Harissa Spiced Lamb and Moroccan Style Bulgar Wheat

Moroccan Lamb and Bulgar Wheat

Ordinarily, this would have been a shoe-in for the barbecue – hot spice rub and lamb still on the bone is heaven for me. It is still January (just) and therefore in order to prevent the neighbours sending round the men in white coats, I thought I’d get the iron griddle pan out.

I got the lamb, ready trimmed, at a good butcher in the Fenwicks department store Newcastle. I rubbed with a Harissa spice mix from the mmm… deli in the local market. It was very good actually but I think I’ll give it a go myself next time. I finished it off with a simple yoghurt sauce made from some home-made mint sauce, pinch of sugar and, of course, yoghurt.

Keeping with the theme, I made a side dish of bulgar wheat using North African type ingredients and flavours including turmeric, raisins, cinnamon and cumin. I know that cous-cous is the usual choice here, but I actually prefer bulgar wheat as it has a much better texture in my opinion. It’s also high in fibre and low in GI, which, I’m told, is a good thing.

I finished the thing off with a spicy fresh made coleslaw, using a little of the harissa spice and paprika to add a bit of ‘zing’.

Helen is not a fan of lamb I’m afraid to say, but I’ve forgiven her for this 😉 So, for her I made the same with a pork chop from the same butcher and she said, looking a bit flush, it was “tasty, but a bit spicy”

  • 2 lamb cutlets.
  • 2 tsp harissa spice mix, combined with 2 tsp oil to make a paste

(Spoon the mix onto the lamb and leave to marinade in a food bag overnight or for as long as possible).

  • 100g bulgar wheat
  • handful of dried mixed fruit (sultanas and raisins)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • handful of almonds
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • chicken stock
  • salt

For the coleslaw

  • half an onion
  • handful of sliced white cabbage
  • 1 small carrot
  • A good pinch of paprika, Harissa spice and a small pinch of salt
  • Mayonnaise

For the yoghurt sauce

  • 4 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tsp mint sauce
  • 1 good pinch sugar

Make up the stock with boiling water (I used cubes as I didn’t have any made up). Fry off the onions and garlic in a little oil in a medium pan (with a lid). When soft, add the bulgar wheat, dried fruit, nuts, spices and the stock. Bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat off. After about 15 minutes the water will have been absorbed. Taste and add a little more boiling water if underdone. Season with salt if needed.

Heat the oven to 180ºc/350ºF.  Heat the griddle pan until searing hot and place the seasoned lamb cutlets on. Seal for a few minutes and turn them over. Pop them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes – I like them still pink.

Whilst doing this make a blazing quick coleslaw: blitz half an onion, a handful of white cabbage and a small carrot in a food processor. Empty into a bowl withth spice spice and mix through enough mayo to coat.

Make the mint sauce by simply combining the ingredients.

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Triple Cooked Oxtail and Sweet Potato Rosti

Oxtail Sweet Potato RostiWell Ok, we nearly finished pescetarian January with integrity intact but I couldn’t resist this once I got the idea. To be fair though I think we both agreed, that meat free meals will feature a lot more in our week. If anything, it will save us some money. In the UK meat, or rather, good quality meat is becoming increasingly expensive. I avoid the cheapest supermarket alternatives wherever possible as I’ve seen the factory-like breeding and processing that goes on and it doesn’t sit well with me personally. So the answer? Buy better, buy locally and eat less of it I say.

But anyway, I’ll step off this soapbox and moral high-horse (burger) and get on with it.

Over Christmas I made some miniature oxtail pasties as a kind of canapé when everyone came over. As tends to happen in the Food Frankly household, I made waaay too much and froze most of the filling for a rainy day. Digging through the freezer today I came across it and immediately the cogs started spinning….

In fact, everything else in this dish was found rummaging in the fridge and I allowed myself to feel a little smug about that. Considering the amount we spent on “restaurant week” though it’s largely misplaced, but small victories eh?

Quite a lot went into this, so I won’t write it all down here, I think I might try and post the individual elements in their own right over this coming week. It actually tasted great, I was pleased with this dish. It had just the right combination of flavour and texture and the oxtail, if anything, had improved in flavour. The presentation wasn’t the best but it’s not my strength to be honest and I’m working on it!

Sprout tops

Basically though oxtail had been roasted, then braised in stock for a few hours. I picked the meat out and blended it it with a little stock and Worcestershire sauce to make the pasty filling. I froze the excess and I simply defrosted what was left and cooked it using cooking rings to keep the shape in a hot pan, finishing them off in the oven.

