Harira (lamb, chickpeas and spinach soup)

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Made this the other day for supper and it is absolutley incredible! I got the recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi. He says in the intro ‘This is a variation on the traditional Moroccan harira soup, flavoured in the same way but without the extra carbs that are often added in the form of rice or pasta. Traditionally a meal for breaking the Ramadan fast, this hearty dish is perfect on a cold winter’s evening.’

I cannot tell you how flavoursome this dish is. It is best made the day before in my opinion – the flavours just develop even more incredibly. Please make this as soon as you can. Please!

INGREDIENTS – 

3 tbsp olive oil   500g cooked chickpeas
1 large onion, cut into 1cm dice
200g lamb neck fillet, cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp caster sugar
1kg tinned chopped tomatoes
1.2 litres chicken stock or water
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
a pinch of saffron strands
100g baby spinach
4 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
salt and black pepper

 METHOD

Add olive oil to a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry til soft and clear. Increase the heat – add the lamb. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it is sealed and taken on some colour. 

Add the tomato purée and sugar and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, drained chickpeas, stock and some salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to the boil. Reduce heat  and simmer. Cook for 35 – 50 minutes til lamb is tender.

Squeeze the lemon juice into the soup. Season with ground cumin, ginger and saffron. 

Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if you wish.

When ready to serve, bring back to the boil. Wash and cut roughly the spinach and coriander and add to the soup just before you bring it to the table. Serve with lots of good bread! 

Lamb escalopes with mushrooms and white wine – divine!

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Scallopine d’agnello al funghi e vino blanco

I came across this slice of heaven in an Italian cook book and it quite rightly states that, although it only takes around 20 minutes from start to finish, guests will think it took ages. It is a really fine supper dish and needs little accompaniment other than a good dark green salad and hunks of crusty bread. My son was still talking about this dish 24 hours later – a very good sign – he loved it… and I have no doubt that you will too. It is a wonderful dish. And the mushrooms are central to this fabulous rich stock – we need to eat more of them! So good for you too! They are low in fat and calories with typically less than 0.5g fat and 15 calories (kcal) per 100g. They are a source of folic acid and niacin – great for a healthy nervous system. They are also a source of pantothenic acid for healthy mental performance. So if you want to keep your brain ticking over – eat more funghi!

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For 4

500 gm lamb fillet steaks

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves peeled & lightly crushed

A handful of fresh rosemary leaves chopped

300 gm of your mushroom of choice – wild would be good – I used forestiere – a new variety with a gorgeously nutty, buttery flavour.

Rock salt and black pepper

50 gm plain flour 

4 tbsp of white wine

200 ml of beef stock

15 gm of butter

Method

Pop the lamb steaks between layers of cling film and bash until they are flattened to about 2mm. Remove them gently, season both sides with the salt and pepper, then dust with the flour on both sides. Leave them to one side.

Heat 4 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic and rosemary on it is hot. Fry for 30 seconds then add the mushrooms. Fry, stirring now and then, for a further 3 minutes.

Have a warm bowl handy and slide the mushroom mix into it and keep to one side. Wipe the frying pan and add 4 more tbsp of olive oil.

Once the oil has heated add the lamb steaks and fry over a medium heat for one minute per side. Pour in the wine and let it bubble for a minute, then add the mushroom mixture plus the stock. Stir gently around the steaks for 3 minutes. 

Now add the butter. Stir for about 30 seconds – the sauce will thicken and take on a wonderfully rich hue.

Pop each steak on a warmed plate  – then add a serving of the mushrooms and sauce to each. Stunning!

My favourite fast food…

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Chuletas de Cordero

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I make no excuses for posting something so simple  – yet this is ultimately the…yes…ultimate fast food in my humble opinion. It is all down to getting some decent lamb cutlets – add them to a lightly oiled warmed griddle pan. Pop under a hot grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare – you need them pink in the middle but crispy outside.

Remove from the grill, grind over some sea salt and then flitter a handful of chopped coriander over them plus a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

I ate them today for lunch with just a few slices of warm baguette.

Tis perfection on a plate. The Spanish name for them makes them sound even more romantic…they are nevertheless scrumptious to nibble on however named.

Oh….and use your fingers!!

Merguez with a 5 bean spicy sauce…

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Merguez with a 5 bean spicy sauce...

Merguez is a vibrant, spiced lamb sausage of North African origin, adopted by the French who make so many wonderful variations of it. Ingredients, apart from the lamb ( it was originally mutton) are usually cumin, and either chilli pepper or harissa (which give the sausage its warm red colour) and garlic and sometimes fennel. Normally I have to wait to cross the channel to indulge my love of these beauties… but hey…those lovely folk at Parsonage Farm in Upton, Hampshire (see their website) now make their own! And they are really,  seriously good!

