Category Archives: Meat

Mastava – Uzbek soup

Mastava - Uzbek Soup

Mastava - Uzbek Soup

After our last visit to Chaihana, I’ve been wanting to make this recipe and I was lucky enough to have a recipe handy.  As a matter of fact, I actually have two.  One is from Lynn Visson’s book and one is from a Russian-published book.  This attempt is from the Russian-published version and I don’t know how authentic it is.  Anyone with such knowledge, please let me know if this is even remotely authentic.

Russian Recipe Book

Best Recipes of the Uzbek Kitchen

Russian Mastava Recipe

Russian Mastava Recipe

That’s the book and the page with the recipe. If you can read Russian, please take a close look at it. For those who don’t read Russian, here’s the rundown of issues with this recipe:
1. It’s not clear enough in directions; it refers to “spices” but doesn’t define what it means. Is it like mirepoix, is it something else? I interpreted that as “use whatever you want” and I used freshly ground back pepper and cumin.
2. It doesn’t specify all the quantities (how much water do I need?)
3. It doesn’t specify how long to cook it for, it just says “until done”. Is that 5 minutes or 50? How do I know? I’ve never made this before.

But I just happened to have two carrots and 3 potatoes, the exact quantities the recipe is calling for. I love it when a plan comes together.
And since you already know I’m not good with directions, you should also know I’m really not good with metric values. I know, I could look it up. But I was lazy and didn’t. So here’s what I used.

mastava-ingredients

Mastava ingredients

Ingredients:
1 lb of lamb diced in bite-sized pieces (had it in the freezer since last summer, figured I should use it)
2 medium-large carrots, cut up in bite-sized quarter-moons (the recipe says to cube it, but I’m just not into all that chopping at 8PM)
3 small-medium potatoes (cut the same size as the carrots)
1 large onion, diced
1.5 cups of washed rice (the recipe calls for 300 grams and I don’t have a scale; but 1.5 cups was waaay too much, made it more like a stew; I think 3/4 cups would be better)
6-9 cups of water (I lost track after 6, but I think I used close to 8 or so; the recipe has no quantity specified for water)
1 can of tomatoes (the recipe actually calls for 3 tomatoes, but I didn’t have any and improvised; this gave the soup a much darker and redder look than is typical, I think)
olive oil (the recipe calls for fat, but I assume it’s calling for lamb fat and I didn’t have any, so olive oil it is)
spices: salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin (to taste)
cilantro and scallions (to garnish, optional)

* A note about washing/rinsing rice. I don’t know for sure, but I think it removes some of the starch and quickens cooking time. It somehow makes a difference.

Steps:
Season throughout the cooking process
1. Brown the meat.
2. Add onions and let cook with the meat for a few minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add carrots and potatoes and cook for a few minutes (5-10 minutes)
5. Add water (depending on how much you use, but start with 5 cups) and let boil for about 20 minutes.
6. Add rice and cook “until done”; if you rinse the rice, it’s about 10-13 minutes (probably less if you use less rice)

Mastava lamb

Brown lamb

Added tomatoes

Added tomatoes

Added carrots and potatoes mastava

Added carrots and potatoes

Added rice to mastava

Added rice

finished mastava

Enjoy!

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Chaihana Continued…

Ok, as promised, now to the food….

Lagman

Lagman

My dad ordered Lagman. I love lagman (pronounced: lah-g-mahn, with emphasis on the last syllable). I subconsciously tried making it when I was adding my own twist on a chili recipe I read on the back of a can of beans. And I’ve made it myself quite a few times and you can check out my version. It has carrots and celery (though I don’t know how authentic the celery is and I never use it) and noodles and red bell peppers and lamb. Dad liked it.  And it had scallions as a garnish.