I did virtually the same for the rosti to cut down of the oil used and it also worked out pretty well:

Sweet potato and carrot rosti

Smoked Mackerel on Rye Toast

Smoked Mackerel Rye Toast

I’ll admit, I haven’t been cooking much lately – it’s restaurant week in Newcastle and we’ve been trying some of the City’s specially prepared set menus. It’s been great, but the waistline will only take so much.

So, I thought I’d post this dish I made last weekend. We actually had it for breakfast but it would make a great light lunch.

Mackerel has made the headlines in the UK recently, being reduced from a fish ‘suitable to eat’ by the Marine Conservation Society to one we should eat only occasionally. Shame as it’s a favourite of mine and very good for you. The jury is still out apparently though so let’s see what happens.

This is very simple but very tasty, if a bit decadent, using butter and a little single cream. The mackerel is grilled under a high heat and combined with scrambled egg, parsley and  wholegrain mustard. It’s served up on some buttered hot rye bread toast. Heaven.

I used a take on the Heston Blumenthal ‘bain-marie’ method for cooking the eggs as it leaves them lovely and soft, but the regular pan method works too!

Serves 2

  • Two smoked mackerel fillets
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • About 2 tbsp single cream
  • 1 knob butter
  • 2 sliced of rye bread, toasted and buttered.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Tartare sauce to serve.

Remove the skin and grill the mackerel fillets under a high heat, skinned side down, until nicely coloured. About 5 minutes if the grill is preheated.

Turn the grill off and leave at the bottom until ready to use.

Next – make the scrambled egg. in a small pan, bring some water to a boil (or use some from a kettle). Add a heat proof bowl on top so it sits on top of the pan and melt in the butter. Whisk in four eggs thoroughly until an even colour. With the water boiling below, stir often; it takes a while but the eggs will eventually begin to scramble. The gentle heat allows you to get the consistency just right, and catch it before it starts to turn ‘rubbery’.

Whilst this is happening, get the toast under the grill.

Once ready (a cooked risotto-like consistency), remove the bowl from the heat.

Slice the mackerel fillets and add to the eggs along with the cream and mustard. Stir thoroughly. Season with the pepper and salt only if it’s needed (the mackerel should be salty enough). Finish with the parsley and serve up on the toast, with some tartare sauce if you like!

Smoked Mackerel and Egg on Rye Toast

Plaice with Sautéed Potatoes and Samphire

Plaice Sauteed Potatoes Samphire

I tend to do so many things accidentally as I’m so badly organised. It’s been snowing across the UK of late and with my wife’s car not being the most ‘snow friendly’ vehicle found myself driving her to work.

On the way, I passed our local fish deli which was open this time and I dropped in on the way back to the office. The store is called Latimer’s and they seem seriously dedicated to fresh fish, providing produce to a number of restaurants in the North East. Their website even has a page entitled ‘Today’s Catch’. I can vouch that the service is excellent and it’s a goldmine of advice.

I asked for a couple of plaice fillets (although in truth could have tried a bit of everything) and the guy serving asked if i minded hanging on while he cut the fillets as the fish had “only just come in”. Of course I didn’t – no vacuum packed week old fish sold here…

Plaice is a delicate fish and can be ruined by heavy or strongly flavoured sauces so I tried to keep it light, with a simple tried and tested caper butter. Samphire is now easily available, works brilliantly with fish and keeps a nice ‘bite’ even after cooking.

Helen made the sautéed potatoes and we went for some small new potatoes for a slight sweetness. She didn’t peel the potatoes and I think they’re all the better for it!

This is just my sort of thing and I thoroughly enjoyed it….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Plaice fillets, about 200g each
  • 1 tsp oil
  • A small knob of butter
  • About two tbsp capers, drained and chopped roughly
  • Sea salt
  • About 10 small new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Some fine chopped parsley
  • (Optional) garlic infused oil to finish
  • Two large handfuls of samphire

Start the sauteed potatoes first by frying with a good pinch of salt on a moderate heat in a large pan for about 15-20 minutes. Some recipes call for par boiling them first, but it wasn’t necessary here.

The fish and the samphire cooking quickly, so start these only at the end of cooking the potatoes. The oven grill will be used so get that on if it takes a while to heat up (like mine). Heat the plates.

Bring a pan of water to the boil (or use a kettle) and blanch the samphire for a couple of minutes. Drain and return to the pan with a lid on to keep warm.

Heat a pan large enough for the fish with a small amount of oil until hot. Lay the fish onto the pan and hold them down to begin with to try and prevent them curling up too much.

