Lamb with Merguez Spices

A couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of some spices frying (well done to Spring Tomorrow for identifying the spices in the picture!) and promised that I would be blogging the full recipe within a few days.  Unfortunately I was so keen to eat it I forgot to take a photograph of the finished article! Still, it meant we got to eat it again which was great!  Every cloud…

Now, this doesn’t fit into the “quick dinner” category, as the lamb is slow-cooked over a number of hours (up to six).  But it isn’t labour-intensive as for most of that time the lamb is gently cooking in a low oven so you can get on with the rest of the day and enjoy the incredible smells coming from your kitchen! It’s great for a weekend supper or if you have time to get the first part done at lunchtime then you can eat it in the week.  This is a recipe taken from River Cottage.

Ingredients:
• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• ½ cinnamon stick
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• 2 tsp smoked paprika
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• Leaves from 2 rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
• 2 tsp sea salt
• 2 tsp olive oil
• 1 shoulder of lamb
DSCN1349Pre-heat the oven to 220oC fan.  As pictured above the first 5 spices were dry-fried for a minute or so until they released a gorgeous smell (keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).  I then gave these a good whizz in a food processor – a pestle and mortar would do this job just as well.  Once the spices resembled a coarse powder I combined them with the remaining paste ingredients and smeared half of the paste over the lamb (which I had previously made a few slashes in to help the flavours permeate the meat).

The lamb then goes into the oven for 30 minutes, after which the remaining paste is spooned over the meat and a glass of water added into the roasting dish.  Cover with foil and turn the oven down to 130oC fan.  Now the recipe calls for the lamb to be left for 6 hours although I am rarely organised enough to give it any more than four!

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After this time the meat will be amazingly tender and can be carved using a couple of forks to give a lovely shredded look.  With the juices that have collected in the roasting dish I skimmed off the fat and add the remaining liquid to some vegetable stock, which I then thicken with cornflour to make the gravy (if that’s too much effort then just crack out the instant gravy!).  We had this with some mashed potato, sugar snap peas and some kale, again grown by my green-fingered wife!

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Piri Piri Chicken

I discovered Piri piri chicken when watching a Lorraine Pascale programme a few years ago, and have found it a great way of making a humble roast chicken even tastier.  This method is slightly different to hers in a couple of ways, the first being that the paste is different and the second being that I spatchcocked the chicken first.  This is quite a satisfying job which involves firstly removing the backbone from the chicken (lots of videos on the internet will show you how to do this) and then flattening the chicken.

DSCN1363I don’t know if it’s purely psychological but I think it tastes better this way rather than leaving the chicken whole.  Probably something very scientific to do with the way it cooks in the oven – it certainly cooks faster this way.  The other benefit I have found is that the piri piri sauce stays on the chicken whereas it tends to fall off if the bird is left whole.

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I made the paste above by combining the following and then smearing it all over the chicken:
• 2 tsp garlic powder
• 2 tsp smoked paprika
• 2 red chillis (de-seeded)
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp chopped parsley
• 1 tsp white sugar

I then cooked it for 1 hour (it might have been done before then, but at that time the juices were running clear) in an oven at 200oC fan.

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After this time it might look a bit burnt – don’t worry it will still taste great, and it’s the sugar that has caramelised that gives it that look. We had this with some sweet potato wedges (I just cut the sweet potato into wedges shapes and roasted them in the oven for 40 mins with some olive oil) and a few salad leaves that Mrs B grows in the garden.  A yummy dinner perfect for summertime!

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Lamb with Merguez Spices

Just a little preview, full blog post coming later this week…

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First part of this recipe involves dry-frying these spices before making them into a paste with some other ingredients and then spreading all over the lamb.

As a little quiz to get your brains working on a Sunday – can you work out from the photo above what the 5 spices/ingredients are that I am frying in the pan?  If you click on the photo you should be able to see a larger image.  Feel free to have a guess in the comments below, I’ll be publishing the answer in the full blog post later this week.

Flatbread

I’ve tried a lot of different recipies for flatbread.  A lot.  Some with yeast, some without.  Some with spices, some without.  Some that are just flour and water.  Some that dry fry, some that use fat.  This one however, gives the best bread I think.  It doesn’t have a load of ingredients (just four) but the method is slightly different to others I have tried.

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Start by melting 50g butter in 160mls of whole milk and pour it into 250g of plain flour.  Add 1/2tsp salt and give it a good mix.

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I get the mixer with the dough hook to do this part, you might need to add an extra tbsp of flour if it appears too wet.  Let the dough hook knead it for 3-4 minutes until it is smooth and elastic – you could do this part by hand if you wanted to.  Then wrap the dough ball in cling film and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins to rest.

