Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Book Corner. Guestblogger Fleur

Greetings to you, friends and patrons of Britt-Arnhild's Blue Cafe! This past fall, I acquired a new cookbook called The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. For The Blue Cafe, I decided to make from it a recipe called Kabylia Lamb with Semolina Dumplings. It is an Algerian family recipe given to the authors by the owner-chef of the celebrated 404 restaurant in Paris. I thought it sounded good and was curious to see how it would turn out.
You will need:

For Lamb Stew:

Olive oil
3 pounds of lamb (1and1/2 kg) from the shoulder or leg, cubed
1 onion, grated or diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 (-to 4) tablespoons tomato paste
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 turnips, peeled and cut into eighths
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander (powder)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

For Semolina Dumplings:

2 cups coarse semolina*
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander (powder)
freshly-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder

Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish

To make the stew, heat some olive oil in the bottom of a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add the meat cubes, onion and garlic, and cook, stirring the meat to brown evenly, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables, paprika, ground coriander (powder), salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to just cover the vegetables. Simmer, covered, until the meat is tender (anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour).

While the meat is cooking, prepare the dumplings. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients except the baking powder, stirring well. Add about 1/2 cup of the lamb stew liquid to the dough and stir to blend. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the semolina to soak up the moisture from the liquid ingredients. Stir in the baking powder, then form dumplings by pinching off large teaspoonfuls of dough mixture and rolling between your palms to make walnut-size balls. Set aside on a plate.

When the meat is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and vegetables to a deep serving platter or bowl. Cover and keep warm. Return the stew broth to a low simmer. Gently place the dumplings in the simmering broth in a single layer (you may have to work in batches). The dumplings should be submerged in liquid and not touching -- add a little more water if it's necessary. Cover and
cook 15-20 minutes.

Using the slotted spoon, place the dumplings on the meat and vegetables, then spoon over with the hot broth. Garnish with the fresh coriander leaves (cilantro).

And how did it turn out? Well, I used pieces of lamb stewing meat with the bone in, not cubes, so I had to cook mine for quite a bit longer -- nearly 2 hours (which had no adverse affect on the vegetables, thankfully). The amount of meat was only 1/2 what the recipe called for but the broth probably became a bit thicker and richer with the longer cooking. The taste of the stew upon completion was hard to describe. It was actually somewhere in the neighborhood of "delicate, sweet and delicious", belying its hearty peasant ingredients.

I had some trouble with the dumplings. I couldn't find coarse semolina at the market and so was forced to buy the medium-to-fine grain. Wrong. They were very gooey and fell apart in the broth. I didn't photograph them because of this. However, once they were cooked, the pieces held together as they were supposed to, and the herbs gave them a wonderful tasty zing that was a perfect counterpart to the mild sweetness of the stew.

Also: the original recipe calls for huge amounts of herbs (1/2 bunches of each!) in the dumplings but that just looked wrong to me. So I changed the amounts I used (and changed the recipe above). I think the lesser amount is entirely satisfactory.

I'm looking forward to getting ahold of the correct coarse-grind semolina and trying this dish again. It's a great bet for those who aren't too crazy about lamb because it comes out so sweet, tender and non-game-y. I'd serve it with some warm Middle-Eastern flat bread, maybe with feta cheese toasted on it, and a crisp green salad.

Happy cooking and eating! Best regards from Fleur at Frangible Pie
Thank you Fleur for being my third guest blogger.
You can visit Fleur at Frangible Pie.


Anonymous said...

I like Algerian cuisine. I love lamb and would like to try this recipe. Thanks!


see you there! said...

This sounds good. For some reason I have trouble with dumplings but DH is a whiz at them so maybe I'll enlist his help and try this.


Britt-Arnhild said...

Paz - I don't think I've every tried the Algerian cuisine. But Fleur's post has inspired me.

Darla - we don't eat much dumplings, I do like them when I get them served though.

Fleur - thanks alot for being my third guest blogger here in The Book Corner.