Curried Lamb Shanks and Naan Bread.

Curried Lamb Shanks

OK, so even I’m getting over BBQ food at the moment. And salads, lovely as they are in the garden with a glass of something cold are getting a bit tiresome.

It’s a bit weird that I don’t see curry as a summer food as the Indians eat this in far warmer climes than these, but maybe it’s just me. So, fight fire with fire I say and with my added side-quest to get my wife to enjoy a lamb dish this a pretty risky proposition.

I'm slaving away. The muggy gets my chair. Hmm...

I’m slaving away. The moggy gets my chair. Hmm…

I’ve managed to establish that Helen’s dislike of lamb is down to the ‘lambiness’ of some dishes. Now this is a major breakthrough. We recently went to a brilliant Persian supper club meal with friends (more on this in a later post) and she thoroughly enjoyed the slow cooked lamb. I think I’ve deduced therefore that whilst the Sunday roast will never be an option, maybe this type of dish will, having had most of the fat rendered out.

So, I bought a couple of lamb shanks, classic slow cooking cuts, from a local butcher. Otherwise, I didn’t need to look far for inspiration as I’ve been meaning to make a dish I found on an app I have for  Hyderabadi Shanks by Alfred Prasad on the Great British Chefs website. A great website by the way and well worth a browse.

I made a few minor tweaks for our own tastes/available ingredients but otherwise tried to stay faithful to the recipe. I slow cooked the shanks for about 3 hours and then left them to  rest overnight before finishing the curry the next evening.

To accompany this, some homemade naan breads. Simple in theory, these are fairly difficult to do in domestic ovens, as the lovely light airy versions you find in restaurants are made using a super-hot tandoori oven. I improvised using a pizza stone in the oven at full whack – a respectable 275°C (530°F). The results were pretty good to be fair.

Naan Breads

The recipes make about 5 (or more depending on size) but freeze well for later on.

Serves 2:

For the curry:

  • Two lamb shanks
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 1/2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves and a large piece of ginger
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • Chicken stock – about 500ml (enough to cover the lamb) or water if not.
  • 1 tbsp garam masala and a good handful of chopped coriander stems/leaf to finish.
  • 1 threaded carrot to serve.

For the naan breads (makes 4-5 large)

  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 sachet of dried instant yeast
  • 200ml milk
  • 100ml yoghurt (about 4 tbsp)
  • Melted butter to finish, if you like.

I used dried coriander and cumin and so dry roasted them first in the hot pan and ground them in a spice mill. Set aside.

Make a paste out of the garlic and ginger by blending them with a little water (or a good old fashioned pestle and mortar)

Add the oil to a large oven proof pan and fry the cardamon, mustard seed, onion, and cloves for a couple of minutes. Push to one side and add the lamb shanks to brown well, with a good pinch of salt.

Add the ginger/garlic paste and stir to coat. Then the  rest of the spices – the chilli powder, coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Continue to fry for a couple of minutes – it smells amazing.

Lamb shanks with spices

Add the yoghurt and tomatoes and simmer in the oil for a few minutes more then cover the lamb with the chicken stock.

Curried Lamb Shanks

Simmer on the hob on the lowest heat setting, or in the oven at 140°C/280°F for 3 hours. Rest over night if you can, but it’s not necessary.

When ready to cook, remove the lamb from the sauce and set aside in a roasting pan. I covered it with foil and used my smaller oven to warm (only 100°C/210°F)

Pour off any unwanted oil (there was quite a lot) and blend the sauce until smooth. I used a stick blender for less washing up 😉

Simmer gently until thickened. Once done, turn off the heat and once stopped simmering stir in the garam masala and coriander stems/leaves.

Meanwhile, make the naan dough by combining everything and kneading until smooth and stretchy. I used the dough hook on my mixer – a Godsend – but keep an eye on it or it can be over kneaded. I used the stretch test after 5 minutes and it was done.

