Category Meat

Pistachio and Feta Dip

Jess - Pistachio feta dip2 Jess - Crackers

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ot another dip I hear you say? And not another Moroccan and middle Eastern themed recipe. Yes. Please continue. A boozy and wonderful dinner party in the Wiltshire countryside this weekend was enhanced as it naturally would be by the addition of a Middle Eastern themed feast! And gracious guests of course! And the weather seemed to be on it best behaviour for most of the time rather suitably while we guzzled bubbly Saumur and nibbles. The downpour and lightening only theatrically threatened to steal the attention late into the evening when the food had already stolen my guests hearts. It reminded me a little of my recent venture to Morocco where a hearty downpour after a heavy humid day was still not enough to spoil the show once the hearty tanginess graced our dining tables.

Kicking off with a round (or two) of sparkling Saumur, my new and cheaper favourite alternative to Champagne, to set the tone, this cheesy spiced Turkish/Bulgarian dip went down a treat. A lovely alternative to the usual humus this is perfect with some mini ‘olive oil cracker tongues’ (see here) adapted with the addition of some sweet smoked paprika and rolled smaller and bite sized.

While the middle East is always a source of natural inspiration for me, both these recipes were inspired by a new cookbook purchase that has weakened my already full and bursting cookbook shelf. Bought on a whim having been won over in a trace by the initial sparkling textured cover and once in side, by the beautiful photos and recipe combinations that steal my foodie heart. Adapated slighty but quite welcomely without much amending. Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour. A delightful book for any cookbook collector, food lover or photography buff.

Serves 8 as a nibble with drinks

  • 100g pistachios, shelled
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 200g feta cheese
  • Handful chopped dill
  • Large bunch of coriander leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 red chilli, chopped
  • 3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • zest 1 lemon, juice of 1/2
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dukka (see here) to garish (optional)
  1. Blend the pistachios and oil in a processor for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you get a smooth but rustic texture. Season to taste
  3. Spoon onto a shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle with any leftover dill leaves, the dukka and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Serve with olive oil crackers.

Dips and drinks were followed by a slow roasted, shredded and falling off the bone leg of  lamb spiced to the nines with Moroccan love. Zesty lime yoghurt and cumin dipping salt on the side of a fresh allotment picked raw vegetable salad….

Serves 8-10

  • 1 large leg of lamb on the bone (2.5kg approx)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • Handful coriander leaves to garnish

Cumin dipping salt

  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp flaky sea salt
  • Pinch cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a large roasting tin.
  2. Mark deep incisions over the lamb with a sharp knife
  3. In a small bowl, place the butter, spiced, thyme, and garlic and blend into a paste. Rub the paste over the land and into the incisions.
  4. Place the lamb in the tin and pour in 1 large glass white wine. Cover with foil and cook for 4 hours.
  5. During this time, baste the lamb with any juices every 40 minutes or so.
  6. After 4 hours, turn the oven up to 190°C. Remove the foil and finish the cooking for the final 1 hour uncovered to brown the top and crisp the skin.
  7. Meanwhile, for the dipping salt, dry fry the cumin seeds in a hot frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Tip into a pestle and mortar and grind. Add the salt and cinnamon and grind together lightly. Tip into a small ramekin or bowl.
  8. After 5 hours, remove the lamb from the over. Cover with foil and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.
  9. When ready to serve, carve the lamb which should tenderly fall from the bone. Carve into chunky pieces and slice the herbed skin. Serve on a large warmed serving platter, scattered with coriander leaves.
  10. Serve e.g some turmeric and cumin roasted new potatoes, fresh raw green salad and a limey creamy yoghurt.

Jess - Lamb Jess - Lamb2

Fillet Steak, Red Bordeaux and a 60th Birthday

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What a truly fantastic and relaxing week. May is my favourite month. Not only is it is filled with selfish Birthday treats but my favourite ingredients are coming into season! The days are light and longer, a natural prescription for the post February Vitamin D deficiencies we all seem to develop if my fellow London commuters are anything to go by! So, a May holiday break back to my favourite place in the world down at Lands End. I’ve been visiting this little village haven since I was seven where I ironically celebrated my own birthday. I will never forget the patio bbq and days spent thrashing around in the surf. Was it warmer in May 16 years ago or was I just better at embracing the cold!? However I am not the 60 year old this year that this post proudly boasts. This year, it only seemed natural that we’d return here to my pa’s mutual favourite home-away-from-home to celebrate his 60th Birthday. Smooth beer, fresh fish and chips, sea air by the lungful, feisty surf and the stickiest chocolate cake….what could we all want more!? Well….fillet steak and a flashy red bordeaux would go down nicely…?

