Wednesday, 22 February 2012

And so lent begins!

So we are good to go. Lent has started and that means I’m giving up chain food stored for lent. One of the things I’ve done in response is to set myself up for a weekly vegetable box delivery scheme. Had two boxes so far and I think it’s great! Not that expensive (£8 a week), gets delivered straight to my door, it’s seasonal…and the thing I like the most – it forces me to think outside the box and cook things I might not otherwise think of.

This week, it appears I have a surplus of parsnips. Time to get create. So I had a think about what I could do with it, other than roasting it or making a spicy soup.  I started having a look through the recipe books and I noticed a copy of the ‘River Cottage Veg Patch’ book. Now if anyone can help me make the most of surplus veg…its Hugh.

To my delight there is a lovely recipe for potato dauphinoise…and it advocates the use of other route vegetables as appropriate! So I gave it a go…potato and parsnip dauphinoise…or potsnip for short. And I have to say, it was really good. Next time I’m going to try a bit of peppery Swede, or maybe some Celeriac. I do think though it’s important to make sure you have at least half potato – otherwise it might start to get a little bit sickly.

So here you go people – definitely one to try out. I served it with a big slab of pork belly (its winter and I need to get my fat reserves up) and some green vegetables.

Potsnip dauphinoise
Serves 6 as a side dish

25g unsalted butter, softened
300g waxy potatoes
300g parsnip
300ml double cream
2 – 3 large garlic cloves
Plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Rub a gratin dish liberally with the butter.

Peel the potatoes and parsnips and slice them thickly. In a large bowl, mix together the cream and garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes and the parsnips in the mixture and layer them in the gratin dish, then pour over the remaining cream (if you want to be precise, you can mix of the potato and parsnips and separate bowls and lay alternate layers of each).

Cover the dish with foil and place in the own and bake for between an hour and a half. After an hour, remove the foil so that the top can become crispy and golden. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, if using, to make it extra sumptuous. The dauphinoise is ready when the top is bubbling and golden, and the potatoes are soft and yielding when pearced with a knife. Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Here lamby lamby lamby…

You’ll have guessed by now that I love entertaining.  It gives me an excuse to have a go at cooking something I haven’t made before and (as long as everything works out for the best!) I love seeing the smile of their faces when they’re eating.

A few weeks ago my colleague, his wife and babby girl came over for Sunday lunch.  Time to make a bit of an effort I thought – but what to make?  Hints had been dropped the preceding week for lamb. But legs of lamb are so expensive!

I started having a search through my cookbooks and remembered I had River Cottage‘Everyday’ – if anyone can help make a feast out of cheaper cuts of meat, it had to be Hugh!

Within a few minutes I found exactly what I was looking for. Slow-roast shoulder of lamb with merguez spices.  Incredibly simple and the shoulder of lamb cost me just over £18 from my local butcher (around half that of a leg).  A further flick through the book and I found the perfect accompaniments; French beans with tomatoes and flatbreads.  A little yogurt and mint dressing completed the ensemble.

Something to try without a shadow-of-a-doubt.  Word of warning though – it takes around 6 hours to cook so make sure you allow plenty of time!  Well worth the wait mind…

Serves 6 – 10, depending on the size of the joint and how hungry you all are!

1 shoulder of lamb, mutton or hogget on the bone

For the spice paste

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ cinnamon stick, broken up
1 tsp black peppercorns
Pinch cayenne pepper or chilli powder
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, finely shopped
Leaves from 2 large rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Toast the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon and peppercorns in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a minute or so. Crush to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar, then combine with the cayenne pepper or chilli powder, paprika, garlic, rosemary, salt and olive oil.
2. Lightly score the skin of the meat with a sharp knife, making shallow slashes a few millimetres deep and 1 – 2cm apart. Rub half the spice paste all over the lamb shoulder, underneath as well as on top and especially into the cuts. Put into a large roasting tin and place in an over preheated to 220C, Gas Mark 7. Roast for 30o minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and rub the remaining spice paste over the meat using the back of a wooden spoon. Pour a glass of water into the tin (not over the meat), cover with foil and return to the oven. Reduce the heat to 120C/Gas Mark ½ and cook for 6 hours, or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. You can add another glass of water halfway through, to keep the pan juices ticking along.
4. Transfer the lamb to a warm serving plate. Skim the excess fat off the juices in the tin. Tear the meat into thick shreds and serve with the juices spooned over. I served mine of homemade flatbreads and French beans with tomatoes, both from the same book.