Author Archives: Duchess In Exile

About Duchess In Exile

The Lady of Skye, Duchess Loch Avie, Lady Chief of Clan Bellambi; Distiller; Lover of romance, music, art, literature, and exploration. Foodie Extraordinaire.

Lamb & Date Tagine with Saffron Almond Couscous

I find that this recipe works equally well for a celebratory feast with guests as it does as a comforting meal with the family.  I’d not call this an easy recipe, but neither is it complex.  It is, however, rather time-consuming. This recipe was originally shared with me by my friend, Chef Pippa Calland, and now I am pleased to share it with you.

Lamb and Date Tagine


  • 2 pounds boned lamb shoulder (bones reserved), cut into cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 1 thick slice (or two) of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 4 oz. sliced, dried dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked, stems reserved, washed, dried and sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley (flat), picked, washed, dried and sliced


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; when it is hot, place the reserved lamb bones in a cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty pan or tray) and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast until boned become golden and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Season the lamb cubes abundantly with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a large skillet on medium flame.  When the pan is warm, add a scant amount of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat.  When the oil is warm add the lamb to the pan to brown.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan (or the meat will steam rather than sear). Repeat as needed until all the lamb has been browned.  Pour off the oil and discard. Put the pan back on the flame and add a scant amount of fresh oil to the pan and heat gently.  Add the chopped onions to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized meat juices combining them with the onions.  Cook the onions over a low flame until the just begin to brown and then remove them from the pan.
Heat the chicken broth to a simmer.  Place the lamb, lamb bones, onions, and ginger in a cazuela (a clay cooking pot, Spanish in origin) or tagine pan* and sprinkle with the freshly ground cinnamon and cayenne to taste. Add reserved cilantro stems and enough warm chicken broth to cover the lamb.  Simmer, covered tightly, until the lamb is completely tender, about an hour and a half, adding more chicken stock and turning as needed.
When the meat is cooked, add the dates. Cook the tagine for an additional 15 minutes.  Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Add reserved cinnamon to taste and garnish with parsley and cilantro.
Serve with couscous and a big fruit-forward Greek or Lebanese red wine.
Saffron Almond Couscous
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, simmered
  • 6 threads saffron
  • unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil-toasted, salted, blanched almonds
  • cilantro and parsley, washed, dried, and sliced


Place a large, heavy gauge skillet on the stove and heat until warm.  Add enough oil to abundantly cover the bottom of the pan and heat gently.  When the skillet is warm, add the chopped onion and sweat it over a low flame until soft and opaque – about 15 minutes.  When the onion is ready, turn up the flame and add the couscous.  Toast the couscous over a high flame, stirring continuously, until it is a homogenous golden color and well-toasted.

Add the saffron to the couscous and ladle in enough warm chicken stock to cover by 1/4 inch. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir to ensure the couscous doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Turn the flame to low.  Cover the pan with a lid or parchment and cook until the stock has been completely absorbed.  Add more stock until the couscous becomes completely tender and then remove from the heat.

Add butter to moisten and season the couscous.  Check the seasonings and correct as needed.  Just before serving, add the almonds, cilantro and parsley.  Stir gently to combine.  Enjoy!!


*cook’s note – Sadly I have no clay cooking pots, but my heavy Calphalon skillet proves to work very well.

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Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Lamb, Mediterranean

Weekend Breakfast Staple

On the weekends, I generally enjoy preparing a breakfast that is more complex or unusual than what I would normally serve to my family during the work week. Today, I decided that I was in the mood for Eggs Benedict. The key ingredient is the hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise is also extremely delicious over asparagus (which by the way, I also enjoy for weekend breakfasts occasionally), green beans, mixed with cooked pasta and stir-fried veggies of any type, or perhaps over fried green tomatoes and crispy bacon. Rather than share the full recipe for the Eggs Benedict, I now share with you the sauce recipe. Get creative!  Spice it up!  Put it over meats as well as vegetables or whatever you enjoy.

The recipe I find myself using over and over is a simple one adapted from the recipe created by Alton Brown of Food Network and Good Eats fame.


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teapsoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or black pepper (more or less to taste)
Pour 1-inch of water into a large saucepan over medium heat
Bring to a simmer; once simmering, reduce the heat to low.

Place egg yolks and 1 teaspoon water in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until mixture lightens in color, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.

Add sugar and whisk for another 30 seconds.

Place the mixture over the simmering water and whisk constantly for 3 to 5 minutes, or the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from over the pan and gradually add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and whisk until all of the butter is incorporated.

