Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grilled Pitas Stuffed with Lamb Burger

It's always fun to find a recipe that is like nothing you have ever seen or eaten before. This recipe is adapted from the July 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. The preparation is easy - mix up some ground lamb with spices. Smoosh the lamb mix inside some round pita bread. Grill it over a hot fire. Serve it with our favorite yogurt sauce for dipping. 

These would work as an appetizer too - Cut the grilled and stuffed pitas into triangles and pass them with the dipping sauce as a finger food. 

1 pound Leyden Glen ground lamb
1 small onion, grated finely on a box grater
1 garlic clove put through a garlic press
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 medium pita breads (I used the Sahara brand)

Mix all ingredients except pita bread in a bowl and let set for an hour or overnight. 

About an hour before grilling, cut around the outside of each pita so they form a half open clamshell. Divide the ground meat mixture in 4 and using your fingers, smoosh the meat into the pitas, pushing it into all the crevices. The meat should be pushed to the edges of the pita - kind of like an oreo cookie. Press down on them and cover with plastic wrap until ready to grill.

Light the grill and preheat it to high. Brush both sides of each stuffed pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pitas for about 5 minutes per side until the meat is cooked through. You should have grill marks like on the photo. Serve with yogurt sauce for dipping and a green salad.

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup (8 oz) yogurt - regular or Greek
juice of half lemon
1 tsp. ground cumin1 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit to combine the flavors.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Autumnal Provencal Inspired Lamb and Butternut Squash Stew

Here is an autumnal recipe that can be stretched to feed a crowd by increasing the amount of butternut squash and serving over a grain of your choice. Take care when cooking the squash at the end of the preparation. You don’t want it to turn to mush but want the chunks to remain so that it will be more visually pleasing. If it does, no worries - it will still taste delish. As with all stews, it can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge to let the flavors develop.


1 1/2 to 2 lbs. lamb shoulder chops, stew meat, or leg slices
2 tablespoons vegetable oil      
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine  
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 small 14 oz. can tomatoes cut up or 1 pound tomatoes chopped small
1 1/2 cups liquid - stock (lamb, chicken, or beef), red or white wine or water  
1 large butternut squash - 2 to 3 pounds
1 teaspoon maple syrup or sugar
parsley for garnish

In a dutch oven or large lidded pot, brown the lamb in one tablespoon oil on both sides. If it won’t all fit, brown in two batches. Set aside. Chop the onions and garlic fine. Add the remaining oil to the pan and loosen any bits of lamb. Cook the onions and garlic in the oil until soft taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and liquid and stir. Bring just to a boil on the stove and take off the heat. Return the lamb to the pot.

Place in a 325 degree oven and cook covered for 2 to 3 hours (or at 250 for 4 to 5 hours). Alternately simmer on the top of the stove over low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is falling apart and off the bone. Let cool and remove the bones, returning shredded lamb to pot with sauce.

Alternately, cook in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Finish the stew following the instructions below.

While the meat is cooking, peel the squash and cut into one inch cubes. Once lamb is returned to pot, add butternut squash and cook uncovered on top of the stove until the squash can be pierced with a knife and is tender. If using a slow cooker, cook the squash on the stove separately, then add to the stew and heat through.

Stir the sugar or maple syrup through the stew at the end - it will bring out the sweetness in the squash. Garnish with parsley.

If you have time, let the stew sit overnight in fridge to let the flavors develop.
Serves 6 to 8 people.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Harira - Traditional Maghreb Soup from North Africa

Harira is a traditional soup of northwest Africa called the Magherb. My recipe includes tiny meatballs made of a spicy lamb mixture called merguez. If you are short on time, skip the meatball step, brown the ground lamb and then carry on with the Harira recipe. As with all soups, they are always better the second day so the spices blend and mellow. 
Merguez Meatballs

1 tsp. fennel seeds         
1 pound ground lamb
3 garlic cloves            
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander        
1 tsp. salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne - more if you like it spicy)

Place fennel seeds in a pan and toast lightly on the stove. Watch them closely so they don’t burn. Place toasted fennel in a small food processor with garlic and process until chopped. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  If you have time, let the meat mixture set in the fridge overnight. This makes it easier to form into meatballs and lets the flavors develop.

Pinch off a small amount and roll into 1/2 to 3/4” meatballs. This sounds very small but the small size fits into a spoon and is perfect for this soup. Follow the recipe below for the soup.

