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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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.

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.

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!

Tandoori-style Chicken

Tandoori chicken is named after the oven, a tandoor, in which the meat is cooked.  It is a cylindrical oven made of clay – funnily enough I don’t have one of those in my kitchen!  It can also be cooked on a barbecue although this would be much harder to do with a whole chicken as it’s difficult to ensure it is cooked through.  Also, it was a chilly afternoon in the middle of March, I wasn’t quite feeling brave enough to get the charcoal out…

So I have named this Tandoori-style chicken as I cooked this in our electric oven.  Again, a nice simple and quick method to enable you to cook this as a midweek roast if you wish.  Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.  I mixed together the following ingredients in a bowl:

• Chopped ginger and garlic (about a tbsp. of each)
• 1 tbsp ground coriander
• 1 tbsp garam masala
• ½ tsp turmeric
• Salt, to taste
• 1 chopped dried chilli
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 3 tbsp veg oil

I then just smeared this mixture all over the chicken:

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I then roasted this for 1hr10mins, taking it out to baste halfway through.  After which time the chicken was cooked so I let it rest for ten minutes or so before carving.

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Again I served this with rice and lentil dhal and a dollop of yoghurt.DSCN1054  I also like some chilli pickle with this as it’s a great way for me to have some heat with my dinner without it being too much chilli for my son’s taste buds!

Lentil dhal

For the first 20 or so years of my life I had dismissed the idea of eating lentils as I simply didn’t know how to cook them and had no desire to order a dish without meat when going out for food!  Then one day when at University I watched my then-flatmate-now-wife make what seemed to be the simplest dish out of these little red lentils.  Surely you have to put loads of ingredients in to make these pulses taste in any way edible?!  I was very wrong…DSCN1065 (2)

Dhal (often called Dal) is a cheap to prepare meal eaten throughout India and the surrounding countries and an excellent source of protein.  It goes well with any curried meat, or in the past when cooking just for myself I would eat it with chapatti or rice.  You can use pretty much any spices you like to this – often I get my eldest son AB to choose what spices to put in!  We sometimes end up with some interesting combinations but as long as you don’t put too much of any one spice in then it will still taste delicious.

Below is the recipe I often use to cook dhal, you can vary the types and quantities of spice you use according to your taste.  The only thing I tend to stay clear of is adding too much, if any, chilli.  You really don’t need any heat with this meal.  A more common method is to boil the lentils and the separately fry the spices in oil before tipping them into the lentils at the last minute.  Personally I prefer the “one pot” approach I use below, I like the idea that you add the spices to start with and then just leave it to bubble away whilst you concentrate on the rest of your meal.

Serves:                                 2 Adults + 2 kids as a side dish

Ingredients:

1 onion
Splash of vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
Salt, to taste
150g red lentils
400mls boiling water
About 10 curry leaves (optional)

  1. Fry the chopped onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has started to turn translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
  2. Add the spices, salt and the red lentils and quickly give it a stir to combine everything, then add the water. Add the curry leaves (if using).
  3. Turn the heat down low and let it gently bubble, giving it a stir every ten mins or so. You might need to add a splash of water if the lentils look a bit dry
  4. The lentils should be cooked after half an hour after which time they will start to break down and turn a bit mushy.

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I’d really recommend you have a go with this, and get experimenting with different spice mixtures.  It really is a great way of eating lentils.

Spiced Roast Lamb

It took me a while to realise this but lamb really is the best meat to roast!  It is great by itself, but even better with this spice rub placed on the top before going into the oven.  I used a butterflied leg of lamb from the supermarket (the one that begins with a W!) which was perfect for “Family B” – 2 adults and two kids.  The benefit of this smaller cut of meat without a bone in is that it cooks in under an hour which is great for a midweek dinner.

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So, what did I do?  This is so simple you can’t really call it a method, I just took 2tsp coriander seeds, 2tsp fennel seeds, 2tsp cumin seeds, pinch chilli, salt to taste and smashed the seeds in a pestle and mortar a bit.  I like to leave it fairly coarse as the seeds look really attractive – and seems to be less likely to burn in a hot oven as it would be if you ground them into a powder.  I then added a glug (very scientific measurement of course!) of veg oil to make a paste then spooned it over the top of the lamb as the picture above.

I then put it into the oven, 190oC fan for 50 minutes and took it out for about ten minutes before carving into thin slices.

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It’s hard to tell from the photo but this was cooked medium/well done, if you like it rarer then just take it out of the oven a bit earlier.  I served this with some lentil dhal (recipe to follow on a future blog post) and a few tortilla wraps – chapattis would work really well too.  This quickly resulted in clean plates all round which is always a good result!

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