When I moved to Armenia twelve years ago, I had no idea how to cook from scratch and with local ingredients. I will forever be thankful to a few US embassy wives who took me under their wing and brought me into the world of Celsius ovens, making my own spaghetti sauces, breads and my favorite- desserts.
I learned to shop in the local open markets (after I learned to overlook the pigs' feet dripping blood into the sidewalk), and to cook in a way that would make my old-fashioned, St. Joseph famous cook extraordinaire (my grandma Juanita) proud.
And since I think we can all help another girl or guy out, I want to start to post the occasional recipe on this blog (with special instructions for those that reside in my current town- Tallinn, Estonia).
Some criteria I look for when making a meal:
It has to be healthy and something my kids actually enjoy eating.
I believe in a balance of all food groups (especially with growing kids).
I try to use whole grain flour, pasta, and rice whenever possible.
I try to cook with ingredients that are all natural (without extra preservatives, colors, additives).
Since I have kids and work, I only have time to cook homemade meals 3 - 4 days a week. Therefore, I need something that creates leftovers and we can munch on for at least two days.
I try to use only healthy oils when possible (extra virgin olive oil- cold pressed- is my favorite).
So, my first recipe is not something I make very often because it is a very rich meal. But, it is something the boys in my family beg me for and will always remain one of their favorite meals.
It is the good ol' Pot Roast (a popular meal in the UK and America). So, this recipe is for those in America who have never tried this cultural favorite, or for those living abroad who would like to!
First, I found the perfect cut of meat for pot roast at Stockmann supermarket in Tallinn. Although a bit pricey, please remember that this recipe feeds a big group or will give leftovers for two days.
I buy 2 to 3 kg (4 - 6 lb) of beef roast or Ahjupraad (eesti keeles).
3 small bags of miniature full carrots - not the pre-cut ones (I found these in small bags at Rimi Supermarket) or a big bag of normal, large carrots that you would cut into smaller pieces.
1 large yellow onion
Fresh thyme and parsley (or dried - your choice)
4 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste (The estonian meat comes marinated with some garlic. If not buying from Stockmann in Tallinn, I would add garlic as well).
Optional: cut peeled potatoes and add to roast or keep them separate to make mashed potatoes (my kids' favorite)
2 cubes of organic beef bouillon- to avoid high salt and preservatives found in traditional bullion (like this one I found at BioMarket in Solaris).
Heat oven to 135 degrees Celsius (275 degrees Fahrenheit).
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or frying pan on your stove. (I prefer a pot with sides to keep the roast from splattering oil all over my stove top as it cooks.)
Place meat in pot and sear each side. ("Sear" means to brown - not cook through - on each side of the beef. This seals in all the beef's natural juices for the roasting process. It usually takes a minute or less on each side of the cut of beef).
Once the beef is seared, place it into a large roaster or covered dutch oven that can be put into the oven.
Cut onion into 8 quarters and throw into roaster with beef.
Cut ends of mini-carrots and throw into roaster with beef (I don't even peel them).
Add seasoning into roaster - 1 tsp salt, 1 - 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme (or a few teaspoons of each in their dried versions).
Pour 4 cups of water over the roast and veggies. Add 2 cubes of crumbled organic beef bouillon into the water surrounding the roast.
It is optional to also add potatoes (peeled and cut into quarters) into the roast as well.
Cover the roast and let is cook on a low heat for three to four hours.
Although somewhat ugly, it is very delicious. When you remove it from the oven, you have a ready meal that you can serve after a busy day and one that everyone...especially the men in your life...will devour!
Happy Roasting! :)