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Archive for January, 2011

My blog is probably still a little young for me to be refreshing things but I’ve just been updating my ‘about me’ page because I was reading it the other day and realised that my reasons for writing have changed so much even the short time I have been publishing these posts. As you’ll see from what I’ve written, its much more about the people who read my posts than it was when I started and it was more of a personal experiment.

Rather than being purely a public diary of my food related thoughts (which I should point out is still a perfectly good reason to write), I find I spend more time thinking about what would be evocative and interesting to the people who are reading it and hoping that someone is finding it even half as inspiring as I find the blogs that I read. This realisation means that I suddenly find more pressure to write something about important or original and to write well.

So in the spirit of doing something useful as well as pleasurable I thought I would give you this lamb recipe which actually turned into 3 separate recipes, 2 of which are written below and 1 is still to be created but can be easily created using your own ideas in the meantime. I called it recession lamb because its an excellent way to eek out one joint into several meals, especially if you are cooking for two and always land up with left overs and this is how I approach all my weekly shopping to save money and avoid wasting things. The title is in no way related to the taste of the end result though!

This all started with a craving for a lamb Sunday lunch. However, after making my shopping list and wandering up and down the meat aisles I realised they didn’t have any de-boned roasting joints which I had my heart set on. In the end I bought the lamb leg anyway with the intention of de-boning it myself. Bearing in mind I have never done this before and I don’t own a boning knife I was setting myself a fair challenge for what was supposed to be a lazy Sunday morning. Professional chefs everywhere would probably be recoiling in horror or sniggering into the sleeve of their whites if they were watching however I did manage to get the bones out without losing half the meat and although Im fairly sure I didnt do it properly as I didnt have one continuous slab of meat to roll up (in fact it was quite full of holes), I still managed to get from this…

To this…

More evidence that cooking is often more about perseverance than talent. And that you can fix anything with string.

So having wrestled my lamb into submission, I set about my original plan to make a herb crusted lamb with rosemary roasted veg which turned out to be just as delicious as I was hoping and therefore worth sharing. Pink slices of aromatic juicy lamb with salty and sweet new potatoes, carrots and shallots. We ate half the lamb on Sunday and the other half became the basis for recipe number two – lamb and white bean stew. As it turned out I undercooked the lamb slightly which turned out to be perfect as we ate either end and I used the under cooked middle for the stew which cooked just perfectly as it heated through. I also had a few off cuts of lamb and all the bones and bits of muscle from de-boning which I froze and will form the basis of my third recipe which I’ll get around to making this week – another lamb stew or a lamb soup, depending on what lands up on this week’s shopping list and what takes my fancy (details to follow as soon as I have worked out what they are).

Apart from the couple of before and after photos, I’m not going to try and write a tutorial on de-boning a leg joint as there are already a ton of perfectly good articles and videos available on the web but hopefully the fact that I managed to do it without proper tools or any expertise will give you more confidence to attempt it yourself and otherwise you can get your butcher to do the hard work and still use the recipes to make some good grub that wont break the bank.

Herb Crusted Lamb  with Rosemary Roasted Veg

Serves 2 with enough over to make lamb and white bean stew. If you are making for 4 then just add more vegetables.

  • 1.2kg lamb leg or 900g rolled lamb joint
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
  • larch bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 sprigs rosemary, 4 sprigs finely chopped and 2 halved
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • olive oil
  • 400ml lamb or chicken stock
  • 8-10 new potatoes
  • 2 carrots, quartered lengthways
  • 4 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled

If you are using a whole leg of lamb, de-bone it by cutting the meat away from the bone as close to the bone as possible and lifting out the bone away from the meat. Trim the tendons and any fat off the meat and make a cut into the thickest parts of the meat to flatten out and get an even thickness. Now roll the lamb up and tie with string to make a parcel. Place any off cuts of meat and all the bones in the freezer and use to make a lamb stock for another stew or soup. You could use them to make the stock for the stew below but I didn’t have time so I froze them to use for a third meal.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place a good glug of olive oil in a roasting dish for the veg in the oven. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and sear the lamb on each side. Combine the herbs (keep 2 rosemary sprigs for the veg) on a plate. Brush the lamb with the mustard and roll in the herbs to coat.

