Thursday, August 19, 2010

Leg of Lamb on the Barbecue

With a bit of forward planning this butterflied leg of lamb is a delicious, unfussy way of making the most of a barbecue. The meat needs to sit in a marinade for a few hours - hopefully for at least 4 hours - hence the planning. Once it goes on to the hot barbecue it is cooked in about 30 minutes. I usually do the marinade around lunch time if it is for an evening meal.

A potato salad with a good strong garlic
mayonnaise goes really well with this.

If I am cooking for 4 I use a half leg of lamb - which boned out usually comes to about 1 kilo however the marinade will do for a whole leg (about 2 kilos) if you are catering for more. Ask your butcher to bone and butterfly the leg of lamb. Butterflying merely involves cutting it so it will lay flat.

The exact quantities of fresh herbs does not need to be exact- say a good handful of fresh rosemary, slightly crushed, a good proportion of mint and top up with what you have - parsley, oregano and basil.

Lamb- boned butterflied leg or half leg ( 1 or 2 kilos)( 2-4.5lbs)

The marinade:
3/4 cup fresh herbs- rosemary, mint, parsley, oregano, basil
6 garlic crushed garlic cloves
good pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Ground black pepper
3/4 cup red wine (use 1 cup if doing a whole leg)
3/4 cup soy sauce (use 1 cup if doing a whole leg)

Combine all the marinade ingredients. Place the lamb in a glass or ceramic dish- laying it flat. Pour the marinade over, cover and put in the fridge. It is a good idea to turn the lamb over periodically so if you are passing the fridge do so- it will benefit from it but I reckon a couple of times is enough.

When it is BBQ time- heat the coals and when hot drain the meat and keep the marinade. Put the meat onto the grill and cook for about 15 minutes each side while basting with the marinade. ( I know most BBQ-ers do not think sealing the meat on both sides, at the start of cooking, is the done thing however I think it works here). The lamb should be cooked after about 30 minutes but check and allow a little more time just in case. Rest for no longer than 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Boned shoulder of lamb roasted on white beans & thyme

This is a French country recipe that is a doddle to prepare.

It uses shoulder which I think is the sweetest cut of lamb and is usually less expensive than the leg. I use boned and rolled shoulder, which has most of the fat removed however you can use an unboned joint but I suggest you trim as much fat as you can. The cooking time will be about the same.

Most unboned shoulders weigh about 1.2 to 1.6kgs (2.5 to 3.5lbs) which is plenty for 4 people with perhaps leftovers for salads or sandwiches. A larger shoulder should feed 6; just increase the cooking time by about 15 minutes. Adding more beans will make this dish go further.

With the beans I do not think you need potatoes or any other starchy vegetable. Just some good greens - keep it simple with broccoli or cabbage.

The beans used in France are haricot blanc which go under various names in various places - basically it is the bean used in baked beans. You can use canned beans if you wish, or are in a hurry, but if you have the time cook white beans - either fresh or dried. Fresh, shelled beans, if you are lucky enough to get them, should be rinsed and put in cold water or stock, brought to the boil and simmered for about 30 minutes, until they are tender. Try not to over cook them as this causes them to crumble. Dried ones are cooked as per directions on the packet. Be aware it is likely they will need to be soaked overnight. I reckon one and a half cups of dried beans is plenty as they increase a little in size when soaking.

Shoulder of lamb on white beans & thyme

One boned, and rolled shoulder of lamb 1.2 n- 1.6 kgs (2.5-3.5lbs)
Two cups of cooked beans ( about 400-500 grams)
1 tbspn of olive oil
1 medium onion- sliced and chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 tspn of dried thyme or 2-3 tspns of fresh thyme
200 mils of chicken stock

About an hour and a half before serving:

Heat oven to 180C, 375F, gas mark 5

Warm your stock.

Peel & chop the onion into a small dice.

Peel and slice the garlic while the oil heats in a large frying pan over a medium heat.

When the oil is hot add the onion & garlic and push them around the pan with a wooden spoon. As they soften add the thyme.

Stir the beans into the pan.

Place this mixture into a shallow casserole dish and pour the warm stock over it.

Pop the lamb on the top of the beans. The whole thing goes into the oven and stays there for about an hour. This should give you nicely pinkish lamb.

Check after about 40 minutes to make sure the stock has not all been cooked off. If so add a small amount, a cup or so, of boiling stock or water.