Harira Soup

1 pound lamb merguez meatballs (see above)    
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion             
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery            
8 cloves garlic - finely chopped
1 small can tomatoes (14.5 oz)            
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon                
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. paprika (hot if you prefer)            
1 tsp. coriander
1 packet saffron (.13 grams)            
1 tsp. salt
2 quarts chicken, lamb or vegetable stock    
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 cans chickpeas                
1/2 cup Israeli couscous (or other very small pasta or rice)
fresh parsley and cilantro to garnish        
one lemon - sliced

In a large soup pot, brown the meatballs in the olive oil. Set the cooked meatballs aside. Cook the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until onions are transparent in the remaining oil and lamb fat. Add the tomatoes, spices, stock and lentils. Cook until the lentils are cooked through - about 30 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, couscous (or pasta or rice) and reserved meatballs. Cook until the pasta is done.  Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

If you have time, let the Harira sit for a day refrigerated. Serve with fresh parsley, cilantro and a squirt of lemon. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Indian Spiced Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Are you looking for something interesting to cook using our Leyden Glen Lamb? But you're stretched for time? Here's a really tasty recipe which makes a great quick supper or a nice appetizer at a party. Not difficult or time consuming!

This recipe is great to take to a party or serve as an "exotic" appetizer. I took it to a potluck one night and the meatballs were gone in 10 minutes!

Indian Spiced Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, mashed in a garlic press
1 teaspoon ground ginger (alternately use grated fresh ginger)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you like things spicy)

Mix all together. If you have time, let it sit in the fridge overnight. Form into meatballs using a tablespoon measure of ground mixture per meatball. Bake in oven or saute on top of stove until cooked through. 

Meatballs can be made ahead of time and re-heated. Serve with Yogurt Sauce and Indian Chutney.

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup yogurt (either Greek or regular)
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pepper to taste

Mix together and let sit overnight if you have time to let flavors develop. I always make a double batch of the yogurt sauce because it is so delicious!
I made a big batch of Apple and Tomato Chutney making a version of this recipe from the UK. It is really tasty and besides being a nice dip for the Indian Spiced Meatballs, it tastes great on crackers with cheddar cheese. It was really easy to make and made the house smell great!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mrouzia - Lamb with Honey, Almonds, and Raisins

This weekend marks the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. This holiday is also known as The Feast of the Sacrifice. You can read about it here. We learned about this holiday a couple years ago when the "lamb line" started ringing off the hook. We had just had our Leyden Glen Lamb website built and all of a sudden, we were on the Muslim Culinary Map!

About a month before Eid each year, the phone begins to ring. 
Caller: "Do you have any lambs available?"
Us: Yes we do. Would you like them cut up and frozen or live?
Caller: Live.
Us: This is for Eid? You need a in-tact male (not castrated)?
Caller: Yes. 
Us: How many do you need?
The conversation goes on. We explain that if the customer slaughters the lamb at our farm there is an extra charge for disposing of all the innards. (Learned that the hard way.... Do you know how much stuff comes out of a lamb? How messy and disgusting it is? How fast the flies arrive? It's a lot of extra work for us and we need to be compensated!)

This week we are busy sorting and catching male lambs for families who will be celebrating Eid. Our home grown lambs are being used for family celebrations throughout Massachusetts. We didn't have enough male lambs available for all the phone calls. One of our Muslim customers compared Eid to American Thanksgiving. I like that! It has been really interesting learning about different holidays where lamb and mutton is the traditional meat.

Millions of Muslim people all over the world celebrating Eid, sacrificing male lambs, and enjoying a feast with their families. In Senegal, there is a t.v. show called Khar Bii (This Sheep). You can listen to a story on NPR here. It has become very popular - good article online here about the show and its producer. I watched Khar Bii on YouTube. Couldn't understand a word but found it interesting anyway. The "beautiful sheep" were all rams, many raised on top of the owner's homes in specially built enclosures. Sheep are highly prized animals in Senegal. The producer of Khar Bii says this about sheep:
"Sheep is a sacred animal. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to prove his faith, the ram — the magic animal — appeared and sacrificed itself in place of Abraham's son. So, this ultimate sacrifice is the reason why here in Senegal, we believe that having a sheep in the house is protecting the house. It is protecting us from bad spirits. And the sheep will always sacrifice itself instead of us."
Fascinating how different countries have different pet animals. 