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Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces (or 6 if you wanted smaller breads) and roll out a piece on a floured surface.  One of the reasons I love this method is that it is really easy to roll out.  With other methods I have used I really struggle to roll it out – as soon as I lift the rolling pin off the bread shrinks back and ends up much smaller than I wanted.  This dough keeps its shape (probably something to do with the butter and/or milk).

I then fry this in a small amount of olive oil (you probably could dry fry it though) and it takes about 2 minutes each side.  We had this with saag paneer and chickpea stew.

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Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings

Chicken wings always seem like a treat to have for dinner.  I often associate them with being party food – the sort of finger food one has at a buffet.  My two boys love them too, the eldest is very adept at eating the meat off of the bone although I tend to cut the meat off for the 2 year old.  This is a recipe I have taken (with a couple of changes) from the BBC good food website, which I am a big fan of as the meals on there seem to be very reliable.

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Ingredients
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chilli sauce
3 tbsp honey
3 x 475g packs chicken wings

I made up the marinade by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and adding the chicken wings, giving it all a good mix with my hands to ensure all the wings were covered. I then covered the bowl with cling film and whacked it in the fridge for 4 hours (you could do it overnight but I wasn’t organised enough!).

I DSCN1298took the wings out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow them to warm up to room temperature and spread them out onto a baking tray, reserving the excess marinade. I put it into the pre-heated oven (160oC fan) for 30 minutes, after which I poured off the excess oil and added the reserved marinade. I then increased the temperature to 190oC fan and put the wings back in for a final 30 mins.

Steamed Salmon and Ginger

Salmon has a richness to it that you don’t get with many other fish, and you don’t need that much to make a meal from it.  I do find that it needs a sauce to help cut through the richness and add to the flavour – this recipe caught my eye for both those reasons.  I also like the idea of cooking lettuce on a griddle pan (cooking salad ingredients seems like one of those things that you shouldn’t be allowed to do!).

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Other than using the griddle pan for the lettuce, everything else cooks in the steamer.  I always cook rice this way (I’ll be writing a blog post on this in the future) and it’s a real bonus that the fish can also be cooked in the same vessel.  I took a peeled 2cm piece of ginger and grated it into a bowl and added 4 sliced spring onions followed by 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce.  I then added 3 pieces of salmon (approx. 350g), gave it a mix and left it for 5 minutes.  I then poured this into a separate bowl that had been lined with cling film and wrapped the fish up to make a parcel which you then pop into the steamer.  The cling film has a dual purpose – it ensures the fish cooks in the sauce to maximise the flavour and prevents the cooking odours permeating your whole house!

I steamed the fish for 15 minutes and served it on top of the cooked rice – just use your normal rice-cooking method.  About two minutes before the fish was cooked I brushed the lettuce with olive oil and cooked it on a hot griddle pan.  This must have tasted alright because my youngest sprog – normally highly suspicious of salad-related foods – tried it!

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Quesadillas

Pretty much all of my blog posts so far have been about dinner ideas, however a lot of the time I find myself trying to work out what we will have for lunch.  In winter time it can be really nice to have a warm lunch, but also something that can be cooked quickly – quesadillas tick both boxes.  In summertime, the char-grilled outsides give the food a lovely BBQ flavour.

This is incredibly straightforward to make, in its most simple form it has just two ingredients (cheese and tortillas) but I think it is even tastier with one or two extra things added.  It is really versatile, in the past I have put some of the following in – ham, mushrooms, onions, chives, even a few leftover baked beans!  You really could put whatever you wanted in, and its great fun to experiment with different combinations.  Also great to let the kids choose what they want although I would recommend you have cheese in all of them as it might be a little dry without.

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All you need to do is grate some cheese and prepare any other fillings you are going to use (I chopped some chives to go in these).  Then put the filling on one half of the tortilla and fold it in half to make a half-moon shape.

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I then cook these dry on a pre-heated hot griddle pan, turning the quesadilla over once the underneath is nicely charred.  If you want you can rotate it through 90o so you get a nice criss-cross pattern halfway through cooking each side.  It takes a bit of practise, but if you get it right then the outside should be charred and the cheese nicely melted in the middle.  Just be really careful when you or your little-uns are eating these as the middle can be hotter than the sun when they are cooked!

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Chicken with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This is a recipe I have borrowed from an excellent blog I follow called Spring Tomorrow.  One of the recipes that caught my eye on there had most of the ingredients that you would associate with an Asian curry but with one exception – it used evaporated milk!  I often use coconut milk when preparing a curry and whilst it is delicious it can be a little too rich and leave you feeling over-full afterwards.