RECOMMENDED ACCOMPANIMENT:  Mellow music, sunsets dog walks on the beach, lighthearted chatter, slurping, chewing, all topped off with a competitive and crude (at times) game of scrabble. Followed by coffee and chocolate cake! Seemed to work for us anyway!?

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Serves 4

Green vegetables and some hearty homemade potato wedges are a great accompaniment here! The sweet, slow cooked juicy onions act as a delicious sauce that doesn’t detract from the flavour of the steak. Fillet steak, with very little flavoursome fat, is not the most notorious for being full of flavour hence why classic blue cheese or peppercorn sauce are often used. But I wanted a sauce here that wasn’t too powerful!

  • 4 fillet steaks
  • 2 large white onions
  • 2 red onions
  • Thyme leaves
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetables to serve
  • Hand cut potato wedges to serve
  1. If you can, remove the steaks from their packaging/wrapping in the morning and place on a wire rack or plate to ‘dry’ a little in the fridge.
  2. Start with the onions. Heat a frying pan to medium low heat. Slice the onions in half and then slice into think half moons. Heat 1-2 tbsp of light oil in the fry pan and very gently soften the onions for about 15 minutes. Keep the heat low and make sure they don’t begin to catch. You want to end up with lovely soft, sweet onions that are just begging to brown.
  3. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the chopped garlic and the thyme leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Once ready, cover and set aside but keep warm.
  4. Remove the steak from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Season all over well with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little oil. If you like, slice a garlic clove in halve horizontally and use it to rub over the steak flesh. It just adds a subtle flavour. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan to a high heat. Fry the steaks on the below timings to your liking. As the last few seconds come around, spoon over about a 1tsp of butter per steak and baste.
  5. Its really important to rest the steak after! I cannot stress this enough especially with fillet steak! Don’t be tempted to just slap on the plate and eat. The meat needs to rest so the juices that are forced to the centre during cooking can settle out and diffuse out within the meat. This is where the flavour is! It also provides you with those all important juices for adding to your onions.
  6. Once cooked to your liking, place the steaks on a large piece of foil and wrap up tightly to rest and collect the juices. Rest for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Reheat the onions if needed and cook any vegetables you wish to serve with this
  8. After 10 minutes, open the foil and steaks. Pour and resting juices into the warm onions. Serve the steaks topped with a generous spoonful of juicy sweet onions to act as a sauce!

Cooking times:

I’m a medium rare steak lover so I always go for this timing so I’ll admit I’ve never tested the others accurately! But I presume they do the trick! All based on a 2cm thick steak. As a rough guide, add 1 minute for another cm.

Blue: 1 minute each side
Rare: 1½ minutes each side
Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
Medium: 2¼ minutes each side
Medium-well done: 2½ – 3 minutes each side.

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Steak Choice:

Everyone seems to have their favourite steak cut and there are many that are simply not popularly seen especially in supermarkets. Each cut has a purpose and is great for different occasions, recipes or side dishes and sauces.  Below is a very brief guide to help with some of the more well known and eaten cuts. First, a few things to note when choosing.

FAT: The fat content is important for two reasons. It is where the flavour is! When it cooks, the fat melts into the meat. This not only adds flavour but helps keep the steak succulent!

LOCATION: The more tender the steak, the less work the muscle has done. Therefore, a relatively unused muscles such as the loin will be more tender, and therefore usually more expensive

Sirloin: melt-in-the-mouth and succulent with some fat marbling. Lots of flavour but lacks flavour compared to a rib eye for example.

Rump (and my favourite cut): A large steak with huge flavour. It needs a long time to hang and a good cooking time as it can be tough if rare.

Fillet/Loin: Buttery tender and soft. Little or no fat so therefore very little flavour. It also cannot be hung and aged for long. My advice on a day to day basis is to opt for any other steak for economical and flavour reasons as you’ll be much more satisfied!

Rib eye: Lots of fat marbling provides a rich flavour.

