Moroccan Lamb and Lentil Stew with Minted Yogurt

"Cumin, cinnamon, and tart-sweet prunes give this exotic stew North African flavor. Depending upon how much lamb you include, you can make either a lentil stew with lamb or a lamb stew with lentils. The eggplant dissolves into a puree that naps the lentils and thickens the sauce. Serve the stew on its own or accompanied by couscous or rice."

Ready.. set...
ingredients list and directions are at the end of the post
I thought I was silly for keeping chopsticks around, but they turn out to be very handy for mixing things such as the oil in fresh jar of peanut butter-- or this: yogurt and mint for the stew. The chopstick allows you to whisk in ingredients easily I think especially when you have a small container and not a lot of product to blend. Here I only have 1/2 cup of yogurt and a generous handful of mint.
After the cooking process: the eggplant with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Everything mixed together. This dish is not very photogenic!...
..not even with natural sunlight on my dish. It is very tasty however and at dinner I served it over couscous with the mint yogurt on the side. Now for the recipe...
Copied without permission from Lorna Sass' Pressure Perfect.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
2 cups water
1 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
12 pitted prunes*
1 to 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more to taste
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
*check them for pits!
For the minted yogurt:
1/2 cup plain yogurt [you will want more!]
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint.(you can empty a teabag)[her advice]

Heat oil in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add the onions and cumin seeds and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Stir in the water, lentils, prunes, and lamb. Set the eggplant on top. Sprinkle with the salt and cinnamon.
Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow the pressure to come down naturally, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape. Skim off any fat that rises to the top. Stir well to blend in the eggplant. Add more cinnamon and salt, if needed. Stir in the lemon zest and enough of the lemon juice to balance the sweetness of the prunes.
To prepare the Minted Yogurt, stir the yogurt and mint together. Serve each portion of stew with a generous dollop of minted yogurt on top. [blend the yogurt and mint together ahead of time so flavors have time to mix]

I may as well keep cooking

I need to add more liquid to the mega vegetable soup that was made a few nights ago ( because I was a pig and had too much, leaving the non-chicken-eating dude with little leftovers). This is a perfect way to use up all the vegetables I have left over. This time no chicken, but little squashlettes, green beans, potatoes, lots of carrots, celery, onion, salt & pepper, oregano, bay leaves, thyme. I still have a ton of carrots left, so V, Aristoitle, and I will be enjoying them.

My windows aren't that clean.. so what's happening?

While I was typing the groovy bird eating broccoli post I heard a loud knock at the window followed by a thud to the deck. Poor little goldfinch! So far there have been no fatalities only very stunned birds. This one got placed under the potted tree until it recovered.
V was in her house when this happened, so I was able to go outside right away and pick the finch up. I washed my hands with lots of soap and hot water afterwards, got my camera to get these pictures then showered and threw my clothes in the wash. I'm not taking any chances with disease from outdoor birds and V.
Some days I have two or three birds hit the windows. Not all of them occur over the back deck, so I don't go looking for them. Poor little birds.

Green on green with beans

I've tried something new with the V today. This morning for breakfast she got a serving of Bean Supreme.. a mix of beans, grains, nuts, and raisins. You add boiling water to the mixture and let it steep, then drain off excess water and let it cool before serving. I also added some cooked carrot from the mega vegetable soup from last night as well as some pieces of fresh kale and broccoli. She is such a good eater! Sometimes all it takes to get her interested in her food is changing the location of the bowl!

I moved her up to the play gym of her cage and put the bowl up there too. After looking down at the food for awhile she climbed off the perch and sat on the edge of the cage and tried her new food.

Here is a broccoli eating action shot with a heavy dose of 'art sauce' applied to the background using photoshop. Groovy man, groovy.

A little chicken and mega vegetable soup

Welcome to the Flatland kitchen where appliances get dusted off periodically and put to use. This evening we dust off the PRESSURE COOKER! Wait!... don't turn the channel to another blog just yet. This is the lazy person's guide to good soup, and I'm one of the laziest non cookers I know.
First get together your preferred cast of characters. My choice tonight consists of: leeks, onions, celery, carrot, mini saucer shaped zucchini, garlic, potatoes, broth, peppercorns, bay leaf, salt and chicken. Dust off the mandoline and go to town slicing away at the vegetables.

I didn't add any legumes that might make a foam on top of the liquid, but if you do add them be sure to avoid over filling the pot. I came right up to the 2/3 mark on the inside of my pot- that is liquid and vegetables combined*.
Then bring the pressure cooker to its high pressure setting ( on this pot it is the second red ring), and run to the other side of the kitchen to observe from a safe distance. Kidding! Although as you can see in this low quality pic the pressure is higher than the 2nd ring so I let out some steam by pushing down on the valve stem with a wooden spoon until it sat just at the second mark. There were no explosions this evening.
This is how things look at the end of the cooking time (12 minutes!) plus the natural release time (maybe 10-15 min) which means turn off flame, remove from hot burner and wait till pressure valve stem falls to the no pressure setting. I don't know the exact timing of this last part as I was surfing the web.
Ah! If only you had blogger smell-o-vision. Deeelishus!
*In the beginning I was unsure about the meaning of this mark, thinking it was liquids only.

Like pre-school but without the children

Back to the drawing board after a long time of not working on this project.
I think color highlights will be a good way to make parts of this piece stand out. I start with the water soluble wax Caran D'ache crayons but they are too stiff and large for the small areas I want to color.
The Staedtler Karat Aquarell pencils are perfect for this project. The point can be sharpened just as a traditional pencil, but the difference between normal color pencils and these comes with the addition of water. Here I am using droplets of water that are on the edge of my cup. It is just enough liquid to make the colors soluble.

A wet, fine tip paintbrush helps blend the colors but in most places I leave them rough looking and not blended. The gesso background is keeping the results from looking like watercolors- which is normally the case with these pencils. I like the look so far...
I just don't know how much to fill in. In the beginning I thought a few areas of color here and there, now I'm not sure how much more to do. Any suggestions?

Nice colors in sunlight

It's really difficult* to get a good picture of the little green. :)
*using a point and shoot, one hand, no tripod, and a squirmy bird.

Sunday night to end- mortal eyes admire the light- captured with a phone

A warm and breezy evening and a beautiful sunset.

While I watched the sunset colors change the moon came up, veiled by clouds.

Colors dance in West
moon begins to share its light
silent horse draws near