I used chicken thighs as that is what I had in the fridge – the original recipe uses chicken breast. Other than that the only other variation I had was to use parsley as a garnish as our coriander hasn’t grown in the garden yet!  One mistake I made was to add the evaporated milk too early as you might be able to see from the picture that the sauce split slightly (it didn’t affect the taste at all).  It needs to go in at the last minute to prevent this.

Ingredients
One large onion
Three cloves of garlic
Two slices of ginger
One dried chilli
Glug of olive oil
6 chicken thighs
One can (400g) chopped tomatoes
170g can evaporated milk
Salt + Pepper
Fresh parsley

Method

1. Fry the chicken thighs in olive oil on all sides until brown – this took about ten minutes.
2. In a food processor I chopped the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli until it resembled a fine paste. I added this to the frying pan and fried with the chicken for 5 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and let it simmer away for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
4. Turn the heat down low and add the evaporated milk. Stir gently until it is all warmed through and serve immediately.  Garnish with coriander.

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We had this with some plain rice, and it was totally delicious.  Delicately spiced so that you could still taste all the ingredients without any one flavour dominating.  I’d really recommend giving this a go, a great way to introduce kids to curry flavours without being too strong for young mouths.

Thanks Spring Tomorrow!

Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary

Many of the supermarkets do a deal on roasting meats ahead of the Easter weekend, which is an excellent opportunity to buy a slightly more expensive (or larger!) cut of meat.  It really is worth spending a little more when buying meat as I really think you get what you pay for.  Also, the better the quality of the meat, the less you have to do to make it taste really good (bit of a cliché but it’s true).

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I took the leaves off of a couple of large sprigs of rosemary, sliced a lemon and two cloves of garlic thinly as the picture above.  DSCN1220I then cut the sides of the lamb leg (2.2kg) with a carving knife to make some long slashes in the sides of the meat and posted in the rosemary, lemon and garlic.  I then drizzled some olive oil over the top and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

I then put the lamb into the oven for 1hr45mins at 190oC, taking it out and allowing it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.  We had this with some roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli and some really thick gravy.  Yum!

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Cod wrapped in Prosciutto with Green Lentils

Mrs B sometimes tells me that this is her favourite meal.  If I haven’t cooked it for a while then she will regularly tell me that it is her favourite meal!  As a former vegetarian/pescetarian (and yes, I did spell it correctly first time) she often complains that we eat too much meat.  I sometimes struggle to think of ways to cook fish but this dish has always worked well.  I normally make it with pancetta, but on this occasion the shop had run out so we had prosciutto as a substitution which seemed to taste just as good.

DSCN1153 (2)This, along with dhal, is a pulses recipe I cook regularly and proves that you don’t need to do much with lentils to turn them into a delicious accompaniment to a meal.  I had a meal similar to this in a pub which had fish served with puy lentils.  I have tried this using puy but I find green lentils much easier to cook with.  As well as giving the meal a delicious flavour, the prosciutto also helps to prevent the fish from drying out too much in the oven.

Serves: 2 Adults + 2 kids

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Tinned tomatoes (400g)
250g green lentils
450mls chicken stock
A chunk of butter (about 30g)
2 pieces of cod loin
6 slices of prosciutto

1. Chop the onion and fry gently in the oil until it starts to brown slightly. Then add the chopped garlic and the tomatoes and give it a bit of a stir.
2. Add in the lentils and the stock (I just made this from a stock cube) and stir. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat so that the lentils are simmering away and leave for 35 minutes. Cover and stir every ten minutes or so to check the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan (you might need to add a splash of water near to the end if it is looking a bit dry).
3. Whilst the lentils are cooking you can prepare the fish. Cut the loin up into portion sizes (I’m afraid I forgot to weigh the cod, but you can see from the picture how big they are). Wrap the cod in the prosciutto and place it on an oiled foil-lined roasting tin:

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4. I then roasted this in the oven (200oC fan) for 20 minutes – although it might take slightly more or less time depending on the thickness of the cod.
5. Right at the end I stir in the butter to the lentils to provide a little extra richness – after all the rest of the meal is healthy so why not?!

We had this with a nice Sauvignon Blanc (the boys having water of course!) DSCN1174which went really well with the flavours in the lentils.  You could probably cook the lentils for longer if you wanted but I like them to still be a bit firm.  If you are someone that likes the look of all those delicious products on the fish counter but never knows what to do with plain fish then I would say this is a great place to start.