It’s pretty overwhelming sometimes, standing in the meat aisle in the supermarket when you don’t entirely know what to do with some of the cuts that you are presented with. You’re not alone. I know many people that don’t know their neck fillets from their lamb shoulder, and it’s not shameful – it just means you’re missing out. I was one of them, and even now I pass over cuts of meat that I have no frame of reference for – even if they are cheaper, or meatier than what I end up with.
So let’s start simple. Here’s how to roast a leg of lamb to perfection in three easy steps. And if you think that it’s too much hassle or too expensive, a cut weighing about 1.75 kg (bone included) like the one above will feed six people easily and consider the extra two or three meals of cold cuts you could get afterwards for picnics, packed lunches or quick weekday dinners: couscous, risotto, tomato and mint salad on sour dough all with cold lamb cuts are fantastic.
Leg of lamb
5 cloves of garlic, each halved lengthways
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
20g unsalted butter
3 anchovy filets
Freshly milled black pepper
1 glass of white wine.
1) Insert the blade of a small sharp knife directly through the meat to create incisions, and use your finger to push a sprig of rosemary, slice of garlic and a quarter of a filet of anchovy. Do this 15 – 20 times all over and under the meat.
2) Rub the meat with butter, making sure to cover any edges without a layer of fat. Place the lamb leg in a large oven tray, then season with salt and pepper. The seasoning should stick to the butter. Gently pour the glass of wine over the meat.
3) Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven on 180° for an hour and a half, taking out at the half way point to baste the lamb in its juices to keep it beautifully moist.
The lamb should be wonderfully tender, and not over cooked – filled with flavours of the rosemary. The anchovies will have melted away to nothing, permeating the meat with a subtle saltiness which works perfectly with the sweetly softened garlic.
Allow it to rest before carving and serving up with what ever vegetables takes your fancy! Roasted courgettes are my favourite, along with cauliflower cheese or steamed mange tout.
So that’s January completed! I feel like I need to give myself a well earned pat on the back. What is it about January that makes it just stretch out its icy fingers into the rest of the year and makes me feel as if I’m never getting any further away from winter? I’m quite impatient, but at least in the first week of February I glimpsed a slice of spring in the afternoon, when the sun hesitated for what felt like a little longer in the sky, before it sank away.
So after getting inspired by the possibility of the green colours of spring around the corner, and wanting something an energetic boost of vitamins and minerals (a good source of vitamins B and C as well as iron and potassium), here’s another fantastic soup recipe.
1 large head of broccoli
250g butter beans
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
Chives to garnish
Slice and fry off the garlic and onion before adding the florets of broccoli. Add in the butter beans (softened and drained), pour in the stock and simmer until the florets are soft. Season with with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Blend to a smooth consistency (or with chunks if you prefer). Garnish with a little cream and chopped chives and serve with toasted fresh bread or sour dough.
2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!
This simple dish is a clean and cooling starter to precede something like a family meal this summer, or a smart dinner party aperitif. Easy to make up in advance, and a lighter change to the every day barbecues that these hot days might tempt us with.
The refreshing taste is a lovely alternative to a prawn (drowning-in-mayonaise) salad, which I know is often a go-to favourite UK summer holidayers everywhere. A lovely accompaniment to a chilled glass of italian wine such as this.
Supermarkets are offering good quality smoked-salmon and great prices these days so there really is no need to worry about the cost. This could even be a great supplement to a Christmas or new year’s party smorgasbord platter.
250g smoked salmon slices
Vietnamese rice wrappers (avoid the ones made with tapioca)
Light dipping soy sauce
baby rocket leaves
A large bowl or roasting tray of cold water
Peel and slice the avocado into thin segments. Slice or tear the salmon into strips of similar length. Take one rice wrapper at a time and gently immerse in the tray of cold water. It does not take long for the wrapper to soften and become pliable. Lay on a clean tea-towel and place a segment of avocado, a couple of strips of salmon and a few rocket leaves in a horizontal line. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice before folding over the bottom half of the wrapper, and then each side, and finally rolling the parcel up into a thick cylinder. Simply repeat until you have enough.