Today's recipe comes from Morocco. It is called Mrouzia and is a traditional stew of lamb, honey, raisins, almonds and spices. I found the recipe in the November 2012 issue of Saveur but I have tweaked it some to suit our family's tastes (the magazine's version was way too sweet). It has interesting flavors and our family really enjoyed it. The recipe is different than one I grew up with but when we ate it, we couldn't help but say that if one grew up with this meal, it would be a real treat. The combination of honey with the lamb, almonds and spices is different but delicious. Mrouzia is one of those great fix it and forget it meals. Give it a try and celebrate Eid with people all over the world. 

(Lamb Braised with Honey, Almonds and Raisins)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder chops or stew meat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion - chopped fine (can be done in food processor)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons Ras El Hanout*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons honey

*Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend. If you can't find it at a gourmet store, here is a recipe for it. Otherwise, substitute 1 teaspoon each ground coriander, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground cloves.)

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven. Brown lamb shoulder chops on both sides. Remove to a plate to hold.

Melt butter in Dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until transparent. Add spices and stir. Add 3 cups of water. Return lamb to pot. Bring to a boil and then place in 250 degree oven and cook very slowly for 2 1/2 hours. Remove pot from oven and add almonds, raisins, and honey. Return to oven and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours adding extra liquid if it has evaporated. The lamb is done when it is falling off the bones. Remove and let cool.

NOTE: If you won't be home to add the almonds and raisins half way through the cooking, add them in the beginning. They may be a little softer but just as tasty.

If you have time, let the Mrouzia sit for a day or two in the refrigerator. Skim the excess fat off the top of the pot before warming. If there is too much sauce, cook without a lid to let the sauce thicken. Serve over rice or couscous.

Alternately, cook everything in a crock pot and it will be delicious too!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eggplant, Lamb and Tomato Stacks

This recipe came at the suggestion of our friends Missy and Philip from Old Friends Farm. It is easy to make and you could tweak it many ways by substituting squash, potatoes or zucchini for the eggplant. It is surprising filling and one recipe served four adults.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic slice thin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and dried thyme
1 pound ground lamb from Leyden Glen Farm
2 large eggplant (or zucchini)
1 small container ricotta cheese
6 medium tomatoes - cut into 1/2" slices
4 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded, sliced or hunks)
handful basil - cut into thin strips
olive oil spray
salt and pepper

Cut eggplant into round slices about 1/2" thick. You will need 2 slices per stack. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place eggplant on tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree oven until soft - about 15 minutes. Remove from oven but keep the oven on. 

Meanwhile in a saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook garlic and onions until translucent. Add lamb, breaking it into small pieces and thyme and oregano. Cook until the meat is cooked through. Pour off the excess grease and hold.

Spray a casserole pan with some olive oil. Build each stack as follows:
1 piece eggplant
small amount of lamb mixture
small dollop of ricotta cheese
1 piece of tomato
bit of cut basil, salt, and pepper
and repeat above to make a nice high stack.

If you are worried about them falling over, steady with toothpicks but don't forget they are in there when you are eating!

Make as many as you have ingredients for. One eggplant yielded four stacks in our kitchen.
Place the leftover bits of cut tomatoes into the bottom of the casserole dish - they will turn into sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 until bubbly (about 25-30 minutes). Remove from oven, take off foil and top each stack with some mozzarella cheese. Broil until bubbly and brown flecked.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce

The nice thing about grilling a boneless leg of lamb is that the leg has different thicknesses. You can accomodate tastes of all kinds - rare, well, and medium. Plan on 1/2 pound per person.

The Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce is nice served on the side.

Boneless leg of lamb - 1 1/2 to 3 pounds

For Chimichurri Sauce

4 cloves of fresh garlic peeled

1 cup parsley leaves (removed from stalks)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more if you like things spicy)

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

To cook lamb:

Prepare grill. Cut the strings that are tying the leg together. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the boneless leg.

The boneless leg of lamb shown grilled for 10 minutes on one side over a rather high heat, 6 minutes on the other. The best thing to do is to test with a meat thermometer unless you have a natural feel for cooking meat. Our lamb was 130 degrees when it came off the grill. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and plate.

Chimichurri Sauce:

In a food processor, process garlic. Add parsley and oregano and process until chopped fine but not liquefied. Transfer to a bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and set aside. Is best if flavors meld in the fridge. Serve as a sauce for the grilled lamb.

