Roast lamb

UnknownRoast lamb is an important part of my culinary heritage… but that doesn’t mean it’s sacrosanct. On the contrary: I have been slowly but surely trying new and interesting recipes for the cooking of the perfect lamb for a long time now.

And I’ll come right out, now, and admit that I am definitely in the Boneless is Better camp. I understand the bone does… something… but for ease of eating and time cooking, there’s really no going back from boneless.

Anyway, one of my favourite ways of roasting the dear little animal is courtesy of the only Jamie Oliver book I own, which was a present from a dear friend a while back: Jamie does Several Basically Unrelated Countries and Has His Photo Taken looking either Pensive or Manic. It’s in the French section, and involves first stuffing as much garlic, thyme and rosemary as you can into the meat – well, that’s my interpretation anyway. The meat then goes direct on to an oven rack, while underneath it goes a tray with pre-sauteed onion, garlic, leeks, a couple tins of white beans and a mound of herbs (oh and stock – enough that it’s not going to boil dry… oops…). Leave alone for a while. Done. You can mash the leek and bean dish a bit at the end, if you want, and then serve the meat on top.

Seriously brilliant.

No pics because we ate it too fast.

A Middle Eastern Feast

UnknownOn Saturday night we decided to have friends over to play a rather obsession-making board game, and treat them to a Middle Eastern feast. They had lavished us with a beef bourguignon that left mine for dead and a delightful lemon tart last time, so it was only fair…

First course was a eggplant brushed with homemade chermoula, baked for 40 minutes, and topped with a burghul salad that included coriander, green olives, and nuts. It was fantastic although not actually as good as it could have been – I used those awesome long Lebanese eggplants, which were tasty but because they were skinny, didn’t get as mushy and baba ganoush-y as they would if they’d been fatter.Unknown

Next, my darling made him favourite dish – lamb and braised egg. We minced lamb eye fillet and cooked it with harissa, pistachios, preserved lemons and other good things, then braised eggs in it. Served with flat bread, it was utterly delightful. Both of these are from the fabulous Jerusalem, which is probably my favourite cook book ever.

Finally, Egyptian filo pudding, from Moorish. Cook filo sheets; break them into pieces and layer it with rosewater-soaked dried apricots and currants, and pistachios and almonds. Then cover the lot with boiling custard, basically, and cook… it was utterly, photoutterly delightful; more-ish, in fact. The picture does it no justice whatsoever.






UnknownI loathe shopping, including for food. So I am indeed one of those people who get fruit and veg delivered to the door – and meat as well. The meat I pick for myself; the fruit and veg just come in a box, and I’m never sure what is going to turn up. This week: an entire Queensland Blue pumpkin.

Oh the decisions.

Pumpkin soup was obvious… and would have been enormous. So I went looking, and in Moorish
I came across one for a tagine of pumpkin, eggplant and whole green chillies. The sauce simmered away for about an hour – tomato and onion and garlic and a small mountain of caraway, cumin and coriander – while the pumpkin baked and the zucchini and eggplant were lightly fried. The pumpkin I overcooked so it ended up more like a puree by the time I stirred it through the sauce, but it was utterly delicious. The darling was a little disconsolate about eating nothing but vegetables for dinner, but since he also got to eat the last of the flat bread I made the other week (taken out of the freezer and reheated in the pan, just like it was cooked), he wasn’t really complaining.

Of course, that only used about a third of the pumpkin. So I also made soup, with a rather large helping of ginger (from the fruit and veg box). It made quite a lot… . My freezer is now well and truly stocked.

Thank you, punkin. You served well.



photo 1Ever since discovering that it was possible to make crumpets at home, I’ve wanted to do so. And I finally did. This recipe is courtesy of hugo&elsa, who themselves got it from Elizabeth David. And as they suggest, it’s not as hard as it might look – it’s just a wee bit time consuming, especially because of the rising time. Fortunately, I had a solution: make the dough, go for a run, come home and do the second rising – drink tea while waiting – then cook and eat for brunch. Perfect! And as recommended by Hugo&Elsa, it did the latter part in my PJs, because there’s nothing quite so awesome as getting back into them after being outside. photo 3

I don’t have crumpet rings – although maybe I need to invest in a set – so I used egg rings, and they worked fine… except when they overflowed a little bit… but that wasn’t much of an issue. I also only had two so for a while I was cooking them through and then starting on the next batch, but then I realised that of course they don’t need to ring after being flipped, so then I had a nice process happening. 
photo 2

photo 4 10.55.57 amDon’t they look sweet?photo 5

It was only going to be me eating them, so I only made a half batch – which was still quite a few! I decided not to eat quite all of them, to test the suggestion that they won’t be as good later either grilled or toasted. Because Science. And I know it’s slightly heretical, but I only had a couple with honey… the rest I had with jam from the glorious Kate of Just Add Moonshine. Here you see one with Avalon – an apple and vanilla and pepper concoction; one with LOLA, which is cherry and rhubarb; and one with Cherry Velvet, which is cherry and vanilla and nobody better tell my darling that I ate it without him.


