30 Nov 2015

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder Sous-vide with Gratin, Rustic Gravy and Peas

I found lamb shoulder in my freezer the other day (yes, it's a crowded place) so I decided to treat myself with a proper nostalgic feast - few things in this world are as tasty as Icelandic lamb - and I concluded that sous-vide would be the cooking method of choice, in order to do the lamb the honor it deserves. Sous-vide cooking is an exotic concept to many people but I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to give it a shot. In contrast to a common misconception, this cooking method doesn't necessarily require any complicated gadgets or industrial kitchen equipment.

Of course, the process is made easier if you have a vacuum packing machine or an immersion circulator, but you can achieve the same results using zip-lock plastic bags, meat thermometer and a sturdy pot in which you can maintain a steady cooking temperature. What matters most is to make sure that same internal temperature is maintained throughout the cooking procedure.

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder Sous-vide with Gratin, Rustic Gravy and Peas

I decided to bone the lamb shoulder, which is relatively straight forward. You can of course ask your butcher to bone it for you, and he/she will happily comply.


1 lamb shoulder
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Handful of blueberries
50 g blue cheese
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Start by boning the lamb shoulder. You don't have to feel daunted by the process - the only thing you need is a sharp knife, and concentration.

Place the lamb shoulder on a cutting board with back side facing down. The fillets have sometimes been removed, but they're in their place on all proper lamb shoulder cuts!

Remove the fillets by carefully sliding the knife along the bone. Set to the side.

Turn the shoulder over. Slide the knife along the blade bone, following the ridges and down towards the opposite end of the blade. When you arrive at the spinal column, cut along the ribs.

Fold open the shoulder and cut the meat away from the blade bone along the spinal column. Be careful not to puncture the skin. When you have removed the meat from the bone on each side it will hang from the ligament, which is then easily cut away by following the ridges with the knife.

The shoulder has been separated into four parts. Two fillets, the bones and boned meat. The bones will of course be used for broth!

Now to the cooking! You can fill the shoulder with anything that you desire. Personally I love the combination of blueberries and blue cheese, to which I added a pinch of thyme. I should have used the native Icelandic arctic thyme but it was in short supply unfortunately. Season with only pepper, leave the salt until the lamb is cooked. Place the fillets into the middle and roll up the shoulder.

I've tried to teach myself how to make a 'butcher's knot' but I can't pull it off. It's clear that I would've never made it as a surgeon!

Then cut the shoulder in two and put both parts into a vacuum bag. Pour a bit of oil in the bag along with some pepper and a few leaves of thyme before sealing.

Place the bag into the water and set the temperature to 65°C. Let it rest in the pot for the next 6 hours - in hindsight 3-4 hours would have been plenty.

Cut the remaining meat-covered bones into smaller pieces and brown in the oven. Then transfer to a pot and cook up a pungent broth using for example garlic, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, white wine and water. Start with around 4 l of liquid and reduce it to 700 ml.

Take a glass of wine, sit down and relax and enjoy the atmosphere while the meat cooks away.

Prepare roux in a pot. Use a sieve to clear the broth and then pour it in with the roux. Season with salt and pepper. Proper broth doesn't require anything more fancy than this!

When the shoulder is done, melt butter on a pan and brown the meat.

Allow the meat to rest for a few moments before you slice it.

Serve with potato gratin (see here), simple salad and peas, and last but not least, a lovely drizzle of gravy!

Monti Garbi Ripasso

We had some 2011 Tenuta Sant'Antonio Monti Garbi Ripasso with the food. I quite like this red wine but I haven't tried it for a long time. The wine traces its roots to regions outside Venice and is made from a blend of three grape varieties where the Corvína grape plays the central role. The wine is thick in the glass, deep dark color, with a rich berry aroma and a dominant aftertaste. I highly recommend this red wine!

The feast never ends!

7 Nov 2015

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Black Olives and Zucchini

This is one of my favorite recipes from my cookbooks (published in Icelandic). The dish oozes with exotic umami flavors that one doesn't encounter often in traditional European cuisine, even though it hails from a not-so-distant part of the world. For a long while, I've been intrigued by North-African cooking, especially Moroccan food. And my interest in the country's cuisine was bolstered even further when I got to know my Moroccan neighbor, and her wonderful cooking!

In the summer of 2010, I traveled with my family to France in a camper and explored the regions of Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace. In one of the many markets we visited I happened upon a colorful Moroccan tagine, and I just had to bring it home with me. A tagine is a special earthenware pot typically used in North-Africa to cook dishes which carry the same name. Tagines have a thick base, with a characteristic dome-shaped lid, which is designed to collect steam and then return it to the bottom of the pot. Cooking with a tagine is a bit special: The ingredients are arranged in the pot in layers, the lid placed on top and then transferred to the stove on low heat. The dish is usually slow-cooked for 2 hours, sometimes longer.

