Tag Archives: Lamb

Lamb and coffee

I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.
~ Simon and Garfunkel

Glory of the humble steak.

For all its fuss-free ease (under eight minutes from pan to plate), it is one of my favourite experiences. Whisking clean laundry away into the bedroom (to avoid catching smells). Watching tiny showers of oil blitz with the sound of microscopic rockets onto the surface of the gas stove. Feeling fresh Wellington wind whip against my cheek as I stand at the hot stove with the kitchen window wide open. Seeing the meat lose its healthy blush and take on a golden, plate-ready glow. Slicing it, noting its soft seared / brown / pink layers… and just a trickle of juice flowing on to the plate.

Yesterday’s dinner: lamb steak, seared with ground chilli and a flick of oregano – and a fresh cup of black coffee on the side. I don’t want to say it was “magnificent”, since that seems too grand a word to bestow on a rapid dinner that took less than 20 minutes to prepare and eat… but to be honest, that is the word that flashed through my mind as I ate ;-)

And that is all I wanted to write about today. Good morning!


Magic, fairies and lamb

In order to make art, we must first make an artful life, a life rich enough and diverse enough to give us fuel.
~ Julia Cameron

On Sunday, Tracey and I had brunch at a cafe with a cool blackboard (and food, but that was second to the blackboard that day). Nestled amidst the menu specials were these chalky scribbles: “magic happens” and “fairies do exist”. ‘Cept the letters were flipped horizontally so that you could only read these properly when you gazed into the mirror on the other side of the wall.

And you know what, magic doesn’t just happen in stories, and fairies don’t always look like Tinker Bell. Magic comes in the way of fairy lights in January and vanilla/candy-floss-coloured sunsets, and fairies manifest in the form of amazingamazing friends, bus drivers, baristas (and you lovely readers of course! ;-)).

This week has contained some stressful moments, but it has also certainly involved magic and fairies.

See, today I was at the bus stop and a bus driver with kind eyes stopped his bus (which had “out of service” flashing at the front), asked me where I was going, and took me to town… for free. With the door wide open, so the wind rushed through my hair and the sun fell on my face. He did not know how beautiful he made my morning…

And when I went to buy a cup of coffee this afternoon, the smiling barista asked if I wanted a chocolate fish or marshmallows (as is the case if you happen to get a mocha in New Zealand) – or a chocolate fish and eight marshmallows (not usually the case even in New Zealand)… seriously, EIGHT?! Sweet hmm? (and not just literally).

I could mention a few other things too… but that might take all night, and I unfortunately need to go to bed soon. Something to do with being a responsible working adult and all.

Just quickly before I climb into bed though, I wanted to mention my dinner last night. I was quite pleased with it, firstly because I had it following a good swim and 45-minute walk in summery goodness, secondly because it tasted so good, and thirdly because I was generally happy that I had rediscovered the joys of swimming (or at least, attempting to swim)… the last time I swam, I was 12. Time flies, doesn’t it!

Dinner: I heated some oil in a skillet, threw in some chopped garlic and ginger, seared a few lamb chops, and added in a few prunes and apricots, half a sprig of rosemary from G’s backyard, salt, pepper and a dribble of leftover white wine… and had it with two-week old farmers’ market salad (yes, so good is this market – the greens were still crisp) and a slice of crusty bread. Juicy lamb, gently sticky-sweet prunes and apricots, crisp greens and bread that tasted like a hug… a jolly good meal to end the day with. :-)

Right, good night. May you all have a magical Thursday!

Lamb, anchovies and hunger

You have to be yourself. But you have to know who you are.
~ Sonia Rykiel

Sometimes, hunger leads you to the kitchen. If the dairy/supermarket/fast food restaurant doesn’t claim you first. You know what I mean about mad hunger? – the kind that causes temporary blindness and acute clumsiness in your haste to cram something… anything… into your mouth. Into your tummy. So you can think again. By the time you sink gratefully into your plushy couch, you have butter smeared across your favourite top and egg clinging to your hair, but you don’t care. You are in love with life, with domesticity, and with the world.

Sometimes, your loved ones lead you to the kitchen. You know what I mean again, no? When you love, you want to make something with your hands and feed the objects of your affection – whether they be friends, family or lovers. Cakes; seafood dishes; wine-drizzled medleys; chocolate surprises – all of that.

All sorts of things lead us to the kitchen. Insomnia. Happiness. Curiosity. Boredom. Excitement. Most of the time, it’s hunger or hunger + something else which propel us, inevitably, into the kitchen. To create, to love, to eat.

