Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Month: January 2016

Ground lamb kebab (kubideh)

This kebab has a perfect oniony-meaty flavour, and a fantastic texture — a completely satisfying, kebab experience. Because of a dispiriting lack of decent Mediterranean street food in LA, we turn to this recipe to beat the doner kebab cravings. Kubideh is perfect served with rice, or in a wrap. It’s (of course) best done over charcoal, but it’s easy to make under a broiler, too.
kebab
Brad, Eliseo

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Tabouli

Tabouli (or tabbouleh) is one of the quickest, most versatile salads you can make, and is based on a few simple ingredients. It’s a visceral pleasure to prepare, because your fingers and hands will end up covered in fragrant parsley, mint, lemon and olive oil before you’re done. The process of chopping, mixing, and smelling (and tasting) is almost more satisying the serving the final salad. It can be served as a bright summer salad on its own, or as an accompaniment to grilled meat and kebab, almost like chimichurri. It can be made with couscous or bulgur; grain free; or you can substitute in quinoa, or even white beans or lentils. Just make sure to use plenty of mint, lemon, and olive oil.

tabboulli

Brad
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Ajwain

Everyone should have ajwain in their kitchen, and they should be using it all the time. It has a pleasant thyme aroma: clean, herbal, and with a bite like the best zaatar or spicy oregano. It’s absolutely ideal for any kind of spice rub on meat, north Indian curry, French soup, Mexican sauces, Ethiopian spiced butter, or Mediterranean stew. It’s not a familiar spice, but it’s common in Persian, Afghan, and northern Indian cooking.ajwain

This is a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, along with a number of other common kitchen spices. It looks like cumin or caraway, but the seeds are smaller and fatter.

If you don’t have it and need a substitute, the closest taste is dried oregano. It’s available at a lot of Persian and Indian markets, though — or cheaply on Amazon. It’s meant to be antiflatulant … make of that what you will.

Roasting bones for stock

Flavourful brown stock, usually made with beef, veal, lamb, or turkey bones is one of the fundamentals of home cooking. It takes a little time, but not much effort. And roasted bone stock adds an immense amount of flavour — as an ingredient, or on its own, as a soup. Stock keeps well in the fridge, for about a week; or you can freeze little aliquots of it, and add it as needed.

Homemade brown stock is much better than almost anything you can buy in the store (some of which is offensively bland). And making your own is a great way to use every scrap of food. Never throw bones away! Keep them (freeze them) and make stock.

browned_bones

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Harissa

Harissa is  a dark red, hot, and highly spiced sauce common across North Africa, from Morocco to Tunisia. It can be made with a variety of spices, usually inlcuding caraway, cumin and coriander seed. It’s wonderful as a marinade for meat. It’s a great seasoning for olives, lupinos, and feta cheese (perhaps together with preserved lemons). It works well as a side for stews and vegetables; or a sauce for kebab. It’s also perfect for a making a quick, flavourful pasta sauce.

Because the spices are typical of many cuisines, from around the Mediterranean, into Iran and India, harissa is an ideal all-purpose condiment when you’re serving people who have variable spice tolerances. It saved my life in Japan, when spicy food was hard to come by, and my SO found even black pepper painfully hot.
bottled_harissa

Brad

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Chile con carne (Texas red)

Few foods are as iconic, and deeply embedded in the American Southwest, and northern Mexico as chili rojo con carne. The origins of this recipe are with the vaqueros and rancheros of northern Mexico; and it’s traditionally been made with little more than chunks of steak, chili, and cumin; onion, garlic and oregano.

The definition of “classic chili” can be contentious, and ground for heated, almost violent, debate. If you grew up in the north, midwest, or especially the northeast, you’re probably thinking of a tomatoey stew, with red beans, and optional ground beef. Maybe with corn. That “chili” has nothing to do with the dark, earthy, moderate-to spicy classic version. There are no beans. There is no corn. There’s very little tomato. This version is within that tradition — similar to Texas red, or Eliseo’s mother’s chili.

finished_chili

Brad, Eliseo

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Browning meat

Browning meat is one really simple way of making a meal delicious. Instead of just dumping everything into a pot at once, and boiling it together, if you spend a few minutes reducing and browning your food, you’ll end up with something much richer and satisfying. This is the same logic for why you should brown your onions, or your soffritto. You can, of course, substitute MSG, soy sauce, stock cubes, cans of broth, or Vegemite to accomplish the same thing. But, really, it’s not much extra work to make your food taste great, simply.

browned_meat
Those crispy brown bits? What you see is flavour.

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Chiles

Chiles, or chilis (or chilli peppers, paprika, peppers) are fruit from plants in the genus Capsicum. Like other solanaceae (including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants) they come in a bewildering variety of colours, shapes, and flavours. There are hundreds of distinct, named varieties of chile, used in countries all around the world — most often for the sensation of heat provided by the capsaicins in them; but also for their variety of sweet, fruity flavours. They’re eaten fresh, or dried; infused, powdered, smoked, pureed, or fried in oil.

fresh_chilis
A variety of fresh chiles, including anchos, New Mexico, jalapeños, serranos, and gueritos in a local market.

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Bean-sprout salad

Salads of blanched bean sprouts with sesame are very common side dishes in Japanese (called moyashi no goma ae) and Korean food (called sukju namul). This salad is extremely simple to make, versatile, and works well with almost any combination of Chinese, Korean or Japanese food. In particular, the most simple version works as a counterbalance to strong and spicy Korean or Chinese dishes. The soft nuttiness of sesame, and the gentle crunch of blanched bean sprouts work well together.

Brad
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Blanching

Blanching is a very common technique for preparing vegetables, but you can use it for meat, as well. It doesn’t involve much more than popping your food into boiling water for a minute or two, and then (usually) putting it immediately in cold, or iced water, to stop the cooking process.

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