Tagine Inspired Shepherd’s Pie and Word about a Christmas Workshop

Just before we get into the nuts and bolts of a Moroccan style Shepherd’s Pie, I am going to make a little announcement:

For those who are resident in Wiltshire (realistically,) although anyone is welcome I am running my second ‘Decorate your own Christmas Cake Workshop‘ on the 14th December 2012. We won’t be tackling anything quite like this ‘Night before Christmas’ Cake just yet, but you will have something to wow your family.

It will begin at 9.45am and run through until around 3pm. Bring your own cake, un-iced, and your lunch. It will cost £25 plus the cost of the decorating ingredients, contact me via the messaging service in Facebook (see the side bar and click through).

Last year we managed this↓ (not sure why the background is so dark, perhaps it was about to snow!)

Anyway, on with the latest recipe. This is something concocted some years ago for Bonfire Night, the sweet heat seemed appropriate for such an event. I have always been a fan of Tagine, but find the soupy, stew-y nature of it a little unsatisfying in the depths of winter, so I came up with the following (serves 4):

You will need for the meat sauce:

800g Lamb Mince, 1 large Onion, 2 cloves of Garlic, crushed, Olive Oil, 2cm piece of fresh Ginger, grated, a pinch of Chilli Flakes, 2 tsp Paprika, 2 tsp Cumin, ½ Cinnamon stick or ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon, ½ Red Pepper, ½ Yellow Pepper (or a whole Pepper of one colour instead), 100g Ready to eat Apricots, roughly chopped, 1 tbsp Runny Honey, 2 tbsp Fresh Coriander or Flat Leaf Parsley Chopped, 2 tsp Tomato Puree, a slug of Red Wine (optional), Salt, Pepper.

For the Mashed Potato topping:

800g to 1kg of potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with butter, a tiny slug of milk, salt and pepper in the usual way.

Quite an ingredients list for this! But it is well worth it. Peel the potatoes and set them on the hob to boil and then simmer in salted water as usual. Keep and eye on them as you start the meat sauce, once tender, drain, add the butter, milk and seasoning and mash. You want quite a dry mixture, not too sloppy here as the meat sauce is quite saucy!

Meanwhile, fry off the lamb in a frying pan to remove the excess fat and heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the onion until transparent and soft, then add the garlic and stir round for a minute or two along with the ginger and chilli flakes. Transfer the lamb with a draining spoon to the onion mixture and then add all the other sauce ingredients apart from the fresh coriander or parsley. Add around 300ml boiling water until you have a sauce type consistency. Allow the whole lot to come to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes whilst the potatoes are cooking. Stir the meat sauce from time to time and add a little more water as necessary so that the mixture does not dry out and towards the end of the cooking time add the fresh herbs, you want to maintain some liquid at all times.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C, decant the meat sauce into an ovenproof dish and top with the potato, spread the topping around with the back of a fork to completely cover the sauce. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the topping has crispy tinges and you can hear or see the sauce bubbling underneath…..

This one in the picture was made with part regular, part sweet potato as the topping which is very good too.

Moussaka with Minimum Fuss

Finally.

We have the sort of glorious weather we have been anticipating for about two months. As luck would have it, this improvement coincided with a camping trip where a pre-prepared courgette cake courtesy of Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess was eaten along with barbecued fish, chicken fajitas, french toast and butter bean dip. All good stuff as the omnipresent camping food of burgers and sausages were for once kept to a minimum.

The speed of the arrival of the heat wave is reminiscent of the process of taking a plane ride to the southern Med and the sudden rise in temperature engulfing you as the cabin doors are opened and you descend the plane’s steps.

Greece, a classic destination for such as phenomenon has been a favourite haunt of ours over the years and I adore their fabulous food and drink. Meze, stews, spinach pies, retsina; I love it all.

The most famous dish of all must be moussaka and traditionally, in this country if Delia Smith is to be believed, preparing such a dish is a long drawn out process and although there is no getting round making a white sauce and a meat sauce, I dont’ believe one needs to fry endless slices of aubergine for hours on end. I would also say this is a good candidate for a few hidden veggies.

So you will need (serves 4):

  • 500g Lamb Mince, 1 medium Onion, chopped, 1 stick of Celery, chopped, 1 carrot, grated, 1 Aubergine, roughly chopped, Olive Oil, 1 tbsp Tomato Puree, ½-1 tsp Cinnamon, 250-300ml Red Wine, ½ tsp of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley, Salt and Pepper and a grating of Parmesan.
  • 500g Potatoes
  • ½ to ¾ pint of White Sauce made using 40g of butter, 40g of plain flour, ½ to ¾ pint of milk, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper

By way of preparation, cut potatoes into large chunks and boil until soft, drain and set aside meanwhile fry off the lamb mince in a frying pan and put the roughly chopped aubergine in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt and leave in the sink to catch any moisture released.

