Saturday, 27 April 2013

Lamb Shank Tagine

Knowing I was going to have a weekend pretty much left to my own devices recently, and remembering that there was a solitary lamb shank lurking in the fridge I decided to put it to good use with a nice slow and long-cooked tagine for one. 

I think I’ve mentioned in another post that I’m not a massive fan of fruit in savory dishes but this is an example of there nearly always being at least one exception to the rule. I never used to like prunes but have become a fan of their treacly, rich stickiness in the last couple of years and here they almost melt into the sauce adding to the unctousness left by cooking the lamb for a long while on the bone.

A nice treat for a chilly night alone (are we soon to see the last of them?)  in front of the telly after a luxurious soak in the bath. Feel free of course to double up the quantities for two. If you must.

A couple of things to note here regarding the ingredients photo: the chilli doesn’t feature as I only decided to add it as I was cooking (I frequently decide to add a little chilli warmth at the last minute) and the coriander is missing as I was yet to pop to the shops to get it.

Lamb Shank Tagine
serves 1

1 ½ tsp olive oil
1 lamb shank 
1 tbsp blanched almonds (about 10)
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ medium heat red chilli, finely chopped
1 small pinch saffron threads
⅓ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ras el hanout
¼ tsp turmeric
250ml hot water
½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp rose harissa
1 small carrot, cut into rough 2in batons
6-8 ready to eat prunes, roughly chopped
small pinch freshly ground nutmeg
small handful coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp honey
5g butter, melted
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a large heavy bottom casserole, heat the olive oil, and add the lamb shank, turning frequently until golden brown all over (or as much as you can, it’s obviously quite an awkward shape). Set aside.

Add the blanched almonds to the casserole and sauté till golden. Turn the heat down low and add the onion. Season with salt & pepper and cook for at least 10 minutes until softened, but not coloured. Add the chopped chilli and cook for a couple minutes more.

Add the lamb back to the pot and add the turmeric, saffron threads, ground coriander, ground ginger and ras el hanout tossing the shank around to coat.

Add the hot water, harissa and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.

Cover and then pop in the oven and let cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is starting to get really tender.

Add the prunes and carrots and perhaps a little water if you think it needs it (err on the side of caution though as you don’t want to dilute the sauce) and put back in the oven for 45 mins to an hour.

Remove the casserole from the oven and set the lamb aside in a warm place. Place the casserole over a low heat and add the chopped coriander, honey, nutmeg and a small knob of butter.

Increase the heat, and bring to a rapid simmer, letting the sauce reduce and caramelise slightly. Remove from heat and stand for 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or couscous with the sauce spooned over and around the lamb.

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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Coconut & Coriander Salmon

I’m loving my Olive magazine subscription: lots of recipes every week that range from super easy to pretty advanced. Everything I’ve tried so far has turned out well and is always tasty which is after all the most important thing.

This recipe is on the easy end of the scale. Very easy and very quick so an excellent choice for a mid-week dinner when you’ve either little time on your hands or just can’t be bothered with anything more complicated. It’s pretty cheap as well so what’s not to like.

I amended this slightly: the original just called for 2 tbsp of thai curry paste but I chucked in a tablespoon of Panang curry paste too, because it was there and I think I always know best. This is of course completely optional. Do taste as you add the Thai curry paste though and add more or less depending on your preference. 

If you can’t get skinless salmon fillets (I couldn’t), simply peel the skin off after cooking and discard.

Coconut & Coriander Salmon
serves 2

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp Panang curry paste
400ml can half-fat coconut milk
2 skinless salmon fillets 
100g green beans, blanched
1 tsp fish sauce
1 lime, juiced
½ small bunch coriander, chopped

Cook the curry paste in a splash of coconut milk in a wide shallow pan for a couple of minutes. Tip in the rest of the coconut milk and simmer for a minute or two more.

Add the salmon and cook for about 7 minutes, turning once very carefully, until just cooked through. 

Add the beans in the last minute or so.

Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and serve with plain basmati rice.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Hot & Tangy Lamb

I actually tried this recipe ages ago, probably not that long after these noodles and it was my second attempt at a Ken Hom recipe. Another extremely simple one at that. It was another that infinitely attracted me though: spicy lamb mince - what can possibly go wrong?

Ken Hom is of course a legend in his own lifetime: a Chinese American chef, regarded by many regarded as the world’s leading authority in Chinese cookery, with an OBE no less and possibly the best smile in the business.

Unfortunately however this recipe, taken from Ken Hom: 100 Easy Chinese Suppers, part of the My Kitchen Table series, also just didn’t do it for me. It’s not that it’s actually bad or anything. It was just not that great.

So that’s two recipes now that have not, in my opinion, quite cut the mustard. But I have the book now so I will persevere for a little while longer at least: another two or three tries I think but then Ken & I may have to part ways....

Hot & Tangy Minced Lamb
serves 2-3
1½ tsp groundnut oil
225g minced lamb
1½ tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp sesame paste (not tahini which is different)
2½ tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp chilli bean paste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
½ green chilli, finely sliced and a little chopped coriander to serve

Heat a wok until almost smoking and add the oil, closely followed by the lamb.

