Polenta-crusted lamb recipe

I am a big fan of Dr Dan Siegel when it comes to child psychology. His book, Parenting from the Inside Out, was the first parenting book I read (before I got pregnant), and the foundation for everything else. He has a series of short videos online, and in one of them (you can watch it here), he describes the daily elements of a healthy mind for a child, which also apply to adults. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Sleep
  • Focus time
  • Play time, experience novelty and fun
  • Down time, calm/quiet, to recharge the mind
  • Connection time (with others and the earth, with generosity and gratitude)
  • Physical time, where we move our bodies
  • Time in, or reflection time, where we reflect on our whole emotional state, on how we feel inside ourselves.

It struck me as I jotted down this list, how a few of those get chucked out the window or neglected in our adult lives. I have often found myself with a few minutes of down time, feeling like I should be doing something, as if that time was wasted (and as a result of this antsiness, it is in fact wasted. Instead of letting my mind recharge, I burden it further with guilt and anxiety.)

This balance, which thankfully I am able to nurture fairly successfully in Pablo’s life, has been harder to find for myself, but having this list written out in my office, and on the fridge, is a great reminder. I noticed some of these can happen simultaneously, such as connection time and down time, or play and physical time, or play and focus time.

Of course, being the food lover and blogger that I am, I couldn’t help but think of the many many opportunities the kitchen and the table give us to practice these on a daily basis (sleep aside 😉

Looking at a recipe, separating an egg yolk from the white, thickening a sauce, shelling peas… focus.


Kneading bread, making butter, planting and picking… physical.


Having a picnic, dipping a piece of bread in a soft boiled egg, making watermelon balls with a scooper, experimenting with new flavors… play.


Washing dishes, peeling carrots, chopping rosemary and garlic… brain recharge, and time in.


Sitting down for a meal with loved ones, eating outside with the smells and sounds of nature, cooking over a fire, talking about the food we eat, eat mindfully and slowly… connection, and time in.


I suppose you get my drift here: cook good food and have family meals. It’s good for the body. And it’s good for the brain too. 🙂

So about this meal I’m sharing here…

… it starts with a morning of foraging (physical time, connection with nature) and learning to make wild mustard (more on that very soon!) and picking some sweet white clover (play time), which our foraging guide Pascal tells me will “rock my world” with sauteed potatoes. O how I love world-rocking food tips!


I stop at the store with Pablo and we bond with our favorite butcher Jamel who knows Pablo on a first name basis. Pablo chooses the orange cherry tomatoes he likes. We secretly taste an olive at the olive bar together. Love. Connection.





I get home and review my recipe. My mom starts the potatoes, I start the polenta. Connection, focus. Mix the flour, beat the egg. “This was a good day”, I think to myself. “I feel grounded, in the moment.” Quick time in. Dipping the chops, play; frying the chops, focus; photographing the chops, focus, play, physical given the odd contortions 😉 Pablo wants to take pictures too, and does a mini-puppet show while I take some shots, connection.


Sitting down in the backyard to eat a great meal together. Watching Pablo gnaw on the bone, freely dance around the backyard after the meal. Breathing. Connection. Down time. Recharge.


Writing this post at my laptop, thinking of how humanly rich,beautiful (and dare I say, cerebrally nutritious?) this day was, and how perfectly balanced, how I need more days like this, and less days of deadlines, exhaustion and stress. Time in. 


Even when I struggle to post to this blog as often as I plan (which may just have to happen this week again as we’re going camping this weekend…), this space gives me this precious time which otherwise falls by the wayside in the face of busy life, time to reflect, to check in with myself. That those reflections should interest other souls such as yourselves, kind readers, is a gift I had never expected. Reading and perhaps at times, relating to my ramblings, hopefully gives you a little time in, too.

I always knew cooking, eating and food blogging were good for my body and soul. But if it’s good for my brain too then… I shall keep coming back.


In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this very balanced meal, in more ways than one.

Polenta-crusted lamb chops with herbed potatoes

(Inspired by Idées futées pour inviter by Larousse Cuisine & Cie)

4 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Age for babies: You could crust ground lamb patty with polenta for a 8-10 months old, potatoes and polenta are also great for 8-10 months old. A great way to introduce the flavor of rosemary, as it gets nicely absorbed by the polenta.

