Lamb and Butternut Squash Curry

It may be 85 degrees out today but I am in full-fledge fall mode and there’s no going back! It’s been cooling down more and more in Portland (besides today for some reason) and I am absolutely loving it! This time of year officially kicks off the holidays! Halloween which means changing leaves, lots of scary movies, fun costumes, and pumpkin-in-everything; Thanksgiving filled with all the best things in life: family, turkey, all the pies, and gravy, lots and lots of gravy; And last but not least Christmas, which is undoubtedly the best time of the year.

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In these months, there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home and making a warming meal. The smell of a stew braising in the oven, a pie baking, or mulled cider simmering on the stove with cinnamon are the best possible smells to fill your house. This lamb & butternut squash curry, the king of yummy smelling things, will literally make your burst into tears of joy. I have to say, it’s taken the cake of my favorite cozy meal.

Sometimes we make it with lamb shoulder, but this last time we used lamb shanks and I don’t think I’ll ever do it any other way again! So amazingly tender. The butternut squash makes it feel extra autumn-y and the coconut milk and kale top it off to perfection. Making this meal and sharing a bottle of red is one of my favorite date night meals for this time of year!

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Lamb & Butternut Squash Curry

ingredients

- 4 lamb shanks or 2 pounds trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 small-medium sized butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 cups chopped Tuscan kale
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- chopped fresh parsley for topping
- basmati rice and naan bread for serving

what to do

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until browned on all sides about 3 minutes. If the shanks or cubed lamb shoulder doesn’t fit in all at once, brown the meat in two batches.

  2. Remove the shanks and set aside. If you’re using the lamb shoulder keep it in the pot. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add the curry powder and cook for another minute until it’s all dreamy smelly. Then stir in the flour, then slowly pour in and stir the wine until smooth. Add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened, 1 minute or so. Add the lamb shanks back in, cover and simmer over low heat until the lamb is very tender, about an hour and a half to two hours.

  3. Add the squash, carrot and coconut milk to pot and simmer over moderately low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the kale and let simmer for another few minutes until kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Top basmati rice with the curry and serve with warm naan bread!

Enjoy!

Spicy Lamb Meatballs

Meatballs. Lamb meatballs to be exact and they are magical-spherical-bombs of greatness and are what date night dreams are made of. I've said this many times before, but what I look forward to most when Friday or Saturday night rolls around is hanging with Thomas in the kitchen, cooking a delicious meal, popping open a bottle of Trader Joes' finest, or two to be exact, and spending a date night "in". Just the two of us.

To be honest, some of those Friday "date nights" turn into us eating dinner on the couch and me falling asleep at 9:30 right as we are starting to watch a movie. I know, I HATE when someone falls asleep during a movie that I am excited to watch yet I am the biggest culprit of it. But other date nights, like this past weekend when we whipped up these meatballs, we spent the night talking until the wee hours of the morning - laughing, reminiscing, and spending quality time together being totally disconnected. 

Maybe we were so utterly blissful because we had just eaten the most incredible lamb meatballs of our lives. To be honest, I'm not a huge meatball fan usually. They are good -  but I would rather have a hearty bolognese sauce instead. But lamb meatballs? That's a different story. The combination of the spicy lamb, cool greek yogurt, spattered with a sweet mint raisin pesto is beyond words. This meal is so easy to put together, looks fancy enough for date night, and will no-doubt have you going back for seconds. I have been wanting to make these from bon appétit since the recipe was published in December, so I can't believe we just got around to making them. This recipe should 100% be on your menu for this weekend!

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Spicy Lamb Meatballs with mint raisin pesto

Ingredients 

- 1 large egg
- ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp. ground turmeric
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley, plus 1 cup parsley leaves with tender stems
- 2 Tbsp. plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more
- 2 garlic cloves, divided
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 2 cups mint leaves
- 3 Tbsp. golden raisins
- Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (for serving)

what to do 

  1. Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Combine egg, panko, cumin, red pepper flakes, turmeric, finely chopped parsley, 2 Tbsp. oil, and 1½ tsp. salt in a large bowl. Finely grate 1 garlic clove into bowl. Add lamb and mix with your hands until evenly distributed. 
  2. Gently roll lamb mixture into 1½"-diameter balls (about the size of a golf ball; you should have about 20). Place on a rimmed baking sheet, spacing evenly apart. Bake meatballs until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, purée mint, raisins, parsley leaves with tender stems, remaining garlic clove, remaining ½ cup oil, and a big pinch of salt in a blender until smooth. Taste pesto; season with more salt if needed.
  4. Spread yogurt over plates and divide pesto and meatballs on top.
  5. Do Ahead: Pesto can be made 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Meatballs can be formed 2 months ahead; freeze on baking sheet until firm, about 2 hours, then transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen.