When the lamb is cooked remove from the oven, cover with a clean tea towel or foil and leave to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into slices. Be sure to remove any string that maybe holding the lamb together before you starting slicing it up, it makes it much easier.

I put a serving of beans onto the plate and position a slice of lamb on top.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parmigiano melenzani (aubergine & parmesan)

Although Parmigiano melenzani translates as parmesan aubergine (egg plant) the other ingredients, mozzarella and tomato sauce, are layered with the aubergine and as dominant as the parmesan which is used to top the whole thing off.

I was introduced to this friendly Italian dish many years ago while staying with friends in Milan. It was Dante's signature dish, one he learned at his mother's side in the Northern Italian countryside. Although it transfers well to urban tables this dish has never lost its rustic charm.

I generally serve it as a lunch, or light supper, with a salad and I think it also makes a substantial accompaniment with plain chicken.

Parmigiano Melenzani

for 4

2 medium aubergine, sliced crosswise (1- 1.5cms, 1 inch)
4 tbspns of olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce
375g mozzarella
3 to 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

Prepare in advance:

Of course it is better to make your own tomato sauce using my quick tomato sauce recipe. If you use 8 tomatoes it will yield 2 cups. There is no need to increase any of the other ingredients.

When using aubergines one used to have to slice, salt and drain them for about an hour or so before using them. However, now (don't even think about genetic engineering) we can usually get away with using then straight away. Although, knowing that, I do tend to to slice and salt them if I have time.

The way to do that is slice, toss them in a generous shake of salt and put them in a colander. Put a plate, or something that will fit into the colander on top of the aubergines and press down. Put something on top of the plate to act as a weight. I usually use anything to hand - cans from the larder work well. When you are going to use them, rinse off the salt and dry well with a tea towel or paper towel.

You can also cook your aubergines in advance:

Heat your grill (broiler)

Brush one side of the aubergine slices with a thin coat of olive oil and place on flat oven tray. (I usually cover the tray with foil, as it means cleaning the tray is very easy). Place the tray under the grill until the aubergine softens and goes golden. Turn the slices over and brush the other side with olive oil. Repeat the cooking process. It will probably be necessary to cook the aubergine slices in batches. It is not necessary to keep the cooked aubergines warm.

Once you have your tomato sauce and aubergines cooked:

Heat the oven to 180C 375F

Slice the mozzarella into thin rings.

Take an oven proof dish and brush it with a small amount of the olive oil.

Place aubergines in a single layer of the dish, cover lightly with tomato sauce. Top this with a layer of mozzarella. Repeat the process - aubergine, tomato sauce, mozzarella. Two layers should be enough to use up all your supplies. Finish the dish off by sprinkling the parmesan over the top layer of mozzarella.

Place on a middle rack in the pre heated oven and cook for about 45 minutes by which time the parmesan should have formed a golden crust over the deliciously bubbling tomatoes and aubergines.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Watercress Soup

I am not a great fan of soups so don't make that many of them. however the other day, in a very wintery French market place, I was totally seduced by the bright green display of glossy watercress so went ahead and made some soup. It was very delicious and I am looking forward to making it again so maybe I will see the winter out with soup !

The bunches of cress I bought were quite large- about 2 handfuls each. I prefer my soup to be quite thick, definitely not in favour of watery, thin concoctions so this yields quite a thick soup.
If this is not to your liking just add a bit more water and/or milk.

You will need some sort of blender.

Preparation and cooking time is about 45 minutes but you must allow time for the soup to cool a bit before you blend it. Especially if you are not using a handheld blender and have to pour the soup from the saucepan into a blender.

Watercress Soup ( for 4)

2 large bunches of water cress- cleaned and very thick stalks removed, chop roughly.
1 medium onion - peeled and chopped
1 medium potato - peeled and chopped into small dice

1-2 tbspns of butter
850 mls of chicken or vegetable stock
350 mls of milk

Salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan add the onion and potato and stir about. Cook until they soften- about 10 minutes.
Add the cress to this and stir until it has wilted and soften a bit- a few minutes.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover the saucepan.
Cook for about 30 minutes. Timing is not really too important but I think cooking for too long reduces the flavour.

Now it is time to blend. Let the soup cool a bit before you start. Especially if you are not using a handheld blender and need to transfer the soup from the saucepan into a blender. Once it is blended return the soup to the saucepan and add the milk. Give it a good stir and check the seasoning and if necessary add salt and pepper if you wish.

