Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

We had an interesting conversation around the dinner table today, Kid #1 and I.
It was one of those existential things.  Kid #1was telling me about what she thinks about when she's bored in class.  On one hand I'm alarmed that my kid is bored in class often enough to know what she thinks about when she's bored.  On the other hand, I'm glad that she's not just thinking about what jeans she wants to buy or who she's going to text as soon as school is done.
So apparently Kid #1ponders mysteries like:
 - I can't believe that I am a person on this planet.  I exist in this space.
 - How did I get here?
 - What if I wake up one day and remember a past life?
 - What if I don't?
 - What if religion has the afterlife wrong?
 - What if it has it right?  Ack.
 So all of this kind of conversation reminded me of my own crazy/awesome thoughts when I was younger (I think as you get older the conversation still happens you start brooding over it more - it gets darker).  I remember staring at myself in a mirror and wondering at the person staring back at me.  That was me.  That was the 'me' that people understood when they heard my name.  I would stare at the skin on my hand and think about how weird limbs are as extensions of our brains - our thoughts.  I was totally overwhelmed by the question of how differently I would understand myself if I had never seen myself in a mirror or in pictures (that is actually a pretty cool thing to think about for a while).  I became fascinated with the idea of waking up someday and finding that I am my baby self in my bed.  I would discover that I had dreamt my life and now had the chance to live it over again.  The coolest thing is how you feel when you have these thoughts.  It feels like you must be the deepest thinker ever.  You're pretty sure that nobody has ever asked those particular questions before.  It takes a while (and probably a couple of undergrad philosophy courses) to realize that you are not alone.  We all wonder these things.  It is, in fact, one of the things that connects us all.  How we connect to our 'self', how we feel about the length of our life and our desire to extend that life.

It was a pretty cool conversation.
We ate Lamb Meatballs while we had the conversation.  Novel first off because I wasn't eating salad and secondly because the meatballs were delicious.  Absolutely delicious.  I wish I could eat them all over again.  I wish that I could wake up and realize that I dreamed the whole thing and then enjoy them all over again.  The reality is that I'll have to just find my way back to the farmers market and get some more ground lamb and make them again.  Damn reality.

Lamb Meatballs in spicy Eggplant and Tomato Sauce adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 egg
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1 tbsp each parsley, oregano and basil
1 tbsp honey

4 - 5 cups fresh tomato, chopped
3 cups eggplant, diced
1/2 an onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lg red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper sauce
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
a little parmesan for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon (non-stick) mat.  Toss the eggplant in some oil (a generous amount that I brushed onto the eggplant so that it wouldn't just soak in a be gone), sprinkle with salt and spread out on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes.  Add the red pepper and toss with the eggplant.  Bake for another 12 - 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and remove from the baking sheet.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl and mix it all together (give your hands a good wash and then dig in).  Once everything is well incorporated form the meatballs into 1 1/2 inch balls (or so) and place on the same baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until they're looking a little bubbly and maybe just slightly turning brown.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Keep the oven on.
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan heat a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the onion once the oil has heated.  Cook for about two or three minutes.  Turn the heat down to med/low and add in the tomato.  Cook together for about 5.  If the tomatoes are bubbling too much you can turn the heat down a little more.  Cook for about 10 minutes altogether and then add in the eggplant, peppers and garlic.  Cook together for a few more minutes.  Add in the herbs, salt, pepper sauce, honey and Worcestershire.   Check the tastes and adjust if necessary.
Combine the sauce and the meatballs in a baking dish.  Cover and bake for about 20 minutes.
Cool for about 15 minutes before serving and sprinkle with a little parmesan if that strikes your fancy.

Cardamom and Coffee Sponge

It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada.  It's the perfect kind of fall weekend.  It's kind of grey but the trees are the brightest shades of crazy.  The breeze is blowing just the way you would expect a fall breeze to blow with the just the right amount of bite to it.  It gets dark at precisely the right time now, about 7p.m. 'ish'.
With everything that has been going on lately we all don't feel terribly celebratory but still managed to fit in a lovely dinner with my parents.  I realized that when it comes to these kinds of holiday weekend things I have two terrible habits:
1.  I don't post things here in enough time for you to make them should you desire to do so.  That sucks.  It also explains why desserts from my last two years of Thanksgiving posts have gotten so many hits lately.
2.  I choose to make a dessert that I have never tried before.  That renders the whole thing an experiment.  I'm not sure that it's fair to my family to experiment on them all of the time.  It's pretty much all that D and kid #1 and #2 get these days so they're pretty used to it.

As far as bad habits go this is a pretty tame list I suppose.  As far as experiments go this one was mostly successful.   As far as you making this in time for any Thanksgiving celebration... well, if you live in the U.S. then it will be no problem.

Cardamom and I don't have a happy history but I can't resist how it smells.  The thought of that smell along with some coffee flavour hooked me in.  The cake itself is quite dense and once it cooled from the oven I realized that it was pretty thin.  So thin in fact that I decided to cut the cake in half and pile it on top of itself instead of lengthwise (thereby making two VERY thin layers).  The result was a cake that 6 could devour quite easily - so you won't be looking at a whole lot of leftovers.  Down side: people might think that you've left half of the cake somewhere else or you just got hungry before you served it.
I would spice this a little more.  Hit it with a little more cardamom in the cake and make sure that the coffee is very strong.  I would also add a little vanilla to the cake.
All around though if you want something that isn't disgustingly sweet and has a nice hit of spice to it then this might be worth a go for you.  If you want a 'whole' round cake then I might suggest doubling the batter and making two cakes.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend then I wish you all the best bounty of the season.  If you are celebrating next month then you can sit back and relax for a bit still.  If you don't celebrate at all then enjoy the time you have until the next big holiday to organise and prepare.  If you are already sick of dry turkey then feel free to come over... I'm making lamb stew.

Cardamom and Coffee Sponge adapted from BBC Food 
makes 1 round cake
serves 8

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 tbsp strong coffee (I used instant espresso)
8 cardamom pods, broken, seeds removed and finely ground
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream Filling:

1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp strong coffee
3 cardamom pods, broken, seeds removed and finely ground


1/2 cup icing sugar
2 - 3 tbsp strong coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 23cm round cake pan (I used one that's a springform) and set aside
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix and set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until almost frothy.  Add in the coffee and the freshly ground cardamom seeds.  Beat together briefly.
Whisk the flour mixture into the liquid until the flour is all mixed in.
Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
I did a little drop of the baked cake onto the counter top a couple of times just to try and remove as much air as possible... the cake will sink less.
Once the cake has completely cooled remove the cake from the pan and with a sharp knife cut sideways through the cake until it has a top and a bottom.
Whip the cream until it's fluffy and getting firm.  Add in the icing sugar and continue to whip until it's quite firm.  Stir in the ground cardamom seeds.  Plop the whipped cream on the top of the bottom layer of the cake.  Make sure that the cream is evenly spread.  Place the top layer of the cake over the cream.
Combine the icing sugar and coffee and whisk until it forms a pourable mixture.  Pour over the top of the assembled cake.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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