This chicken tagine was a collaborative effort between my brother and I. I wanted to use preserved lemons together with tomatoes, zucchini and ground cumin but my brother suggested using chicken broth and olives instead and skip the tomatoes. As I deliberated on the options I saw the aforesaid Moroccan neighbor walk past the window, so I hurried outside and asked her advice regarding the recipe. She gave us a green light but noted that ground cumin is rarely used in chicken tagines, so we decided to skip that also. And the dish turned out great - through the joint effort of many!

If you don't have the specific tagine pot, a regular pot will also do the trick.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Black Olives and Zucchini

4-6 servings 

16 chicken drumsticks

1 preserved lemon
700 ml chicken broth
50 g butter
1 yellow onion
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini
30 kalamata-olives
Handful of fresh mint

Cut away the cartilage and discard.

The benefit of removing the cartilage is that the skin retracts from the bone which makes the drumstick easier to hold. And of course, I looks much tastier that way!

Place the drumsticks in a bowl along with the olive oil, turmeric, ginger, paprika and coriander. Mix well together and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the fridge and marinate for at least 1-2 hours, but preferably overnight if you have the time.

Chop onion and garlic and fry in the butter until the onion is soft and glistening. Season generously. Then place the drumsticks on top followed by the chicken broth.

Cut the preserved lemons into wedges and arrange them around the chicken. Cut the zucchini into thick slices and add to the tagine along with the kalamata-olives. Scatter a few mint leaves over and season with salt and pepper. Finally, place the lid over, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours on low heat.

Garnish with fresh mint before serving. There you go, a colorful and robust chicken tagine!

The feast never ends!

13 Oct 2015

Savory Waffles with Cheddar and Serrano Ham

Waffles are ancient. Archaeologists have discovered waffle irons in Europe that date back to the middles ages. Most of these were owned by the church and used to make communion wafers. It wasn't until in the 15th century that people began to exchange waffle recipes resembling the modern version, with the first one emerging in Paris. The practice of waffle-making spread quickly around Europe but was probably nowhere embraced as fervently as in Belgium. Most of the commonplace waffle irons that we're used to are adorned in Belgian patterns, stemming from the 17th century.

Most of you are familiar with waffles as a sweet afternoon snack served with cream and jam. However, you can turn that on it's head and make a savory version - why not!? This recipe is considerably different form those that we're used to. Anyways, these waffles are very tasty and particularly suited as lunch on an easy weekend afternoon!

Savory Waffles with Cheddar and Serrano Ham

Makes 12-15 waffles

For the waffle dough:

2 cups flour
2 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cups milk
Garlic oil

For each waffle:

Grated cheese (e.g. cheddar)
1 slice of serrano or parma ham
1 tsp garlic oil
Parsley for garnish

In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and then add the eggs and milk.

Heat the waffle iron and brush it with garlic oil.

Pour enough dough for one waffle in a separate bowl and add the ham and the cheese. Bake the waffle. When ready, transfer the waffle to a plate and garnish with more ham and cheese and fresh parsley. Drizzle over a bit of extra garlic oil.

The feast continues!

4 Oct 2015

Il Timpano - The Chock-full Pasta Bake from Big night

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the fantastic film Big Night. The film is an ode to Italian cooking and revolves around two brothers who struggle to keep their restaurant afloat. In a desperate effort to save the restaurant, the brothers organize a feast offering one decadent and spectacular dish after the other. And the feast included, among others, the Il Timpano dish - a generously filled pasta bake. Apparently, Il Timpano is one of Stanley Tucci's favorite dishes, and the recipe even features in a cookbook that his mother published, called Cucina and Famiglia.

I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of these cookbooks!

This type of cooking is massive project and you should reserve a day for it, but boy is it worth it! First you make the pasta, then the sauce, followed by a delicate layering of ingredients, and finally, carry the monster into the oven to face its fate. And then hopefully, a standing ovation from plump-bellied and satisfied guests!

Il Timpano - The Chock-full Pasta Bake from Big night

8-10 servings

For the pasta:

800 g durum-flour
8 eggs

For the Meatballs:

500 g pork/beef mince
1 egg
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped basil
3 garlic gloves
2 toasted slices of bread
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the filling:

Homemade tomato sauce
2 eggs for brushing
1 zucchini
3 balls of mozzarella cheese
6 boiled eggs
Salt and pepper

Begin by preparing the pasta dough. Mix the durum flour and eggs together in a food processor for a few minutes. Knead into a tight ball, wrap in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

Prepare the meatballs by putting the mince into a bowl along with eggs, ground fennel seeds, chopped parsley, chopped basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well together. Toast the bread, shred it in a food processor and blend with the mince. Take some mince into your hands and shape into golf-ball-sized balls. Heat oil in a pan and brown the meat balls on the outside and set to the side. Don't bother cleaning the pan; use it to later fry the pasta.