If you are preparing in advance stop now.

15 minutes before serving:

Heat the soup over a moderate heat, stirring periodically and bring it to the boil. Once it comes to the boil remove it from the heat and serve into bowls.

Garnish, if you like, with a dollop of cream fraiche, cream or yoghurt and a small bit of greenery.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ragu for Pasta

Ragu for Pasta

This recipe has prompted a discussion as to what is a proper Bolognese sauce. The Food Dictionary says it is a thick, full bodied meat and vegetable sauce enhanced with wine and milk or cream and the Italian term for this sauce is a ragu Bolognese. As this recipe has most of the components suggested by this definition I am going to to call it a ragu.

As always try and use the best quality, lowest fat content beef mince/ground beef. If you are not able to buy minced pork buy some really good Toulouse or Italian sausages and take them out of their skins.
This is quite a thick sauce and I like to serve this with a hefty pasta such as penne. Served with a great salad it makes a hearty meal.

The preparation and cooking time is something over an hour and three-quarters.

Ragu Bolognese ( for 6 )

500 g minced beef
500g minced pork
150g bacon ( lardons- chopped into small pieces)

3 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 medium onions chopped
2-3 large branches of chopped celery ( to yield about a cup)
2 medium carrots peeled and chopped into a small dice

1 cup of milk
1 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of tomato paste (puree)

Pasta enough for everyone
Parmesan, freshly grated- at least half a cup.

Melt the butter and olive oil into a large saucepan and add the vegetables. Stir around and cook over a medium heat until the vegetables are soft about 10-15 minutes. Add the beef, pork and bacon and cook until browned- stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up any lumps. This should take a further 15 minutes.
Add the milk, wine and tomato paste and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. This should take an hour and a bit.
I like to reduce the sauce until it is really thick.


Start to cook your pasta as per the instructions.

When you think the sauce is done you can season it with pepper. Add salt if you wish but be very careful as to the amount because the bacon makes the ragu fairly salty already.

Serve the ragu with the pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crumbed Lamb Cutlets

Last week I told you I was in New Zealand so I think we should have some lamb- one of the things New Zealand is famous for. They dot the landscape outside my window and they make for delicious eating. ( This is not the vegetarian section).

There is nothing 21st century about this recipe. It was given to me by a friend who got it from her grandmother. These cutlets, although covered in breadcrumbs, are very straightforward and sometimes we all like something that is absolutely what it says on the packet. Good old fashioned tucker.

Don't be put off by the cooking time (45 minutes) which to us modern cooks seems like a hell of a long time for a cutlet but I always cook them for that long and it works. Mind you make sure you are not buying mini skinny cutlets for this as 45 minutes would probably write them off. The cutlet needs to be almost 2cms thick so we maybe looking at small chops.

I sometime add some herbs or chilli or both to the crumbs but they are far from necessary and it is a matter of your taste. I am sure grandma didn't. If you are buying the breadcrumbs get the nice natural ones ( not those horrid yellow things) or make some by puttting stale bread into the food processor. It doesn't matter if they're not really fine in fact a bit of crunch adds to the whole thing.

for 4

8 or as many cutlets/chops as you feel like

2 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs

salt & pepper

about an hour before dinner

Heat your oven to 180C 375F

Put the breadcrumbs onto a plate with a lip or a flat shallow bowl and add about 1/2 tspn salt and a good grind of pepper along with any herbs or chilli

Break the eggs into a similar plate or bowl and with a fork whisk the eggs up to mix the yolks and whites.

Trim any excess fat off the cutlets/chops.

Working one at a time- place a cutlet into the egg mixture, turn it over to coat with egg, give it a shake and put it onto the breadcrumbs. Gently turn it over in the breadcrumbs until it is covered. Maybe pressing the crumbs, with your hands, onto the meat. When it is completely covered place it into your roasting tin.

Continue with all the cutlets placing then side by side in the dish. Do not stack them on top of one another.

When the oven is hot place them in the middle of the oven and prepare what you are going to serve with them. As the oven is on you could roast some potatoes although I like minted boiled new potatoes and of course your greens.

Roasted potatoes would have to go in the oven now.

