It’s 2 in the morning as I sit here writing this. I know I won’t publish it until a decent hour, and I might still take a nap before work, but for the record, even the dog is asleep right now. When I woke up she looked up at me, annoyed, rolled back over and went to sleep.

For the last week, Walker and I have been on an incredibly fast paced trip back to the States, and it was made worse by the fact that our flight was delayed a day and then I needed to take a last minute day trip to Memphis. An incredibly tight schedule, and an incredibly jet-lagged Kate, so please excuse a post which I am anticipating will make sense only at two in the morning.

I had almost forgotten about making this – we made it for my mom when she was last here in May. I’m really slacking. But while I was in the States I bought a Bon Appetit – the one for July – and all that talk about barbecue got me thinking about things we’d grilled lately. Oh yeah… that lamb was pretty fantastic… And pretty out of the ordinary.  Grilling season is definitely here, both in Raleigh and in Shanghai, and so Walker and I will be whipping out our tiny charcoal grill that had been relegated to the corner of the porch, getting dusty, since we moved.

And in full disclosure, food-wise, here’s what I brought back from the States: two jars of pimentos, a jar of grape leaves, wild rice (rice to China? What? Yeah, there’s only white rice here), a bag of farro, two bags of Red Mill almond meal, a box full of cupcake wrappers from Bake it Pretty, and a box of spices from Penzeys. My mom always gives me a hard time about that last thing – didn’t the explorers all aim for China so that they could bring back spices to the West? – but it’s not like I’m bringing over cinnamon and anise seed. In the box is: chervil, dried guadajillo peppers, powdered cayenne pepper, crystalized ginger, garam masala, sassafras (gumbo file), kala jeera, mahlab, blue poppy seeds, sumac, za’atar, annato seeds, and ground coriander. The indian spices could probably be found here if I knew how to translate them into Chinese, but for some odd reason my dictionaries don’t include indian spices.

Every time I go to the States I bring back small things like that. If you have a friend living here, and you’re coming to visit, bring maple syrup. Yes we can get it here, and it is also exorbitant. Wrap it up in a tshirt and put it in a plastic bag, then pack it on the very inside of your suitcase. They’ll thank you for it.

A note to those from Raleigh reading – thanks for letting me know you’re out there! Most days I feel like I’m talking to myself but it’s really nice to know that you exist!

Dukkah Encrusted Lamb with a Quinoa and Aubergine Salad
from the British Larder, adapted only slightly in ingredients

This is a multi-step recipe, so if you want to recreate it, read all the steps first. I’d recommend making the spice blend the day before, so you’re not rushed on the day of. Once that’s out of the way, the whole dish comes together rather quickly. Grill the eggplant first, and while it is marinading, you can be grilling the lamb. Timing here is key. Cold lamb just won’t hold the same appeal.

Dukkah Spice and Nut Blend

Ingredients

1/2 tsp whole cloves
1tsp whole fennel seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
1/2tsp salt
Pinch ground turmeric
Pinch crushed dried chillies
Freshly cracked black pepper
handful chopped roasted hazelnuts (basically to taste – handful here is just to give you an idea of proportions)
one and a half handfuls chopped pistachio nuts
handful roasted white sesame seeds

Preparation

1. In a pestle and mortar crush the cloves, fennel, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, turmeric and dried chillies to a powder.

2. Add the hazelnuts, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds, crush lightly and voila, you have dukkah. It can be stored in an airight container until you need it. Be aware that nuts contain oils which will spoil after a while, so do try to use it in the time frame which you would use unrefrigerated nuts. The spice can also be bought ready made, without nuts, in specialty stores.

Dukkah Crusted Lamb Cutlets

Ingredients

4 lamb cutlets
50g Dukkah Spice and Nut Blend, see above
1tbs roasted sesame oil
1tbs honey
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preparation

1 In a small mixing bowl mix the dukkah spice and nut blend with the oil, honey, lemon juice and zest.

2. Season the lamb cutlets with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, dip each cutlet into the dukkah mixture, rub the mix in, coating both sides. Let the cutlets sit with the rub for 10 minutes.

3. Heat a grill pan and cook the cutlets 3 minutes on each side, leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Quinoa and Grilled Aubergine Salad

Ingredients

120g white quinoa
1tsp turmeric
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1tbs honey
1tbs olive oil
25ml pomegranate vinegar
1 aubergine (I used one purple and one green for variety, and kept the left overs)
100g sweet peas
1tbs chopped fresh continental parsley

Preparation

1. Use a medium size saucepan. put in the quinoa, turmeric, salt and pepper  and cover with twice as much cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the quinoa is  tender to the bite. Once cooked, drain the quinoa using a sieve or a collander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Refresh under cold running water and drain.

2. In a small bowl, measure the honey, olive oil and pomegranate vinegar and whisk to combine, season to taste.

3. Grill the eggplant: Heat a grill pan. Wash and cut the eggplant in thin rounds. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides. Grill the aubergines on the hot grill pan, without any oil and without moving around excessively. You want dark grill marks, and moving them around will change the direction of the lines. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on both sides. Place the hot aubergines in a tray and pour half of vinaigrette over, leave to soak and absorb the vinaigrette for 20 minutes, flipping them half way through.

4. Dress the quinoa salad: Mix the drained quiona, cooked and sliced green beans, and chopped herbs together, season to taste and then drizzle the vinaigrette.

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