Take the veg dish out of the oven and add the left over rosemary sprigs, anchovy fillets and garlic cloves. I know anchovies sound like an odd addition but you wont taste them and they give the veg a heavenly sweet/salty flavour. Stir to help the anchovies melt and then add the potatoes, shallots and carrots and return to the oven. Put the lamb in the oven and roast everything for 30-40 minutes. As I said before, I found that the lamb was still too pink in the middle after 30 minutes but we took slices off each end which were perfect. When the lamb is done, take it out and wrap in tin foil to rest while you make the gravy. Add the flour to the lamb juices in the pan and stir over a low heat for 2 minutes. Add the stock and stir to de-glaze the pan (get all the caramelised bits to dissolve into the gravy). Cook for another few minutes until thickened. Remove the veg from the oven, carve the lamb and serve with the gravy.

Lamb and White Bean stew

Serves 2-4 depending on your portion size.

  • About 230g left over roast lamb, cubed (preferably just undercooked or rare)
  • 400ml veg stock
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tins white beans (I used one cannellini and one butter bean)
  • 150g spinach (or a few big handfuls)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • few sprigs thyme
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pan and gently fry the celery, carrots, leek and garlic until softened. Add the wine and cook until reduced by two thirds. Add the veg stock and bring to the boil. Add the beans and herbs and simmer for 20 min. If you want to make the sauce more creamy, spoon some of the beans into a bowl, mash with a fork and return to the stew. Add the lamb, red wine vinegar and spinach and cook for a final 5 min until the lamb is just warmed through. Serve on its own or with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce. I should point out the photo below doesnt really do it justice as the lighting was shocking but it is delicious I promise!

    Now, what to make for my third lamb dish…

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    Mothers

    I’m lucky enough to have had two mothers in my life.

    I had to lose one to gain another but I like to think things happen in the way they should and if they hadn’t I wouldn’t have the family that I now call mine. And despite the fact that I sometimes want to kill them as much as anyone does when it comes to family, I wouldn’t swap them for all the tea in china.

    Both my mothers have fed me some seriously good food, taught me to eat just about anything (I am a bit of a goat when it comes to food), and taught me lessons about cooking, just by watching them doing things around the kitchen and nicking recipes which they have already tried and tested. I want to make sure I remember all these things and pass them on one day so writing everything down through this blog will come in handy when I dont have so much time on my hands to indulge in my own edible expeditions.

    I mentioned that I had made more than one batch of biscuits last weekend so for those of you that have been eargerly awaiting the second recipe (and I’m not misguided enough to believe that anyone has actually been eagerly awaiting anything from my blog by the way but still), here it is.

    I didnt actually have any recollection of these biscuits until a family friend read my blog and thought to send me the recipe which she had written on a scrap of paper from my mom. As soon as I saw the ingredients however my tastebuds twinged with a pleasurable but hazy memory of eating these when I was little. I had already planned to make the granola biscuits to use up my left overs but I didnt want to wait another week to see if my memory was telling the truth so I just made both and used my usual method for protecting our wastelines by taking some in to work. Mind you, not that many made it out of the kitchen in the end.

    There were actually two recipes on the scrap of paper my mom’s friend, one called Norwegian Kisses and one called Melting Moments, both with almost identical ingredients. So I chose to make the melting moments as a first attempt and try the others next time round. I searched for other melting moments recipes online first to see if they were a common recipe or something specific to my family and I found several other recipes but none with my mom’s secret ingredient – custard powder. I have no idea whether there is any science behind this but I can confirm it makes a good biscuit so I’m not going to question hard evidence! I’d love to know if anyone else has come across something similar though so please leave a comment if you have.

    I did make one small addition to the recipe. I am sure I can remember eating these with little slices of glacé cherries on top so I added this in to indulge my nostalgia but otherwise the recipe is copied exactly as my mom wrote it and it was passed to me with only a few notes in itallics to explain what I did (thank you Karin).

    My Mom’s Melting Moments

    • 170g butter or marge
    • 60g icing sugar

    Cream these two together.

    • 170g SR flour (self raising)
    • 60g custard powder

    Cream these two together (I think she meant just whisk to mix as they are dry).

    Mix the above (I use a small electric beater). Make walnut sized balls and flatten slightly.

    (I used the back of a fork which makes a little pattern at the same time and then topped each one with a quarter of a glacé cherry).

    BAKE 180°C (or 200).  10 to 15 minutes (…12 minutes).

    (I baked at 180°C in my fan oven for 15 min but keep an eye out to make sure they don’t brown).