Minute steak: Thin, cheap, can be cooked quickly. It can be tough however but if often seen for use in sandwiches!

T bone: The cut is part sirloin, part fillet so the cooking time is hard to judge…and then there is the cumbersome bone…

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Spanish Lamb Shanks

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adore slow cooked dishes especially as it usually involves a a budget friendly cut such as lamb shanks. My favourite way to cook meat, besides the barbeque obviously…But while the first May bank holiday weekend delivered us a beautifully sunny and fresh evening, the morning hadn’t been as promising for a barbie. My sodden raincoat and squelching trainers sat drying in the sun were evidence enough. With not much time in my working week to knock out a slow cooked creation, the bank holiday offered the perfect opportunity. So a slow cooked, tender, succulent lamb shank in a glossy, sticky sauce studded with manly chunks of chorizo and vege was a definite good alternative. Scattered with fresh mint served on some creamy silky parsnip mash we went to bed with happy stomaches. Oh and we might have finished the meal with some bank holiday brownies. Ahem….

Serves 4

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 300ml hot beef stock
  • 350ml red wine (Rioja is suggested)
  • 200ml balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
  • 125g chorizo, sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 carrots, sliced into chunks horizontally
  • Fresh mint to serve
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Heat a large casserole dish on a medium high heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Season the lamb shanks well and brown on all sides in the pan until golden and crisp in places then remove to a plate.
  2. Using the same pan, heat the wine and vinegar and boil for about 5 minutes to simmer off the sharpness of the liquids.
  3. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, some seasoning and the hot stock. Peel the garlic cloves and crush lightly with the back of a knife. Finally add these and the lamb shanks submerged in the liquid.
  4. Place in the oven for 2 hours with the lid on.
  5. After 2 hours, remove from the oven and baste. Add the chopped onion, carrot and chorizo and turn the oven up to 180°C. Remove the lid and place in the oven for a further hour to brown and reduce the sauce.
  6. After this time the meat should be deliciously tender and falling off the bone. Remove the dish from the oven. Place the lamb shanks onto a warm plate and cover with foil while you deal with the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil on the hob and simmer for about 5-10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce (Add 1 tbsp of cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp of cold water if needed and whisk this in to thicken further). Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Place the lamb shanks back in the glossy sauce and pop in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the side dishes. I served mine with creamy parsnip mash and purple sprouting broccoli.

Serve one shank per person in a warm bowl a top some creamy mash with some vege and sauce. Scatter over some fresh mint and enjoy!image

WINE: Nothing seems more appropriate here than a native Spanish vino and something substantial to complement the lamb. Try a Rioja such as the La Rioja Alta, 2008 Viña Alberdi Reserva available at Armit Wines.

Jess - Rioja Alta

Sticky Soy and Sesame Pork

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peedy and delicious. If you get embarrassingly excited at the idea of sticky sweetly glazed tender strips of pork on soft oozing coconut rice then I suggest you give this recipe a try. Another long week at work, Friday nights recipe choice had high expectations to satisfy a variety of needs. I craved nothing more than comfort, flavour and relative speed. If you serve this on plain rice then you’ll have an even speedier dinner in minutes but I can never resist a coconut infused creation. Except coconut water. Whats the fad about? Dishwater disguised in a eco-friendly carton. Having been found on numerous occasions unashamedly desperately corkscrewing a hole into a fresh coconut only to slurp the fresh juicy ‘milk’ from inside with a straw this is a far healthier (economical) and dramatic way to get your coconut hit! Its fresh and delicious. Plus you get the joyful task of angrily throwing the empty coconut onto a hard floor (outside recommended) to crack it open to access the meaty pure white flesh. Perfect for grating into curries, porridge, use in cakes (see here) or into your coconut rice!