The Chimmichurri Sauce will keep for at least a day. Leftovers are good on any kind of vegetable or potato salad. It is a flavorful sauce with a fresh zingy taste.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How To Properly Cook a Bone-In Leg of Lamb

Roast Half Leg of Lamb with Carrots, Parsnips, and Potatoes
Thaw the leg in the refrigerator. Depending on the size of the leg, allow 1 day for half leg to thaw and 2 days for whole leg to thaw. Let meat come to room temperature before roasting.
Invest in an instant read meat thermometer in order to cook the leg properly.
It is not necessary to do any special treatment to the leg but if you want, this mustard coating is nice.

Mustard/Garlic/Herb Coating
1 cup dijon mustard
1 head roasted garlic mashed puree (To roast a garlic head, place entire head in tin foil with a little olive oil. Bake at 375 until soft and squishy at least 30 minutes. Remove from skins and mash).
Optional: dried rosemary and thyme - 1 teaspoon each
Salt and pepper

Mix mustard, garlic puree and herbs.

Optional: Bread crumbs for crunch

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. If not doing mustard coating, rub olive oil over leg and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slather mustard coating over the leg. Press bread crumbs into mustard. Place in a roasting pan. Scatter some cut-up potatoes and carrots around the roast. Roast at high heat for 15 minutes. Turn down to 350 degrees. Basting is optional - I never do.

Pull the meat out when it reaches your desired temperature. The temperature of the meat will continue to rise after it is removed from the oven. Take this into consideration. (I usually pull my roasts out when they are 10 degrees below the desired temperature.) Let leg rest for 15 minutes before carving. De-fat the pan juices and serve them alongside the lamb. They can be mixed with a little wine, salt and pepper if there isn’t much jus.

Roast Leg of Lamb Temperatures
Very rare 120 degrees
Rare 125 degrees
Medium Rare 130 degrees
Medium 140 degrees

Approximate cooking times for rare meat:
Sirloin half - 1 hour
Shank end half - 1 hour
Full leg (5 to 7 lbs) 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

The temperature of the leg will continue to rise for 10 minutes. I try to err on the under-done side as the roast can always be popped back in the oven to cook a little more.

To be safe and avoid overcooking, test for doneness after 45 minutes for half leg and one hour for full leg.

How to carve: Do not cut into the center bone. Slice the meat holding your knife parallel to the bone. Use a napkin to hold onto the meat. Cut thin slices until you reach the bone. Then turn the roast over and cut the other side. Continue until all the meat is removed. Save bone for stock. Make Scotch Broth Soup with it.

Photo and recipe ©2012 Kristin Nicholas

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lamb Liver Treats for Dogs and Cats

Recipe and Photos ©2012 Kristin Nicholas

We can’t be successful sheep farmers without the help of our herding Border Collies. We’ve had extremely talented herding dogs over the 30 years we have raised sheep. Our current dogs are Phoebe (13), Ness (8) and now Kate, our brand new, over-rambunctious and eager pup. The collies all are very loved members of our family and farm. We make Lamb Liver Treats for training our dogs. They LOVE them and so will your cats and dogs. It’s an easy project to do and much more economical than buying teeny little bags of processed treats.

Border Collie pup Kate in her first snowstorm

You’ll need one package of Leyden Glen Lamb Liver.

Open the package with scissors. Drain the juice into a bowl and let your dogs and cats lap the juice. What a special treat. Our animals go crazy for it.

Line a cookie sheet completely with aluminum foil turning up the sides so that the pan doesn’t get dirty. This will save you a lot of clean-up. Spread the pieces of lamb out onto the foil. Most of the liver has been pre-cut into slices.

Place in a 200 degree oven and let bake for an hour. Remove from oven, let cool a minute or two and then pry it off the foil, flipping it over. This step will help the other side of the liver dry. Return to oven and let bake for an hour more. Remove from oven and tear the liver into bite-size pieces. Return to oven to dry out a little more. Watch it at this point because you don’t want it to become too crisp, especially if you have older dogs and cats.