Mastava - Uzbek soup

Mastava

This time around, I ordered Mastava (I think that’s how that soup is called and spelled and if I’m wrong, please let me know). It was delicious. The lamb was very well prepared, so tender it melted in your mouth as you ate it. No need to chew, really. Just inhale…. It had rice, lamb, carrots and other stuff I forgot about. And specks of emerald cilantro garnished the soup. Really good. Authentic. Notice how my sentences tend to shrink when the food is really fabulous. Probably because that’s all my mind is capable of at that moment and all the other mental powers are reserved to fully experiencing the decadence of the food. Love the flecks of cilantro garnishing most dishes. Just try it…Very yummy. I might have to try to make this at home one of these days. I wonder if I have a recipe somewhere… Hmmm. Oh, and this is a half-portion. Notice the difference between the full portion of Lagman and the half portion here. Not a whole lot of difference.

Manti - Uzbek food

Manti

Then we ordered manti. I’ve been wanting to try them here and so we did. There are several kinds on the menu, but we got the ones with lamb. Notice how huge these are; they were about the size of my fist, not like the ones we typically make. Also, notice that they’re served with sour cream and vinegar (the bottle behind the dish). You typically don’t mix the vinegar and sour cream, it’s either or. These were so right. I can’t say that about many places, but not many places claim to have Uzbek food. But these were sooooo good! And huge… The dough was a tad thick, but barely noticeable, and the meat was all good. The spices, meat to fat ratio, and all other aspects of manti were nearly perfect. I’d definitely recommend that dish to anyone.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

We also ordered liver shashlik (shish-kebab). I think this specific type is called “djigar”, but I could be wrong. Someone correct me on this please. I don’t understand why it was served with the veggies. But ok. The onion is the authentic part of how it’s typically served. None of us liked this dish. It was too dry.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

See in the picture how dry it was? It should be a lot more pink in the middle. It was like rubber; a workout for our knives and teeth. I hope they improve this. When it’s right, it melts in your mouth and has a very nice mouth feel, like pate. When it’s right even a baby/toddler could eat it.

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Next, we tried “regular” shashlik. I must say that this is made from beef and not lamb, that’s why it’s in quotes. It’s as “regular” as you can have there. This is a hit or miss dish. The first time I had it I didn’t like because it had some weird spices. The server must have heard me describe that and had the kitchen leave it off this time so it was actually pretty good this time. It was seasoned and marinated properly and was very soft. Each skewer had plenty of meat and a serving is more than plenty.

Samsa - Uzbek dish

Samsa - Uzbek dish

The first time I was at this restaurant I also tried samsa. It was pretty good, but not how I remember, but then again, it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve had an authentic samsa. And this one was also very huge. These portions are very filling.
So let’s start at the beginning.

Samsa - inside view

Samsa - inside view

A samsa is a minced meat, fat, spices, and onion mixture that’s wrapped in dough and baked in a tandoori oven (tandyr). There are several kinds: rounds ones made from regular dough and triangular ones made of layered dough and not quite as tall as this one though they do puff up. This sucker was the size of my head! Not quite, but nearly. It also had more than onions for veggies but I couldn’t discern what all comprised the mixture. Still, it was very good. When made in a tandyr, the crust that forms on the bottom is very crunchy and the top is soft and when you bite into it, the juices run down your chin and the steam that escapes is like a sigh of contentment. I actually have a recipe that I’ve been thinking of trying for this.

Plov - Uzbek dish

Plov

And finally, what I always crave. Plov! This is definitely not for the weight-watching crowd. This thing is packed with most delicious calories. You got beef, fat, oil, rice, carrots, and other yummies. Don’t get me wrong, plov is worth it! This is my “holy grail”, something I really want to learn to make; I don’t have the correct pot for this (it’s cooked in a “kazan“, a cast-iron pot much like a dutch oven that’s not enameled). So if you know where I can get my hands on a kazan, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!
This dish alone is worth the trip (because I can’t make it home at the moment, not because it’s legendarily good). It’s the only consistently good dish I’ve had here (but I’ve only been here twice…) and I would go there just for it again, even if the meat was just a tad dry.  That they use beef instead of lamb is not authentic but that substitution is made often enough. It’s good, but don’t get me wrong, any competent home cook can make something far better. My grandma’s plov is hands-down a thousand times better; it’s legendarily good.  And I can’t even learn it (no kazan)!  Grrrr!  I tried a few times in an enameled cast iron pot, but everything sticks, so there’s burned rice on the bottom affecting the taste of everything else. But it was still edible.

