Category Archives: Lamb

Cottage Hotpot


You’ve probably heard of Frankenstein foods in relation to GM. This is my own Frankenstein’s monster – a hybrid of cottage pie (beef mince with mash on top, as I know it) and Lancashire hotpot (lamb chunks with carrot and a crispy potato topping). This proved to be the silkiest, richest, most flavoursome hotpot I’ve ever made and a total triumph for ekeing out leftovers.

When I made my pumpkin dish for Halloween I used a leg of lamb and was left with the bone and some meat I couldn’t quite [be bothered to] get off. Inspiration struck and I simmered the bone with a sprig of rosemary and thyme and made a stock for an hour. I skimmed the fat off the top and reduced the stock by about half. I then carved and pulled off the remaining meat and cut into small pieces.

I fried a VERY large onion with about 150g of beef mince, then added my lamby chunks and shreds, some salt, a little brown sugar and the remaining stock. This was all simmered down again for half an hour or so. After this, I tipped some cubed carrot in and put the lot into a dish, topped the with ultra-thin sliced potatoes and baked in a hot oven for an hour.

Now, this was just delicious. I’m beginning to think I might have to take up the method when I want to make this as a special meal as it was just so darned scrummy. True, it took a lot of cooking (but I did leave the oven door open with the washing stood in front of it to use the residual heat) but it was just SO worth it.

Must experiment more …

Warming Lamb and Pumpkin Stew

Perhaps it shows that I was never allowed to partake in all things Halloweeny (I wasn’t even allowed to watch Scooby Doo because it was ‘demonic’) as a child?

On Friday we decided to have a low-key evening in, watching the Buffy Halloween specials and eating some warming winter fare. During the day, I picked up some small edible pumpkins (99p a kilo rather than £2 for a big carving pumpkin or 79p each for a little pumpkin!) and on the way home I made a good deal with the florists over the church candles and orange-and-white bouquets.

To make the stew, I used the FLESH of two small children pumpkins and improvised:

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 carrot, cut into large cubes
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • flesh of two small pumpkins, shredded
  • small packet of diced lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • black pepper and salt

How to Make It

Simple stew drill, really: brown lamb, remove. Fry onions and pumpkin together with sugar and a little salt. Add tomatoes and spices. Cook for an hour and a half.

With it we ate couscous with black pepper, paprika, diced sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pumpkin seeds.

I also made some Halloween biscuits, to come in the next post!

[usual run-of-the-mill reasons for lack of posting: 1. busy 2. computer still not got all programmes e.g. picture editing software 3. dark weather really dampening my motivation]

Warming Lamb and Cous cous

Yesterday we went to the World Famous Bury Market (of which, more in a later post) and picked up some meat and veg to use before we move next week as I’ve almost completely depleted the freezer now. The next stage is pulling out the last ingredients from the cupboard to use up (tins of beans, jelly in abundance, dregs of dried things etc). I’m trying to get to the Mother Hubbard stage. Those of you who read ‘delicious’ magazine might be ahead of me on this one, as I was making use of the Ainsley Harriot spicy cous cous that came as a free gift with the latest issue.

Lamb was suggested (ahem – demanded) by TLM. He is definitely of the he-likes-what-he-likes variety and so this often means “I really liked what we had last time, I want that again.” Which wouldn’t be such an issue if I didn’t have an ulterior motive (and none of the right ingredients). So this recipe ended up being a bit of a conflation of my sweet lamb casserole and flavours to try and compliment the spicy cous cous. With negotiation and some stealthily applied herbs, this was a hit. So next time I can go the whole hog for how I want the flavours to be.

Ingredients

  • 400 g lamb (this was rather a lot…)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 carrot (there’s no escaping)
  • 1 lamb stock cube, made up with half a pint of water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground almond

For the next time, I will either add some rose harissa or some dried chilli. Perhaps also some cinnamon? I might also season the lamb in some flour, salt, pepper and ras el hanout rather than just browning it as is. The almond helped to thicken up the sauce. I’m not quite sure why I put it in… but more experiments in future will need to be held.

How to Make it

I fried down the onions a little, then put them aside on a plate before browning the lamb in batches. Chucked it back in the pan, adding the carrots, and poured the tomatoes and stock on top. I added the herbs/seasoning/honey and then left it to simmer on the lowest setting on the stove for about an hour and a half. Towards the end of cooking time, check the seasoning and that it’s suitably thickened.