8 small double lamb chops (2 chops together, especially if you like them rare or pink, take individual chops if you like more well done)
4 tbsp spelt flour
salt & pepper
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup of polenta (I used this one which cooks very quickly)
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cu p light coconut milk (You could just use 5 cups of broth, or mix broth and water, or regular milk. The coconut milk adds a nice subtle flavor though)
1 egg
3-4 tbsp olive oil


6-7 medium pink potatoes
3 tbsp duck fat (coconut oil and butter would do great too here)
Fresh rosemary, parsley or other fresh herb of choice (we used some wild sweet white clover I foraged that day, delicious!)

Start with the potatoes:

Wash and slice the potatoes (being organic, we left the skin on). Dry them well to avoid splattering.

Heat the duck fat over medium high, and add the potatoes. Cook, stirring often, until they turn golden. When they do, add salt, pepper, and the chopped herbs, and stir.

Lower heat to medium and cover. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring once in a while. When done, keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

Then the polenta: 


(Check cook times depending on the kind you get).
In a medium pot, heat the broth and coconut milk over medium heat.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the rosemary leaves and chop them finely.

When it barely simmers, add the polenta gradually while stirring until it thickens a bit. With the polenta I used, it was about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in the rosemary. Taste the polenta and add salt so it tastes just right to your tastebuds. Cover and set aside.

(*Note that I’ve also obtained good results just adding the polenta and cold liquids to the pan at the same time, and heating on medium, stirring often. Also, for the crusting of the lamb chops, you will need fairly thin polenta, so this is double the amount of liquid recommended for “regular” polenta as indicated on the package. It should be the consistency of a cream of mushroom type soup, or slightly thicker. You could also use the prepackaged organic polenta – in the shape of a fat sausage – that I’ve seen available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Then heat over medium with enough liquid to obtain desired consistency.)

Now the chops:

In a shallow plate, combine the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In another, pour about half the polenta (reserve the rest to serve as a side, use more if needed). In another, lightly beat the egg.

Take each lamb chop, dip them first in the flour on all sides, then in the egg, then in the polenta.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and pan-fry the lamb chops on medium high, until crust is crispy golden on all sides. You may want to use a splatter screen, as the wet polenta will make the oil splatter quite a bit. We like them on the rare side, so it only took about 5-7 minutes for us. (Lower to medium-low once the crust is golden and continue cooking if you like it more done.)

Serve on a plate with some potatoes, a side of polenta, and romaine or butter lettuce in vinaigrette for some greens.

I love to wrap a bite of potato inside a lettuce leaf! The perfect bite 🙂 Pablo agrees.

Olive pork chops recipe

The other day at the supermarket I have seen some thin cut pork chops and I grabbed a box because they are awesome to do some sort of scaloppine. Scaloppine are thin cut slices of meat (often veal) lightly floured and then cooked in some sort of liquid (typically something alcoholic like wine, marsala or brandy).
Yesterday I was working at my computer, when I realized I was starving and I needed food fast. I opened the fridge and there there were the thin cut pork chops…. and a vase of pitted green olives…. and some black olives. Light bulb went on and I started cooking….

Ingredients

  • thinly cut pork chops (or pork loin)
  • pitted and sliced green and black olives
  • wine
  • pepper
  • salt

Directions

  1. First I put a pan on the stove and put some oil in to warm up. Meanwhile I floured the pork chops lightly and when the oil was warm I seared my pork chops on both sides. I then added the olives and a splash odf white wine. When the wine evaporated I added salt and pepper and a bit of water so that the meat stays nice and tender. After about 5 min the chops should be done (you can see it from the color of the bone, if the bones don’t “sweat” blood anymore the chops are done). Take them out of the pan and turn the heat up to reduce the olive base, I usually also add a bit of the flour left over from the flouring process. When the sauce is well reduced pour it over the chops and serve.
  2. Fast nice dinner. BF came back from his dinner meeting, smelled the kitchen and asked me why I never cook the good food when he is around…
  3. Note on the olives: obviously it is important to have decent olives that taste like something. I usually get mine at middle eastern stores and I get the dry oven roasted black olives and pitted green olives preserved in brine with no spices added..