To make the meat sauce, fry the onion in a slug of olive oil and once transparent, add the celery and carrot and any other chopped veg you wish to add such as courgette and red pepper. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes and then add the drained lamb mince, the aubergine, tomato puree, wine, cinnamon, parsley and around 200ml of just boiled water so the consistency is not too dry. Stir around, bring to the boil and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, whilst you make the white sauce.

White sauce for anyone who needs reminding: over a moderate heat melt the butter and once completely liquid, add the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook for a minute or two and then away from the heat gradually add the milk, stirring well between each addition until you have a smooth sauce the consistency of single cream. Return to the heat and stirring all the time allow it to come up to boiling and simmer for a minute or two. Add the salt and pepper and the nutmeg, stir, and leave off the heat.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about a third of the now cooled potatoes and add to the meat mixture and check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Thickly slice the rest of the potato.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Into the bottom of a medium-sized oven to tableware dish, smear a spoonful of white sauce and then add a layer of potato slices. Pour in the meat sauce (don’t add all the liquid if it seems very liquidy, but you do want some), then another layer of potato and spread over the white sauce to cover the top. Grate a little parmesan cheese as a final flourish and then bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is crispy and brown and the filling is bubbling.

Delish, particularly, served with a greek salad.

Biryani for Beginners

Image

It is still the Easter School Holidays. The kids are at home and so there isn’t much time for a finely honed blog post.

I thought I might try the quick post function.

I cannot profess to be an authority when it comes to making curry. Friends and family seem to own books on the subject with words in the title like ‘Bible’. The only curry recipe book I have at home features in the picture above and is called ‘Let’s eat Indian at home’! For ages I thought it was more snappily entitled ‘Let eat Indian tonight!’ It’s in a series; one could be eating Italian, Mexican or Chinese instead. I can’t say I even follow the recipes that closely, just absorbing a feel for what ingredients and spices are necessary to distinguish my saags from my bhunas. I don’t seem to have the time for the full recipes either so usually invent and as usual that is what happened last night.

My Biryani worked out very well though, I knew what I was aiming for in principle but in the end I don’t think this is authentic in any way as I went entirely off-piste in construction. Like with all these things it is a bit of a effort, a 2-stage process, but surprisingly quick as well. This serves 4.

So there are 2 parts to this, a tomato and spinach sauce and the biryani. I will list the ingredients out as we go along but the biryani can optionally include 30g each of soaked sultanas and toasted flaked almonds. Therefore, if using, before you even get to the tomato sauce you need to soak the sultanas in a bowl of boiling water.

Stage One – The Tomato Sauce

¼ medium Onion, chopped, 1 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, good pinch Chilli flakes, ½ tsp ground Ginger, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, pinch of Asafoetida, 1 red pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Tomatoes, chopped, or ½ tin of Passata, a handful of Spinach leaves, roughly chopped, 1 tsp chopped Mint, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, fry over a moderate heat until transparent and tinged brown round the edges, add the garlic, stir round for 30 seconds or so, add all the spices and stir again for another 30 seconds. Add the pepper, coat with the oil and spices and then add the tomatoes or passata, season, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally whist you make the biyani. If using passata you may need to slacken the sauce with recently boiled water from the kettle to prevent it from drying out.

Stage Two – The Biryani

350g Basmati rice, 800ml just boiled water, some left over roast lamb or chicken if you wish, chopped, ¾ Onion, sliced, 2 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger or ½ tsp of ground, pinch of Chilli flakes to taste, 1 tsp ground Coriander, 2 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Turmeric, pinch of Garam Masala, 4 or 5 Mushrooms, sliced, juice of 1 Lemon, good handful of frozen Peas, salt and pepper, optionally 30g each of flaked Almonds, toasted and the soaked Sultanas, fresh Coriander to serve if you have it.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 165°C. In something like a Le Creuset casserole, heat the oil and fry the onion again gently until tinged brown round the edges, then add the garlic, ginger and spices except the Garam Masala and fry again for a minute or so, add the meat, if using, and mushrooms and coat in the spices. Then add the rice and again coat in the spices and cook for a minute stirring continuously. Add 600ml of the boiled water, stir again to combine and once the liquid is bubbling, season, cover and pop into the oven for 15 minutes. Whilst that is cooking, toast the flaked almonds in a frying pan without oil over a moderate heat, shaking the pan frequently. This only takes a minute or so then remove from the heat and set aside. Drain the sultanas and set aside too.

