Tag Archives: lamb

Gyros or döner kebab?

20 Jul

Around 17 years ago, when I had the opportunity of working in Germany as a guest Professor, one of the most popular fast foods in the Bonn area was “gyrus”, a Greek specialty which literally translates as  turning, served with “tzatiziki”, a wonderful fresh cucumber and yogurt sauce.

Well, I arrived in Heidelberg this morning and was quite amazed to see that “gyrus” is almost unknown and that the Turkish “döner kebap” (or kebab) has taken its place (Interested in kebap? Take a look at the post on Adana Kebap).  Not that the Turkish variation may not be as good as the Greek one (I tried the one served at Charisma, Bergheimstr., 35 – GPS 49.408557 Lat. N, 8.688898 Long. E), but it’s surelly different, as it never contains pork for religious reasons (I personally prefer pork to chicken).

Preparing Döner

Preparing Döner (sorry, but the picture I took was completely dark, as I don't like to use flash and employ a Nokia phone camera)

Charisma, Bergheimerstrasse, 35, Heidelberg, Germany

Charisma, Bergheimerstrasse, 35, Heidelberg, Germany

I had my döner with an Erdinger Weissbier, and I’m aware that a chikcken döner with Erdinger is not the most wonderful start for Germany, but it was what could be done at the prevailing conditions.  I don’t intend to visit this place again, as the meat (chicken) was a bit dry and the sauce (which was not really tzatiziki – was it intended to be?) almost tasteless.  The ambiance was acceptable, an outside table on a bright summer day, and the price friendly (around US$ 8,00 with the beer)

Chicken and lamb doener kebap

Chicken and lamb döner kebap

Let me cross my fingers and see what dinner will bring.  Will try to stick to a more typical of German meal, something like a Bratwurst, for example.

P.S.:  I have just been informed by my son that, luckily, the Greek specialty has kept its place in the most northern parts of the country.

Gyros on Foodista
Döner Kebab on Foodista

Lamb spine with potatoes

10 Jul

In almost every country you can find dishes popular amongst the lower social classes which are based on ingredients the dominant elite refuses to eat.  One of these, found in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, is a stew prepared with lamb vertebral column (spine) and potatoes.  You won’t find the main ingredient (lamb spine) for sale in any butcher shop around, rather, you must have a farmer as friend.  As I’ve told you before (see Sunday lunch) the father of my daughter in law, Francisco, is a typical Brazilian “gaucho“, growing cattle and sheep on his farm.  He is the one responsible for putting such fine and rare ingredient on my hands.

Lamb vertebral column (spine) with the tail

Lamb vertebral column (spine) with the tail

The first step is separating the vertebrae one by one.  The final result reminds the traditional ox tail preparation.

Separated vertebrae of a lamb spine

Separated vertebrae of a lamb spine

Then, sauté some diced onions, garlic and fresh red pepper with olive oil (the original recipe asks for pork fat) in a cast iron pan.

Sutéing the first ingredients

Sautéing the first ingredients

Add the lamb spine, diced tomatoes, olives, parsley and salt to taste.  Pour in half a bottle of red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon) and let the fire do the rest.  Let it simmer for about 1,5 h. Check the water, don’t let it dry. Add some potatoes (I cut them in large slices) and let them cook until tender.

Addtional ingredients added.  What do you think of my cast iron stove?

Additional ingredients added. What do you think of my cast iron stove?

Lamb spine with potatoes, olives and parsley

Lamb spine with potatoes, olives and parsley

This is another strong winter dish, full of fat and energy to keep men working in the cold pampas of Rio Grande do Sul.

Lamb on Foodista

Sunday Lunch

12 Jun

On last Sunday’s lunch menu:  lamb shank grilled over wooden fire and potato salad.  The salad is simply boiled potatoes mixed with a homemade mayonnaise.  The mayo recipe is rather simple:
– 2 egg yolks (one hard boiled and one raw);
– 1 ts of Dijon mustard, 1 ts of Tabasco or other similar hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste;
– 1 squeeze of lemon;
– while constantly whisking the yolks slowly add a mixture of olive and corn oil (half and half) until the right consistency is obtained.

Add some chopped green olives and parsley to the final product.

The lamb was given to me by the father of my daughter in law.  He is a cattle rancher (a typical Brazilian “gaucho“), who is particularly proud of his animals.  The lamb was not only raised in his ranch, free ranging and feeding only on natural grass, but was killed and cleaned by himself.  Thus, it was a very special and most prised gift.  I got the whole animal, what means that you are going to hear about lamb once again in the near future.

In order to preserve the meat taste as much as possible it was rubbed only with a mixture of sea salt and some minced rosemary right before grilling.  It was then set over a wooden fire and  kept about 1 meter (a little over 3 feet) from it.  Cooking time was around 2,5 hours.  The meat was juicy and tender.

To go along with that I decided to take my bread experience a little further.  So, I repeated the previous recipe with minced rosemary, thyme and basil, as I was sure the result would be nice, and also tried some ciabatta bread (the same basic recipe, with some extra olive oil after the first rise and flour over the dough just before baking).  The result?  Judge by the following images.