Last night I wanted something quick and tasty and the merguez were in my sights. They needed a
zingy back drop to allow their flavours to come through. I must have been in cowboy mode – I felt like creating a supper dish redolent of camp fires, coyotes howling, and gunslingers nestling down under a tree to hum songs of life on the dusty trail….ok…maybe a bit much….

I had to rely on what was in my store cupboard – no shopping had been done due to a busy, busy day. So, into a hot frying pan I added a splash of olive oil which I heated. I chopped 6 baby new potatoes into cubes, added them to the pan with a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes, a chopped clove of garlic and a teaspoon of cumin seeds. I left this to sizzle on a low heat for 15 minutes, then added a chopped red pepper and left it for another 10 minutes on a medium heat. By now the spuds were looking nice and light gold so I pushed the mixture to one side and added the merguez to the pan. I let them cook for about 10 to 12 minutes turning all the time on a medium heat. The beauty of this was that the fabulous, unctuous redness from the merguez ran into the pan…so when I removed them and put them to one side, I could bring all the other ingredients back into the mix and they were infused with the flavour of the merguez.

I now added a 400 gm can of chopped tomatoes, a hearty dollop of tomato paste (you can use just as happily a dollop of a good quality tomato ketchup) and a can of mixed beans – borlotti, cannellini, red kidney, white haricot and pinto. Just the job for a ranchero!

This all melded together to create a warm, rich sauce as a backdrop to the mouthwatering merguez. I popped the sausages back on top of the sauce to bring to the table – and I served it with some sticky, saffron rice which soaked up the juices just swell ( oh dear…cowboy parlance taking over now!).

As the camp fire faded and the coyotes sang their mournful tune to the moon, I savoured the last lingering flavours of the mighty merguez and sat sipping a glass of shiraz until the doggies retired….well, actually,…… until I had to put the cat out….

Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

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Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

Possibly my longest title to date! Couldn’t think of anything witty, well I could but they were all very corny. Anyway, this is a fabulous supper, inspired simply by my memories of our days in New Zealand where it seemed every other restaurant was doing some variation on the theme of lamb steaks piled on something or other, infused with this or that. I often pined for just a plain lamb steak…they were not easy to find..all the chefs wanted to ‘out sauce’ each other or come up with another way of disguising the lamb…possibly because they had so damn much they had become stone bored with the simple plain taste of…lamb! Well, I am in ‘fancy lamb steak denial mode’…so wanted for the first time in many years to recreate a dish like I experienced in Wellington.

This is my offering and it is very, very simple. And yet delightful.

I first rubbed each steak with cumin seeds and left them to think about things for half an hour or so.

I used a small bag of Venezia new potatoes which I boiled until they could just be pulled apart – about 20 minutes. I then drained them and popped them back in the pan with the lid on to steam a while.

I put a large knob of butter in a wok, melted it over a low heat and then added a bag of spinach, wilted it for about 10 minutes, added some black pepper and a little salt. Then put it in a sieve and squeezed the water out. Then it went back in the wok to keep warm.

I chopped 2 cloves of garlic and slipped them into a small pan with about 80 grams of butter and let them melt together.

The steaks were then pan fried in a heavy based skillet for three minutes a side in a tiny amount of olive oil.

The fun part is building the stack. The potatoes need a good grind of rock salt and a little butter before crushing them with a potato masher, but not too much. Arrange them on the plate, top with a spoonful or two of the spinach, put a steak on the top and drizzle with the garlic butter.

Then just tuck in….tis is a silken dish of buttery flavours that meld together like a marriage made south of the equator.

Lamb and rosemary meatballs with baby sweet red peppers…

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Lamb and rosemary meatballs with baby sweet red peppers...

Friday night. Valentine’s. So had to be something red on the go! And I came across these stunning sweet baby red peppers in our local grocers and there was no looking back. I will not bore you too much with the recipe as I am sure all you wonderful cooks out there do these sort of dishes blindfold. Suffice to say I made the meatballs from minced lamb, black pepper,lots, chopped fresh rosemary and a pinch of smoked paprika and a grind or two of sea salt. Simple.

I knocked up a tomato sauce with a base of chopped basil stalks, a crushed garlic clove, a splodge of oregano and a sprinkle of dried crushed red chilli. Then 2×400 gm cans of finest Italian tomatoes.

I brought this to a simmer and left for around 40 minutes to thicken and get….err…. more saucy!

Meatballs meanwhile were pan fried in a little olive oil for 15 minutes until browned. I pan fried the peppers in a little olive oil until starting to blacken just a touch and put them to one side. The meatballs went into an oblong casserole dish and I then added the sauce. I placed as artistically as I could (!) the peppers in between and then dotted 20 mini mozzarella balls here and there.

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An additional grind of black pepper, a drizzle of oilve oil, a few more basil leaves and then a good grating pf parmesan and it was ready to go in the preheated oven (160c) for 40 minutes until lovely and browned.

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Served with pasta, ’twas a veritable Valentinian feast!

Shoulder of fortune…

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Shoulder of fortune...