Stirfry for 2 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the lumps and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomato purée, sesame paste, soy sauce, lemon juice, chilli bean paste, sugar and rice wine.
Cook for 4 minutes then divide between 2 bowls and serve garnished with the chopped chilli and coriander.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Pasta with Pancetta, Olives & Mushrooms

This is my ultimate “go-to” pasta - I can pretty much always be sure to have everything needed in the fridge and cupboard, and if I can’t think of anything to cook, or more likely want something quick and easy and don’t want to even have to engage brain while cooking, then this is it.

The amounts of the individual bits can vary according to what I do actually have in and I never really measure or weigh when I’m making it but for the purposes of this post I scribbled down a few notes to try and make it a little more recipe, a little less “chuck in the pan”.

As well as being a standby, I really do love it, its flavours are pretty punchy and it just works - to the extent that I probably make it at least once every couple of weeks. This is for two people but if I’ve an evening at home alone I’ll happily have this amount of sauce myself and just reduce the amount of pasta (maybe).

If you can’t get pancetta lardons, feel free to use bacon lardons. Or even just chopped up bacon.

Pancetta, Olive & Tomato Pasta
serves 2

70g pancetta lardons
olive oil
5-6 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium heat green or red chilli, chopped
small handful black olives, pitted and chopped
very small handful capers, rinsed if salted
125g mushrooms, sliced
80ml (ish) white wine
1 tsp chopped basil
1tsp tomato purée
160g pasta, long pasta or shapes

Cook the pancetta in a little olive oil over a high heat for a few minutes until the bits start to crisp up.

Turn the heat down a little and add the spring onions, garlic and chilli. Stir around for a couple of minutes more.

Add the mushrooms, turning the heat back up a little and cook for a few minutes until starting to soften. Mix in the olives & capers.

Add the wine which will bubble up and reduce slightly almost immediately.

Add the tomatoes and purée, stir and leave to simmer for 10 mins while you cook the pasta cooks to just under al denté. Drain, reserving a ¼ cup or so of the water.

Stir the basil through the sauce and add the reserved pasta water. Tip the drained pasta into the pan with the sauce, mix thoroughly, cover and leave on the lowest heat for a couple mins more or until the pasta is al denté.

Serve sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan, or even better, pecorino and some freshly ground black pepper.

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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Persian Inspired Braised Lamb with Apricots & Dried Lime

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had bought some dried limes (among other things) in an online food shop. I can’t remember exactly what had prompted me to do so at the time, but I do recall seeing a Nigel Slater recipe for braised neck of lamb (we had some in the freezer from the never-ending half-lamb) from which I think I took inspiration for this: essentially replacing Nigel’s thickly pared zest with the perfume-rich limes. 

I’m not even sure that this is really all that Persian: so apologies if not. The limes however most definitely are: strongly flavoured, sour and citrussy like a lime but with a smoky kind of fermented musk that is quite unique.

Persian dried limes (limu-omani) are brown, the size of a golfball more or less and very lightweight. When using whole ones, such as in this recipe, you want to pierce them with a fork or skewer all the way through so that the sauce while cooking takes up the pungent flavour. This can be easier said than done, so do be careful!

Persian Style Braised Lamb with Dried Limes
Serves 2 generously

500g lamb neck fillets, cut into 1.5” chunks
1½ tbsp plain flour seasoned with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3cm lump of fresh ginger, shredded
2 dried Persian limes, pierced
1 cinnamon stick
250g dried apricots, roughly chopped
750ml stock
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Dust the lamb with the seasoned flour and over a medium heat warm the olive oil in a large, heavy-based casserole.

Add the lamb pieces in batches (so as not to crowd the pan) and brown lightly all over. Set aside.

Lower the heat a little and add the onions to the pan. Cook gently for at least 10 minutes until softened.

Stir in the cumin, ground coriander, dried chilli, garlic, ginger, dried limes, cinnamon stick and apricots. Give a good stir to mix well and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the stock and return the lamb to the pan.

Bring to the boil and give a final stir before covering and popping in the oven.

Cook for 90 minutes, until the lamb is very tender.

Discard the cinnamon stick and dried limes and serve with steamed couscous - scatter over the fresh mint and lemon zest.

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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Sausage, Olive & Mushroom Casserole

This is another BBC Good Food recipe with which, surprisingly, I’ve actually tinkered very little - save for using full fat (and therefore high % meat content) herby Lincolnshire sausages and mixed olives. Despite its simplicity it was actually quite delicious. Surprisingly tasty and excellent for a cold and damp winter’s evening.

Sausage, Mushroom & Olive Casserole
Serves 2

½ pack herby sausages, cut into meatball sized chunks
½ tsp groundnut oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
small (200g) tin chopped tomatoes
100ml beef stock
100g pitted mixed olives
250 chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced

Heat a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan and fry the pieces of sausage in the oil for about 5 mins until golden all over.

Add the oregano and garlic and fry for 1 minute more.

Tip in the tomatoes, stock, olives and mushrooms and simmer for about 15 mins until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce has reduced a little.

Serve with buttery butternut squash and potato mash and sprinkle with chopped parsley if you have some.

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