Putting frigid temps aside, this has been a heart warming week. Our 17-year-old grandson, Evani, who lives in Northern California, decided he wanted to experience winter in Wisconsin. Why? We are all trying to escape, but never the less, his school had a break and it worked out perfect for a blustery sojourn. We would have preferred it to be more outdoor friendly but Mother Nature has a mind of her own and offered a stretch of unseasonably cold weather even for this area. What to do? Ice fishing seemed too brutal even for my husband so we saw many movies, visited friends, shopped (he loves fashion and knows I like to spoil him a bit) and of course, headed for the kitchen. He and I have cooked together many times as it has been our practice to schedule a month-long visit with Nonna and Grandpa every summer for the past 11 years. His tastes are sophisticated as he has been exposed to good food his entire life. Did I mention his father is a chef? He now contacts me with requests for recipes he can prepare for his girlfriend whose father is also a chef. They have fun in the kitchen as he cooks and she bakes. Sounds like a good match to me. It is sweet that he is rugged enough to play rugby yet eager to learn to cook and share the love.
He requested I teach him to make the curried lamb recipe that he enjoys, so that was a priority. We made it, ate it and ate it some more. It amazes me how teenagers can pack it in and never gain a pound. I am sure he will be spreading the love with this dish many times. As is our tradition, I try to introduce a new dish when we are together. This time it was a recipe I recently developed, Spiced Lamb Pot Pie, which I am featuring today. A fan of pot pie and lamb, my husband was my motivation for this creation. If you are not a lamb person, you can use beef or turkey as a substitute. The use of commercial puff pastry makes it easy to prepare but feel free to make your own if you so desire. I used a commercial brand that is made with butter. If you read the label you will see some pre-made pastry is made with oil and although not horrible, if you try one made with real butter, the difference is astounding. I found the brand used here at Whole Foods but I am sure other markets carry it as well. I buy it frozen and then thaw in the refrigerator for three hours or so.
Here is how it goes down.
SPICED LAMB POT PIE Serves 6-8
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
4T white wine vinegar
4T dried currants
2T extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ T tomato paste
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground ginger
½ t ground cardamom
½ t ground turmeric
2 lb. ground lamb (beef or turkey)
1 ½ c canned tomatoes, crushed
½ c frozen peas
4T fresh parsley, chopped
1 sheet puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten to blend + a light splash of water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add currants and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook onion until browned and softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste, cumin, ginger, cardamom and turmeric and cook until fragrant and sticky, about 1 minute.
- Add the lamb and cook breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove meat from pan with a slotted spoon and pour off excess fat.
- Return meat to the skillet and stir in tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the peas; cook until bright green, about 5 minutes.
- Drain the currants and add to lamb with the parsley.
- Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board. Put filling in a baking dish and cover with the pastry, using beaten egg as glue on the sides and then brush the top with the egg. Cut some slits for venting.
- Place in preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until pastry in golden and filling is bubbly.
Do ahead: Filling can be made up to 2 days in advance. Cover and chill.
The use of classic warm Indian spices, makes this savory pie rich and flavorful. The currants, reconstituted in vinegar add a balance of sweet and tart and the buttery crust is, well, just that, buttery. Its crispness compliments the soft filling and adds to its overall satisfaction.
The pie extravaganza was a success and enjoyed by all. Evani went home with a new recipe in his arsenal, stories of his disappointment when he learned grandpa had beat him to the leftovers and memories of spreading the love, one dish at a time. There is nothing more satisfying than spending time in the kitchen with those that occupy that special place in your heart. I urge you to do it soon. Love is abundant in my kitchen after last week and I hope it is overflowing to yours. Until next time, stay warm and safe. Love, Jeanne