Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Roza's Tas Kebab


I'm a nostalgic person. I take a lot of pictures so I'll always remember happy memories. I've kept several of my favorite childhood toys. There are a lot of ways to remember important moments and people, whether it's with things, photographs, or in today's case with food.

My aunt Roza passed away in September. Like any good Armenian woman, she loved to cook and feed people. She was famous for her rice pilaf, her poohree macaron, her baklava, and her tas kebab. She was also an avid fan of this blog, and loved to call me up to ask me about recipes I had tried out and shared, or to ask my advice on dishes she wanted to try making herself.

We would always task my aunt with making her tas kebab for family gatherings and special occasions. She made the best tas kebab, and we left it to her knowing it would never disappoint. Sadly I was not able to make it with her to see her methods or learn her secrets. I knew the list of ingredients she used and the general method of prep, and decided to recreate her tas kebab in her honor and write down the recipe so we will always be able to make it.

It took a couple attempts to get it just right. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the broth is very flavorful, and the beef is so tender it falls apart. This tas kebab is hearty, comforting, and deliciously spiced with whole peppercorns, allspice berries, and ground cinnamon. It's best served over a mound of rice pilaf so the broth can soak into the rice.

Tasting this tas kebab brings back so many memories of my aunt. It tastes just like hers, and I'm sure she would be so proud that I was able to recreate this beloved dish.

I've said it before and I will say it again, please do yourselves a favor and write down any family recipes shared by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, whoever in your family is responsible for your favorite flavors of nostalgia. Take the time to measure the ingredients, write them down, retest them, and save them. I'm glad I was able to recreate this tas kebab, but if the dish had been more complicated I doubt I would have ever gotten it to match hers, and that would have been a travesty.

Although this is my comfort dish and not necessarily yours, I encourage you to try your hand at making this tas kebab in honor of my aunt. She lived her life for those she loved, and feeding them around the clock was always part of the deal. Even though she's gone, I'm happy I can now feed my stomach AND my soul with this tas kebab recipe.

Roza's Tas Kebab
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds beef chuck, cubed into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Rice pilaf, for serving

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Set aside.

Rinse the beef with cold water. Drain and add to a large pot. Cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat, skimming impurities off the surface. When the water starts to boil, remove from the heat, drain into a colander and rinse the beef with cold water.

Wipe the pot clean, add the beef back along with 6 cups of boiled water, the butter, tomato paste, and all of the seasonings. Return to high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer covered for about 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is easily cut with the side of a spoon (my aunt would cook it until the meat was actually falling apart so aim for significantly longer than fork tender).

Tas kebab is best when made a day or more ahead of time and reheated prior to serving, as this allows the flavors to develop. Serve the tas kebab spooned over rice pilaf in wide serving bowls or plates.

*Note* You will have to pick out the peppercorns and allspice berries as you eat. This is the way my aunt always made this dish so that is how I wrote the recipe, however it wouldn't be a bad idea to perhaps tie those spices into a cheesecloth and cook the tas kebab with the spice bundle for easy removal later instead of loose spices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Guinness Bread


Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of visiting Ireland, truly one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. At breakfast one morning in Derry, Northern Ireland I lightly toasted a slice of Guinness bread, slathered it in Irish butter and strawberry jam, and my life changed forever.

I was so impressed by this delicious and simple morning treat, with its hearty texture and complex flavors, that I vowed I would recreate it upon my return to the states.

Fast forward 150 days, and I FINALLY followed through on my plans to bring my newly beloved Guinness bread into my kitchen and home.

Before baking

After baking

The recipe is incredibly simple and is mostly comprised of oats and whole wheat flour for the dry mixture, and Guinness and buttermilk for the wet mixture.

My Guinness bread turned out fantastic! It was crumbly and crusty on the outside, tender, slightly sweet and malty on the inside.

Although you can slice and eat this bread as is, I like to slice and toast it in the toaster oven. Let it cool completely before buttering it because the butter will melt right into the bread if you're impatient like I tend to be :)

Irish butter is arguably the best butter in the world, so definitely splurge both in cost and calories to get the good stuff. I topped my toasted slices with a generous smear of Kerrygold and a couple spoonfuls of my homemade plum jam (omg it's amazing!).

Guinness Bread
Makes one loaf
(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)

1 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling (I used old-fashioned rolled oats)
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle Guinness extra stout beer, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the pan
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Salted butter, such as Irish Kerrygold

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. With your fingers, stir the batter from the middle of the bowl to the outside, until it’s well mixed. It will look more like cake batter than bread dough.

Brush a 9×5×2 1/2-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees F, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the bread out onto a baking rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with salted butter, toasting slices in a toaster oven if desired.


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