Minted boiled potatoes:

new potatoes
a few branches of mint

Scrub them clean. Hopefully they are small enough not to need cutting but they need to be no bigger than a circle made by your forefinger and thumb.
Put them in lightly salted water and bring to the boil- turn to simmer. They should cook in about 20 to 25 minutes although if you are cooking lots it may take a few minutes longer. When they are cooked- don't worry if nothing else is ready beacuse you are going to drain them properly- use a sieve to be sure to get rid of all the water- return to the saucepan, throw in the mint ( and a little butter if you dare) put the lid back on the saucepan and leave them to stand.
While they are cooking prepare your green vegetable/s.

15 minutes before serving

I always boil the kettle to get the boiling water for my vegetables but I live in a world where electric kettles are the norm, then I put it in the saucepan. Any way you choose to do it - boil some water, with it in the saucepan add some salt then your green veg. Simmer for as long as you wish. Broccoli takes about 3-4 minutes to be good and crunchy, beans take longer- about 8 minutes. You'll sort it out. They should feel tender if you poke them with the point of a knife.
If in doubt taste it- of course it will be hot.

Hopefully everything- golden cutlets, minty potatoes and crunchy vegetables are all ready at the same time. Don't panic if they're not- the lamb and the potatoes can wait for you, although not the greens, they must be drained as soon as they are cooked. They can sit in the saucepan but the lid must be off or they will lose colour. ( I will write soon about cooking veg..... the do's & don'ts )

That's it - enjoy and pretend you are at grandma's house. However I serve a dollop of red currant and pomegrante jelly with the lamb - bet that wasn't around in her day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Red Peppers filled with Feta & Tomatoes with anchovy opition

Here I am again. It has been a while but it has been that busy holiday season and I feel sure you do no want a Christmas Cake recipe (although I do have a really great one which is very simple) or indeed other holiday fare which is what I seem to have been doing. All back to normal now although I am in New Zealand where all the summer produce is at its very, very best.

As I know not all of you are in the Southern summer I have gone for a starter which is not purely seasonal and all the ingredients are easily available year round. Although I generally serve this as a starter, with a few salad leaves and if possible lavash (Middle Eastern bread) I sometimes use this, as a side dish, with roast lamb.

When choosing your peppers it is a good idea to check the shape of them. They need to have quite flat sides, or as flat as possible. Avoid round ones, so that when you have cut them in half, lengthwise, and filled them they will sit nicely in the roasting dish.

This is a sort of "anything goes" dish. You can use either all or some of the ingredients and as much, or as little, as you like, for the filling although the feta and tomatoes are essential.


A variation of this dish is to use tomatoes, anchovies and basil for the filling and stud the top with black olives.


For 6
3 large red peppers
150 grams ( 4-6 ounces) of good quality feta
18 ( or so) cherry tomatoes, depending on the size
1-2 cloves of garlic (you know how much you like) peeled and crushed.
1 tbsp of capers, drained
1 fresh red chilli ( again if you want to)
Thyme leaves removed from a few sprigs
Basil leaves - about 18-24
24 black olives
2 tbspns virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C 400F with the rack in the middle.
Very lightly oil a shallow roasting pan.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise remove the seeds and membrane. Be careful to try and keep the bowl-like shape of the pepper.
Put the garlic in the bottom of each pepper.
Cut the tomatoes in half, or quarters, again depending on the size and put them into the peppers.
Divide the feta into 6 portions and crumble each portion as you stuff it around the tomatoes. Don't be precious, squidge it all in.
Disperse the capers over the six peppers and add the thyme leaves and chilli, if you are using it.
Add salt and pepper- at this stage be a bit sparing with salt because feta is sometimes incredibly salty. You can always add more at the table.
Give all this a bit of a squash down into the pepper then top with the chopped basil leaves and dot the whole thing with the olives.
Drizzle the olive oil into the peppers and place them into the prepared roasting tin. Cook for about 35-45 minutes until the the cheese starts to go golden and everything looks bubbly and cooked.


3 Peppers
10 regular tomatoes -chopped very small
2-3 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
Preserved anchovies- as many as you like.
Basil leaves -chopped
Black olives

Heat your oven and prepare the oven dish as above.
Prepare the peppers and line the base of the pepper 2 or 3 anchovies or more depending on their size.
If you are using garlic it goes in next.
Fill the peppers with the chopped tomatoes. You can easily use cherry tomatoes, cut in half, but in both cases use enough tomato to fill the peppers.
Add salt & pepper but very sparing with the salt here as anchovies are saltier than feta.
Add the basil and olives, drizzle on the oil and cook as for the feta recipe.