Lamb Shanks with Basil Mint Pesto

Easter Sunday has always been special in my household growing up. While we were sleeping, our parents would sneakily deliver Easter baskets overflowing with peeps, chocolate bunnies, and an abundance of Cadbury eggs. Waking up at 5 AM we would scarf as much chocolate down before heading to sunrise service, belly-ache and all.

After church it was custom to always have a big Easter lunch at home with family. I can't remember a year that we've ever not had lamb on our menu. Easter was pretty much the only time we would have lamb except on occasion, so it was always such a treat. You can't forget about the mint jelly! I don't know why the combination of mint and lamb is so good, but it's perfect together. 

For the past two years living in Portland, I've tried to make Easter feel as much like home as possible, so lamb is most definitely going to be on our menu this year. I had never had lamb shanks until Thomas first made it for me and I am hooked! Growing up we always had a roasted leg of lamb, which is to die for, but I love how slow-braised shanks fall off the bone and literally the meat just melts in your mouth. For special occasions we always go to Phil's Uptown Meat Market off of Burnside and 23rd. Their meat is always great and sourced by local farmer's and rancher's. 

These shanks are braised in a dutch oven in beef stock, red wine, and lots of herbs and other goodies. Once the meat is super tender, we take the shanks out and reduce the liquid into a mind-blowing sauce. No joke, you'll want to drench EVERYTHING in it. 

An ode to my beloved mint jelly, we also made a fresh basil mint pesto. It was the perfect pop of color and complimented the lamb perfectly. I would recommend making a double batch of pesto since it keeps well in the fridge and is ahmazzinggg on eggs in the morning. 

Happy egg hunting, peep snacking, and lamb eating friends!

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We use this IKEA dutch oven which works great! I'm really looking forward to putting Le Creuset and  dutch ovens and products on our wedding registry!


Lamb Shanks with Basil Mint Pesto 

Ingredients
Shanks
-lamb shanks (1 for each person)
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- a few springs of thyme
- 1 tablespoon of beef base ( we used Better than Buillon)
- 3/4 bottle of red wine

Pesto
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sides
- fingerling potatoes
- honey roasted mini carrots

What to do

1) In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, sear the lamb shanks on all sides and then remove from heat.
2) In a large dutch oven, sauté chopped onions and carrots in a little olive oil over medium high heat until they start to soften about 5 minutes. Add in the 6 minced garlic cloves and sauté another minute or two until fragrant. Then add the springs of thyme and place the seared lamb shanks on top. 
3) Put in a tablespoon of beef base and then fill the dutch oven with 3/4 of a bottle of red wine and water until the lamb shanks are submerged. 
4) Bring to a boil and then turn down to a medium-low simmer and cook until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 hours. 
5) While the meat is cooking you can make the pesto. In a hot skilled with a drizzle of oil, toast the pine nuts until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Add the pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add half of the herbs and chop for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the herbs and chop. Add in the Parmesan and salt and pepper, pulse briefly until combined. While machine is running, squeeze in the lemon juice and slowly add the oil in a steady stream and process to desired thickness. Depending on how basil-y or mint-y you want to have your pesto, adjust the quantities accordingly. 
6) At the 3 hour mark when the shanks only have about 1/2 hour left to cook, roast the potatoes and carrots. Place the potatoes whole on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and are tender when pierced with a fork.
7) For the mini carrots, we skimmed a couple tablespoons of the lamb fat from the top while the shanks were cooking and drizzled all over the carrots (super healthy I know). Season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly golden and tender.  Drizzle with honey after the are out of the oven. 
8) Once the meat is very tender, remove the shanks and set in a warm place. Crank the heat up to high and let the liquid reduce in the dutch oven until desired thickness. Hint: if you want to thicken it a little more you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in about a tablespoon of water and add to the sauce. Continue boiling the sauce for a 5-10 minutes after you put in the cornstarch. 
9) Plate your dish with the potatoes, carrots, and the shank. Give yourself a generous helping of the sauce all over the shank and top with a little of the pesto.