Citrus pork chops recipe

Today we decided we wanted meat for dinner. So I took some of the thinly cut pork chops I used the other day for my olive pork chops and I decided I needed to use the zested lemon and orange that have been lying in my fruit bowl for a while before they turn into a solid brick. So pork chops, citrus…. citrus pork chops!

Ingredients

  • thinly cut pork chops
  • 1 orange juiced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • flour
  • sage
  • salt
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. First, while the oil was heating up, I dusted the thinly pork chops in flour. When the oil was hot, I added in the chops and let them sear. When both sides were well seared I seasoned the chops with salt and sage on both sides and then added the juice of one lemon and one orange. You can even do only lemon or only orange, but I like how the two citruses balance each other off. When the meat is ready (as my chops were thinly cut, for me it only took about 5 minutes) I took it out of the pan and let the sauce reduce. I then added a spoon of flour to the citrus juice in the pan and, if needed, a bit of water. I let it cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce is thick and smooth, then I poured over the meat.
  2. For how easy it is and how few ingredients go in this dish, it is a great dinner!

Coconut rosemary carrots, lamb chops… and a quiet day

A strange afternoon. A few quiet hours. The house is silent, and yet loud by what it’s missing: the hustle-bustle of the playing toddler, playing and busying elsewhere. I am left with my thoughts. With myself.

Yesterday, I longed for it. Today, I’m not sure what to make of it. My mind swirls, unproductively. Doubt, insecurity, idleness, questioning. And planning, listing, comparing, anticipating. It’s quiet on the outside, but I feel unsettled on the inside. I can’t see my North. Like standing in the middle of a large deserted intersection, not knowing where to go. Feeling like I should. I should know.

That “should” is a bad word.

So I decide to sit in the middle of that intersection. Ground myself. And see what happens.

A strange afternoon. A few quiet hours. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. So why not improvise an apple tart, thought I.

A botched attempt. Flavorful, but unsatisfactory. Crust too crumbly. Falling apart within my hands. Just not coming together. A lot like this day.

So I try it again tomorrow. What else can one do? Learn. Try again. That was my Thursday.

That, and a simple dinner, in the haven of the garden. Some spring carrots. And lamb. And rosemary too.

Rosemary carrots in coconut milk baked in a parcel & lamb chops

Serves 2-3

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 + 7-15 min for the meat

Age for babies: You could make this into a baby puree steaming together a bit of lamb with carrots, mixing to desired consistency with milk or coconut milk (which you steep the rosemary in before adding.) You can give from 8 months on. If you give the carrots alone, cook them as described below, they make an easy finger food, also from 8 months old on. (I used ground lamb for Pablo’s baby purees mixed with vegetables starting at 6-7 months).

Note: I am a big fan of cooking in parcels as I’ve blogged about before. It’s easy, it’s very healthy, it keeps the nutrients and flavors in. No downside really.


1 bunch of new carrots
2 sprigs of rosemary
3/4 cup coconut milk
salt & pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Lamb chops (however many per person you would like. I recommend the thicker pieces with two chops, unless you like your meat well done, in that case, you could get a thinner piece.)
Olive oil

Peel the carrots, and cut them up.

Preheat the oven at 425°F

In a pan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk to a simmer for 2 minutes. Take the rosemary leaves off the stem, wash them, mince them (I cut them up with kitchen scissors) and put them in the coconut milk. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for a few minutes.

Place one sheet of unbleached parchment paper on a baking dish. Place the carrots in the center. Spoon the rosemary coconut milk over them.

Fold up the parchment paper over the carrots to make a parcel. You can use string, or I just fold and crumple up each side.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Open the parcel when ready to serve (it will keep hot if closed).

Meanwhile, brush the lamb chops with some olive oil (rosemary olive oil if you have some, or put some rosemary in the olive oil for a few minutes before brushing). Rub the chops with the garlic cloves.

Cook the lamb chops as you prefer. For convenience, we often just pan-fry them (we like them rare, so it usually takes about 7 minutes total over high heat, turning them on each side. About 11-12 minutes for medium rare).
Of course, you can also cook them in the broiler (turning them over half-way through), or on the grill.