Serves 2

Sticky Pork

  • 1 pork fillet, sliced into thumb sized slices
  • 1 knob ginger, chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, stems and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
  • Sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 50g salted peanuts, crushed lightly

Coconut Rice

  • 4 oz brown rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Good handful desiccated coconut
  • 1 lime, zest
  • Handful chopped coriander to serve
  • Green vegetables to serve
  1. Begin with the rice. Warm the coconut milk in a saucepan with about ½ cup of water (you may need to add more water as it cooks). Bring to a light simmer but be very careful as the milk will boil over if left unattended on a high heat.
  2. Let it simmer on a fast simmer for about 25 minutes. You want to end up with cooked rice that has absorbed mostly all the liquid but is still loose so it oozes on a plate. Keep an eye out and add more water if it dries out before fully cooked.
  3. When cooked and still oozing, add the desiccated coconut, chopped coriander and lime zest and keep warm.
  4. Start on the pork which is a pretty speedy process so have your green vege and warming plate ready to go not soon after!
  5. Combine the cornflour with 2 tbsp of cold water in a jug. Add the soy sauce, sesame, vinegar and honey and mix well.
  6. Heat a frying pan or wok on a medium high heat. Quickly flash fry the chopped chilli, spring onion, garlic, ginger and coriander stalks in a splash of sunflower oil until softened. Add the pork and turn up the heat to get a nice colour on the outside.
  7. Fry for about 5 minutes or so until the pork is just cooked but still soft and not dry. Immediately add the soy mixture and stir quickly.
  8. This will thicken and bubble and glaze the pork. If it turns too thick too quickly loosen with a splash more water!
  9. Remove from the heat to prevent it overcooking and add the chopped peanuts and sesame seeds.
  10. Serve atop your coconut rice scattered with extra coriander, any spare sesame seeds alongside your green vegetables with a wedge of lime.
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Rump Steak, Herb Fire Sauce

 

Work has been stressful recently I’m not going to lie. So after another long and challenging day I eagerly donned my well worn trainers, embarrassing (but necessary) high vis and rucksack and took to the road and ran home. I love running home after work, its a great way to relax blow the cobwebs from my mind and cleanse my lungs….until I hit Earls Court that is and the bus fumes. Alas.

My run usually involves daydreaming about recipes and what I’m going to cook along with other things. After a long week and some serious after work power yoga sessions I’ve been eating healthy but quick to make suppers and I craved a steak and a little time spent in the kitchen. So….I made a well needed detour past the butchers and nabbed myself a lovely dark, dry piece of rump steak with an unhealthily large piece of flavoursome fat along the back and continued my run home…noticably faster.

Inspired by a chimichurri sauce this to be honest was made on the spot with leftover herbs, plenty of chilli and some lime. I have tried to remember what was added so use this as a guide. Add a touch of anything to balance the flavours and eat with joy! I packed a lot of chilli into mine…it was hot!

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Serves 2

Green Sauce

  • Large handful flat leaf parsley
  • Large handful fresh basil
  • Large handful coriander
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ¼ red chilli (if a hot one)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 btsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil

To serve

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into wedges
  • 2 rump steaks
  • Green beans, asparagus, broccoli or choice of vegetables
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the potato wedges on a baking tray, season generously and drizzle with oil. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until tender and crispy round the edges.
  2. Meanwhile make the sauce. Add all the ingredients except the oil, lime and vinegar to a food processor and season. Blend until chopped. Add the lime and vinegar and blend again. Add enough oil to loosen and bring the sauce together into a thick but spoonable ‘paste’. You don’t want it too runny – more like a salsa.
  3. Heat a frying pan until hot and add a dash of oil. Season the steaks with freshly cracked black pepper and salt. Sear the steak on their edge on the fat side for about 1 minute to render down the fat and allow you to fry the steak in this lovely flavoursome oil. The time will depend on how much fat you have on your steak.
  4. Once rendered and crisp, fry your steak for about 2 to 2 ½ minutes each side for a piece around 2 ½ cm thick (this will give you medium rare). Once cooked leave to rest wrapped tightly in foil for 5 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve, slice your rested steak and drizzle with any resting juices. Serve alongside the roasted potato wedges and any vegetables of your choice. Spoon over your punchy sauce and enjoy!

Drink with nothing but a cold beer of water……..I opted for beer.

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Indian Lamb Cutlets, ‘Speedy’ Black Daal, Roti and a Mango Salad

 

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After countless (well 4) visits to London’s Dishoom – a modern buzzing Indian restaurant – it was only a matter of time before I attempted an Indian themed supper blog post. The first time I visited this spice scented hub I was recommended to sample their ‘house black daal’. I was blown away. It was delicious: ‘dark, rich and deeply flavoured’ (their words) It certainly was. I’ve since geekily been dreaming about it and so I have attempted my own version here with homemade (albeit thicker) roti.