We had this with the spicy cous cous and a long sweet pepper that had been halved and then grilled for about 10 minutes. I generally approve of cous cous because, and I’ll level with you here, I never really cook rice properly. Despite trying to learn during the two months we ate nothing but rice, I was always terrible at it! The cous cous here was definitely warming and TLM liked it. It had an overall flavour but it just seemed so processed. I like to see my chunks of onion and garlic – not have the flavour come in powdered form. The inclusion of sunflower seeds was clever though. So next time I will bump up the spices in the lamb, and use spices, onion, garlic and toasted sunflower/pumpkin seeds in my own version of the cous cous.

Thailand, and a Superfast Authentic Thai Green Curry Recipe

Last summer I had a few days stopping over in Thailand en route to Australia and ultimately the Solomon Islands. It was the first time I’d ever been to Asia, and what struck me most was the contradiction that seemed to be everywhere: relaxed contemplation with constant erratic bustling; dingy and dirty corners with vibrant colour; smells that brought a tear to your eye and smells that made your mouth water.

We had a few days in the north of the country which was somewhat less hectic than Bangkok (!). Below is a snap from Sekothai (which is ruined ancient city, rather like a Thai Pompeii) where I saw my first deadly poisonous snake, and barely flinched and encountered an enormous harmless spider and screamed blue murder.


Bangkok was incredible, and we had a couple of lovely days sight-seeing with a Thai contact, which meant we were able to communicate and have an insider’s knowledge.

We visited the markets in Bangkok, and I gorged myself on the incredible fruit there: dragon fruit (the bright pink fruit below, which is white with black polka dots inside!), mangosteens (which you pinch open, they taste sweet like a lychee but not sickly) and longans (below, on the right hand side growing in stick branches).

The fresh produce was just so bountiful, it’s clear why the food was so fantastic! It was really helpful to have a local who was really keen to discuss the ingredients and the flavours of the food and explain the methods of preparation and cooking. A favourite of mine was a green papaya salad, and it was so interesting to be shown how the papaya was shredded with a giant machete and a great amount of care and patience. One flavour that I found was particularly pervasive was the kaffir lime (above photo, on the left) which has a very distinctive, aromatic flavour which took me a while to fully appreciate, but really encapsulates the Thai flavour.

At the time we went, I wasn’t in to keeping a photographic record, so I only have one very bad snap of a typical meal we had: sat barefoot and cross-legged, Singha beers garlanded with flowers and spicy soups and rice dishes.
We also enjoyed a lovely Thai massage at this lovely spa, tucked away on Soi 11. Oh, it was painful in places (maybe I should have put ‘very light’ on the massage form beforehand?!) but it was exquisitely relaxing and kept me in a doped-up mood throughout the long hail flight to Australia (quite an achievement!)


In the airport on the way out, I bought a couple of slim Thai cookery books (after all, we were backpacking) so I could attempt to re-create the flavours I enjoyed so much when we returned home. The following is probably the most famous Thai dish, and it is EXTREMELY fast to put together and tastes just fantastically authentic.

Thai Green Curry (for 2)
Ingredients
  • lamb fillet, finely sliced
  • 50 g creamed coconut
  • 300 ml water
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste (it’s not cheating…)
  • rind and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
  • spring onions, if desired

How to Make it

Re-constitute the coconut by adding the creamed coconut to the water. Fry the lamb, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the curry paste followed by the coconut and water mixture. Add the lime. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for five minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander and spring onions (if using) and serve! It is that easy.

The only thing missing from this dish is the use of kaffir lime leaves, but I can’t find them around but will be keeping my eyes open!

Five Spice Lamb Stir Fry

Please excuse the recent obsession with lamb, but I’ve never liked it before and we keep finding it on offer. This is SO quick to cook, and would work very well with beef too. I used half an onion, a red pepper, a green pepper, some mange tout and a handful of pea shoots (what I had left over from the weekend) – any old veg would work well.

The sauce is what the recipe’s about really. I’ve always been apprehensive about Chinese 5 Spice (easily found powder in a supermarket) as it always smells strongly of liqourice. But I gave it a go, and it was DELICIOUS.

SO for two, whisk up the following in a little dish and marinade the finely sliced meat in it.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (the recipe asked for Hoisin, so I substituted)
  • dash sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper (seeds and everything)

How to Make it

Marinade the fincely sliced meat (as much as you choose) in the sauce. Heat a wok with some oil, then throw in the meat and sauce, cook for barely a few minutes to keep the meat tender. Set the meat aside, then cook the onion and peppers and hardier veg for a few minutes. Add the mangetout and lighter veg and cook for maybe a minute longer. Take the wok off the heat. Add the cooked meat and sauce back, stir it in and let it sit while you plate up the noodles or rice. The meat will warm through again and the sauce will have a chance to coat the veggies.