Leave to rise once until double the size somewhere warm and get the oven ready. I got the pizza stone in the middle of the oven and set it to max. Flatten and portion the dough and roll out to a tear-drop shape, brush with oil and when the oven is ready, place it straight onto the stone. It bubbles up really quickly and can burn so watch it carefully! Brush with the butter once done if you are using it. Cook them all whilst the oven is on and freeze the excess for another day.

Naan Breads

Plate up the lamb shanks and pour over the sauce generously. Finish with the carrot, a naan bread and a Cobra beer.

Curried Lamb Shank

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Char-grilled Seabass and Panzanella Salad

IMG_0077-impIf you’re reading this I’d imagine you have a bit of an interest in cooking and good food, which can be both a blessing and a curse when going out to eat.

See, like most of you, it becomes quickly apparent when a dish arrives, how much effort went into the preparation and the ingredients involved. Once you’ve established this, it quickly  becomes even more apparent whether the price you’re paying is ‘fair’.

Last night we went out for dinner at a decent chain Italian restaurant in the City, mainly, seeing as the weather is so good, for the outdoor seating. I tend to avoid chains, as invariably I leave, at best, underwhelmed, or at worst slightly annoyed. Whilst most are very nicely decked out with exposed timbers, shabby-chic fixtures and theme driven posters, a majority of them with their advantageous locations have high ground rents and wage bills and, therefore, squeezed margins. So what gives? Inevitably it’s the food, be it in the quantity or, and more importantly, the quality.

Lat night I ordered the Cacciucco – a kind of Tuscan fish stew with Sardinian fregola. Perfect summer food I thought. But then when it arrived the squid (both pieces) were more akin to a fan belt. It also comprised a handful of fregola, two small slivers of fish, three very small clams, two mussels and a prawn. Yes, a single prawn. Two large pieces of bread were added, presumably to resemble anything like a meal and take up half the plate – completing the illusion.  All for a “bargain” £16.95.

If there were £2 worth of ingredients in the dish I’d be surprised, especially at wholesale prices. I was hardly expecting Bouillabaisse from the Southern coast of France but still…

Ah, well, weather was good and the Peroni was cold.

Across town there’s a great  family run restaurant called Panis. I’ve mentioned it before. It won’t win a Michelin star but it’s proper Sardinian food with half the decor and half the price.  The service is also great and no loyalty cards are being pushed. Sadly, no al-fresco dining, but lesson learned.

So being the bloody-minded type, I had to force the point home by making one of the most modest of salads – panzanella – and with it, some seabass fillets. The cost? £7 for both of us. £6 of it being the fish.

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The key ingredient of panzanella of course it some stale bread, it’s a brilliant way to use up an old loaf if you’ve too many breadcrumbs already, or even if you don’t.

I used a mixture of tomatoes (oven drying some of them) for a bit of variety, some green leaves, and herbs from the garden. The dressing itself was also so simple, even forgoing the balsamic for the more austere red-wine vinegar.

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Marjoram doing nicely in the garden

Not sure what variety this is, should have taken note. Anyone?

Not sure what variety this is, I should have taken note. Anyone?

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I cooked the seabass on the grill outside with woodchips for smoke and whilst delicious, mine did break. A schoolboy error for the presentation. Unfortunately the other one was being tucked into by Helen….

Serves 2:

  • 2 seabass fillets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt

For the salad:

  • Half a red onion, finely sliced
  • A mixture of tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • Stale bread, cut into cubes. As much as you need.
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 sprig of marjoram or fresh oregano, leaves removed
  • A few basil leaves

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar (to taste)
  • Salt to taste

Make the dressing up then separate and add the finely sliced onions to mellow a bit while you do the rest.

I made oven dried tomatoes by halving 4 of them, sprinkling with a little salt and baking on a tray for about 15 minutes at 160°C/320°F. Remove and leave to cool.

Arrange the plate with the salad ingredients.