    The result is a seriously buttery biscuit that really does melt as soon as you bite it. They aren’t actually that sweet though so you could try more icing sugar if you have a particularly sweet tooth. If you want to make the Norwegian Kisses instead just swap the self raising flour for 120g plain flour and use 120g butter instead of 170g. Please let me know which you think is better!

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    …Get it drunk and hug it with biscuit-ness.

    This recipe was born of the need to use left over home made granola that was begging for a more naughty end to its life. At the same time, my biscuit tin was looking a bit empty so the most obvious idea was to use it to make oat biscuits with a twist and kill two birds with one wooden spoon.

    Because the end result turned out to be worth repeating, I’ve created two versions of the recipe depending on whether you happen to have any granola lying around or not. Either way you should land up with a crispy, slightly chewy oat biscuit that has enough excitement to make it worthy of the title of biscuit (or cookie depending on what country you’re from) as opposed to the dreaded ‘health bar’ that you might associate with granola. Just to make really sure, there’s a splash of orange liqueur in there for good measure and I’m fairly sure the amount of butter and sugar alone means they wont make it onto any lists for slimmer biscuit of the year. Bad news for those of you who have found this post whilst searching for healthy granola recipes… good news for those of us who don’t give a stuff.

    so without further ado, here’s the recipe. Hope it perks up the start to your week.

    Cranberry, Orange and White Chocolate Granola Biscuits

    OR If you are making from scratch

    • 100g rolled oats
    • 75g white chocolate chips
    • 25g sunflower seeds
    • 25g flaked almonds
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 100g dried cranberries
    • zest of half an orange
    • 125g butter
    • 75g dark brown sugar
    • 75g demerera sugar plus 50g for rolling
    • 2 tbsp orange liqueur
    • 150g plain flour

    Orange Glaze

    • 50g icing sugar
    • 1 tbsp orange juice

    Preheat the oven to 180°C.

    If you are making from scratch: combine the oats, nuts, seeds and spices and toast in the oven until lightly golden (about 15-20 min, stirring every 5 min to brown evenly). Allow this to cool and then add cranberries, orange zest and white chocolate chips.

    Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the orange liqueur and mix in. Sift in the flour and combine well before adding the granola/ oat mixture.

    Roll into balls, roughly 1 inch in diameter and roll each one in the extra demerera sugar. Place on a lined baking sheet and flatten with the back of a fork. Bake for 15 min until golden.

    Combine the orange juice and icing sugar and drizzle over the biscuits when they have cooled. When the glaze has set, store in an airtight container for as long as humanly possible.

    Happy biscuit munching Monday!

    P.s. I made another very special, even less healthy batch of biscuits at the same time as these (butter, lots of butter). Details and recipe to follow later on this week…

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    …bribe them with baked goods. As I’ve mentioned before I was lucky enough not to be the one doing the cooking on New Year’s eve and I knew our friends would be more than prepared with enough food to feed a small army but I didnt want to turn up completely empty handed so besides the artillery of cocktail making ingredients I packed my bag with, I decided to make these Grissini (bread sticks to you and me) as a pre-dinner offering to our hosts. I think they went down well although I made short work of quite a few myself. I wrapped them up as a little brown paper parcel, which not only makes them into a proper present but also saves you trying to remember which houses you have left all your tupperwares at.

    I had piles of rosemary left over from Christmas so I made a batch rolled in rosemary and sea salt as well as a plain parmesan batch for the breadstick purists but I had seen a basic recipe whilst paging through my Italian cookery book (The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi) which suggested wrapping the baked sticks in strips of parma ham to serve and I wondered what they would be like if I used pancetta instead and twisted it round the dough before baking. Addictive is the answer. Careful rationing and threats of grievous bodily harm were the only way to make sure there were enough left to make a worthy gift by the time they made it to the safety of a sealed parcel.

    You might think why bother going to all this hassle when you can buy perfectly good bread sticks in the shops. Well that’s true but making these is the adult version of being let loose with a glue stick and some glitter when you were little. I might be alone in this but I could quite happily spend hours in my kitchen with the radio on in the background – cutting long strips of dough and rolling, twisting and sprinkling them with different toppings then repeating over and over again. And as long as you prepare your chosen flavourings and have them ready on plates so that you can dunk, place straight onto a baking sheet and repeat, then this doesn’t take nearly that long. Sadly. I ran out of dough long before I got bored and I was left contemplating whether to make another batch and keep going until I ran out of parmesan or kitchen surfaces.