Note: if you’re familiar with Indian cuisine, some things might look/taste familiar (like the use of lamb, rice, and spices).  Uzbek food is delicately spiced, but not spicy-hot; it’s heavy on the meat and very filling. (With all that we ordered, we had a lot of leftovers.)

Bring an empty stomach and an open mind if you’ve never tried these dishes before.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

After making the Mushroom Stroganoff I wanted to make the real thing. Especially considering that I haven’t had beef stroganoff in at least ten years. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either when I started thinking about it. I actually don’t remember the last time I had it. And after I made the mushroom stroganoff, I started searching for recipes. But as you know, I have a hard time following a recipe. So, I decided to combine a few and the ones I liked were the Paula Dean version and a Cooking Light version.  Here is what I came up with:

Ingredients:
1 lb of beef (I used the already-cut-up beef that you can find at your local grocery store)
3 TB of flour (this depends on your beef; you could use more or less)
24 oz. of mushrooms, sliced thinly (less mushrooms if you like less)
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
1 large onion, diced
Spices to taste (salt, black pepper, paprika, chipotle pepper)

Steps:
Cook noodles according to package directions.
1. In a zip bag, season and flour the meat. Shake it to make sure the flour, salt, and pepper cover the meat.
2. In a large skillet, saute the onions and then the meat.
3. Add the mushrooms once the meat is done.
4. Once the mushrooms reduce, add sour cream and cook over low heat till you have a nice sauce and no lumps and the meat is cooked through.
Add seasonings as you go along to deepen the depth of flavor.

Serve over noodles.

Onions and meat

Onions and meat

Mushrooms added

Mushrooms added

Sauce for stroganoff

With Sour Cream

Chicken Soup

chicken soup

Look at the golden glow!

I’ve never made chicken soup before. Mainly because I don’t really like it. I know, it’s an odd confession as an opening for a chicken soup recipe. But…. The soup I made wasn’t like the chicken soup I grew up with. What never appealed to me was the rich, clear broth that had little pools of chicken fat floating on top.

So I figured that instead of throwing a whole chicken into the pot with a carrot and an onion, I’d do something differently. I used a chicken breast, a chicken leg, and a bone in, skin on chicken thigh. As usual, I tried to remove as much fat as possible. I also added a lot more to the soup. There is the typical carrot, however, instead of just halving it, I diced it into half moons and sauted a little. The onion also got the saute treatment instead of being just halved and thrown in. Potatoes and a bell pepper also made their way into the pot. I wanted to add some more veggies (of the frozen variety) but there was no more room in the pot. Oh well. Here is what I did:

Ingredients:
1 large white onion (diced)
1 large carrot (diced in large half moons)
chicken (whatever you want, but I used cut-up chicken breast, thigh, and leg)
6 cups of water (pretty much the max for my pan, but you can use more if you’d like a looser soup)
2 small-medium potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)
1 bell pepper (chopped in large chunks)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
Salt, pepper, turmeric, spanish smoked paprika, sweet paprika (all to taste)

Steps:
1. Saute the diced onion and carrots for a few minutes.
2. Add chicken and cover with water.
3. Bring water to a boil and add the spices.
4. Add the potatoes and bell pepper. Add the bay leaves if you’re using them. Check the spices in a few minutes (potatoes tend to absorb a lot).
5. Let simmer on low heat for a half hour or so.

soup-veggies-saute

Soup veggies sauteing

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup Cooking

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I consider myself to be richly blessed and thank God for my blessings regularly. Having a nationally recognized holiday to do so is wonderful. In my family, I have taken over Thanksgiving responsibilities in the last few years and relish the opportunity to cook up a feast. And a feast it truly is.
This year our menu was as follows:
Appetizers:
Baked Salmon
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
Pickled tomatoes (store-bought)
Hummus (store-bought)
Smoked fish (store-bought)
Goat cheese bruschetta
Seafood Salad
Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Roasted Asparagus

Main course:
Vegetable Soup
Mashed potatoes
Turkey

Dessert:
Spice cake
Puff Pastry “strips”
Meringue cake (store-bought)

The turkey I’ve made in the last 5-7 years has always been moist as a result of both brining and baking it in a bag. However, this year it was absolutely superb. Please don’t think that I’m boasting. I did absolutely nothing differently from years past. The difference is in the turkey itself. I ordered a turkey at a farmers market earlier this year through Rueggseger Farms. The turkey was never frozen, it was “harvested” on Tuesday morning and we took delivery in the evening. It was astonishingly fresh and well-cleaned and absolutely lip-smacking when cooked.