Store in a glass jar in your freezer. The treats will keep indefinitely if frozen but chances are they won’t last too long. I remove small handfuls and keep them in the refrigerator in a lidded jar. These liver treats are awesome training aids for young and rambunctious pups like our new Border Collie Kate! That’s her in the photo above. Sweet but crazy!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Italian Lamb and White Bean Stew with Greens


This recipe is a great way to introduce lamb to your kids and friends who perhaps have not tried it before. Lamb and white beans are a classic Italian combination. This stew can serve from 4 to 8 people by extending it with extra beans. I have added kale for texture and health but you could use any greens available (frozen spinach works if that is all you have available). If you leave out the potatoes, it makes a nice sauce over gnocchi or pasta. 

1 pound lamb stew meat
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken or lamb stock
    or red or white wine
1 - 14 oz. can of tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cans white beans
2 stalks celery chopped into 1/4” pieces
4 large carrots peeled and sliced
2 potatoes
1/2 bunch kale
    or 10 oz. box of frozen spinach

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Peel and mince garlic. Chop onions into small dice. Heat olive oil in a lidded dutch oven. Brown onions and garlic taking care not to burn the garlic. Add lamb stew meat and brown lamb on all sides. Drain off excess fat.  Add the can of tomatoes, the stock or wine, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Place in a 250 degree oven and cook covered for 2 to 3 hours or over a very low heat on top of your stove. (Alternately, use a slow cooker.) The lamb should be falling apart. Skim fat off top of liquid. (If you do this the day ahead, chill the stock and the fat can be removed easily.)

Peel and chop carrots diagonally so they remain largish. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Remove the stems from the kale. Chop the kale into slivers about 1/2” wide. Add all veggies (except for canned white beans) to lidded pot, adding extra water if it is too dry and there is danger of it burning. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are to your liking. Add the drained white beans and cook until they are warmed through.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a little grated parmesan. If you have leftovers, add a little extra stock and use as a pasta sauce.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Braised Lamb Shanks and Shoulders

This is one of those slow cooking recipes that makes your kitchen smell so warm and inviting on a cold winter day or crisp fall afternoon. Plan on at least 1/2 lb of meat person (for bone-in shoulders) or one lamb one shank per person. When buying bone-in shoulders, a lot of the white you will see in the shoulder roast is connective tissue, not fat. It will cook down slowly and add texture and flavor to the sauce. You can also make this in a slow cooker. Do the lamb browning and onion cooking in a separate pan, then transfer all ingredients to the slow cooker.
NOTE: The sauce, if there is any leftover, makes an awesome pasta sauce. Add some tomatoes and red wine if you need more volume.

Lamb shoulder roast, bone-in – approximately 3 to 4 lbs. OR 4 to 6 lamb shanks
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 28 oz can of Italian tomatoes (or 2 lbs fresh if available)
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon oregano or Italian dried herbs
1½ cups red wine or chicken or lamb stock
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil in dutch oven. Brown lamb on all sides. Remove lamb and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Drain off excessive fat. Add tomatoes, carrots, red wine, bay leaves and oregano. Break up tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Return lamb to dutch oven and bring to a boil on top of stove. Lamb should be at least half submerged. If not, add some water.

Immediately, place covered Dutch oven in oven. Bake in oven for 3 to 4 hours. Half way through, flip the lamb over so the opposite side is submerged. Lamb is done when it is falling off the bone and can be cut with a fork.

Serve over polenta, rice or noodles with green beans or kale and a green salad.

Scotch Broth Soup

Scotch Broth Soup

A fall and winter favorite here at our farm, Scotch Broth Soup is total comfort food. The smooth taste of the lamb stock mixed with winter root veggies can’t be beat. I use our shoulder chops for the meat and add a few extra bones if I have them to make a richer stock. Resist the temptation to increase the barley - you don’t need a lot and it will swell by the second day. In fact, when re-heating, you may find it necessary to add a little water. This soup also freezes well.

1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 pound lamb stew meat or shoulder chops (the bones add extra flavor)
2 leeks – white part only sliced thin
1 onion
2 sticks celery
2 large potatoes or 4 small
2 small turnips or parsnips (or both!)
3 – 4 large carrots
1/ 2 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the stew meat in a large soup pot. Dice the onion and add it to the meat in pan. Cut the leek into thin slices. Add to the meat and onions. Chop the celery and add to the browning meat mixture.

While meat mixture is browning, peel the turnips, carrots, and potatoes. Chop turnips, carrots and potatoes into pieces all the same size so they will cook at an equal rate.

