Baked Rice

Ross-il-forn is a very popular Maltese dish very much like Arancini Scicilani is to the Sicilians. The concept is similar except,in this case,the rice is cooked separately,combined with a flavorful meat sauce, eggs and topped with cheese then baked.Just rustic and super delicious. It is ideal to prepare with left over rice and some ground meat.I often use Buffalo or lamb to change it up a bit.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 cup short grain rice, cooked

1 lb ground meat,such as Buffalo or lamb

1 small can tomato paste

a few sprigs each Oregano, Basil and parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic,finely minced

1 small onion,finely minced

1 cup red wine

1 bay leaf.

3 eggs beaten

1/2 cup each freshly grated pecorino romano and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.Allow to heat,then saute onion till translucent. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes.

Add meat and use wooden spoon to break up meat. Cook on medium heat until meat browns. Stir in tomato paste and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chopped herbs and bay leaf. season with salt and pepper.

Pour in wine and allow to simmer 10 to 15 minutes on medium low heat, covered. Turn off heat and allow meat to cool.

Preheat oven to 350*F

In a separate dish beat eggs.Season with salt and pepper. Stir in half of both cheese. Add in the cooked rice and stir gently so as not to break up the rice.

Stir in the cooked meat, once again to incorporate but not break up the rice.

Pour into baking dish and top with the balance cheese.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until set and cheese melted. serve.


Pinchitos Morunos ( small spicy Moorish Kebabs)

Tonight we decided to have family Tapas night for dinner . Pinchitos are Spain’s answer to the kebab,typically made with lamb or pork,but turkey or chicken could work too. Pinchito spice powder is sold on the internet, but a mild curry powder with the addition of Spanish paprika and a few other herbs and spices and you have a close replica. We included Patatas Bravas, Spanish garlic shrimp and cilantro rice, Spain right here in my kitchen !!!

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 lb lean pork,cut into small cubes

2 garlic cloves,finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tsp mild curry powder or Pinchito spice mixture

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp Spanish paprika

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbps lemon juice

Bamboo skewers, soaked for half an hour.

Crush the garlic with the salt and work in the rest of the ingredients except the pork. Place pork in a non reactive dish and rub on the spice mixture . Cover and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.

Skewer the meat onto the soaked skewers and place on hot grill,cook till done . Serve

Spicy Kheema puffs

 in Hindi Kheema can be any type of minced or ground meat, so I have used minced lamb, but have prepared the same puffs using chicken or even turkey . Once the filling is prepared and cooled it is filled into store-bought puff pastry. this is delicious served for high tea or even a light sunday dinner.The great this is the puffs can be assembled and refrigerated until ready to bake.

12 puffs

Photograph by rahul Mahtani

1 lb ground lamb or any ground meat of your choice

2 tsp vegetable or canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ” fresh ginger root , minced

4 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp each ground coriander and cumin seed

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp red chili powder

a small bunch fresh mint , finely chopped

salt to taste

Heat oil and saute onion with salt on medium heat till soft and lightly brown.Add ginger and garlic, fry for 1 more minute.

Stir in the tomato paste and fry for 1 minute.

Stir in all the spices and fry for 30 seconds.

Add in the minced meat and fry, breaking up the lumps . Keep frying till the meat is well browned and the oil separates to the sides. Stir in the mint. Tilt the pan so that any excess fat is easy to pour off into a separate bowl,discard this. Allow the meat to cool.

Preheat oven to 425*F

Roll out puff pastry sheet and cut desired shape . Place meat filling in the center of the pastry and brush edges with egg wash. Fold over and press to seal. With the tines of a fork make a design on the border,this will ensure the pastry is well sealed.

Make slight slits in the top to allow excess air to escape.Brush tops with egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden.Serve immediately.

Spicy Thai lemongrass and mint lamb chops

Lamb is an acquired taste , it can have a strong , overwhelming aroma , if not allowed to marinate in the right herbs and spices for at least 4 to 6 hours . This marinade is so flavorful and lends itself beautifully to this succulent piece of meat . I serve 4 pieces per person with a flavorful and simple Gado Gado salad with peanut sauce and a stir fried vegetable rice noodle . This is perfect food for summer and grills up to perfection . If the chilis are too much for you simply omit or tone down the amount.

Serves 2

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

8 lamb rib chops

2 sticks lemongrass , inner tender portion only

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1 large clove fresh garlic , peeled

juice of 1 medium sized lime

2 red Thai chilis , minced ( optional )

2 tbs palm or brown sugar

2 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs vegetable oil

Clean and defat the lamb , place in a plastic freezer bag. Set aside.

Combine in a food processor the rest of the ingredients to blend well . Pour over the chops in the bag and massage well to distribute evenly making sure each rib is coated . Seal bag and rest in refridgerator for at least 4 to 12 hours .

Light grill to about 450*F . Oil grill or spray with non stick cooking spray . Place chops on grill removing excess marinade . Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side , depending on how well done you prefer your ribs .

Remove to a platter and serve . I have often taken the excess marinade , boiled it in a small saucepan and serve it along side the rigs as a dipping sauce .