I last made this dish back in March (recipe March 30th) but I have always only ever done previously cooked it with a leg – but a good friend of mine – a lovely lady called Liza – let me, very kindly, have a shoulder of lamb from one of her own recently slaughtered beasts. And it was tremendous – cooking lamb straight on the rack for me is one of, if not the best, ways to treat this fine meat. It went in for 3 hours on 160c. Perfection. It oozed taste and succulence. Below it, I had popped the leeks, chopped, 2 red onions sliced and 5 cloves of garlic, halved in a tray of olive oil and roasted then for 10 minutes before adding bay leaves, a bouquet garni and 2 tins of drained cannellini beans this time, plus 1 and a half litres of chicken stock. It sat under the lamb and caught all its fabulous juices. I had scored the lamb first and rubbed in a garam masala mix, which gave it a wonderful warmth for a Sunday.

If you have never tried it – please, please do! It is magical.

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IMG_4494All the good things in life on a plate…

Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash…

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Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash...

Just a really warming luscious simple lamb stew, perfect for autumnal nights. This is a favourite of mine though I do not make it often enough. Last night we had it for supper and we all remembered why we like it so much – velvety and filling and
soothing.

I used neck fillet cubed. 3 or 4 fillets should easily be enough for 4 of you
Plain flour for dusting / runny honey / half a bottle of a good red wine – I used a tempranillo / bunch of mint torn into shreds / 12 baby plum tomatoes / a clove of garlic peeled and left whole / black pepper / chicken stock cube / olive oil

I use a high sided stainless steel casserole with a lid – see my earlier blog on these highly versatile creatures. Coat the lamb pieces in the flour. Then drizzle over a little of the honey.
Pan fry the lamb in olive oil until browned lightly. Remove from pan and add to the casserole. Add the tomatoes and fry gently until starting to soften. Add to the lamb, pop in the garlic clove then add enough red wine to just cover the ingredients, then crumble in the chicken stock cube and stir.Toss in the mint but save some for last few minutes. Add a dash of tomato puree if you wish – depending on how strong you like your sauces. A dash of black pepper too. 

Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer for about an hour and a half. Cover with foil first then put on the lid. Add rest of mint before serving. 

I ladled it onto a bed of pillowy soft parmesan mash – potatoes mashed with 100 gm of butter a tablespoon of cream and 50 gm or so of grated parmesan. 
Heaven on a plate.

Right, back to my wine and a bag of my favourite Seabrook’s Cheese and onion crisps! Enjoy your evening, people!

Cordero al chilindron…

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Cooked this again last weekend for some good friends – here is the recipe from June in case you missed it!

From Alfredo's With Love

Cordero al chilindron...

Ok. I’m back in the saddle. I was walking by mid day yesterday and compus mentus by 4 pm-ish. I had to do something to stop me feeling any more sorry for myself so I went for a dish for supper that, were anyone ever to ask me – what would your last dish be – this would be a strong contender. I normally do it as a supper dish for lots of folk – but I thought – sod it – let’s do it for me for a change! So, by 6pm I was back in the kitchen and a rush of well being and harmony poured over me. Today, I feel a little iffy again – but I am getting there. Anyway – enough about me – it is the food that is centre stage here!

This is a dish I came across in Spain Quixotic Donkeys years…

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Lakeland tales part two…

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Lakeland tales part two...

I have written earlier in this blog about the table being king – being the centre of the universe and here is a photo of our crowd last night – young and old all gathered around and chatting, laughing and eating together for several hours. I made the tikka lamb dish – recipe is on this blog on  June 9th- using 3 legs of lamb for 15 of us – and it all went! I served it with two large platters of crushed Indian salad (also June 9th), coriander buttered rice, chapatis and several chutneys. It was a great evening and the rather temperamental cooker did its bit. Thankfully! Earlier in the day we had been on a stunning 6 mile walk around Elterwater. At every turn there was different breathtaking scene – best of all the fabulous torrent of Colwirth Force. Mother nature in full flow in every sense. I was only slightly knackered on our return but after a hot shower I was fine – I put the lamb in at 4.30pm and it was ready by just before 8pm – I made a start at chopping all the ingredients for the salad and then managed to stumble the 72 paces – yes I have counted them – to the local pub for a well earned swift pint of a rather fine brew called Hawkshead. Mornings are always slow – the teenagers rarely rise before 11pm – but we are heading out at around midday on a shorter ramble. I cooked poached eggs for 4 of the adults an hour or so ago and we ate them on the patio. So, all is set fair for today. Tonight I am rustling up two large pans of Penne con Sugo di salsicce – see July 12th! Lots of cold meats to begin with and some dips if I get time to make them.
All I need do now is win the lottery and I can do this for ever! Now that I would like. Enjoy your day wherever you are and thank you for all the kind comments you leave when you drop by – keeps me going! Here are a few more snaps from the walk yesterday to finish off with.

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