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Pomegranate & slow cooked lamb couscous

This makes such a lovely weekend dish and looks really attractive served on a large platter in the middle of the table. It requires a few hours in the oven but is hardly any work at all and uses just a few ingredients.

Wine Suggestion: this dish cries out for a Moorish influenced wine and nothing quite achieves this more than a Spanish Tempranillo. Our choice of the evening was the Carmelo Rodero Ribera del Duero Crianza which is juicy, powerful and also manages to achieve a perfumed elegance with exotic eastern spice hints.

Pomegranate & slow cooked lamb couscous – serves 6

  • 2kg lamb shoulder (or get your butcher to give you a forequarter if the lambs are small)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve
  • 300g couscous
  • butter
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • a small bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Put the lamb into a roasting tin with the fatty side facing up. Scatter the onion around the lamb. Score the lamb with a sharp knife and rub in the pomegranate molasses with your hands. Season well. Add 2 mugs of water to the tin, then cover with foil and roast for 4 hours. Rest for 15 minutes before pulling chunks of the lamb off the bone with 2 forks.

While the lamb is resting, put the couscous into a large bowl with a large knob of butter, the harissa and seasoning, then add enough boiling water to just cover. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 5 minutes before fluffing the grains gently with a fork. Put the couscous onto a platter and arrange the shredded lamb on top. Pour off any fat from the roasting tin and pour the juices over the lamb and couscous plus a little more molasses. Scatter with the mint and pomegranate seeds.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes IN: BBC Olive Magazine, February 2014.)

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Winter vegetable and bean soup with Kabanossi

A really nice soup with or without the Kabanossi sausage (so you can leave this out if you like) though it does add an extra layer of  smoky flavour. Most supermarkets stock Kabanossi sausages near the salami and other dried sausages.

Winter vegetable & bean soup with Kabanossi sausage – serves 8 to 9 (freezes well)

  • 225g rindless streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 225g onions, chopped
  • 275g carrot, cut into 5mm dice
  • 125g parsnips, cut into 5mm dice
  • 200g white part of 1 leek, cut into 5mm slices
  • 1 Kabanossi sausage (optional), cut into 5mm slices
  • 1 x 400g tin of good-quality tomatoes (Italian brands are good)
  • 225g haricot beans, soaked and cooked (see note at end)
  • 1.8 litres home-make chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Blanch the bacon, refresh and dry well with paper towels. (To do this y0u need to cover with cold water, then bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes before draining into a sieve and rinsing with cold water. This process removes some of the saltiness.)

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and sauté until crisp and golden, then add the onion, carrots and celery. Cover the pan and sweat for 5 minutes, then add the parsnip and leeks. Cover again and continue to sweat for another 5 minutes.

If you are using the Kabanossi sausage add it now. Chop the tomatoes roughly in the tin and add to the vegetables with the cooked beans. Season with salt, pepper and sugar, then add the stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of brown bread & butter.

To prepare the haricot beans

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni (a bay leaf, sprig of parsley & spring of thyme tied with string), a carrot and an onion, then cover and simmer until the beans are soft. This will take between 30 minutes and 1 hour depending on the age of your beans. It’s important to check them often and stop cooking before they turn mushy. Season with salt when the beans are almost cooked. Drain and discard the vegetable and bouquet garni.

(Original recipe from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Kyle Cathie Ltd., 2001.)

Roast Guinea Fowl with sage and lemon mash

Our butcher had some guinea fowl on the counter and February is the month for a two person dish. This 1.2 kg bird gave enough for two people plus delicious sandwiches the following day.  Guinea fowl tastes like really flavoursome chicken so a good way to try out game birds with tastes that aren’t too unfamiliar. Don’t worry too much about the size of your bird, just follow the usual timings for roast chicken.

Wine suggestion: if you’d like a white wine seek out the Sartarelli Verdicchio Superiore Tralivio or for a red an earthy Pinot Noir like the Sylvain Loichet Cotes du Nuits Villages. Neither will disappoint.