Additional Recipes will be coming soon.

Yikes! It’s been a while

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a recipe in so long!  Trust me when I say I’ve been cooking, but most of the time I’be been cooking things I already wrote about.  For example, last week I made a roasted chicken, and today, I’m planning on making roasted chicken chili with the leftovers.

Though, I have made a few new dishes and I’ll have to blog about them.  I’ll have to make them again since I have no pictures from the first time I made it.  See, I’ve been testing some recipes from a book I just bought and I’m pretty excited to try these new and healthier recipes.  So far, they’ve been very tasty and very easy.  Watch, now I jinxed it.

Jeff-Leen Farm

Ok, I know I have neglected this blog for a loooong time.  My apologies.  But you know how it goes; work, work, more work, family, friends, hobbies, school, etc.  Actually, I have quite a backlog of material for blogging, but let me start with this.

Jeff-Leen Farm

Jeff-Leen Farm

For the past several years I have been purchasing meet during the summer at farmers markets.  I have settled on ground beef and chickens from Jeff-Leen.  You see, Jeff has a different breed of cattle, it’s not Holsteins, it’s Piedmontese.  The breed originated in the Piedmont region of France and is naturally very lean.  Actually, Jeff has a brochure that compares various meets with this partucular type of cow.  Since I am not willing to give up beef for a healthier lifestyle, I figured I should try this since it’s so low in all the “bad” stuff.

I also purchase their summer sausage with garlic almost weekly.  It’s a great snack and doesn’t spoil eaisily.  I’m sure I’ve tried their eggs too.  Delicious.

But about the chickens.  So worth every penny.  They’re fresh, tender, and succulent.  It’s orders of magnitude better than a fresh Sendik’s chicken, and I know I’ve made my best roast chicken with a fresh Jeff-Leen chicken.  But, they go quickly, so if you want one, it’s a good idea to get to the market early or even call ahead.

So Cute!

So Cute!

Chicken Coup

Chicken Coup

Knowing that farmer market season is nearly over, I asked Jeff what’s the best way to get his products during winter.  He said that they can drive it down and meet at a park-n-ride or other such location so you wouldn’t have to drive all the way to Random Lake. But I would recommend the drive. It’s not that far and it’s an absolutely gorgeous area.

Band for Customer Appreciation Day

Band for Customer Appreciation Day

Jeff-Leen also has an annual Customer Appreciation day at his farm.  This year it was in early September (I told you I have a backlog) and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  There was a band, great food (duh!), a hay ride (I’m lucky I’m not allergic to hay); got to see the chickens and the cows.  It turns out that the real Piedmontese cows have black circles around their eyes.  And the chickens get moved around at least once a day to a new piece of pasture so they get fresh grass and bugs to pick through.  But they are confined in their coups and there are about 100 chickens or so per each coup.  It was great to visit the farm, try out some other foods (I didn’t even know that they have hot dogs until I tried them at this event and they were really great), and just generally spend the day relaxing in a beautiful setting.  There were also lots and lots of prizes, but unfortuntaly, I didn’t win anything.  😦  Oh well.

The cows roam around and looked very calm and peaceful.  I was surprised at how it didn’t smell of the typical “Wisconsin Dairy Air”.  Walking round the farm I noticed how clean it is.  As a customer, it makes me feel better knowing that the products I buy are from animals that are well taken care of and that they’re in a clean environment.  Jeff and his family are really friendly and are ready to answer any question.

Cows in the field

Cows in the field

Piedmontese Cows

Piedmontese Cows

See the black around the eye?

See the black around the eye?