Once the meat is thoroughly browned, cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower immediately to a simmer.  After five minutes, add the barley, root veggies, herbs and salt and pepper. Cover and cook until barley is tender - about 45 minutes. Remove bones from shoulder chops if necessary. Serve immediately. This soup, as with most, will taste better the second day. It will be necessary to add some water when re-heating as the barley will swell. This soup freezes nicely too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lamb Tagine


One of our favorite ways to eat lamb is in a tagine style stew seasoned with dried fruits, ginger and cinnamon. This season, we are lucky to have fresh ginger available from Old Friends Farm. I buy a chunk (or root as I should refer to it as) every week at the Saturday market. If I don't use it all quickly, I stuff it in the freezer and it grates beautifully all winter long. 

Here's a new recipe I developed for our Leyden Glen Lamb farmstand - perfect for autumn days. If you don't like lamb, you can substitute beef, chicken, or your protein of choice. Surprisingly, Julia LOVED this even though she is in a "no-spice" period of her eating career. You can add chiles if you like things spicy. 

Moroccan Lamb Tagine from Leyden Glen Farm
with Old Friends Farm Fresh Ginger,
Prunes, Apricots, Apples, and Carrots

A tagine is actually a conical pot used in Moroccan cooking. I don't own one (this site is mind-boggling - who knew?) but it isn't necessary to have one to cook a good tagine. I use my copper dutch oven so feel free to use any heavy pot with a lid that will fit in your oven. For the lamb, I use our bone-in shoulder roasts or chops but if you can't find bone-in (they add more flavor, you know), use a boneless shoulder roast or any lamb stew cut. You can experiment with using fresh fruits (apples, pears, plums) or other dried fruits such as raisins and figs. Making a tagine is like making art - layers of experimentation and each one is different.

2 lbs. lamb shoulder roast or lamb shoulder chops - bone-in
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups water
1 cup dried prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4” pieces
4 Tablespoons Old Friends Farm grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon (and more to taste)
3 large carrots - peeled and cut into 1/2” diagonal chunks
2 Tablespoons butter
2 medium size firm apples (Honeycrisp,  Granny Smith, Delicious)
1 Tablespoon honey
handful of slivered almonds
For serving: cooked basmatic rice or couscous

In a dutch oven, brown the lamb on all sides over medium high heat in the olive oil. Remove to a platter. Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Brown the onions and garlic taking care that they do not burn. When done, return the lamb to the pot. Add 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of the freshly grated fresh ginger and the cinnamon and bring to a boil on top of stove. Cover and place in a 250 degree oven and cook for 4 hours until the meat falls easily off the bone. (Alternately use a crock pot set on low and let cook all day.  You can skip the browning step for crock pot cooking.)

Boil some water and soak the dried prunes and apricots in water while the meat is cooking (for at least 1/2 hour). Reserve the soaking liquid.

When lamb is falling off the bones, remove from oven, let cool a bit so you don’t burn your fingers and remove the bones. Add the carrots,  prunes, chopped apricots, and optional honey and cook uncovered on top of stove until the carrots are tender. Add the fruit soaking liquid if the tagine has dried out too much. Simmer a bit more letting the sauce thicken as the liquid evaporates. The tagine sauce should not be too liquidy - you want it to have body and thickness to it. Add 2 more tablespoons of freshly grated ginger. Taste the tagine and add more cinnamon if you like. Continue to simmer over very low heat or in the oven while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut into thin slices. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in frying pan and saute the apples, taking care that they do not become mushy - you want them to remain crisp. In a separate frying pan, toast some slivered almonds, taking care not to burn them.

Cook basmati rice or couscous according to your favorite method. Place a scoop of rice or couscous on each plate. Spoon a few of the sauteed apples on top and then ladle some of the lamb tagine on top. Sprinkle with with some toasted almonds to add a crunchy texture. Top with fresh parsley or mint.

Lamb Chops and a Summer Mint Pesto Recipe

Selling direct to the customer at the Farmers Markets has been really interesting. We get asked all kinds of questions (almost as many as when I teach knitting). Our customers want to know everything about the meat they are buying (how the animals are raised, what they eat, how they are killed). We are happy to share the information because we know that we are raising our animals with care and that even though many of them are going to become meat, that they have lived happy and healthy lives in the outdoors eating grass and moving around freely. 

