07 February 2010

Failed Recipes and What to Do with Leftover Lamb

While we are all snowed in here in the nation's capitol, I thought I'd share some recent recipes that have not gone so well. I cook a lot but I also spend a lot of time reading about cooking. Reading a lot of recipes gives you a sense of what works and what doesn't, what proportions are right for cake, techniques for cooking meat and vegetables. Often I follow that knowledge and instinct, but it seems recently I've taken the recipe's word for granted, and wound up sorely disappointed.

First up, a lovely rack of lamb on a bed of fennel and figs. I love Donna Hay's magazine, and was browsing through her site when I found this recipe. I substituted grapes for out-of-season figs, but that wasn't where I went wrong. First the 3 tablespoons of sugar, which I cut down to two, but which still left the vegetables far too sweet.

But the major problem was this recipe doesn't have you sear the rack of lamb before roasting. This doesn't give you the nice crust on the lamb, and it also causes very gamey lamb juices to run into that overly-sweet fennel. Let's just say it was bad.

(For the record, shredded lamb, sauteed in a bit of butter can be made into lamb tacos or sprinkled over fetteh, It can also be shredded and sauteed with sweet potatoes and cumin for a tasty hash.)

For our next failure, we have another case of sugar gone wrong. I love, LOVE, the pumpkin dish (kaddo bourani) at The Helmand in Baltimore. I had already assumed they used some special kind of squash to get that firm yet tender texture, which is the antithesis of the watery-mushy mass that pumpkin can be.

But then I found some recipes online, which called for slow baking of the pumpkin in massive amounts of sugar. I thought maybe it could work, kinda like this preparation of pumpkin. Sadly, this recipe was exactly what I feared, far too sweet. However, we're still looking for tips on making this Afghani pumpkin, so please send any our way!

Looks like the government will be closed for the 2nd day in a row, so hopefully I find some successful recipes to share with you next!


Julia said...

I remember loving the kaddo bourani at the Helmand (the one in Boston!) and craving it. I found a recipe that I thought worked pretty well: although it wasn't exactly the same, it captured the spirit and was delicious. Here it is:

2 lb. fresh pumpkin or winter squash (one small cooking pumpkin)
1/4 cup of corn or canola oil
Sweet tomato sauce:
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 four-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Yogurt sauce:
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/4 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup plain yogurt

Peel the pumpkin (a vegetable peeler works well) and cut flesh into 2- to 3-inch cubes; set aside. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Fry the pumpkin cubes until lightly browned on all sides.

Mix together ingredients for sweet tomato sauce in a bowl, then add to pumpkin mixture in pan. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed or thickened.

Mix together the ingredients for the yogurt sauce.

To serve: Spread half the yogurt sauce on a plate and lay the pumpkin on top. Drizzle with the remaining yogurt and any cooking juices left over.

I found this recipe (which I've adapted very slightly, I think) at afghan-network.com, but the site seems to be down now--whether temporarily or permanently I don't know.

Anyway--good luck and enjoy!

dining room table said...

You cannot avoid failed recipes. They always happen. You can't be a good cook if you have not tried it.

Ali Baba said...

My family is from Afghanistan, and when I've had this dish (I admit I haven't made it myself yet) it actually is not sweet. Afghans actually rarely put much (if any) sugar in savory food. Of course this varies family to family and regionally, but is generally true. The recipe you linked to and described appeared much more Iranian (they love fruity and sweet mixed with savory flavors), though I doubt it was authentic to either cuisine.

Julia's recipe looks quite good, though again my family would make it without sugar or ginger - though there are others that would add it. 1/2 cup is reasonable, 3 cups is just ludicrous (as you found out!).

We'd also add at least one clove of garlic per cup of yogurt, and perhaps more, as well as sometimes dried mint and lemon juice (say 1 tbsp). Greek yogurt better approximates the strained type of yogurt ("chaka") used in Afghanistan. Also, 3/4 cup of yogurt is not enough for 2lb of squash! You'd want at least two cups, but this is again a taste thing.

Also, diced fresh or canned tomatoes usually add a bit more texture - and use these sparingly, it's supposed to be just dotted with it.

Have you tried Burani Kadu's better-known cousin, Burani Bonjon? It's a practically identical treatment of sliced eggplant, though always without sugar. That and Qabili Pilau are usually favorites of those who try Afghan food.

Good luck next time!

Kate said...

That pumpkin at the Helmand is one of my favorites! So yummy, I'll have to try Julia's recipe soon!

Anonymous said...

try a kabocha pumpkin. they're denser and a lot "drier" than regular squash when roasted.

Large Wall Mirrors Gal said...

This is a fabulous dish. I like the pictures of this dish. Pretty nice .

Small Dining Tables Gal said...

This is something different dish that i ever saw. I think it should be delicious.