Made with black lentils (urda dal) unlike your normal daal, they are hard to find it seems? Ok I admit I didn’t look that hard but if they are casually (and naively) added to your shopping list don’t expect them to conveniently locate themselves on the shelf for you. In my haste I ended up buying a packet of ready to serve (I KNOW! This won’t become a habit, it was my only option) Merchant Black Beluga Lentils which have a slightly more gelatinous texture when cooked. I used these to make my own ‘speedy’ daal. I hear Dishoom simmer theirs long and slow for 24 hours which clearly makes these the ‘bees knees’ but my version was surprisingly and deliciously a very close match. Packed with spice and comforting cinnamon for a devine creation served loose textured with homemade roti. Daal can actually be served as a main dish but I made mine here as a side to a fresh lime dressed salad full of mango, mint, shaved fennel and radish and the most tender and succulent Indian spiced lamb cutlets I’ve had to date.

NOTE: I’m always thoroughly impressed at the quality of the meat at my local butchers back home. It really drums home the emphasis to buy your meat locally and not from your average Tesco not just for local support but the quality is infinitely better.

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Serves 2

Daal

  • 1 x 200g packet of beluga black lentils
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ red chilli, chopped
  • Knob ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 small tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Small handful chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  1. Put the lentils in a pan with the cinnamon stick and cloves and cover with enough boiling water just to cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the spices to infuse and the lentils to continue to turn mushy.
  2. Meanwhile fry the onion in a little oil until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for a few more minutes until everything is soft and the raw each has been cooked out.
  3. Add all the dry spices and fry for 2 minutes.
  4. Add and cook out the tomato puree and then remove from the heat.
  5. Drain the lentil and keep any cooking water. Remove the cinnamon stick and the cloves ideally if you can.
  6. Use a masher to coarsely mash the lentil to break them down.
  7. Add enough of the drained juices (and more boiling water as I had to do) to create a creamy loose texture.
  8. Stir in the spice mix and coriander.
  9. Make sure it is sloppy in texture before whisking in a knob of butter for a glossy finish to the dish.
  10. Serve scattered with coriander and with homemade roti.

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Lamb Cutlets

  • 1 heaped tsp garam masala
  • 1 ½ heaped tsp dukka (see here or buy locally)
  • 6 lamb cutlets
  1. Marinade the lamb in the spices with a tbsp or so of oil.
  2. When ready to cook at the very last minute, heat a pan until hot (use the one that cooked the daal spices for a nice base flavour)
  3. First render the fat from the outside by standing eat cutlet on its side until the fat is crispy. Then cook for 2 minutes each side on a high heat for deliciously pick meat and crispy outside.
  4. Leave to rest for 5 minutes wrapped in foil.

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Mango Salad

  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced
  • ½ fennel bulb, shaved or thinly chopped
  • 6 radishes, sliced
  • ½ red onion, sliced thinly
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Handful mint, chopped
  • Handful coriander, chopped
  • Juice 1 lime
  1. Mix the ingredients together and squeeze over the lime. Drizzle with a little oil is needed.

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Roti

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 140ml water
  • 1 tbsp Nigella seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Mix the flour, seasoning and seeds together in a bowl.
  2. Mix in the water or enough to bind the mixture together to form a dough. Use a fork to do this.
  3. Knead lightly until smooth and rest in a bowl for 30 minutes or so.
  4. Roll out on a floured surface very thinly.
  5. Heat a frying pan until hot. Fry for a few minutes on each side untileach is golden and beginning to char. The roti will puff up and form lovely bubbles.
  6. If not eating immediately, once cooked, pop in a preheated warm oven to keep warm and supple until ready to dip generously in your daal.

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A food wine and a venison fillet….

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I adore this wine (one we sell at work…you can get it here, hint hint). However recent drinking has reinforced my opinion that this is definitely a food wine (i.e. to accompany a deliciously made supper) as I enjoyably and freely found out as I scrambled clumsily to finish making dinner for my guests while sipping merrily on this spicy syrah (on an empty stomach…you see where I’m going with this!?) Its full of flavour and packed with spice but its 14% with some chewy tannins so it needs a good piece of steak or similar.

We enjoyed ours with a piece of pan fried, charred venison fillet/loin, garlicky and creamy cauliflower puree and some buttery green beans. I was intending on making a Syrah butter sauce….but….we drank it. Oops.