Ciabatta bread and homemade potato salad

Ciabatta bread and homemade potato salad

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch

Lamb Shank on Foodista
Ciabatta on Foodista

My Turkish Experience

10 Jun

I had the opportunity of spending one day (and one day only) in Turkey.  I went to the beautiful Aegean sea bordering city of Marmaris.  Marmaris, once a fishing village, faced an incredible growth in the last 20-25 years.  With a population of around 30,000, which may reach over 300,000 during high season, Marmaris nevertheless remains considerably attractive, specially due to its natural beauty.

Port of Marmaris/Turkey

Port of Marmaris/Turkey

In this nice town I went through 3 really unforgettable experiences:

1.  Downtown Marmaris is full of tourist oriented shops, most of them selling typical Turkish products of rather suspicious quality.  I fell in love with a narguile (hookah or shisha in other Arabian countries) and decided I had to take one back home with me.  I also decided that it would have to be the real thing, the narguile used by the Turkish people, and not some fake tourist stuff designed to be kept on a shelf at home.  And more, I didn`t want to pay the tourist price either.  This was the most time consuming experience in Marmaris, but also a very pleasant one.  After finding a small narguile shop where I could be attended by the owner in person, the rest was only sitting on the floor, bargaining, enjoying some nice hot sweet tea, bargaining, joking, bargaining, smoking the owner`s narguile, bargaining, and finally closing the deal.  The overall experience was fun, and allowed me to get a bit closer to the Turkish soul through this nice and joyful salesman.

It`s not easy to do business with a Turkish salesman, but it can be a rather pleasant and unforgettable experience.

It`s not easy to do business with a Turkish salesman, but it can be a rather pleasant and unforgettable experience.

2. Around lunchtime loud speakers could be heard with the muezzin call for prayer, and quite a few men started moving towards a small mosque right in the center of the commercial area.  I did the same.  There, they sat on small stone stools and started to wash their hands, feet and face.  I did the same.

Washing at the mosk in downtown Marmaris/Turkey

Men washing at the mosk in downtown Marmaris/Turkey

They then left their shoes at the entrance of the small mosque and walked inside.  Not knowing if I could walk in or not I just sneaked through the windows trying to see what was going on.  A man then surprised me from behind asking what I was doing, and after a few speechless moments the following dialogue took place:

– I`m trying to see the inside of the mosque and the men praying, I said.
– Are you a muslin?  He asked.
– No, I answered.

He then slowly inspected me from head to toe.  I felt a few sweat drops rolling down my face, both because of the temperature, as it was  45 oC (113 oF), but also because I was feeling quite uneasy for behaving in a suspicious way, in a mosque, in a foreign country and surrounded by muslins (whom in the Occident are not regarded as a very tolerant people).

– Have you washed?  He then asked.

Good, I thought, he took the sweat drops for the water I have used to wash my face just a few minutes ago.

– Yes, I answered.
– Would you like to get inside?
– Yes, I`d really appreciate that.
– Ok, follow me. Come with me to the back of the room.  Once there, don`t move, don`t say a word and don`t take pictures.

Entering a mosque in downtown Marmaris/Turkey

Entering a mosque in downtown Marmaris/Turkey

Guess I don`t need to add anything else.  As a matter of fact, this simple gesture of allowing me to testify what for them is a sacred ceremony, changed the way I see muslins and their religion.  May Allah and the prophet Mohamed bless this unknown muslin brother for his kindness and understanding.

3.  After the prayer it was really lunch time, and hence time for another meaningful experience.  We also wanted a rather typical place to eat, and not those regular joints full of tourists.  We went to a small diner indicated by the narguile salesman, a place lost in the small streets of downtown Marmaris were several of the shop owners and workers go to eat, and this should mean good food at low price (sorry, no name, no GPS markings, and no pictures of the facade – but I`m sure you`ll be able to find something similar with the aid of a friendly local salesperson).

The owner/chef/cook was starting to prepare “Adana Kebap”.  Adana is the capital of the Adana Province, while kebap (kebab) refers to dishes of plain or marinated meat either stewed or grilled.  He took about 3 kg of already grounded mutton and worked it with a rather large knife, reducing it to almost a paste.

Working on the grounded mutton to prepare Adana kebap

Working on the grounded mutton to prepare Adana kebap

He then cleaned 6 red bell peppers, cut them into very small pieces and added about 6 table spoons of cayenne pepper.

Preparing the red bell peppers

Preparing the red bell peppers

Adding cayenne pepper to the minced bell peppers

Adding cayenne pepper to the minced bell peppers

These ingredients were then added to the meat, which was then worked with the knife for a few moments and then with the hands, in order to obtain a homogeneous mixture.  This was all, no salt was added. The mixture was then molded around wooden skewers, and grilled over hot charcoal.  The skewers were removed just before serving, over pita bread and along a simple, but rather tasteful salad (tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and minced mint).

Adana kebap - The final result

Adana kebap - The final result

I`ve tried this recipe at home and it worked just fine.  After the meal we had a taste of narguile with Turkish apple tobacco.  A complete success.

Am I forgiven now Cem?

Adana Kebab on Foodista

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