Sunday, December 7, 2008


Stew made from lamb shanks is another winter favourite of mine. It is rich and hearty: a real stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. This stew, like any meat stew, requires several hours of simmering until the meat is tender and falls off the bone. I prefer making stew from the shank rather than pieces cut from the shoulder. The bones add lots of gelatin and flavour and create a thick gravy without having to add any additional flour.

You can buy lamb shanks in the freezer section at the supermarket or from your butcher. Ontario lamb is wonderful and usually available by special request from any reputable butcher. The Healthy Butcher gets its hands on the most divine Certified Organic lamb. It costs a fortune (about $15/lb) but is incredibly delicious. Ontario lamb tends to be less barnyard tasting that the frozen New Zealand lamb you find in the freezer section. If you don't like lamb because of that barnyard taste, then only buy the freshest Ontario lamb you can find.

This recipe is concocted from the stew made by Mama Rosa at 7 Numbers restaurant on Eglinton in Toronto. She told me her recipe ("I use garlic, onion, white wine and rosemary" she explained, gesticulating widely). I interpreted her explanation as the following, adding red lentils for additional sustenance. Very tasty.

Serves 2-4
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 lamb shanks
3 garlic cloves and 2 shallots, minced
2 cups water
2 cups white wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dried red lentils
salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
In a heavy large lidded pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until they are brown, about 10 minutes. Remove shanks from the pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and saute garlic and shallot, being careful not to brown or burn (add more oil if necessary). Return shanks and their juices to the pot, then add the wine, water, salt, herbs and tomato paste. Bring to boil, then simmer covered for 3-4 hours. If the liquid doesn't cover the meat entirely, turn shanks every hour or so.

Once the meat is tender, add the lentils and stir, then simmer another 30 minutes. Remove from heat. If desired, or if serving for more people than there are shanks, remove the bones. Taste liquid for seasoning and finish with extra virgin olive oil.

Serve alongside boiled green peas (this is how Mama Rosa serves hers), soft polenta, or steamed winter greens such as kale, collards or rapini.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Banana Walnut Muffins

I have gotten so behind in my posts! I have several recipes I have been making lately that I will be sharing within the next few days.

Here is one of my favourites: a banana muffin recipe I love. It took a while to hone. Some recipes out there, especially sugar-free ones, use bananas in every muffin or cake. I wanted a recipe that did bananas justice. Nutmeg is key. Adding the walnuts may seem excessive for a recipe made with almond flour, but it's important. Walnuts have a distinctive taste perfect for bananas.

I also recommend using muffin cups to line your muffin tin. The almond flour is delicate and these muffins tend to split when extracted even from a greased silicone tin.

Makes 12 muffins
330g almond flour (about 3 cups)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and add the other wet ingredients, mixing well (I use an immersion blender for this). Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients, combining everything with quick strokes.

In a regular-sized muffin tin lined with large muffin cups, distribute the batter evenly between the 12 cups. The batter is sticky. I use two tablespoons to do this.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until they are golden and the tops pop up when pressed lightly with your finger.