They will take only minutes to cook from the bottom, but finish briefly in the same pan under a medium grill.

Once the potatoes are done, finish with a little garlic infused oil (if you want) and chopped parsley. Plate up the fish, potatoes and samphire.

To make the caper butter, simply return the fish pan to the hob and heat the butter and capers with a pinch of salt (and a squeeze of lemon if you want). Spoon it over the fish and you’re done.

Plaice Samphire Sauteed Potatoes Top View

Pici Pasta and Tomato Sauce

A few years ago now a group us went  on a trip to Tuscany, staying in a hillside villa. It’s a fantastic place, full of history, beautiful villages and enormous elaborate churches. Lots and lots of churches in fact.

As has been typical for many of our holidays, the weather was terrible on arrival. We’d packed summer gear but on arrival the locals explained (graciously, in English) that it was the worst weather they’d experienced for about 15 years. But, thankfully,  the weather did perk up though and we got to visit Pisa, Florence, Sienna and Montepulciano, a fabulous little town with great wine shops doing a roaring trade in exports. It was on the way to Montepulciano we stopped at a cafe in a small roadside village. Full of locals, it was just the sort of stereotypical place I expected to see in Italy. A mis-match of furniture with chequered paper table covers and constant exuberant chatter of the locals. Just my kind of place!

Being a huge fan of Italian food, I could have tried the entire menu, but I ordered Pici pasta, a Tuscan ‘specilialty’ the roughly translated menu read. It’s basically spaghetti with gigantism, being (typically) hand-rolled lengths of pasta. This gives in an uneven thickness as a result. It came with an excellent meat ragu sauce and was delicious, in fact I was tempted to go for seconds.

I was pleased therefore to find some recently in a local deli. It was machine made and had none of the endearing ‘wonkiness’ going on but was close enough for me!

I tried to keep it basic and made it with a simple tomato sauce and basil. It wasn’t quite as good as that spur of the moment stop in Italy of course, but it was close enough until I can return.

Serves 2.

  • 200g Pici pasta
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 stick of celery and 1 medium carrot,  finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Olive oil for frying
  • a handful of basil leaves, chopped roughly.
  • About a tsp of sugar (if you need it)
  • salt and pepper to taste

The sauce benefits from being cooked on a low simmer for a while. Start with this because the sauce will wait for the pasta, but the pasta will not wait for the sauce once it’s drained!

Start by frying the vegetables (except the tomatoes) in some olive oil for a few minutes on a gentle heat until the onion is soft and slight browned.

Add the tomatoes and allow to simmer away for a good 20-30 minutes. Halfway through (before it gets too thick) I used a stick blender to make it smooth, but you don’t have to.

Halfway through the sauce cooking time, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. It’s thick and so takes a good 20-22 minutes to cook.

Just before the pasta is ready, finish the sauce. Add the sugar if needed (I did – we don’t get the beautifully sweet tomatoes the Italians are spoiled with) and salt to taste. Stir through the chopped basil and a little more oil if you like. Take it off the heat.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Use spaghetti tongs and mix the sauce in thoroughly. Prego!

Pici Pasta

Cod and Crayfish Filo Parcels

 

Cod and crayfish - preparing

The first snow of this winter started falling today and I must say it makes a welcome change from the rain. This is the UK though and ‘attractive’ weather will never do, turning quickly to ugly grey slush followed by sleet. Sleet; basically even colder rain. Wonderful.

My first thoughts for dinner then would be of something hearty – a beef stew or sausage casserole maybe? Well no, as pescatarian January rumbles on it’s still off limits. Now, I love fish, and until now have been managing perfectly nicely. I probably order fish in restaurants as often as meat (perhaps more so actually) so this is no chore for me, but I did fancy something a little ‘richer’ tonight. So, a compromise, fish pie?

The idea for this came from Salmon en Croute, but I’m trying to avoid heavy pastries at the moment and so thought about using filo. I swung by a local fish deli on the way home, having left the office a bit early today and wouldn’t you know it – closed on Mondays. So off to the supermarket it was….

I used cod loin here, as I needed a thick fillet of fish for this. I’m not a huge fan of cod and there are sustainability issues around it, but there was not much in the way of alternatives and I couldn’t possibly post another salmon recipe! I also came across some crayfish tails – salty and sweet, to help the rather bland flavour of the cod. I served it up with a simple vegetable mash (sweet potatoes, swede and carrot), flavoured with a little light single cream and mustard.