Roast guinea fowl with sage & lemon mash – serves 2

  • 1 small guinea fowl, about 1kg
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced with the skin left on
  • ½ a small bunch of sage
  • 75g softened butter
  • 1 small lemon, zested
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 350ml strong chicken stock
  • 350g floury potatoes peeled and cut in to large chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp cream/milk
  • 2 handfuls of watercress to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Put the onion in the bottom of a small roasting tin that will fit the guinea fowl snugly. Finely chop 5 sage leaves and mix with 50g of the butter, the lemon zest and seasoning. Push some of the butter mixture under the skin of the bird, then rub the rest all over. Stretch the bacon strips over the breast, then halve the zested lemon and put inside the cavity with the remaining sage. Place the bird on top of the onions and roast for 15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and continue to roast for another 35-45 minutes or longer if your bird is bigger than 1kg. Check the bird is cooked by piercing the inside of the thigh and making sure the juices are clear.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash with the remaining butter and a splash of milk/cream.

Lift the bird onto a platter and keep warm. Scoop the lemon halves from the cavity and keep aside. Pour the roasting juice into a jug and leave to settle, the fat will rise to the top. Spoon 1 tbsp of the fat back into the tin. Put the tin over a low heat and stir in the flour. Gradually add the stock and any meat juices (discard the extra fat from the jug). Mash some of the reserved lemon pulp into the mash with some salt and pepper.

Carve the bird and serve with the lemon mash, gravy and watercress.

(Original recipe from BBC Olive Magazine, February 2014.)

 

Roast Guinea Fowl with sage and lemon mash 2

 

Conchiglie al Cavolo Nero

We’ve made this a couple times recently as  Cavolo Nero is around and we keep on being drawn to it. Especially as we’re starting to tire of root veg and looking forward to all the treats that will come with Spring.

The dish is  creamy and cheesy, with load of garlic and iron rich Cavolo Nero. Fairly rich for a main course in our opinion but absolutely perfect served in small starter portions.

If it suits you can blanch and dry the Cavolo nero and make the garlic puree in advance which leaves very little to do to get the dish on the table.

Wine suggestion: An old favourite came to the rescue here in the form of the Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Tralivio” which has a great weight but also a freshness and vibrant texture. The flavour of the food isn’t shy, so make sure whatever you choose has enough body to cope.

Conchiglie al Cavolo Nero – serves 6 as a starter

  • 900g Cavolo Nero
  • 300ml double cream
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 dried chillies, crumbled or 2 tsp chilli flakes (adjust to your heat preference)
  • 150g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 250g conchiglie or other shell-shaped pasta

Remove the central stalk from the Cavelo Nero leaves and cut each one into 3 or 4 pieces. Blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for 3 minutes by which time they should be tender and bright green. Drain and dry in a clean tea towel.

Put the double cream and 5 of the whole garlic cloves into a pan and simmer until the garlic is soft, about 15 minutes. Purée in a blender.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and fry the remaining 2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices, and the chilli. When the garlic has coloured, add the blanched Cavolo Nero, stir & season. Pour in the cream and garlic purée, bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes until the Cavolo Nero is coated and the sauce has thickened. Add the Parmesan.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, then drain well before mixing well with the sauce.

(Original recipe from The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers, Ebury Press, 1995.)

Roast pumpkin and spinach lasagne

Making lasagne is a bit of a labour of love but if you take it in stages it can be assembled in advance and baked when you need it. Always worth the effort in our opinion. This veggie version is particularly good.

Wine Suggestion: we found the Rustenberg Chardonnay from Stellenbosch really matched this dish with it’s masterful balance of oak, fruit and freshness. This is one of South Africa’s classics and one of the best value Chardonnay’s we know. It is picked, crushed and gently settled before fermenting by itself (wild yeasts) and after gentle care in oak barrels on fine lees it is bottled. Only at this stage do they add a touch of sulphur to keep it stable in the bottle. A natural wine without the faults of other proponents of this term.