    I always think if something looks delicious before its been cooked then you’re probably on to a winner and I think these look so pretty laid out ready to be put into the oven. Which is a good thing really as you may have noticed that besides the wrapped parcel, there are pictures of the finished article. By the time I wrapped them up I realised I had forgotten to take any post-oven snaps and although I contemplated unwrapping them, the sun had set by that point so there was no decent light left to take a picture I would dare to post. Besides if I had risked opening up the parcel then they really wouldn’t have made it as far as the party.

     

    Parmesan, Rosemary and Pancetta Grissini

    Adapted from a recipe from The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi.

    Dough

    • 325g strong white bread flour plus extra for dusting
    • 7g dried yeast
    • 200ml tepid milk
    • 50g grated parmesan (if you are making plain grissini with no toppings then use 100g)
    • 100g soft butter
    • 1tsp fine salt

    Toppings

    You can adjust quantities or add other ingredients depending on how many you want to make of each.

    • 50g grated parmesan
    • handful fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
    • 2 tsp maldon sea salt
    • 1 pack of thin pancetta slices (or other thinly sliced ham)

    Preheat the oven to 150°C.  Prepare your toppings by combining the rosemary and sea salt on one plate, parmesan on another and cutting the pancetta in half length ways to make thinner strips.

    Mix the yeast with the tepid milk. Blend the flour, salt and parmesan in another bowl and then add the butter and blend, followed by the yeasted milk. Bring the dough together using your hands to ensure everything is evenly incorporated. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 5mm thick. The width should be just less than the width of your baking sheet as they stretch a bit as you pick them and transfer them. Cut into thin strips about 1cm wide.

    If you are making plain grissini then put them straight onto a greased baking sheet. Otherwise roll the dough in the rosemary or parmesan mix and then place carefully on to the baking sheet. For the parmesan ones you may need to sprinkle a bit extra after they are on the sheet as it doesn’t stick as well. For the pancetta ones, lay a strip along the length of the dough and then twist the ends in opposite directions. You can also roll these ones in the parmesan if you like.

    When you have two trays ready, place them in the oven and bake for 25-30minutes until golden and crispy. Leave to cool on a wire rack while you bake the other batches and then store in an air tight container.

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    Retro

    There was a surprise waiting for me last week when I got home. A shiny February edition of Delicious magazine, which will be followed by another one every month for the next year…a Christmas present that was a little late in arriving.  This means one lazy Saturday morning every single month, paging through new recipes and articles – my idea of bliss. I have been suffering from a never ending winter bug lately so this was the perfect comfort for me this weekend. Curled up under a duvet with my magazine and a bowl of edamame beans to nibble on.

    In a moment of inspiration I also decided to take a few pictures of some other foodie gifts I was given that you will no doubt see in future posts. Besides the deliciously retro mug you see above and beautiful new cake tins which I have already used to store my granola, my favourite gifts were already pre-owned and pre-loved which makes them all the more special. This little silver teapot and the glass sugar cannister were both given to me by Ross’s granddad and they are just beautiful. I have made a pact with myself to stop buying any brand new crockery for my kitchen and to shop only in second hand shops for pretty odds and ends which I can give a new home. These are perfect, especially because they belonged to family and will always remind me of someone when I use them.

    And while I’m on the theme of old things with a new twist…as you can see from the pictures I did make french macarons in the end. Just before Christmas I shared some blogs that had given me inspiration, including a couple on macarons that I had been eyeing up cautiously because of their notoriously tricky reputation. Macarons always seem so old fashioned and elegant and they are one of those things you want to prove to yourself that you can make but they’ve also come back into fashion lately and have something of an air of retro about them, especially some of the less traditional flavours and colours. I had an idea brewing for a macaron version of red velvet cake but I was convinced that my first attempt at making these little blighters would be a flop so I had been putting it off. However, my pre-Christmas planning was so over efficient that I managed to land up with a few spare nights and a lot of spare eggs.

    Having read through all the guides I had already found plus another encyclopaedia’s worth of recipes for both french and italian versions I felt suitably educated enough to proceed. I followed all the instructions for not over beating the batter , using a sturdy baking sheet (to avoid wonky shells as the sheet warps in the heat of the oven) and most importantly getting the piping right and although there were one or two cracked shells and some slightly special looking ones due to dodgy piping, overall I think I can say I baked a proper macaron. And it wasn’t nearly as much of a palaver as the experts would have you believe.  The piping is a bit fiddly and there is a fair amount of faffing around with baking parchment and a circle stencil but if I can pull off something on the first attempt then it cant be that complicated. And they are very very pretty.