The results were good but I may try frying the fillets first for more flavour and to compensate, cook the the parcels on a very high heat for a much shorted duration just to crisp up the filo. Experimentation and all that….

Cod and crayfish

So, cod and crayfish filo parcels:

Ingredients.

  • 2 x 200g thick white fish fillets (I used cod)
  • 2 x tsp butter
  • 200g crayfish
  • 2 large cabbage leaves – halved – removing the stems in the middle
  • 6 filo pastry sheets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper

For the mash

  • About a third of a swede, peeled
  • One medium sized carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • about 3 tbsp light single cream
  • 1 tsp coarse mustard.
  • Salt and pepper

Put the oven on to 180ºC/Gas 4 and boil the kettle.

Pour the boiler water into the pan and blanch the cabbage leaves for a couple of minutes. Set a side in a bowl of ice water for later and keep the water on a low heat for the mashed vegetables.

The filo parcels will take longest so make them first:

Place three sheets on a board, with the thinnest sides towards you. About a third of the way into the sheets, place the cabbage leaves (pat them dry first). Place the fish fillet on this with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Finally top with half the crayfish tails and 1 tsp of butter. Fold the sides of the pastry in and it roll up from the end nearest you using some beaten egg to seal it.

Repeat with the other fillet and place in the oven on a baking tray for about 30 minutes.

Whilst cooking make the mash:

Bring the reserved water in the pan back to the boil and add the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes until just done (stick a knife in to them, they should slowly slide off). Drain and roughly mash. We’re going for rustic here so keep some lumps. Stir in the cream, mustard and the salt and pepper to taste.

Put the lid on to keep warm.

I used a thermometer to check the fish was cooked and it was fine after 30 minutes.

Serve it with a nice pile of the mash.

Cod and crayfish parcels

 

Butternut Squash and Sage Pizza

As another work week came and went, thoughts turn to the weekend. As a general rule, any good food intentions go South and I crave something inevitably unhealthy and preferably delivered.

But no. Not this evening. Remembering the ball of mozzarella in the fridge the answer was clear – pizza, the king of toasted bread. I’m a big fan of the original thin and crispy Margherita pizza having had some excellent ones on various trips to Italy and so try to keep toppings suitably simple. The idea of the butternut squash/sage combo came as a result of a risotto dish I had originally planned to make earlier in the week.

It was pretty good, if a little too sweet for my taste. To be honest, it was crying out for some salty bacon or chorizo, but I will persist with meat-free January! I should have used some goats cheese instead in hindsight – ah well, next time.

I’m used to making the dough in a 500g batch for bread, so stuck with that. I used half the dough for the pizza(s) and half for a small loaf for breakfast…

Serves 4 (or 2 hungry people – I hold my head in shame)

  •     500g strong white ’00’ flour
  •     350ml water
  •     10g salt
  •     1 packet yeast (7g)
  •     1 tbsp oil
  •     Can of chopped tomatoes
  •     large pinch salt
  •     large pinch sugar
  •     The thin part of a butternut squash, chopped into small cubes (the rest went into soup….)
  •     About 10 sliced sage leaves
  •     Oil for frying
  •     1 Ball of mozzarella, sliced

Mix the bread ingredients, knead for 10 minutes and half the dough . Put half in the fridge to be ready for tomorrow’s bread and leave the rest in a warm place to rise (for the pizza!) for about an hour

Start by turning the oven on to its highest setting. Place the butternut squash into a tray with some a salt and a drizzle of olive oil on one rack. I have a pizza stone too which sat beneath it.

Whilst all this is happening, pour the tomatoes into a frying pan with the salt and sugar. Leave on the heat to reduce until thickened. Turn off the heat and leave until needed once done.

Take the squash out after about half an hour and set aside. Leave the oven on for the pizza.

Although certainly not essential, add some oil to a small saucepan and fry the sage leaves. I tip the pan to ‘pool the oil’ to kind of deep fry it. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Once the dough is ready, flour the work surface and turn out the dough onto it. Half it again – there’s enough for two pizzas here

Roll it out until very thin and as round as you can! I removed the pizza stone from the oven and stood it on an iron stand. Place the thin pizza base on a well floured pizza stone or tray. Add the tomato sauce with a large spoon and spread it out with the back of it. Layer on the mozzarella and squash cubes. Finally add the sage and a good pinch of salt. You can add a drizzle of olive oil too if you want.

Whack it in the hot, hot oven and cook for between 5 and 10 minutes until the edges are crispy and the cheese slightly browned. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Phew – should have just ordered the damn thing!