Slow Roast Lamb

Slow Roast Lamb

Hurrah, it’s March!   Although I am a little concerned at the speed of where the months are going and have a sneaking suspicion that someone is playing with time itself, I am still delighted that we are here.

But what is it with all this ‘Meteorological Spring’ stuff, eh?  Trying, all of a sudden, to convince us that Spring starts on 1 March.  Balderdash.  Spring starts on the Spring Equinox and I will hear no more about it.

Meanwhile, I am embracing the Spring-like weather and have hung out my washing for the first time this year.

Did you know that 80% of people in the UK no longer hang out their washing, but tumble dry it?

We don’t have a tumble dryer, so during the cold months we make use of our central heating and a clothes dryer.  You know the one, where you hang everything on it, it takes up a huge amount of space, and everything takes an eon to dry?  Yes, we have one of those. So March is when I breathe a huge sigh of relief, as it is warm enough to start hanging out, and therefore I spend less time tripping over the clothes dryer.  And anyway, I love the feel and smell of washing dried outside. Although I may not be quite as keen if I lived next door to a motorway.

All that aside, March also reminds me of lamb so have plumped for slow roasting a leg of it for our dinner.

Cut up a few fresh carrots, a chunk of swede, a couple of onions and place them all with the lamb in a casserole dish that has a lid.  Add freshly ground pepper, salt, and a good dollop of mint sauce. Then cover almost all of it in just boiled water and pop into the oven, gas mark 3.  Leave for a few hours.

When you can stand it no longer, drain the juices from the pot, place in a pan and taste.  If you’d like a stronger taste either add a stock cube or more mint sauce.  It’s a personal thing.

Thicken up the gravy and pour over the resting lamb.  Put the lid back on and leave for 10 minutes.  If you can resist.  The smell of it is divine.

I serve with new potatoes and something like sugar snap peas, green beans or mange tout.

Gorgeous.

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Cooking Chicken

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There are very few cooking pots that stand out in a crowd for their innovative design and practical supremacy.  There are perfect pieces of pottery, and classic pieces of cookware.  It is rare to find a wonderful combination of the two.

Enter the Chicken Brick.

This beautiful piece of culinary design was created by David Queensbury for Habitat 50 years ago, and as far as I’m concerned, is one of their most successful pieces in their short, but colourful history.  It is one of my favourite cooking pots.  Or to be more precise, terracotta cooking pots.

And here’s how it works.  The pot acts as a culinary kiln, and because it is terracotta and therefore porous, it allows the heat to drift through it very nicely so that the chicken and its accompanying orchestra of vegetables, cook away in their own juices, thus creating a perfectly succulent bird every time.  And if you’re worried that the chicken may look a little anaemic having had no direct heat onto it’s skin, don’t. It manages to come out with a very healthy tan.

I always tend to put onions and carrots as a cushion for the chicken to sit on top sprinkled with salt and pepper, but to be honest, it is just as delicious without added vegetables, and it is absolutely up to you what you pop in there.  I add a little boiled water into the base before putting in the oven, to make sure I don’t have a minor panic attack as to whether there will be enough gravy or not.  You can never have enough gravy in my book.  Anyway.  I then put the brick on the shelf nearest the middle of a pre heated oven.  Gas mark 5.  There is a rule of minutes per weight for every meat, but as with everything oven based in my home, I have to adjust according to the outside influences.  Therefore, I tend to just use a thermometer.

So why is this so fabulous then eh?  Well, there are a few reasons.  Firstly, the chicken always tastes succulent and gorgeous which is a bonus as chicken, although texturally satisfying, is quite a bland meat if it doesn’t have a great support act.  I find that the sweetness of the carrots and onions imbibe the chicken enough to add flavour, but without overpowering it.  As a slight diversion, I have found that this combination makes beef, cooked in the chicken brick, taste wonderful as well. Secondly, the stock that I use for the gravy has a taste that I find hard to replicate through any other formula, and finally the pot itself has a quirk and style to it that is unbeatable.  If you like that kind of thing.  Which I do.

There are a couple of very, very minor downsides to the Chicken Brick.  The first one is that it takes up quite a bit of space if you don’t have other pots or dishes of the same shape.  Luckily I do.  But if you didn’t, you would probably have to either buy some oval dishes, or accept the fact that the brick needs it’s own space.  And secondly, it doesn’t take kindly to letting go of washing up liquid, so wash wisely.  But hey, these are blips on an otherwise perfect piece of innovative culinary design.

And so to dinner.  As it’s Sunday, I am opting for a traditional Sunday affair.  Chicken, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, and steamed mini sweetcorn, long stemmed broccoli, sugar snap peas and mange tout, all covered in gravy.  Delicious.

As a final thought, if you like the idea of using a Chicken Brick but are a little concerned about spending money on something you feel you may regret, why not find someone who owns one and ask to borrow it?

Mine will be free from this evening, if anyone’s interested.

 

 

Red Thai Curry

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I do believe we are officially experiencing summertime.  It’s glorious.  And with this season comes a whole array of foods to eat which compliment the heat.  In my head I have time to flick through recipes, buy new ingredients and potter in the kitchen, presenting my boys with yet another piece de resistance.  The reality is, there is never really enough time, and I end up, most of the time, falling back on old faithfuls. Things which I have the ingredients for, that don’t take too long to cook, and that I know everyone will enjoy.

When I was growing up, the summer staple was always some sort of food, with salad.  And every time we had salad, big Dave would exclaim something along the lines of,

‘Rabbit food again then?’

As a friend of mine once said, ‘I don’t do greens.  I don’t do anything with fibre’

There’s nothing quite like the soul destroying feeling of someone’s dinner disappointment.

So, with this in mind, I have incorporated a red Thai curry into my repertoire, which I believe ticks all the summer food boxes, without instigating the ‘summer salad’ conversation.  And it’s a doddle to make.

I usually use either a meaty fish (cod), pork or chicken strips, but sometimes I break the mold and just use vegetables.  Oh yes, living on the edge.  Anyway.

What I start with is a teaspoon of Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, bought in a tub from my local supermarket which cuts out the faff of mixing together all the things I don’t have, and it keeps in the fridge for an eternity.  I think.  I add this into a wok with a splash of oil, a teaspoon of soft brown sugar, a splash of fish sauce and a dash of lime juice.  Mix together, warm through and add the meat.  If you’re using fish, skip this stage and add the fish in with the coconut milk as otherwise it breaks up too much.

Cook for five minutes or so.

I then add sliced red onion, orange, red and yellow peppers if I have all three, if not I put in whatever I do have, stir around for a wee while, and add a tin of coconut milk. Next I add mange tout, sugar snap peas, green beans, (once again, whatever I have in), and let them all cook in the milk until they look as though they’ve seen some heat**.

And that, my friends, is it!

If we’re eating it with noodles, I also add them, if we’re eating it with rice, I cook that alongside the curry and serve the two separately on the plate.

I do like to add some fresh chopped coriander right at the end, but more often than not, if I haven’t bought some that day, the stuff I have has either wilted or been semi frozen by my temperamental fridge.

It may not be totally authentic, but it tastes devine.

** Just a final thought, the peppers, beans, whatever you fancy veg really could do with having a crunch to them otherwise it does taste like ‘old people’s home’ food.