Place the bowl back over the simmering water occasionally so that it will be warm enough the melt the butter.

Add the salt, lemon juice, and  pepper.

bon appetite!


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Conchiglie con Langostinos un Pomodori Secchi Salsa di Mornay

Last evening as I wondered what to make for dinner, I decided to head to the local market for some inspiration.  I was so very pleased to find that our local fish monger had gotten some langostinos in from Chile.  My mind began humming.  How would I choose to prepare these tonight?  There are some favorite answers for those familiar with langostinos:  scampi, “mock lobster” casserole or bisque, little appetizers.  However, I was feeling the need for comfort food since the weather was cold and rainy, and well on its way to stormy.  I decided to cook what is essentially a very tasty gourmet mac n’ cheese.

“But, Lady Eva, first things first.  What are langostinos?”

Langostinos are commonly referred to as ‘langostino lobsters’, but in reality are not actually lobsters at all.  Also called squat lobsters (the mind wanders thinking about the classic B-52s song rewritten as Squat Lobster, but I digress), these tasty creatures are actually crustaceans of the families Galatheidae, Chirostylidae and Kiwaidae and are most closely related to crabs.

Langostinos - rinsed and thawed

And now the recipe (admittedly, I merely added things to taste so not everything has measurements for you):


For the saute

  • 8 ounces frozen (or fresh) langostinos, rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • pignoli
  • fresh basil

For the Mornay Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heated milk
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar
  • Worcestershire sauce

~ 12 oz conchiglie (fresh or dried)

conchiglie pasta


  1. Prepare the conchiglie according to package directions and set aside with a drizzle of oil to coat.

Meanwhile prepare the Mornay Sauce

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and stir until mixture is well blended.
  3. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens.
  4. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in white cheddar cheese, and continue to stir over low heat until cheese is melted
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the langostino saute

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Once oil is hot, saute the sliced garlic for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add langostinos and cook for ~3 minutes
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Stir-in sun-dried tomatoes until flavors are incorporated
  6. In a separate bowl stir the conchiglie and the Mornay sauce together

To plate, top the conchilglie with the langostino mixture.  Finish with toasted pignoli and fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!!


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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Seafood

Beef Stew with Gnocchi

This is a variation of a stew recipe that I found in a nondescript magazine while waiting for Rosette in the orthodontist’s office.  The original recipe was lacking in spices and interest, but the potential was there.  I chose to cook this in the oven, but it would be well-suited to a crock pot or slow cooker on busy days.

Please let me know what you think, if decide to try it.

Beef Stew with Gnocchi (via Creative Commons search)


1.25  pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
12 ounces Portobello mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or more)
8 oz frozen pearl onions
2 cups  99% fat free beef broth
3/4 cup dry red wine

3 bay leaves

(All spices listed below are to be added to your taste – I honestly did not measure them.)

dried thyme
garam masala
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes

17.5 ounces gnocchi
fresh Italian parsley – chopped

In a large bowl toss together steak, flour, salt and pepper.  Place steak in enameled cast iron french oven (4 or 5 qt).  Add chopped vegetables, garlic, onions, broth, wine, and seasoning.

Cook in 350 degree (convection, if you have it)  oven for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile cook gnocchi according to package directions.  If this is done early in the process, drain, add olive oil and set aside until stew has cooked.

Remove stew from oven.  Gently stir gnocchi into the stew.

I suggest that you plate in large bowls and garnish with the fresh Italian parsley and fleur de sel.

Hope you enjoy!


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Filed under Beef, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Just seemed like the right thing to make for Sunday morning breakfast today.



  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or sucralose
  • lemon zest

Streusel Topping

  • 4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans

Muffin Batter

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
  2. To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, lemon zest and sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
  3. For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
  4. For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
  5. Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.




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Filed under Breakfast, Cake

Simple Things II: Pan-Seared Tuna

I feel quite certain that Rowan and I are not alone in having busy evenings which are not at all conducive to making meals requiring more than 30 minutes to prepare.  Does this mean that our food should [always] be pre-packaged or pre-prepared?  No indeed!

What I share with you now is a favorite preparation of fresh yellowfin tuna.  Freshness is the first key to gastronomic success in all cases, but most especially when working with seafood.

Let’s start with the fish.  Selecting your tuna (or any other type of fish for that matter) steak or fillet:

Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age.  Should you select a cut with skin remaining, look for shiny, metallic skin.

Smell it. The smell test is especially important with fillets. They should have no pungent aromas.

Is there liquid on the meat? If so, that liquid should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is indicative of decay.

