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.

Spring lamb meatballs recipe

I often feel like I’m galloping through life at full speed, and pulling on the reins as hard as I can, to slow down, to really feel my life, to see it and enjoy it in a palpable way. But time has that sand-going-through-your-fingers quality, and for some reason, that sensation seems exacerbated when you have children. How can Pablo be almost 2 already?

So I’m searching. I’m searching for the secret to living life in the slow lane. 

My jasmine brought this to mind. We are blessed with a large wall of jasmine, and its scent pervades our backyard for a couple of months a year. I mentioned it a couple of times recently… I can see it through my window from my desk, where I spend a lot of time. I look at it, like an anchor. I watched it dormant this winter. I smiled when I noticed the pink buds multiplying a few weeks ago. Then the first couple of white flowers came out last week. And today, it’s in full bloom. I just wish it would stop there, stay there.

At night, I stick my nose out my window just to smell it a few more seconds. I just want to be with it.

I know the art of slow living has to do with being in the moment, but ironically, the times we are in the moment, are the ones that go by the fastest. And yet that are the most worthwhile. So you see my conundrum.

Or is it about being content? When we are content, life slows down a bit. When we remember it’s not going to last and start wanting more, it accelerates again. Life has sometimes felt jerky that way.

So between deadlines and to-do lists, I struggle to find ways to take my time. To reclaim it. It’s hard. This blog has been a great opportunity to do that: in order to write the posts I want to write, I have to take my time, slow down. To cook the recipes, to photograph them, to write my thoughts here.

And I suppose that, as always, it’s the little things that help the most. Looking for slower moments every day. Opportunities for slowness. Moments of awareness, of enjoyment, or even of sadness or worry. Just being with it. Moments when we do not think of what comes next, but focus on the here and now. Like dancing with Pablo. Gardening (or trying to…). Cooking. And meals.

Meals are such moments for us. That’s why I cherish them so much. Far from wanting to get dinner over with, we consciously try to slow it down, trying to be mindful while we eat (I remind Pablo – and myself – to eat slowly several times a meal. It’s not about what we’re eating next, but about what we’re eating now.)

And these things have helped me pull on the reins of time a bit. But it does fly…

I think of my jasmine again. In January, I trusted the rain was feeding its roots to make it grow and bloom when it would be ready (with a hint of impatience). In March, I am enjoying it in all its glory, I take seconds every day to smell it and marvel at it (with a hint of helplessness, at how fast it will fade away). In August, I will accept it has gone through its cycle, and will be grateful for the joy it gave me (with a hint of sadness).

Trust that things will happen as they need to, enjoy the worthwhile moments as best you can, accept the fluctuating and cyclical nature of life.  In short, go with the flow. All a work in (slow) progress here.

In the meantime, we shall have our meal outside tonight. Just for the smell of jasmine in the spring.

I have been enjoying thoroughly cooking from Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga (I talked about her inspiring blog when I shared her leek flan recipe a while ago). This lamb meatballs recipe has become one of our family favorites, and is especially appropriate with the spring season (I usually cook leg of lamb for Easter).  We love lamb meat and have it on a regular basis (I started giving it to Pablo around 7 months). It is so flavorful, and this easy preparation really brings out the best of its flavor.

Herbed lamb meatballs in coconut milk, with quinoa

Very lightly adapted from Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 mn
Cook time: 20 mn

Age for babies: I would offer this between 10-12 mo because of the egg.

1 lb ground lamb
2 slices of bread, crust removed, crumbled (I used a ancient grain spelt bread)
1 clove of garlic
1 egg
1/2 bunch of Italian parsley
10 sprigs fresh mint
4 sprigs fresh oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup sheep’s milk yogurt (or whole milk cow if you can’t find sheep)
Juice of 1/2 lemon


For the quinoa:
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
Leftover coconut milk (*I usually use cans of coconut milk, and using 1 1/2 cup above, there’s a bit leftover, which I add in to cook the quinoa)

Peel the garlic, pick the leaves of the mint and oregano off the stems. Place the garlic clove, oregano, mint and parsley in a small food processor to mince them very finely. (Alternatively, you can mince everything by hand).

Beat the egg lightly with a fork.

In a medium bowl, combine lamb, crumbled bread, minced garlic & herbs, egg, 1/2 tsp salt, paprika and black pepper.

With your hands, mix just enough to combine. Form the meatballs and set aside on a plate.

In a large shallow pan, bring the coconut milk and 1/2 tsp of salt to a low simmer. Add the meatballs (they will not be submerged in the liquid). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Make the quinoa: in a fine strainer, rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear, drain well. Combine the quinoa and broth (and little bit of coconut milk if using) in a medium pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until translucent and you can see the germ spiraling out of the grains, about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the pan. Stir the yogurt and lemon into the sauce.

Serve the quinoa in bowls. Add the meatballs. Drizzle some of the coconut/yogurt sauce on top.

Red wine lamb stew recipe

So as it is winter again, we are cooking winter dishes again, and this time it happens to be lamb stew. A pretty rich lamb stew, that is going to spread a really nice smell around the house and make everyone around you very hungry. By the time the stew was done, I had a starving BF around the house.

Ingredients

  • Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb of diced lamb for stewing
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2-3 cups of red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • EVOO
  • salt

Directions

  1. First I sauteed some diced lamb for stew in olive oil. You just want to brown the dices of lamb on all sides. Then I transferred the lamb to a dish and in the same pot started my vegetables.
  2. I diced 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks. I salted them and cooked them in olive oil with two bay leaves until the vegetable were nice and tender. Right about then my BF started to say he was tarting to get hungry with the appetizing smell coming from my veggies.
  3. At this point I added the lamb and mixed everything, I let it cook for a couple of minutes so that the meat can absorb all the nice flavors from the veggies.
  4. At this point I added red wine. A lot of red wine. For a pound of meat, you should add about half a bottle of some nice and rich red wine. Theoretically you should add good wine, I usually use whatever I have leftover from dinners, and while I am sure the stew will taste better with better wine, you can get away with so-so wine. I didn’t add any salt to the meat, and in my opinion it tasted great like that but feel free to add salt to taste at any point.
  5. Let the stew cook covered for a couple of hours in the simmering wine, if the liquids starts drying out too much, add some more wine. The stew is ready in 1 and 1/2 or 2 hours, but you can keep cooking it pretty much as long as you like paying attention to add wine as it evaporates.
  6. I served it up with some polenta, done according to the traditional recipe. Pretty good indeed!

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.

Italian lamb ragu recipe

I opened the freezer and I had some ground lamb. Of course in my pantry pasta and tomato sauce or paste are never missing. So I thought lamb ragu! And I put together a wholesome pasta with a rich meat sauce. The lighter eating will start today (or maybe tomorrow), but the eating well has already started!

Lamb ragu’

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2 onion
  • 5 oz. pasta
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 oz. grated pecorino
  • cilantro
  • red wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. In a pan, saute the diced onion in a bit of oil until it’s soft. Add in the ground lamb and sear the meat for a couple of minutes. When the meat is well browned, add a splash of red wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the sauce and enough water to get a somewhat liquid sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer covered for a couple of hours: I let it cook for a little longer than 2 hours, but as is the case for ragu’ alla bolognese here the longer the cooking the better the sauce. If the sauce becomes to thick, add some more water to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
  3. When you are ready to eat cook your pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. I used some hearty fetuccine but any kind of long hearty pasta (tagliatelle, spaghettoni, bucatini, spaghetti alla chitarra) would work well. Drain the pasta al dente and mix it with the meat sauce. Add cilantro and grated pecorino cheese to taste and serve hot.