    Red Velvet Macarons

    Adapted from Not So Humble Pie. I recommend Ms Humble’s basic recipe no matter what type or flavour you are making and in addition to previously mentioned useful guides her 101 on both French and Italian macarons is very thorough. I have shortened her recipe instructions and added my red velvet elements and other things that worked well but its worth reading her full version as a starting point and then using this shorter version to refer to as you bake.

    • 120g ground almonds
    • 200g icing sugar
    • 100g egg whites aged over night at room temperature
    • couple drops of lemon juice
    • 35g castor sugar
    • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1-2 tsp red food coloring

    Cream cheese filling

    • 125g butter, softened
    • 225g cream cheese
    • 450g icing sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    Line 2-3 heavy baking sheets (or double them up if you dont have a sturdy one) with parchment and trace out 1 inch circles roughly 1 and a half inches apart which makes the piping much easier. Prep a piping bag with a round tip (Ms Humble’s trick of placing the bag in a glass so you can fill it easily is a good one I’ve used before).

    Blend the ground almond and icing sugar in a food processor and sift to make sure there are no lumps. Sift in the cocoa powder and set aside.  Weigh out the egg whites into a large stainless steel bowl and add the lemon juice. Start beating the eggs on a low speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. If like mine your electric beater is a bit over enthusiastic then stop as soon as the meringue looks thick and whisk the last bit with a hand whisk to avoid over beating it. Add the food colouring and gently mix in.

    Add about 1/4 of the almond mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter. It should cling to the spatula briefly before it drops into the bowl. Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe blobs onto the baking sheets. Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick. Allow them to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to a light touch.

    While they rest, preheat the oven to 140°C and then bake the macarons for 16-20 minutes. If all has gone according to plan they should have smooth tops and nice ‘legs’ (the rough edge around the bottom of the shell). Lift off the sheet soon after removing from the oven and place upside down to cool completely. Be gentle or you will damage the delicate shells.

    In the meantime beat all the cream cheese filling ingredients together and then pipe a little onto half of the shells. Top with the other half and you are done. They benefit from being left to mature overnight in an airtight container in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature which allows the filling merge slightly with the meringue shells.

    Happy munching ♥

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    I should start by saying Happy New Year! We spent ours by staying in with friends and drinking and eating ourselves under a table up to, and well after the bells struck midnight (I have to say thank to Dawn for feeding us a delicious feast, and I don’t use the word feast lightly) and judging by the numbers that flash up when I stand on the bathroom scales the whole weekend must be pronounced a definite success. So much for a break from decadence.

    Unfortunately I was too busy applying food to my face and deciding what cocktail to make next to take any pictures (given the number of said cocktails I managed to drink I doubt they would have been in focus anyway) but I promise to hound her for recipes to share in future.

    Sadly I’m now back to work which means no more lazy mornings and spending my afternoons cooking and eating. As a farewell to this life of leisure and being able to browse cookbooks/ food blogs and make something on the spot I got up the other day and made these Cinnamon Rolls which I stumbled upon that morning on a Foodpress feature (thank you Foodpress, thank you Ovenhaven). We had boiled eggs with toasty soldiers for breakfast first (yes I am an adult, but some things are for life – plus I had to find an excuse to use the egg cups I got for Christmas, too cute) and then I made these as a treat. They aren’t a completely authentic version but they make a good substitute for what South Africans would call a Chelsea bun so besides the excuse to bake they turned out to be a pleasant bit of munching nostalgia.

    I didnt need to fiddle with the recipe at all which has already been adapted several times since its original source – if you want the recipe you can find it here on Ovenhaven’s blog. The only notes I would add to the original are the following:

    • When you turn out the dough you do really need to add a lot of flour because it is very wet and work quickly to knead it in to stop it sticking but don’t panic – it works out fine
    • If like me you cant leave a whole tray of these sitting around a house of only two people for fear of doubling those figures flashing back at me on the scales then do what I did and make the rolls but only make enough glaze for a few and freeze the rest. Then you can take out a couple when ever you need them, pop them in the oven and make a small batch of glaze. This way you can eat them all warm too which is when they are at their best (in the name of science, I have tried both warm and cold to make sure so you can take my word for it).

    So… assuming you survive the first week back at work in one piece and decide you need comfort food this weekend to soothe the shock to your system then I recommend you try these.

    They say sugar should be prescribed as a treatment to shock.

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