If the fishmonger lets you, press the meat with your finger. It should be resilient enough so your indentation disappears. If your fingerprint remains, move on.


  • Tuna steaks
  • black sesame seeds
  • mustard seeds (either brown or white)
  • cracked black pepper
  • dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • NOTE – Do experiment with spices that make you happy.  I generally vary the spices each time I prepare this dish.


  • rinse fish lightly in cold water and pat dry
  • combine mustard seeds, pepper, garlic, and finely chopped tomatoes & cilantro
  • rim the outer edges of the tuna with the spice combination
  • place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat; the pan is ready for the oil when a hand hovering over the pan (about 1 or 2 inches) feels warm
  • add the black sesame seeds to one side of the steak along with the kosher salt
  • place enough olive oil in the pan to coat it and allow to heat;  your pan is ready for your fish when a hand hover over the pan feels so hot that it is uncomfortable.  Note: Be mindful of olive oil’s low smoking point. You will want to watch the pan carefully once the oil is placed.

Place fish with sesame seeds down in the hot pan.  WATCH closely!  The goal is to sear the tuna without cooking through.  As it cooks you will see the pink flesh begin to turn brown.

    Once you have achieved the searing level you desire, turn the fish and sear the other side briefly.  Ensure that a line of pink remains visible to you on the side in order to achieve a nice rare-medium rare preparation.

      Last night, I served the tuna with a long grain brown rice, some cilantro puree, and a simple arugula salad (lightly dressed with D.O.P Monti Iblei olive oil and celtic fleur de sel)

      As Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett might have said of this meal:

      Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

      ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
      And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

      ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
      When true simplicity is gain’d,

      To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
      To turn, turn will be our delight,

      Till by turning, turning we come round right.

      Cail Bruich!



      Filed under Quick, Seafood

      Yes, even YOU can make haggis

      As we prepare to celebrate Robert Burns in the Steamlands of Second Life™ on January 22, 2011 (as noted in my personal blog), I wanted to share with you both a traditional Scottish haggis recipe as well as a modern haggis recipe in the event that you would enjoy celebrating the Bard of Scotland in your own real life home.  Perhaps you have always wanted to try haggis, but were put-off by the sheep organs that must be used as part of the traditional recipe.

      It is a shame that the “Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race” should be regarded (by some) with such a mixture of horror and humor. The vision of sheep’s stomachs and other intestines seems to send people running the other direction, but it has long been a traditional way of using up parts of the animal which otherwise might go to waste. Made properly, it is a tasty, wholesome dish, with every chef creating his or her own recipe to get the flavor and texture that suits them. Personally, I like a haggis which is spicy from pepper and herbs, with a lingering flavor on the palate after it has been consumed.

      Finding a butcher who can supply sheep’s heart, lungs and liver may not be easy although nowadays beef bung (intestine) is often used instead of sheep’s stomach.


      Traditional Scottish Haggis


      • Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by a butcher)
      • One beef bung
      • 3 cups finely chopped suet
      • One cup medium ground oatmeal
      • Two medium onions, finely chopped
      • One cup beef stock
      • One teaspoon salt
      • ½ teaspoon pepper
      • One teaspoon nutmeg
      • ½ teaspoon mace


      Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the sheep’s intestine and, if present, discard the windpipe. Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or possibly longer to ensure that they are all tender. Drain and cool.

      Some chefs toast the oatmeal in an oven until it is thoroughly dried out (but not browned or burnt!)

      Finely chop the meat and combine in a large bowl with the suet, oatmeal, finely chopped onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace. Make sure the ingredients are mixed well. Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef bung which should be over half full. Then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string. Make sure that you leave room for the mixture to expand or else it may burst while cooking. If it looks as though it may do that, prick with a sharp needle to reduce the pressure.

      Place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for three hours. Avoid boiling vigorously to avoid bursting the skin.

      Serve hot (and removed from casing) with “champit tatties and bashit neeps” (mashed/creamed potato and turnip). Some people like to pour a little whisky over their haggis – Drambuie is even better! Don’t go overboard on this or you’ll make the haggis cold.

      Modern Haggis

      *I located this recipe online at Suite101.  It seems quite a nice version of the traditional entree.