I have these very handy pasta plates that came with my KitchenAid machine, which make the process a whole lot easier. You can get a plate that suits pretty much every type of pasta.

I went for fuzilli.

And then penne.

And enough flat pasta dough to cover the pot, to complete the mighty drum - il timpano!

Divide the pasta dough into three parts. Make, for example, fusilli from one third, penne from the second, and then thick pasta plates from the last part. Boil the fusilli and penne in richly-salted water for 3-4 minutes, and then set to the side. Next, fry either the penne or fusilli on the pan used for frying the meat balls earlier and then add the pasta to the tomato sauce.

Smear the insides of an ovenproof pot with plenty of butter or oil. Tuck the pasta plates into the bottom of the pot and layer them along the sides. The trick is to create a blanket of pasta plates which hangs from the side, and you can then fold over the top, creating a lid, once the pot is full with food. Whisk the eggs and brush the plates.

Put one type of past into the bottom, layer whole eggs along the sides, and then create a lid on top using the pasta plates.

The next layer: Thinly sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese, and then meatballs and a few leaves of fresh basil. Once again a lid of pasta plates. Don't forget to brush with the whisked eggs.

Fusilli and more meat balls!

Finally it's time for the lid that will seal the drum, along with the plates that extended from the sides, forming a thick cover. Brush with the whisked eggs.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Put the real lid on the pot, transfer to the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes.When done, allow it to stand and cool for 15 minutes. Turn the pot on its head and gently free the pasta bake.

Wow! Enjoy with a lovely salad.

25 Sept 2015

Cantonese Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onions and Cucumbers in Mandarin Pancakes

Snædís, my wife, requested Chinese-style duck for her birthday dinner. And meeting this request seemed easy enough - or so I thought. The idea was to roast a whole duck and serve with mandarin pancakes. However, I managed to slightly mess up the logistics! I was working at the hospital the entire day before and forgot to buy the duck. I hurried to the store the following morning and only managed to find a frozen duck. I best step up my game!

I had read countless recipes for this dish a long time ago and I had obviously forgotten how time-consuming the process was. At the very least, you need 12 hours, most preferably a day and a half. At this stage, with the duck still frozen, all seemed lost! Regardless, summoned the gastro-spirit, sprinted to another store and finally came across duck legs! A slightly modified birthday wish would finally come true.

Of course, you can also use chicken legs or even goose - depending on availability - whether you are a city dweller or a great outdoors hunter!

Cantonese Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onions and Cucumbers in Mandarin Pancakes

6 servings.

6 duck legs
1 jar hoisin sauce
4 tbsp honey
50 ml rice vinegar
100 ml soysauce
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 tsp sichuan pepper
1 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
5 spring onions


Mandarin pancakes
2 carrots
8 spring onions
1 pepper
1 spring onion
Rice (optional)
1/2 cucumber
1/2 jar hoisin sauce

You can easily make your own hoisin sauce - there are countless recipes online and nearly all of them are very different from the stuff you get in a jar (like I had this time). The take home message here, I guess; Time is of the essence - it always pays off to check preparation times!

Rinse the duck legs thoroughly in cold water.

I used Chinese five-spic powder which contains a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and fennel seeds. And in order to sharpen the mix, I added two cinnamon sticks, two star anise and a nip of sichuan pepper.

Then you can just plop the garlic and the ginger into a food processor! 

Chop the garlic and the ginger very finely.

Turns out the bowl was too small for all the abundance of food!

The duck legs were were put into large bowl and along with the soy sauce, oil and spring onion. Stir well together. Transfer to the fridge and allow to marinate for 4-6 hours. If you have the time, an overnight marinade would produce the best result.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the duck legs on an oven tray dressed in aluminum foil. Before putting the tray in the oven, I brushed the legs rigorously with the marinade, and then covered with a sheet of foil. Finally, toward the end of cooking, I removed the top sheet of foil and increased the heat to 225°C in order to give the skin some proper crunch!

While the legs bubbled in the oven, I cut the vegetables into thin slices and strips.

It looks glistening and crunchy right?

Rice was served with the food for those who wanted!

Or, better, served on a mandarin pancake blanket, which were warmed in the oven before serving.

We enjoyed this wine from Chile with the food - 2012 Trapiche oak cask Malbec. The wine packs a punch - loaded with cherries. Even a trace of smoke. Satisfying aftertaste which perfectly suited the food!

It is always time to enjoy!


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