Serves 1-2 (depending on the size of the venison)

  • 1 venison fillet
  • Pinch fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 juniper berries
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. In a pestle and mortar crush the peppercorns and the berries until ground. Place in a bowl with the thyme and some seasoning.
  2. Add about 1-2 tbsp of light olive oil and rub the venison fillet in it.
  3. Chop the garlic clove in half horizontally and use it to rub the sides of the fillet (it didn’t like to use it in the actual marinade as it burns easily when cooked)
  4. Leave to marinade for about 1 hour or longer
  5. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan until hot.
  6. Sear the meat in the pan with a little oil on all sides until a nice crispy outside coating has formed. Do this for literally 7-8 minutes for a lovely blushing pink medium cooked fillet.
  7. Once done, remove to a piece of foil and wrap tightly. Leave to rest for 10minutes before slicing on the horizontal and pouring over any resting juices.

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Spiced Lamb, Charred Carrots, Green Coucous, Saffron Yoghurt

 

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I strongly recommend and encourage you to use Organic carrots here but if they’re homegrown, all the better. You can usually tell by their wispy piggy-tail-like ends – these bits always seem to taste the sweetest and nicest. Being simply boiled and charred in a griddle with lemon, the flavour has to good otherwise you’ll just end up chewing on a tasteless carrot stick….

The green couscous recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi and the remainder is a combination of flavours and textures I love and craved last weekend of August that raced by in the blink of my (luckily sun glass clad) eyes!

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Serves 2

Green Couscous

  • 100g cous cous
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • Ground cumin
  • 25g pistachios, chopped roughly
  • 1 small green chilli, chopped
  • Large bunch herbs: Parsley, basil, mint, coriander, dill
  • Good olive oil
  1. Place the couscous in a shallow bowl and season well. Add a very small knob of butter if you wish and then pour over the boiling water. Cover and set aside.
  2. Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and gently and slowly fry the onion until soft and beginning to colour. Add a big pinch of cumin and fry for a few minutes before taking off the heat.
  3. While the onion is cooking, make the herb paste. Blend the herbs in a food processor, adding a slow stream of oil until blended nicely into a paste (The amount of oil you add here is up to you. The more you add the more moist the couscous will be).
  4. When the couscous has absorbed all the water, use a fork to fluff up the grains and add to the pan with the cumin onions. Add the green chilli and pistachios and finely stir through your herb paste.
  5. Taste and add a touch or lemon juice or seasoning or more olive oil to loosen.

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Carrots

  • 6-8 Organic/home grown carrots, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  1. Leave the carrots whole and cook in simmering water for about 4 minutes or so but just until tender when pierced with a knife but still with lots of bite and a bit of crunch. Drain and leave to cool and dry a little.
  2. Heat a griddle pan until hot and add the oil.
  3. Griddle the carrots until beginning to char on the outside for a few minutes
  4. Serve warm with the couscous, with the grated lemon zest scattered over the top.

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Lamb Steaks and Yoghurt

  • 2 lamb leg steaks (You can also use lamb cutlets if you wish)
  • Ras el Hanout, Smoked paprika, spice mix (see here)
  • Olive oil
  • 150g plain yoghurt
  • Pinch saffron threads
  1. Sprinkle a good pinch of the dry spices and spice mix over your lamb steaks. Drizzle with olive oil and massage the spices into the meat. Set aside at room temperature.
  2. Put the saffron in a small cup and add 1 tbsp of hot water. Leave to infuse.
  3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or griddle pan until hot.
  4. Fry the steaks for 2 minutes per side (for a piece the thickness of mine, about 2cm, for medium) and then wrap tightly in foil and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes while you assemble the dish.
  5. Take the saffron water (which should be a vibrate yellow) Pour into the yoghurt with some generous seasoning and stir to combine.
  6. When ready to serve, carve your rested lamb and serve on top of your couscous and carrots with a generous dollop of yoghurt. Drizzle with the resting lamb juices!

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Wine suggestion: Sijnn White 2012 (Chenin-Viogner)

I devoured this with a glass (or two) of Sijnn White 2012. South African, 84% Chenin Blanc, 16% Viogner. Stony fruits, peach, mineral and nutty flavour went deliciously with the spices in this dish.

