Tag Archives: Meat

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

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Lover’s Day

12 Jun

Today is the Brazilian equivalent to Valentine’s Day (Lover’s Day would be a more adequate translation).  My wife, who happens to be a terrific cook, waited for me at lunch time with fresh spinach fettuccini topped with filet mignon in Madeira sauce.  Yeh, good Lover’s Day for you too.

Filet mignon in Madeira sauce

Spinach fettuccini with filet mignon in Madeira sauce

My Lover’s Day advice:  Do you want to hook up with a man?  It’s just like fishing, use a good bait.

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

Parrillada in Uruguay

1 Jun

You may throw the first stone if your mouth has never watered with the sight of a perfectly grilled New York strip or  rump steak. Well, if you are in Uruguay I`m 100% sure that no stones will be thrown, as it is virtually impossible to resist a “parrillada”.  Grilling is taken so seriously in Uruguay that even before building their own houses they build the “parrillas” (the grills).

A typical home "parrilla"

A typical home "parrilla"

But what makes the Uruguayans “parrillas” so special?  As Chuck Stull summarizes, describing the process, as developed by his friend Tito:  “As the logs burn, (in the firebox on the left) coals drop onto the brick floor of the “parrilla”. Tito then uses a poker to spread the coals under the grate holding the food. Fewer coals (on the right side of the grill) keep the temperature lower for slow cooking. Closer to the fire, it’s hotter. The grate can also be angled upward for more temperature control. New logs in the firebox replenish the supply of hot coals, so extended cooking is straightforward. Potatoes go on top of the grill wrapped in foil and sweet potatoes go directly into the coals under the fire. Everything tastes great.”

Since the food is cooked only on fully burned charcoal, there is less smoke and hence the taste is much more preserved.

Commercial “parrillas” are, of course, much larger than the one depicted in the above picture, and can be found all over Uruguay.  All I have to do is to drive a couple of hours (as I live a little bit more than 200 km from the Uruguayan border) and find myself in the city of Chuy where I can mix pleasure with pleasure, that is, I can simultaneously enjoy a “parrilla” and do some wonderful shopping.

Chuy is a small town with a population of around 10,000.  Although rather small it’s a busy commercial area, as the government allowed the existence of several duty-free shops, making the trip a not to be missed opportunity for buying electronics, perfumes and, what brings me here most often, wine (specially from Chile and Argentina, but also from Italy, France and a few other countries).

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

What I usually come here for

What I usually come here for

The “parrillas” found in Chuy are not among the best ones, specially considering what you can find in Montevideo, for example (I’ll write a bit about them at another occasion), but the meat in Uruguay is always of top quality.  This time I went to “Entrecot”, a new “parrilla” right at the main street (Av. Brasil – GPS: 33.693023 Lat S, 53.452445 Long W) (Please, check the “update” at the end of this post).

To prepare a “parrillada” all you need is good meat (Uruguay is plenty of that), sea salt and the “parrilla”, of course.  If you want to see a movie on the process take a look at http://comida-y-bebida.practicopedia.com/como-hacer-una-parrillada-326

For lunch I had some traditional cuts, like ribs and a New York strip, and also adventured myself into “rinones” (kidneys), “chinchulin” (intestines) “molleja” (tymus gland) (these are the first 3 meats put on the grill in the above video) and “morcilla” (blood sausage).

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

Overview of available cuts

Overview of available cuts

A few cuts to start with

A few cuts to start with

We paid US$ 15,00/person for a service of the type “eat as much as you can”, including beer.  A real bargain.

UPDATE: Last weekend (December 5th, 2009) I’ve returned to Chuy looking for some Christmas gifts, and once again had lunch at “Entrecot”.  Don’t waste your time, the place is simply terrible now.  Bad, really bad.  Guess I’ll have to look for other options.  It seems that “Spetu’s”, on the Brazilian side of the border, is the place to eat now.  Haven’t been there though.

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