I think it is great that consumers are interested in the source of their meat and what happens to it. So many people just eat a burger and don't think about the animal who died to become their meat, nor the supply chain that brought the meat to the grocery refrigerator section all neatly wrapped in plastic. To say that whole process is complicated, regulated (as it should be), and mammoth would be an understatement. There are a lot of people living in the U.S. (not to mention the entire world) who just want to eat a burger and not think about it. It is not until recently with the publication of many books (listed below) that regular eaters have started to think about the source of their meat and food.

Books on food and meat I recommend:
Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson
River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall
Good Meat by Deborah Krasner

The largest obstacle to selling our farm raised lamb is that many, many customers have never cooked nor eaten lamb. They honestly don't know what to do with it. I have realized (after a few years) that developing recipes is the key to easier sales. If a customer walks off with a recipe in their hands, they have the confidence to feel like they haven't wasted their money and that they will be able to properly cook our lamb. Some cuts are easier to sell than others. Like lamb chops. Most people are used to looking at beef steaks on a piece of styrofoam at the store so showing them the lamb chops translates easily in their brain. They can visualize a lamb chop on a plate.

Our lamb chops are tiny - much tinier than a beef steak - and tinier than western raised lamb chops which come from larger meat breeds of sheep. We slaughter our animals at around 100 lbs. From that 100 pound animal, we receive back around 30 pounds of meat. Isn't that astounding? A live lamb doesn't equate into a lot of product, does it? Each lamb gives us 14 rib chops and 14 loin chops. The chops are the most tender section of the lamb. They run along upper back of the animal. It makes sense that this cut of meat would be the most tender - it doesn't do as much work as the shoulders (the part of the animal that pulls the animal up the hills - hence is has the most connective tissue and is tougher), nor the legs. French meat poster available here.

There is a difference in both taste and appearance to the two different chops we sell. Rib chops (also known as "rack of lamb" when served in an entire piece, usually frenched with little poufy things on the ends of the bones) are from the front backbone section of the animal. They have more fat on them which adds to the flavor of the meat. They are longer in length and usually weigh more. The loin chops are from the section of the back of the animal which is closer to the leg - where the animal becomes smaller if you are thinking about your dog or cat. Many of our customers prefer loin chops because they are leaner.

At our house, we like both cuts of chops - loin and rib. Truth is we don't eat too many of them because we need to sell them because they generate the most revenue per pound of meat (just like the cobbler and his kid's shoes). 

How I Cook a Lamb Chop
My preferred method of cooking (when we decide to really treat ourselves) is to grill them simply on the barbeque over very hot heat. It only takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side to obtain a rare to medium rare chop. You have to be very careful or the chops can be overcooked in seconds. We process our chops to be 1 1/4" thick. Obviously, if you buy 2 to 3" chops you will need to cook them longer. You need to use a lot of commonsense when cooking meat - something I find lacking in today's cooks. But I am here to help them get over their fears of cooking lamb, aren't I?

Most of the time, I just spice the chops with salt and pepper. But since I'm now developing recipes to add extra value to our meat, I recently worked up a recipe for Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto that I will share with you here today.

Mint has always been a classic combo with lamb - mostly as mint jelly.  We here at Leyden Glen Farm have a diabetic daughter so sweet things don't usually hit the dinner table. Mint runs rampant in our garden though and I love it as a "spice" to be added to lamb. This recipe is very easy and even if you aren't going to use it on lamb, I have found many ways to use "Mint Pesto" on veggies and in summer salads and in yogurt as a summer spirited dip.

Mint Pesto for Lamb Chops (or whatever!)
1/2 cup mint leaves, freshly plucked from a garden
1/2 cup flat parsley leaves
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pluck the mint leaves from the stalks and wash. Spin in a salad spinner to remove all water. Do the same with the parsley. Place the herbs in a food processor (they will fit in a mini one). Chop until fine. Add the juice of the lemon and the salt and whir. Slowly add the olive oil and mix through until the mixture looks saucy. Stick your finger in and taste. Do you want a little more of an oily texture? Add a couple more tablespoons oil and whir. A garlic clove can be added but I prefer mine simpler. I save the garlic for the basil because I think it overwhelms the mint.

That's it. Place it in a lidded jar. It will keep for about a week or you can freeze it for winter. Pull it out and add it to potatoes, pasta to make a quick weeknight salad, add it to yogurt to make a quick dip. Yummy, yummy and really quick! And of course, you can put a dollop on some lamb chops like shown in the photo my photo! To cook the lamb chops, follow the instructions above.