Once the 15 minutes is up take the casserole out of the oven, stir the rice mixture which should look pretty much cooked, add the peas, lemon juice, Garam Masala and remaining 200ml of recently boiled water, stir through and return, covered, to the oven for 5 more minutes.

Add the mint and spinach to the tomato sauce and stir through until the spinach is wilted. Check the seasoning.

Once the 5 minutes is up, remove biryani from oven, fork through and add the almonds and sultanas if using. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Serve a bed of the biryani with a garnish of tomato sauce on top.

The kids coped fairly well with this, obviously you can tailor the chilli heat to suit and leave out almonds and sultanas to give a more child-friendly spicy rice dish which would be enjoyable on its own. Ours really liked the rice; the tomato/spinach sauce – not so much!

Spring Risotto to Warm the Toes

I promised a risotto recipe about a month ago I think when the temperatures were barmy and there were thoughts that Summer must be just around the corner. Well that all changed about 48 hours ago when an arctic front swept across the country just in time for Child 1’s birthday Camp Out. I am typing today in a sleep deprived state, (so apologies if I lose my train of thought or this piece is peppered with worse than usual spelling) as the Camp Out turned into a Camp In. We live in a cottage and consequently ceilings are low, noise travels well and despite the ripe old age my elder son has reached it appears that if you administer food there is still a requirement to ‘let off steam’ immediately afterwards else furniture and/or breakables will be broken. Thankfully I spotted the cabin fever early, sent everyone to bounce on the trampoline and my meager collection of knick-knacks lives on. So with all that out the way, the cake pops issued as take home gifts and guitar cake consumed (not my finest creation for some reason), I have the Easter Weekend to look forward to.

Generally leg of Lamb is popular at such moments and, as I have mentioned before, Greek cooking springs (!) to mind at this time. One of my favourite roasts would be Lamb with Orzo pasta. This pasta is rice shaped, so the dish comprises of a kind of tomato-y risotto with caramelised onions, carrots and slices of delicious garlic studded roast lamb on top. Fantastic. The Orzo pasta can be a little tricky to get hold of and I have no idea how the origins of this Greek dish has pasta at the heart of it, but the Venetians invaded Crete at some point so maybe that fact is relevant. I’ve had a surf about and can’t find the exact recipe (I need to have a search through my Mother’s recipe book shelves to offer something here) but greek lamb with orzo from the bbc/food website will provide something similar.

So authentic risotto it is instead. The whole point of this dish is to use up leftovers. I love this type of cooking. The Italians have lots of dishes which have origins addressing this domestic issue. Salads, pasta sauces, pizza and risottos merely scratch the surface. I am assuming you have some left over roast lamb lying around for this.

  • Pick off some of the meat, to be honest you don’t need loads as the flavour is strong, and shred/chop into bite size pieces or smaller.
  • If you have any lamb gravy left over, pour/spoon into a saucepan and top up with water to give 600ml or 1 pint of stock. A vegetable stock cube will work here too. Get the stock simmering gently on the back of the hob.
  • In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, fry a chopped onion in a slug of olive oil. Cook gently to the transparent stage and then add a finely chopped stick of celery and included some chopped leafy parts too, cook that for a minute or two and add a crushed clove of garlic.
  • Then add 200g of risotto rice, Arborio or Carnaroli and stir continuously until the rice is coated well with the oil. Now you can add a slug of white wine or Vermouth at this stage or just start adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladles full at a time. Stir continuously and once the liquid has been absorbed, add a couple more, stir continuously and continue in this fashion for about 10 minutes or so.
  • Add your lamb, a good handful of frozen peas or so and a grating of parmesan, continue cooking in the gently simmering state for another 5 minutes or so until the rice, when sampled still has a little bite but appears to be almost done, the lamb is piping hot and the peas are tender.
  • At this point check for seasoning and add salt and pepper  to taste, a knob of unsalted butter, a good grating of parmesan if you wish, and a good tablespoon of fresh and finely chopped mint. Stir all that round for a minute or two and then ladle into bowls. This serves 2 adults.
  • Present the bowls with a little more grated parmesan and black pepper.

If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked just continue with recently boiled water from the kettle. This would also be good with ham from the Ham up and try it post! I will post more risotto recipes soon as I still haven’t brought you ‘Running Buddy 2 s’ ‘ yet.

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

Details for The Cutest Cakes can be found at www.cutestcakes.co.uk or if you click the image on the side bar you will be transported there.