browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and pour in cayenne pepper mixture. Cook and stir until spices are aromatic, about 2 minutes.
7. Pour marinade from the bag into the stockpot, and stir in tomato-onion mixture and brown sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer. Place lamb in the pan and reduce
heat to low. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until meat is tender and easily pierced with a fork, 3 to 4 hours.
8. Remove lamb from the pot and cover with foil. Increase heat and simmer the sauce for a few minutes, skimming the fat from the top. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve
lamb shanks with sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with cilantro. I added about 1 cup yogurt before serving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dinner with Friends

They have been a part of our lives since the beginning of our lives together, the Kropps came for dinner Friday night. Nothing special, just meatballs and spaghetti. A special dessert for chocolate crazy Kim. Mackenzie joined us also.

We don't see them often but we make the most of it when we do. A random football game, an investment seminar and occasionally a happy run in here or there. So nice to have folks in your life like this. The recipe was one I had used recently for another gathering and still remains one of our favorites.

On Sunday I made Butter chicken and fresh Naan bread for dinner over a cauliflower rice. So tasty and easy to prepare. I used my Masala Dabba for the spices and subbed a few ingredients since I had no yogurt or cilantro but it still tasted great without having to run back to the store.


  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté shallot and onion until soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf.
  3. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt.
  4. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat, and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne.
  7. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink.
  8. Stir cooked chicken into sauce.
  9. Mix together cornstarch and water, then stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pascha...the Greek way

finished loaf
after the second rise

Matt Boulos checking his 'baby'
The final moments of the roast
We were graciously invited to spend the Paschal feast with some great friends this year since we were minus our own kids and feeling a bit sad about that. The first years since I can remember that I wasn't making a Meat Festival on the grill after 40+ days of abstinence.

Lamb? well of course there was lamb, whole and grilled and delicious. I had to make a dessert and brought a Lemon Cheesecake but did a bit of research and made an authentic Greek Easter Braid called "Tsoureki".  A fine cake-like bread flavored with masticha and anise seed.
We had a grand time. Lots of kids and lots of food with a very gracious host and hostess.

From My Greek Dish, the recipe:


  • 135g butter, from cow’s milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 135g milk, at room temperature (4.7 oz.)
  • 200g sugar (7 oz.)
  • 4 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 870g bread flour (30 oz.)
  • 21g dry yeast (0.7 oz.)
  • 100g lukewarm water (3.5 0z.)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3g ground mastic (0.11 oz.) 
  • 4g ground mahleb (0.14 oz.) I used ground Anise Seed
  • 1 egg and 1 tbsp water, for glazing the tsoureki


  1. To prepare this tsoureki recipe (Greek Easter Bread), add in a bowl the lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar and yeast and stir. Wrap well with plastic wrap and set aside for about 6-7 minutes, until the yeast rises and starts bubbling. Be careful not do add hot water, as it will kill the yeast, nor cold, as it will take forever for the Greek Easter bread to rise. The water should be at the same temperature as your finger, so check it out sticking one finger in; you should feel no difference in temperature.
  2. Use a pestle or a blender to ground the masticha and mahlepi, along with a pinch of sugar and set aside. (These aromatic spices will give Greek Easter bread its distinctive taste and amazing smell. But be careful not to add any more mastic than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as it will leave a slightly bitter taste to your Greek Easter bread.)
  3. In a saucepan add the butter, sugar and milk. Place over very low heat and stir the mixture, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. The key is to melt the butter at very low heat, so that the temperature doesn’t ‘kill’ the yeast. Remove the pan from the stove and check the temperature. The mixture should be at the same temperature as your finger. If it is warmer, leave to cool down for a few minutes and check again.
  4. Pour the butter mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. In the mixer’s bowl add the flour, the ground mastic and mahlepi, orange zest and the butter-egg-yeast mixture from step 4. Using the dough hook mix at first at low speed, until the ingredients start to combine and then mix at medium-high speed for about 15 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick on the sides of the bowl. At this point the dough should be really soft, like seen in the picture and a little sticky. (Be careful not to add any more flour than this tsoureki recipe calls for, as the dough should be really soft and not firm).
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm environment, until at least it doubles it’s size (for about 2-3 hours). If the environment is cold, preheat the oven at 30C, turn it off and place the bowl inside.
  7. Gently deflate the tsoureki dough with your hands and cut in 6 equal portions (three for each Greek Easter bread). Take one piece of the dough (do not flour the working surface!) and roll it a little bit with your hands. Hold with your hands from the edges and shake to stretch the dough into a rope. This technique will help the Greek Easter bread (tsoureki) form the characteristic stringy texture, as seen in the picture. Form the Greek Easter bread into a braid and transfer on a large baking tray layered with parchment paper. Repeat the same procedure with the second tsoureki. Let the Greek Easter bread rise for about 1 more hour at room temperature or in the oven, until it almost doubles it’s size, like seen in the picture.
  8. In a small bowl add the egg and 1 tbsp water and whisk with a fork. Brush the top of each Greek Easter bread with the egg, being careful not to deflate it, garnish with almond silvers and bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 40-50 minutes, until nicely browned and fluffy.


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