This is a great dish to prepare in advance. Simple refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. Serve with a light dipping soy sauce – I love the salty taste against the slight oiliness of the avocado and salmon. But you could go all out and whip up a fantastic mayonaise, mary rose or gravadlax sauce.
Sunday dinner is done and thoughts are turning to dessert. The weather is still cold outside and the snow is losing its charm now, becoming slush on the roads that will no doubt turn Monday’s dreary January commute into something a little more treacherous. So with our stomachs conjugating over the roast we’ve just had, I wanted something for dessert that would bridge that melancholy gap between the weekend and the week days that follow. Something to put a smile on peoples’ faces like a pudding that’s warm and friendly. A apple tart should do the trick. A little sweet. A little sharp. Served with hot custard and or cold cream accompaniments for those that want to really and truly punch through their weekend calorie limits.
For the pastry:
Butter 50g (cubed)
2 tbsp milk
For the filling:
3 sweet apples
Lime juice (2-3 tbsp)
2 cups ice cold water
2-2 tbsp Muscavado sugar
Custard or heavy cream for serving.
Rub the butter, flour and sugar together then when the mixture resembles crumbs, add the eggs and milk slowly to combine the pastry together, working it into a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth, wrap and then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of half a centimetre (between two sheets of baking parchment if it helps). Lay the pastry across a fluted flan tin, pressing it into the corners gently and cutting off any excess. Chill for another half an hour or until you are ready to bake. In the mean time, peel, core and slice very thinly the apples before soaking them in the lime juice and water. This keeps them fresh, adds a little sharpness, and slows the browning process down.
When you are ready to bake, line the pastry with concentric circles of apple slices tightly. Dust the top with the Muscovado sugar and bake on 180º for 30 minutes.
New year. New start. Well… I have already begun cooking in my new kitchen a few months back now, but by way of catching up on blogging about it I thought I would introduce you to the corners of my kitchen that mean the most to me, and perhaps the introduction of a few new implements and utensils along the way. If you’re in two minds about investing something specific, hopefully these comments might persuade you.
A saturday trip to my favourite kitchen shop in town, aptly named The Original Cookware Company, saw the purchase of one granite carved mortar and pestle. It has been on the must-get-around-to-buying list for quite a while, but none of the candidates we had come across really looked sturdy enough for the sorts of pummelling our kitchen had in mind. From salad seeds and Sarawak peppercorns to fresh garden herbs with oil bases, this needed something that wouldn’t take on some insipid ceramic stain at the mere sniff of turmeric root, refused to be knocked off the counter surface without an honest fight, and that could cradle our ‘stressful day’ moments away with a solid understanding.
The weekends are made for weather like this. Standing at my kitchen window watching the world outside, pillowed in white. A fantastic snow day. So what could be more rib-sticking and soul-comforting than something slow cooked? I love being able to literally toss everything into a pot, stick it in the oven, put on my scarf and gloves and pop down to my local pub for a social Sunday drink by the log fire knowing that something so tasty is bubbling gently away in the oven at home. So let us get on with this hearty supper….
4-5 small shallots (halved)
4 garlic cloves
2 fennel bulbs (sliced)
red wine (1 glass)
1 pt chicken stock
Sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme
A couple of Bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 spring onion
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two lamb shanks (1 per person – if you’re cooking for more people, add 1/2 a tsp more mustard and half a fennel bulb or an extra couple of shallots per person as well as an extra glug of wine and stock.)
Start by browning off the lamb shanks in the casserole pot in one tablespoon of olive oil – just enough to seal the meat. Once browned, remove onto a plate and toss in the garlic cloves, shallots and fennel. Fry off in the oil (adding the extra table spoon if necessary), before adding the red wine. Allow the wine to deglaze any sticky residue the frying has left in the pot. Season generously with salt and pepper and add in the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme.
Reintroduce the shanks of lamb into the casserole dish, gently placing them on the bed of fennel and onions. Dissolve the dijon mustard into a pint of stock before pouring this over the meat. Place in the oven with the lid on for two hours on a low heat (160°), turning the meat once half way through.
The end result is fall off the bone meat with plenty of sweet and peppery gravy to pour over a side of mashed or roasted potatoes. If the gravy is not thick enough, whisk in a shallow spoonful of cornflour. Garnish with sliced spring onions and serve with mint sauce or jelly.