Lamb, lentil and mint pies

Here’s a thing I have now learnt. All those times I ignored the instructions about covering the fill pastry with a damp tea towel while you’re working with it? STUPID. That trick actually works! Who knew?? (… aside from all the recipe writers I’ve been ignoring, of course…)

photoI’ve decided to work my way through Leanne Kitchen’s Turkey, and these pies seemed like an excellent thing to attempt. The filling is:Turkey-Leanne-Kitchen

lamb mince (minced by me! Although the butcher didn’t have any fillets, so it was just their diced lamb, which was… not awesome)

lentils (which are mentioned at the start of the recipe, as needing to be boiled for 30 minutes to soften, but then never mentioned again so I just presumed that they should be mixed with the lamb)

mint, parsley, garlic, onion, tomato/pepper paste and goat’s cheese (I just used fetta).

The prep is incredibly easy, and since going with the tea towel trick even the construction itself was straight forward, although it did take a while – each of the spirals is three layers of filo, with butter on each (an exercise which has convinced me that I need a new pastry brush, because mine is losing bristles like it’s going bald).

The mint was a delightful and intriguing taste; I think it needed more fetta (the recipe called for 60g, I think I put in more like 100g). I will absolutely be making these again and I imagine that I will be playing around with the ingredients, too. It can’t be hard to come up with a chicken version, or even a vegetarian one (although getting the ingredients small enough might be a pain).

Mini cakes

This isn’t an original idea by any means, but I love the idea of mini cakes.

Sometimes I just want to bake… but we can’t eat an entire cake at home. Well, we could, but it wouldn’t be a great idea. I do take cake to work, and that’s always welcome, but I don’t always want to! So when a friend of mine mentionedphoto that she was making a cake and putting the batter into small tins – well. Perfect.

photoI have these tins because for my darling’s 30th birthday, he wanted the train cake from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book. Instead of cutting up a cake to make the carriages, I divided the batter between these and turned each one into a carriage. A carriage for each person who came to the party (it wasn’t that big a party, but still…). There was a lot of icing. Anyway, now I have the tins! So when I felt like making a carrot cake (with walnuts…), into the tins the batter went and la! Delightful. And then into the freezer they went, so that I have cake for the future.

Beef bourguignon

324228I have flirted with beef bourguignon many times over the years. The first time it was from Elizabeth David’s recipe – the long, somewhat involved version. Then I went with a slightly easier version from some stock-standard Australian book, and then I went the extreme edition and did a slow-cooker version. They’ve all been passable – in fact they’ve all been very tasty – but I felt the need to go back to where it all began. So I made David’s version again.

Firstly, I must say that I used the wrong meat. Our local butchers are really nice, but they don’t have a great range, and their diced meat isn’t always all that. So when I asked for meat for a casserole – which I admit was also a bad move – and the butcher gave me oyster blade… well, I figured that it was going to marinate for 6 hours and then cook for more than 2, so it would be ok, right? And yes, it was ok, but it wasn’t fantastic. So next time, I will go with a better cut of meat.

Secondly, this is the first time I have used streaky bacon. I figured if I was going the David route I’d go proper. And… I dunno. I’m sure there’s something to be said for the fat, and maybe there’s something special about the meat that’s next to the fat, but I think next time I’ll go with short cuts again, or maybe middle rashers: a bit of fat, but more meat. Also for the first time I cooked the bacon in lard. The recipe calls for meat dripping, which – ?? – but I happened to have lard left over from a friend’s cooking, so I thought I would use that. I don’t think it made much difference to the taste.

Overall, this was really tasty. Marinating the meat in thyme, wine, oil and onion does make a difference, I believe, and I love that you reuse the marinade. I’m beginning to realise that I really am an onion fan, so the little onions used as a ‘garnish’ (added for the last 30 minutes, after cooking them briefly with the bacon earlier) were delightful. And when you’re making this you might as well make a decent batch, so I’ve got enough in the freezer for another meal for two, plus lunch for one.

And there are no photos of this dish because no matter how you try, it’s just not a pretty dish to look at.

Flat bread

I’ve got very interested in baking bread over the last few years. I was introduced to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day some years back, and I’m still working my way through it. This week, though, I decided to try the flat bread recipe in Leanne Kitchen’s Turkey, which I have been enjoying for a long time now.

photo 2photo 1The recipe itself is very straightforward – just a normal bread recipe, with yeast and flour etc. Once the dough has risen and been punched back, you divide it into 12, roll them out and then cook them in a dry frying pan.

As you can see, when it starts to cook the dough gets bubbles in it. This is how the bread gets that pocket effect. I wasn’t expecting that, and I got a kick out of it every time. The recipe suggests cooking each side for about 3 minutes; I discovered very quickly that timing it was unnecessary, since once the dough collapsed back a bit it was ready to flip. Plus if you flip it too early and want to colour it up a bit more, there’s no harm in flipping it back once more.

These were very easy and I’ll definitely be making them again. I’m considering options for making them slightly more interesting; they tasted fine but a bit bland. It’s been suggested that I could spray them with oil and add garlic; I’m wondering whether adding garlic to the dough itself would change the dough’s properties too much. Perhaps thyme would be nice as well, and a bit lighter than garlic…