Lemon-grass grilled rack of lamb with tamarind sauce

Ever since this recipe was featured in the New York Times , my family has enjoyed the delicious , complex flavor of this dish . This recipe is great both on the grill and under the broiler due to the sugart marinade that helps to brown the meat easily . Once grilled drizzle the tamarind sauce on to the ribs giving a really beautiful appearance and complex flavor , typical of Vietnamese food .

Adapted from The New York Times

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

4 stalks lemon grass , trimmed and minced

4 shallots , peeled

2 Thai chilies , or 1 small jalapeno , stemmed and seeded or about 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes or to taste

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbs neutral oil , like corn or canola

2 tbs fish sauce

2 small racks of lamb , about 1  1/4 lbs each , cut into riblets

salt and pepper

Tamarind sauce

Combine lemon grass with shallots , chilies , sugar and oil in a mortar and pestle or a food processor , or mince finely with a knife . Add fish sauce , sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper and marinate it in this mixture for 2 to 3 hours , wrapped and refridgerated .

Start grill . Rake coals so fire is quite hot on one side and cooler on the other ,and grill rack is about 4 inches from the heat . Grill lamb , starting on hot part of grill , until crusty , turning as necessary . move it to cooler part if it threatens to char. Cook until an instant read thermometer inserted into center of meat measures 125 to 130 degrees for rare ; this will take 10 to 15 minutes , serve hot , with tamarind sauce .


1/2 lb dried tamarind pods or 1 lb tamarind paste

1/2 cup sugar or to taste

2 tbs fish sauce or to taste

Simmer pods ( with their husks ) or paste in hot water to cover , stirring and mashing until soft , about 10 minutes for pods , 5 for paste . If you use pods , remove husks . Press pulp and seeds in a fine sieve .

While warm , stir in sugar and fish sauce to taste . Serve hot , with lamb ( sauce can be refridgerated for about a day and reheated just before serving ; add a little water or lime juice if necessary to thin it out )

Pan Fried Lamb Chops with Harissa

Lamb chops are a favorite in my family and I am always looking for new ways to shine light on gamy tasing meat . Harissa , is a spicy  Middle Eastern condiment which , in this interpretaion includes store bought roasted red peppers , just a delicious addition . I always keep this sauce on hand to serve with other grilled meats and vegetables .

Tyler Florence

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

Serves 4


1tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 small jar roasted red bell peppers , drained

2 garlic cloves

3 small fresh red chiles , chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

4 TBS extra virgin olive oil

12 fat lamb chops

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Gather the cumin , coriander and caraway in a small skillet and toast over low heat until fragrant . Then grind to a powder in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder . Put the roasted bell peppers into a food processor along with the ground spices , garlic , chiles , salt , olive oil and lemon juice and pulse to puree.

When ready to eat , heat 2 TBS olive oil in each of 2 large skillets over medium heat . Sprinkle the chops on both sides with salt and pepper . Put the chops in the pan and sear for about 2 minutes on each side to brown . Serve chops with the Harissa.

Lamb Tagine with green Olives

Let me start by assuring you , a Tagine is optional in this recipe , in fact , a covered Dutch oven works great . This recipe appeared quite recently in the New York Times , created by chef Andrew Carmellini . It is delicious and the warm spices fill the air with a heady aroma . The spice mixture called for here is one I like to keep on hand , but if you have trouble finding “ras el hanout ” , you can easily make up your own spice mixture with the recipe below.


3/4 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp paprika

Generous pinch cayenne

pinch saffron

Stir all the spices together , set aside


1/4 cup  extra virgin olive oil

2 lbs lamb stew meat , cut into chunks

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 medium onion , sliced into medium width pieces ( about 1 cup )1 clove garlic , peeled

1 tbs diced fresh ginger ( from about 1 inch )

juice of 1 orange

1  14 oz can diced or chopped tomatoes

1  2 inch long piece of orange peel

2 cups chicken broth

1 tsp honey

1 medium carrot , sliced 1/2 inch thick ( about 1 cup )

1 celery rib , sliced 1/2 inch thick ( about 1  cup)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1  1/2 tbs sesame seeds

8 green olives , sliced into quarters ( about 1/4 cup )

In a large , ovenproof stew pot or Tagine , heat oil over medium high heat . Season lamb all over with salt and pepper . Add meat to pot and stir to coat in oil . Brown for about 5 minutes , stirring occasionally to make sure the meat browns evenly on all sides . Transfer the meat to a bowl and set it aside .

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion , stirring to coat . Saute for about a minute , until it begins to soften . Add the ginger and garlic and add the meat back to the pot . Stir everything together . Squeeze the orange juice into the pot and mix well . Add the tomatoes , orange peel , spice mixture , chicken broth and honey , mix well . Raise the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover the pot and put in in the oven  . Cook for 1 hour or until the meat is half cooked.

Stir in the carrots and celery and return the pot to the oven . Cook for another 30 to 40 minutes , until the sauce is thick and reduced and the lamb is tender.

While the tagine is in the oven , in a small pan  until golden , stirring  regularly to make sure the almonds don’t burn .

Remove the garlic and orange peel from the tagine . Add the olives and spoon the tagine onto a large serving plate . Sprinkle the almonds and sesame seeds on top . Serve immediately .