      • 2 lbs. liver (almost any kind)
      • 3 onions
      • 1/4 lb beef suet
      • 2 cups oatmeal
      • Black pepper
      • Salt
      • Grains of Cayenne Pepper or Drops of Tabasco Sauce
      • 2 cups stock or broth


      1. Cook 2 pounds of liver with peeled onions for about 20 minutes
      2. Put the liver and onion through a chopper
      3. Chop suet
      4. Put oatmeal into a heavy frying pan and stir over fire until lightly toasted
      5. Add chopped liver, onions and suet
      6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper
      7. Add few grains of cayenne pepper or couple of drops of Tabasco as desired
      8. Moisten with liquid in which liver and onions were cooked
      9. Put into a large heat-proof buttered bowl, filling a little more than half full
      10. Cover with greased paper, waxed paper or buttered aluminum foil
      11. Tie or press down foil securely
      12. Steam for about two hours or cook in pressure cooker under 15 pounds pressure for about 30 minutes

      Serves eight. Takes between 90 minutes to three hours to prepare and cook depending upon method of cooking.

      Source (Modern Haggis)

      A Cook’s Tour of the Bayou Country, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana (Southwest Deanery) including Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgan City, Louisiana. The cookbook includes Creole, Cajun, Southern, Wild Game and other regional food in addition to occasional international selections such as Haggis and Hungarian Goulash reflecting the diversity of the Gulf Coast.



      Editor’s Note: I’ve been living in Scotland going on 5 years, and I’m here to tell you that haggis is DELICIOUS. If you enjoy any kind of sausage, you’ve no business thumbing your nose at it – the meat (offal) in it is the same as your favourite salami! It is seasoned with pepper and barley, and cooked traditionally in the lining of a sheep’s stomach (again, a step above the intestine that most sausage is cooked in), but more often today you find them plastic casing. Either way, they are steamed, and the meat is scooped out and served on your plate – the casing is not consumed. So GET OVER IT and tuck in to some haggis!! – Rowan

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      Filed under Beef, Dinner, Grains, Lamb, Meat, Scottish

      Shrimp and Grits: a variation on a homey southern supper


      as prepared by author

      Having lived several years of my life in the American south, I discovered the pleasure of eating grits.  Admittedly grits are not something that everyone considers a gastronomic pleasure. In reality, this coarsely ground corn of Native American origin, is generally just a vehicle for the other seasonings around and in it. Most often one finds grits on the breakfast table or buffet; however, based on the growing number of times grits are listed in dinner entree recipes now, it appears that they are becoming nearly as popular as their sister, thick, maize-based porridges from around the world like polenta and farina.

      Those who have lived in the south have no doubt heard many praises for this homely starch.  The state assemblies of both Georgia and South Carolina have made proclaimations about the southern staple. As well,  an article in the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier proclaimed in 1952, “An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.”(1)

      I have often needed to defend the joys of eating grits as others wrinkle their faces at the mere mention of the ingredient.  I contend that those who have protested so much have yet to taste well-prepared grits.  So now, I challenge you, regardless of your geographic location, to try this delicious seafood and grits meal.  Its hardiness is simply perfect on a cool fall or cold winter day, and yet, it is just as appropriate for al fresco service on a spring or summer night, given the bright notes & acidity from the lemon juice, parsley, and scallions.

      This recipe will serve 4 and takes approximately 15 minutes preparation time and 25 minutes cooking time.

      •    4 cups water
      •    Salt and pepper
      •    1 cup stone-ground grits (not instant or quick cooking)
      •    3 tablespoons butter
      •    2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
      •    1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
      •    6 slices bacon, chopped
      •    4 teaspoons lemon juice *
      •    2 tablespoons chopped parsley *
      •    1 cup thinly sliced scallions
      •    1 large clove garlic, minced
      Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
      Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In (some of the) grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
      Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.

      *Sometimes I will use lime juice and cilantro instead of the lemon and parsley to very good effect.  I like serving maragitas on the rocks in salt-rimmed glasses with this variation on the recipe.


      Served with pears drizzled with Academia Barilla D.O.P. Riviera Ligure extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and manchego cheese

      Wine Pairing Possibilities:

      My particular favorite with this dish is Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay. The winery describes this variety as “soft and creamy with apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and spice”, which I find spot-on.  The smoothness is a lovely complement to the dish when using the theory of a full-bodied wine with a full-bodied meal.

      If you’d like your wine to cut through the fattiness of the bacon, you may wish to serve this along with a Pinot Grigio or even a Prosecco.  The Prosecco is particularly a good choice if you are making this for small-bites prior to seating at a dinner party.  (The recipe would make more than 20 appetizer portions looking particularly stunning in an Asian soup spoon plating.

      If you prefer a red wine, which I often do, a dry fino sherry, sangiovese, or grenache may provide a nice synergy to the flavors of the meal.



      (1) South Carolina General Assembly 113th Session, 1999-2000, Bill Number: 4806

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      Filed under Dinner, Grains, Seafood, Southern