Monday, July 27, 2009

Lamb stew with aubergines and chick peas

2 lamb shanks
1tbsp sunflower oil

1tsp cumin seeds

1 orange, cut into quarters

1 ladleful chicken stock

1tsp turmeric

6 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 large aubergine, cubed

1 tin chickpeas, drained

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole, and brown the shanks. You want the oil to be hot enough to brown the meat quickly, but not so hot that it burns. Once the browning has started, you should be able to turn the flame quite low.

Throw in the cumin, and let it fry for a minute or so. Then throw in the orange, and pour in the stock; add the turmeric, garlic, and salt to taste.

Put the casserole, covered, into a low oven. My Le Creuset, pictured above, will reach a very gentle simmer at gas mark S/130C, though I sometimes start at a higher heat, to get it going. Other pans, and ovens, may behave differently.

After two and a half hours, stir in the aubergine. After a further 45 minutes, stir in the chick peas. Cook for another 20 minutes or so.

At this point, I removed the meat from the bones and stirred it into the stew, which served 3, generously.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Spinach and Gruyere tart

Either my pastry-making - which is certainly fallible - or the use of Dove's gluten-free flour caused the crust of this tart to be disappointing. It was dry and powdery. But the filling was delicious.

For the pastry, I used 200g of flour, 100g of butter, and a few tbsps of water. I cut the butter into cubes, and put it and the flour into the fridge before rubbing it in. I had my water in a bowl with some ice, and added it until the mixture cohered. I wrapped the pastry in clingfilm, and put it back into the fridge.

When the time came to line the tart tin (a 22cm one), I followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's advice and grated it in, before pressing it down and round the edges. I blind-baked it, roughly as he describes.

For the filling, I used:

1 bag spinach
1 whole egg, 2 yolks
150ml double cream
150ml milk
100g Gruyere
Grated nutmeg

Wash the spinach, remove the thicker stalks, cram it into a pan, and put it, covered, on to a high heat. Allow it to wilt for a minute or so, then uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until all the leaves are wilted. Drain.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the water. Doing it thoroughly is important, because otherwise the liquid will dilute the custard and stop it setting.

Beat the eggs. Stir them into the milk and cream. Stir in the cheese. Grate in a little nutmeg and salt.

Spread the spinach over the pastry base. Pour over the custard mixture. Place the tin on a baking sheet, and bake at gas mark 3/160C for 30 to 45 minutes, until the custard is set.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beetroot and goat's cheese

A perfect combination, and perfect too with the lentil salad I mentioned last week.

Some recommend wrapping beetroot in foil and baking it. In my limited experience, it remains moister if, after washing it, you bake it in a shallow bath of boiling water in an oven dish, covered with foil. I gave my medium-sized beetroot an hour at gas mark 6/200C.

Peel it, slice it, and top with the cheese, crumbled.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Lentil and tomato salad

100g Puy lentils
1 onion, peeled, halved through the root
1 carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic
10 cherry tomatoes
1dstsp balsamic vinegar
Salt, pepper
1/2tsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
8 sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces

Rinse the lentils. Put them in a pan, cover with cold water with a few cms to spare, throw in the onion, carrot and garlic (they will flavour the lentils a little, one assumes), bring to the boil, and simmer, partly covered. You want them softened but not mushy - it may take 20 to 40 minutes. The water may need topping up from time to time.

Roll the tomatoes in a little oil, and bake on a baking sheet at gas mark 6/200C for about 25 minutes. It doesn't matter if they burst.

Drain the lentils. Fish out the garlic, squeeze it from its skin, and mash it into the vinegar in a bowl. Stir in salt and pepper and mustard; then whisk in the oil.

Return to the sieve, discard the onion and carrot pieces, tip the lentils into the vinaigrette, and stir. Stir in the sundried and roasted cherry tomatoes. Some herbs would be good, too.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Egg-light frittata

This frittata, cooked in a 28cm pan, contains only three eggs - because three were all I had. It means that you don't necessarily get a coherent mass of omelette to slice and lift on to plates, but in other respects works well - vegetables with an eggy accompaniment.

New potatoes, scrubbed and sliced - enough to form a layer in the pan
Olive oil
1 large red pepper, deseeded, cut into fork-sized pieces
120g mushrooms, sliced
Large knob butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
120g hard cheese, such as Gruyere, grated

Drop the potatoes into a pan of lightly salted water, and simmer until tender. Drain.

Warm about a tbsp of olive oil in another pan, and add the peppers, frying on a low to medium heat and adjusting the flame if the oil threatens to burn. After about five minutes, add the mushrooms, with some salt, and cook until all the water they have disgorged has evaporated. Turn up the heat, if necessary, to speed this process.

Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan over a gentle heat. Pour in the eggs, and tip in the potatoes, peppers and mushrooms, spreading them out. Scatter the cheese over the top.

Cook gently until the egg shows signs of setting. Put the pan under a low grill to melt the cheese.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tuna, beans and olives

This is a very easy lunch. It consists of a tin of tuna, drained; a tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed; a large handful of Crespo, "Greek-style" olives, stoned; a tbsp of mayonnaise; and a dstsp of Encona hot pepper sauce. Parsley would have been a good addition. You need the olives not only for their tang, but to relieve the beigeness of the other ingredients.