Early Christmas lunch

Just in case you’re all completely sick of turkey by now, but hopefully not all food, I thought I’d post what I cooked for an early Christmas lunch with some friends last Sunday. I find turkey really boring and we never bothered with it in my family – we just tend to make whatever we fancy or can find at the local butchers. I think this would go down well as a New Year’s Eve dinner too.

I didn’t bother we starters as we had two big roasts for the main, but Alex made some bacon-wrapped dates – so simple but really good, and kept guests happy while we were panicking over pork crackling. To make them, cut the bacon rashers in half lengthwise and wrap each date with half a rasher. Pop under a medium grill till crispy.

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The two mains were the ever-dependable pork belly with anchovies and chestnuts (recipe here) and a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with a few garlic cloves stuffed in it. Both cooked for 4 hours, and the pork crackling was finished off under the grill. I added potato chunks to both trays about an hour before the meats were done, and let them cook in the meat juices. Served it all with honey-roast carrots and parsnips and boiled cavolo nero.

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It had been ages since I made one of my favourite desserts, an apple tarte tatin, so I gave it a go again. I’m a bit out of practice so it wasn’t as photogenic as last time, but still tasted just as good. The apples take a good few hours to caramelise in the oven, so I cooked them the night before and finished them off with the pastry added on top after the meats were done. It takes a while, but involves minimal effort (apart from praying that the apples drop when you flip it upside down).

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We finished it all off with a selection of cheeses and chocolates, and a good round of the Formula 1 game which is optional but highly recommended. Merry Christmas!

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Lamb and Spinach Curry (Indian #5)

I am failing pretty miserably at making this blog even slightly seasonal. For the last few days the sun has been shining and I have been getting more and more silly tan marks and yet here I am writing about curry, again. Knowing British weather though, I am pretty convinced that soon enough it’s going to turn cold again and therefore perfectly suitable to warm, spicy, meaty stews. When it does, make this curry.

Lamb and Spinach Curry (slightly adapted from Hollow Legs)

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 onions
2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil but maybe something else would be more traditional)
5 medium tomatoes, peeled*
25 gr ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp red chilli powder

800 gr lamb shoulder, cut in chunks, most fat removed

200 ml creamed tomatoes (approximately, depending on how red and beefy the fresh ones are)
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
2 green chillies, sliced in half (without seeds if you prefer)

1 bunch of spinach (~100 gr)
100 ml water
1/2 tsp garam masala
chopped fresh coriander, to garnish

Slice the onions and cook them in the oil slowly, for about 20 minutes, until soft. In the meantime, mix the fresh tomatoes with the garlic, ginger and chilli powder and blend until smooth. Add the soft onions and blend again. Return into the (large) saucepan and add the chunks of meat.

Cook for a few minutes until the meat starts to brown, stirring occasionally and then add the creamed tomatoes, the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and the sliced chillies. Add enough water to simmer and let it cook for at least 2 hours, although more will make it better.

Towards the end of the cooking time, pour boiling water over the spinach until it’s just soft, drain and then blend it with the 100 ml water. Add the spinach puree and garam masala to the curry, let it simmer for a further 5-10 minutes and serve with some chopped fresh coriander.

* To easily peel the tomatoes, pour boiling water over them and leave them in it for a few minutes. Get rid of the water and peel.

So, this looks green. Maybe a bit too green to excite you enough to give it a go. But it tastes absolutely brilliant, with soft, meaty pieces of lamb falling apart and a very thick sauce, perfect for scooping up with some naan bread (which, by the way, I finally succeeded in making- recipe coming soon!). I also served it with some cucumber raita and an onion and pomegranate salad that I got off Hollow Legs and it’s an adapted Nigella recipe.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 
Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits 
Aubergine in Yoghurt 
Heston’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Probably that (very pretty) onion and pomegranate salad.

Happy Easter!

There is something really quite magical about being back home, and it’s not just that the beach is 5 minutes away and the sun is almost always shining at this time of the year. Although it helps.

It’s that special feeling you get when you know a place inside out and every street brings back a different memory. Easter is a particularly good time of the year to be here too; I’m glad to have escaped the awful weather back in England and be able to smell all those lovely spring smells.

And Easter is still celebrated in a very traditional way. A week of fasting or at least moderate eating is followed by feasts right after midnight on Saturday. Eggs are dyed bright red and the egg wars are a favourite post-Sunday-lunch game.

There’s been a silly amount of meat-eating, not that I’m complaining of course! We got a whole spit roasted lamb and, since there’s just four of us, something tells me it’s going to take us a while to get through all of it. Even when the novelty wears out, there’s so many things you can do with it: use it in sauces, omelets, salads. Mum likes to eat it straight out of the fridge, Nigella-style.

I am not a huge fan of liver, but when it’s wrapped in intestines and then cooked on a rotisserie until crispy (kokoretsi) I can be tempted.

But apart from the meats, appetisers are also an important part of the Easter table. Salads, cheeses and dips go perfectly with the salty meat. One of my favourite ones is the one I’m about to share with you, and it’s so simple I’m not sure I’m even allowed to call this a recipe.

Roast Peppers

Ingredients
 
long peppers (as many as you like, including a spicy one for a bit of a kick)
olive oil
salt
red wine vinegar

Wash and prick the peppers with a knife. Dry them with a kitchen towel and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and shake the tray to cover them all over. Place under a medium grill until soft and brown in spots, turning round once to let them cook on both sides. Serve either hot or cold, with a splash of vinegar.