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Slow cooked shin of Beef with Cinnamon and Star Anise

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There’s something about slow cooking which quickly prepared meals (regardless if wholesome and homemade) just cannot replace. Depth of flavour, love and attention and a melt in the mouth texture. Slow cooking allows so much time for the flavours to develop and infuse. I was skeptical at the extent to which just a small star of wooden star anise and a cigar coil of cinnamon could impart but it really is amazing at the subtle but very evident punch a pinwheel of spice can offer. Don’t worry, the chocolate cannot be tasted in an offensive way just a rich silky background to a beautiful sauce. Although I will warn you….don’t think about adding your favourite Cadburys bar. Keep it dark.

Serves 3-4

  • 1kg beef shin (allow a little more if feeding hungry chaps or leftovers)
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 pint red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pint beef stock
  • 25g dark chocolate (85%+)
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • To serve – roasted cumin carrots, savoy cabbage, creamy mash
  1. If you can, soak the cuts of beef in the red wine with the cinnamon and star anise over night.
  2. When ready to cook preheat the oven to 120°C. Heat a large heavy bottomed casserole dish with a splash of light oil, pat dry the beef and season well. Brown in the oil on all sides until golden and then set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion and gently cook until soft for about 15 minutes making sure they don’t catch on the bottom.
  4. Add the beef back to the pan and turn up the heat. Add the wine, the cinnamon, star anise, pepper and bay leaf.
  5. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for a few minutes until the wine has reduced a little. Top up the pan with enough beef stock to cover the meat and prevent it from drying out on cooking.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours with the lid on by which time it should be deliciously tender and falling apart.
  7. After 3 hours, remove from the oven and take out the beef and as many onions as you can and set aside.
  8. Drain the sauce (adding a little more stock if it has reduced too much) and discard the spices. Place the sauce in a saucepan and simmer gently to thicken slightly spooning off any fat. Season to taste.
  9. Add the chocolate and stir in until melted.
  10. Return the beef to the pan and heat through.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley with some deliciously creamy mash potato. Soften some chopped garlic in a knob of butter before adding some shredded savoy cabbage and braising until soft. Cumin roasted carrots with a charred edge are also a delicious pairing.

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Chorizo and Balsamic Lentils

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This weekend I journeyed home for a village pig feast that has been vigorously and unheathily circled in the diary for a while! I’ll explain. My home village where I grew up and spent my life can be imaged as a hybrid of the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ (without the killings I stress!) A Wiltshire village with a stereotypical local pub, glorious fields and the strong signature smell of manure tainting the air like the smell of perfume at the duty free! For the past few years we’ve shared the caring, feeding and more importantly eating, of two village pigs who we take in turns to feed and water only to butcher respectfully 6 months down the line and divide up the takings. From piglets to healthy happy curly tailed porkers the sausages and juicy joints of pork that have filled our freezer for a long while have been some of the best I’ve had. We’ve had some teathing issues along the way but nothing can beat the taste of happy wholesome and local meat. So this weekend we saved a giant leg to roast and feast on with all the team! It was delicious and I have nothing else to add.

However, after a rich and fatty roast with shards of caramel cracking, sweet and sharp apple sauce and lashings of wine (perhaps too many lashings?) I craved the fresh flavours of fish and vegetables. This little dish is so simple to knock out but so tasty and pleasing in many ways.

Serves 2

  • 2 seabass fillets, seasoned
  • 4oz Puy lentils
  • 100g chorizo
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 4-5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Vegetables to serve
  1. Simmer the Puy lentils for about 15 minutes until soft and tender but with a slight bite (don’t let them get mushy). Drain and keep warm.
  2. Chop the chorizo into hearty chunks and fry in a medium hot pan until they begin to release their scarlet oils. Add in the garlic and fry for a few more minutes but don’t burn so keep an eye out.
  3. Turn up the heat a little and add the vinegar (and stick on the extractor fan as it will be pungent!). Simmer the vinegar until thickened and syrupy.
  4. Add this chorizo mix with the oily balsamic juices to the lentils. Grate in the zest of the lemon and add the herbs and season. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Fry the seabass fillets, lightly seasoned, in a tsp of hot oil for a matter of 2-3 minutes on the skin side until crisp turning for the last 30 seconds to finish off.
  6. Serve the lentils topped with the seabass and some freshly steamed and buttery asparagus or green beans.