Season and grill the fish until just done – sea bass doesn’t take long if at room temperature, just few minutes.

Arrange it on the plate with the rest and dress the salad with the, making sure the bread gets plenty of the vinaigrette.

Enjoy with a sense of smug satisfaction!

Seabass and Panzanella Salad

 

 

 

BBQ Leftovers Salad

Pulled pork salad

Well summer is here, Murray just won his first Wimbledon, the Lions won down-under and ‘al fresco’ food is irresistible during these long days.

I often think this would be a different nation with decent weather as at the first glimpse of sun and everyone is out and about. In town, any available outside seating, and there isn’t much, is taken and plumes of BBQ smoke are rising from the gardens. Great times…..except for the bad tan-lines but otherwise, yes, great times.

I ‘did’ a BBQ on Sunday and, as ever, prepared far too much. I got the Webber kettle grill out and slow roasted a piece of pork until falling apart, soaked wood-chips and all. It made the most amazing crackling too. Suffice to say it was such a shame to waste it and so in a vain attempt to do something healthier, I combined some of the leftovers into a salad.

BBQ Pork

(a stylised Twitter pic!)

No recipe as such here, but this was super-quick and hugely customisable. I used an asian style dressing but a simple cider-vinegar version would have worked nicely too. I also had some of Helen’s homemade coleslaw left which finished the dinner off nicely.

BBQ pork salad

Portobello Pizzas

Portabello pizzasI’ve been very busy again of late and with that comes the inevitable late nights in the office. So whilst I can’t complain that business is good, it does tend to mean that dinner sways toward restaurants or (and please don’t judge me), grabbing something on the way home.

We try not to do the latter very often if I can help it and so anything I do make is on the quick and simple list.

These Portobello pizzas are great for this, in fact we both liked them so much I’ll be doing it more often. I cannot for the life of me remember where I got the idea, but it wasn’t mine, and so can’t give due credit, but thanks anyway whoever it was.

I ransacked the fridge for ingredients and found the end of some really good Raclette cheese, some spicy cooking Chorizo, and ageing green peppers. Now, that’s not a bad start I admit.

I made a couple of types here: a plain veggie friendly ‘Margherita’ (though very tenuously named) and a version with Chorizo and peppers. I did both as although I don’t eat a lot of pizza, I’m turning into a bit of a purist and tend to prefer pizza with few, if any, toppings other than tomato and cheese. I love Chorizo though.

portabello mushrooms

Both were equally good. I added some breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch and I suppose this was bordering on “stuffed mushrooms” but I’m sticking to my guns on this one 😉 Oh, and no mozzarella, but still…..

For two people, you’ll need more chorizo

  • 4 large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and stalk removed.
  • Garlic oil (or oil and a finely chopped garlic clove)
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 4 handfuls grated cheese – take your pick, but I had Raclette which was good.
  • Marjoram leaves (or Oregano or Basil)
  • 2 tbsp. single cream (optional)
  • 1 heaped tsp. wholegrain mustard
  • 2 handfuls coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1 small Chorizo sausage, halved and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • Salt and Pepper

Get the oven on to 180oC/350oF.

Lay the prepared mushrooms on a baking tray and sprinkle with the herbs, a little salt, pepper and the garlic oil. Roast for about 5 minutes until wilting.

Roasted mushroom

Add a slice of tomato to each (beefeater would be good) and add a little more salt. Cook for another ten minutes or so until the mushrooms are tender, the tomato is “oven-dried” and the flavour concentrates.

Whilst happening, and if using, cook the Chorizo and peppers in a small pan. No need for oil, the Chorizo has plenty in it. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Mix the cheese, mustard, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

Take the mushrooms out the oven and top with the Chorizo/peppers if using and a pile of the cheese mixture. Bake or grill until the topping is melted and slightly browned.

Enjoy the carb-conscious alternative to pizza!

Portabello pizzas