And that is that. Superfast and delicious.

Lamb, Pea Shoot and Mint Salad

I read in one of my cookery books that lamb, peas and mint is a classic combination. When I saw pea shoots at the supermarket, I immediately thought of a small piece of lamb in the freezer and the mint I’ve been growing in a pot on the windowsill.

With TLM revising hard for his finals, there was only me to feed at lunchtime. I popped the pea shoots and some cucumber on a plate, mixed up some garlic, chillis, fresh chopped mint and a dash of wine vinegar together and then flash fried the lamb.

It made a very nice combination. I think it would work really nicely with chives rather than garlic, but I only got the seeds yesterday so that’s out of the question! Might go for a drizzle of olive oil next time too… (but was trying to be good today)

Braised Lamb Shanks in Red Wine

I’d never liked lamb until this year, really. I’ve tried a forkful of lamb shanks at a restaurant once and it was decidedly yummy so when I saw two lovely large (and heavily reduced) lamb shanks at the supermarket, I snapped them up. A quick google found a recipe (which I adapted, of course) and it turned out wonderful and almost entirely effortless. The dinner may be lacking in the 5-a-day (onion, carrot and leeks in the mash) but it was delicious and greedy.

Ingredients

  • two lamb shanks
  • one onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • two carrots
  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree

How to Make it

First, brown the lamb shanks in your pot on the top of the oven. This will take about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove the lamb and put aside. Saute the onion and garlic with the salt to make it soften a little (4-5 mins) then add the carrots, pepper, rosemary, thyme, lambshanks, red wine and tomato puree. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Perfection is reached when it’s tender enough to fall off the bone easily.

Lamb Marinated in Balsamic Vinegar, Rosemary and Garlic

Again using the farm shop lamb (so organic and delicious) I tried a very different flavour from the Lamb, Leek and Apricot Casserole. This marinade is very unlike the lamb casserole: rather than sweet and toffee-ish, the mustard and vinegar of this marinade make the lamb have a sharper twang. I was very pleased with the complimentary flavours in this dish as a whole – some sweet, some sharp with each mouthful.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (approx) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • sugar to taste

How to make it

Mix. There shouldn’t be too much vinegar sloshing about in the bottom, so moderate if necessary.

I marinated the lamb for a good 8 hours (put it in in the morning ready for dinner), seared it in a pan, then tipped in the remaining marinade and a good slosh of red wine and let it simmer gently until cooked to our liking. I took out the lamb, let it sit, added a little more sugar to the juices and cooked it down till it was a bit like a sticky glaze and poured it back over the meat.

With it we had honey roasted parsnips and carrots, curly kale with a smidge of garlic butter, and hedgehog potatoes. I think next time I’ll slice the lamb before serving – something that never crossed my mind despite seeing it so many times on Masterchef!

Sweet Lamb, Leek and Apricot Casserole

Before Christmas I found a great book in a charity shop called ‘One Pot’ that is just full of dishes cooked in – you guessed it – one pot. Casserole, stock pot, wok, bowl: the raw materials go in and then come out magically transformed. Love it.

I’d never cooked lamb before, and this casserole ended up being delicious (which pleased me greatly!). It’ll be my dish the next time I cook for friends.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 1 ¬†kilo of lamb, diced
  • 6 leeks, sliced
  • carrots (as you like)
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint (or a few teaspoons dried)
  • 115g dried apricots, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour

How to make it

Preheat your oven to 180 celsius. Brown the lamb, then set it aside. Cook the leeks and the carrots together for 5 minutes or until the leeks are softening. Add the cornflour and stir in. Pour in the wine and stock and bring to the boil. Quickly stir in the sugar, tomato puree, mint, apricots and season to taste. Put the lamb back in the dish and bake for 1 1/4 hours. By this time the lamb will be on the way to being cooked, and the sauce will be sweet and toffeeish. If you want to do the potatoes separately, cook the lamb for 2 hours in total

I sliced and par boiled the potatoes I wanted for the top, so after the 1 1/4 hours of cooking I put the potatoes on top, pinched some butter over them and whacked the temperatue up to 220 celsius and cook until they’re browned – about half an hour. I might do the potatoes separately next time so I can be more in control of when it all comes together.

This dinner was delicious, and quite unique in its flavour. I was worried about the apricots, but the whole thing melded together and was just sweet and complimentary to the lamb, the sauce was almost toffee-ish. One to add to my folder of favourites.