Tag Archives: lamb

LAMB MEATBALLS, MINT-PARSLEY PESTO, POTATO GNOCCHI

Every Friday evening, our village market holds a wine tasting which has become a neighborhood gathering. The market owners use the event as an opportunity to introduce new products. One that caught my eye recently was a package of potato gnocchi imported from Italy and made by Del Destino Foods with the advantage that they required no refrigeration and could be stored in the pantry.

I very much like well-made gnocchi, although they are somewhat hard to find, even in good restaurants. They are often too leaden or else disintegrate rather than being the fluffy cloud like pillows that they can be. I’ve tried to make my own, but they take a bit of work and mine have really been no better than others. I was inspired to buy a package of cellophane-wrapped gnocchi for a trial at home. I could have just opted to cook them according to directions and  top them with olive oil and grated Parmesan.

Instead, I decided to combine them with lamb in the form of meatballs along with mint pesto. (What’s a better combination than lamb and mint, right?)

To make the meatballs I used a #60 scoop. I didn’t know what that meant, so when I looked up scoops, I learned that they are assigned a number according to size, the number referring to how many scoops it takes to make a quart. So a #60 scoop holds about ½ ounce, level, and more when heaping. In this recipe, you should expect about 30 meatballs.

I liked the way everything turned out, and the gnocchi were good, not great. At least they were not sinkers, they had a good taste, and they were fast. In fact, they were good enough that I will try them again. However, I’ve also made a plan to make my own soon.

RECIPES

Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • Italian seasoning to taste (optional)
  • pure olive oil

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk. Stir to mix thoroughly and set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine the ground lamb and egg. Stir in the milk-bread crumb mixture, shallots, and pepper. You may need to use your hands to get the meatball mixture well combined.
  3. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and, if desired, Italian seasoning.
  4. Form the meatballs to the size you desire. I think smaller is better.
  5. In a saucepan over a medium flame, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the meatballs in batches, turning them until they are completely browned. Continue to sauté for an additional 5 minutes until they are cooked through. Keep warm until you are ready to compose the serving bowls.

Mint-Parsley Pesto

Mint and parsley for the pesto

Mint and parsley for the pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch parsley, stems removed
  • 1 package mint, stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and stem and any green shoots removed
  • ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup English walnuts
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Place the parsley, mint, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in the beaker of a food processor.
  2. Pulse, gradually adding olive oil and stopping occasionally to push down the sides with a spatula.
  3. When the pesto has reached the desired consistency, add the walnuts, pulse briefly, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Lamb Meatballs, Mint-Parsley Pesto, Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 package gnocchi cooked according to instructions
  • 1 batch mint-parsley pesto (see above)
  • 1 batch lamb meatballs (see above)
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Boil and drain the packaged gnocchi according to instructions. Distribute among 4 pasta bowls
  2. Top with a desired amount of pesto. You may need to dilute it with a bit of the water reserved from boiling the gnocchi
  3. Arrange meatballs on top of the pesto. Serve immediately. Pass the grated Parmesan separately.

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SOUTHWESTERN STYLE SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH PICO DE GALLO

I am sure that my UK blogger friends are looking at this thinking, “What in the hell does he know about shepherd’s pie?” They are probably right even though this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Detractors should be aware that the US Southwest is sheep country, and we eat a lot of lamb. It is also true that we have a hard time resisting putting green chile in just about everything. I suspect that someone has even made green chile ice cream.

Cooked lamb ready for the pie

Canned chopped green chiles

Chopped potatoes

I have tried to be true to the basic recipe while making it a uniquely Southwestern (USA, that is) by using local ingredients. That means roasted Hatch green chiles, asadero cheese ( a cheese that is made with a method similar to that used for mozzarella. Curds are cooked gently in hot water and then stretched. It is popular in Mexico and the southwestern United States, but if you can’t find it you can use mozzarella or even Monterrey jack.)  You could also use the Mexican cheese, queso fresco, and if you can’t find that, fresh farmer’s cheese will do.  As with real shepherd’s pie, the main ingredient is lamb.

Ready for the oven

Americans often like to douse their shepherd’s pie with ketchup (I hear another UK shudder), but this version seems to cry out for pico de gallo. This is a salsa made with fresh ingredients. The name means “rooster’s beak” in Spanish. There are several explanations for how the name came to be, but none sound very likely.

Baked and ready to eat

RECIPES

Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 8 ounces, green chiles, chopped (fresh, frozen, or canned) Heat according to your preference
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, shredded between your palms
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup water or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup asadero cheese, chopped or grated
  • ¼ teaspoon Cholula hot sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, for top

Method

  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, stirring frequently to prevent browning.
  • Add the ground lamb and continue to stir until the lamb is lightly browned
  • Stir in the  green chiles, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the ingredients are well combined. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the flour and stir until everything is well coated. Cook long enough (5 minutes or so) so that the flour loses its raw taste.
  • Add the water or stock and stir until the gravy thickens. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more water if you want a thinner gravy. Set aside for final assembly
  • In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. Put them in a medium pot with salted water. Bring to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  • Drain the potatoes and pass them through a potato ricer. Stir in the butter, cream, and grated cheese. Add a dash of hot sauce if you wish and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Butter the insides of an oven-proof casserole. Pour the meat mixture into the prepared dish, top with the mashed potatoes, and paint with melted butter
  • Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 325° for about 60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe tomato
  • ½ yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 green onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped, including the green tops
  • 2 fresh Anaheim chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • A generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Blanch the tomato for 10 seconds in boiling water. Then peel, seed, and chop coarsely
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust the seasoning, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Serve like any other salsa. Use generously on the Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie.

Southwestern style shepherd’s pie with pico de gallo on the side

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