November 4, 2013

Cooking While Broken.

After Peru, I had a few days' pause at home in San Francisco before it was time to go back to Switzerland, one of my favorite places on the planet. Mind you, I had a broken finger on this trip, so that part wasn't much fun at all. But I was committed to giving a guest lecture to a brilliant group of hospitality management students there. Not going was absolutely out of the question.

I woke up to the first day of snow in Chateau d'Oex, near Gstaad
The historic Castle of Chillon in Montreux

In spite of my handicap, I was determined to take advantage of every bit of free time I had when I wasn't working, in order to sight-see and do some cooking for my friends. In hindsight, the latter was probably not the smartest thing I've ever done.
My experience with one-handed cooking? I don't recommend it.  

But the next day it was sunny again on the lake in Montreux

However, I highly recommend that you try the fabulous meatballs recipe below, a favorite of mine which I somehow managed to test and tweak while I was there. Also check out the random selection of pics I took on the trip, including how to hot-tub with a broken finger.  

Hot-tubbing for the broken
Delicious Swiss breakfast in Valais

The view from my friend Jacques' house in La Croix, Montreux

Braised Meatballs with Dried Cherries & Labneh - adapted from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi's original recipe
The finished product
750 g (1.65 lbs.) minced lamb (not too lean, a few specks of fat in the meat will make it tasty) 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped 20 g (0.7 oz.) parsley, finely chopped 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 1 tsp each ground allspice and cinnamon 70 g (2.5 oz.) dried cherries, roughly chopped (dried plums work well, too!) 1 free-range egg Salt and black pepper 100 ml (0.5 cups) sunflower oil 700 g (1.5 lbs.) shallots (or sweet onions), peeled 200 ml (1 cup) white wine 500 ml (about 2 cups) chicken stock 2 bay leaves 2 sprigs fresh thyme 2 tsp sugar 150 g (5.3 oz.) dried figs 200 g (7 oz.) good Labneh, aka Lebanese Yogurt (Greek yogurt works just as well) 3 tbsp of your favorite fresh herbs (such as mint, coriander, dill or tarragon), torn roughly

Meatballs a-cookin'!
In a large bowl, put the lamb, onions, parsley, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, dried cherries, egg, half a teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt. Mix with your hands and roll into rounds about the size of a golf ball.
Heat one-third of the oil in a large, heavy-based pot for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Over medium heat, cook the meatballs a few at a time, turning them around for a few minutes on medium heat, until colored all over. Remove from the pot and set aside. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Wipe the pot clean and add the remaining oil. Add the whole peeled shallots and cook them over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown all over. Pour in the wine, leave it to bubble for a minute or two, then add the stock, bay leaves, thyme, sugar and some salt and pepper.
Arrange the figs and browned meatballs around and about the shallots; the meatballs need to be almost submerged in liquid. Bring to a boil, cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour, until the sauce has reduced and intensified in flavor. Taste and season as needed.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a large, deep serving dish. Whisk the labneh, pour this over the top, sprinkle with herbs and serve with your favorite white rice.
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