Roast Squash & Spinach Lasagne – serves 6

  • 750g butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g spinach, washed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • whole nutmeg
  • 6 fresh lasagne sheets
  • 100g Parmesan, grated

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tsp light muscovado sugar

FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE:

  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 6 peppercorns
  • ½ onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g butter

Heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Halve the squash, peel and deseed, then cut into slices about 1cm thick. Toss with the oil in a roasting tin, season well, then roast until tender and beginning to char at the edges – about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Soften the onion in the oil for 5 minutes, then add the celery and garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes & sugar, then leave to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until you have a thick puree. Season.

Wash the spinach and put into a saucepan with the water that clings to the leaves. Place over a medium heat and toss for about 4 minutes or until completely wilted. Leave to cool, then squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach with your hands. Chop and put into a pan with the butter, then gently heat and toss together so the spinach is coated in butter, season with salt, pepper and a good grating of nutmeg.

To make the bechamel, bring the milk to the boil in a pan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Set aside for 5 minutes to infuse, then strain into a clean pan. Add the flour & butter and whisk over a gentle heat until you have a thick smooth sauce.

Heat your oven again to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

To assemble the lasagne start by buttering a baking dish – about 1.4 litres capacity. Put a layer of roasted squash in the bottom followed by a layer of tomato sauce. Place lasagne sheets on top of this, making sure they don’t overlap (you can cut them with scissors to fit your dish). Add a layer of bechamel, followed by a handful of spinach and half the grated cheese. Top with more lasagne, pumpkin, tomato sauce, more lasagne and a final layer of bechamel. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

(Original recipe by Diana Henry in BBC Good Food Magazine, December, 2016.)

 

Chana Masala

Chana masala

Meehra Sodha describes this as a Workers’ Curry variations of which are eaten all over India. We love the flavours and textures here and have eaten this part of a wider spread of dishes and also on its own with some naan bread from the local takeaway. It’s worth soaking your own chickpeas if you can as they have a better texture. Thi

Wine suggestion: a simple, medium-bodied and earthy red is required here, nothing fancy. We had a bottle of the Monfil Garnacha from Cariñena in Spain which is uncomplicated but satisfying.

Chana masala – serves 4

  • 200g dried chickpeas (or 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli, roughly chopped
  • salt
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric

Put the dried chickpeas into a large bowl, cover with cold water, then add the bicarbonate of soda and soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. Rinse and drain the chickpeas, then cover with more cold water and boil for 30-45 minutes, until soft, keep spooning off any scum that rises to the surface. (If you are using tinned chickpeas you just need to rinse and drain them.)

Crush the ginger, garlic & green chilli together in a pestle and mortor with a pinch of salt to make a paste.

Put the oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir the ginger and chilli paste through the onions, then tip in the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands. Add the tomato puree, stir well and cook for 8-10 minutes or until you have a rich, thick sauce.

Add the garam masala, 1½ tsp of salt, cumin, chilli powder & turmeric, and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the drained chickpeas. You can add some water at this point to thin the sauce a bit, start with about 5 tbsp and add more if necessary. Taste and season.

Serve with naan breads or as alongside a few other Indian dishes.

(Original recipe from Made in India by Meera Sodha, Penguin, 2014.)

Pea soup with ham and mint

This is not your average pea and mint soup and has the most amazing sweet & salty flavour. A delicious starter to impress a few friends and very little work to prepare.

Wine Suggestion: a lighter weight red with spicy, peppery tannins was our choice, making sure it had a wonderful freshness of acidity too. We opted for a regular favourite, the unoaked Jesus Romero Rubus from Teruel in Spain. The absence of oak seemed to accentuate the “Spring” freshness of the peas and helped lift the grey, windy and damp January day.

Pea Soup with Jamón & Mint – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 150g jamón serrano (Spanish cured ham), finely chopped
  • a small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
  • 500g podded peas (frozen are fine)
  • 1 litre chicken stock (it’s worth using home-made for this recipe)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden, then add the carrot and bay leaves.  Fry for another 5 minutes, then add the garlic, two-thirds of the jamón and half the mint. Fry for another minute or so before adding the peas. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock and simmer gently until the peas or tender, 2-3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and liquidise until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper and add the reserved mint. Serve with the rest of the jamón on top and drizzle with olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Moro Cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark, Ebury Press, 2001.)