Of late, I don’t know what has led me to the kitchen. I’ve been out a lot, and in the times I’ve been home, I feel like I’ve wandered around in a daze a lot. I guess I’ve had a few Long Days – at the end of which I’ve come home with a tired brain, ready to fall into bed. I’ve showered mindlessly, cooked thoughtlessly, and it was only yesterday when a poached egg slipped and fell on the kitchen mat that I began to awake from my cloudy reverie.

This evening, while I was walking home nursing a headache, whatever it was really snapped – it’s hard to explain. It was like a brisk shower of hail fell upon my head – and I realised with a start that I wasn’t hungry at all. And that I hadn’t been properly, happily hungry in a while. (By this, I mean I haven’t recently felt that kind of hunger that leads to happy creating/self-nourishing/joyous dinner parties rather than the dull signal to the brain to eat or sighing at having to cook).

So I came home, sat on the floor and caught up on emails and all the other things you find to do online, a little puzzled by my uncharacteristic unhungry-ness.

A phrase (from an ad on the side, I think?) slipped past my eyes – “lamb and anchovies”.

Yuck, I thought. Then, restless, I shut my laptop, went downstairs, opened the fridge, flung open the pantry door. And I saw… a pack of diced lamb and – when I pushed a few things out of the way – a forsaken (but still healthy) jar of anchovies!

So I took out the forsaken (but still healthy) jar of anchovies, the pack of diced lamb, a bottle of leftover red, half a bag of spinach, and some rosemary. I fished around in the pantry – a lemon. Two cloves of garlic. Muscovado. Salt, pepper, chilli flakes. A random bag of almonds. Angel hair pasta.

I took out a knife, not really expecting much. But, you know, as my fingers touched everything and my nose was surprised by how nice everything smelled, it felt like a missing piece of my heart came back and slid right back in where it belonged. And I was properly hungry again by 8pm.

This was a spontaneous dish, so I didn’t record measurements – but I have attempted to be as accurate as possible below.

    Lamb, lemon and anchovy pasta
    2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped
    2 tsp anchovy oil
    4 anchovy strips, chopped (I used bottled anchovies)
    1 tsp muscovado sugar
    chilli flakes
    ~ 130g diced lamb
    1/4 lemon – zest and juice
    1 sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
    Handful of spinach, washed and chopped
    Handful of raw almonds
    Angel hair pasta (or spaghetti)
    Method to my madness:
    Place the lamb in a small bowl. Add in the chopped garlic, lemon zest, sugar, chilli flakes, rosemary, anchovy oil, anchovy bits and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands, massaging the anchovy bits into the lamb, and set aside. (You will want to wash your hands well at this stage!)
    Roughly chop the almonds. Throw them into a skillet; briefly dry fry on medium high heat till they are fragrant. Take them out and set aside.
    Replace the skillet on the stove, add a tablespoon of butter, watch it melt and swirl it around – then add the lamb and pour in a dribble of red wine (I probably used about 1/4 cup tonight). Inhale. Let it cook for a minute or two, then stir occasionally so the lamb doesn’t burn. Add in more wine or water if it gets too dry.
    When the lamb is cooked, pour it all into a clean bowl – then add the spinach to the skillet and cook for approximately two minutes till they are just wilted (you can use a separate skillet if you prefer). Simultaneously, fill a saucepan with water (I boiled the water in a kettle and poured it into the saucepan to save time), throw in some salt and let it comes to a rolling boil before adding the angel hair pasta in. Allow to cook for two minutes, then drain it and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to separate the strands.
    Ladle the angel hair on to a plate, then add the spinach, the lamb and chopped almonds on top. Squeeze the wedge of lemon over the plate. Sit and eat.

Lamb and anchovies, together – you may be pleasantly surprised.

What is your Inspiration Dish?

PS. On that giveaway! – a sincere thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to Becs from Lovely Wee Days for winning this :-)

Corrine’s Lamb with Spring Onion, Ginger & Coriander & Ginger Relish

I am open to everything.
~ Luciano Pavarotti

One of my favourite ways to cook is to do it in stages, letting the flavours mix & mingle, take time to know each other… while I carry on with the rest of my activities, floating in and out of the kitchen periodically to check how it’s doing, progress things when appropriate, and let it draw to completion naturally.

Eg. I love marinading meat overnight, or making pastry in the morning to fill and bake in the evening, or letting things simmer into tenderness while I sit and read a book, go to work, etc.

Tonight’s roast lamb happened this way.

My guests, Mr & Mrs Brown and Sally, did all the things perfect dinner guests do – bring apple crumble and wine, help carve the lamb, smile and thank politely, etc…. ;-) and I was very appreciative – above all, it was great to just sit and chat about all things meaningful or trivial, relax and laugh with them over a meal!

On the menu tonight:

    Garlicky Turkish Bread – those convenient loaves you can get from the supermarket and bake for 6-8 minutes
    Broccoli & carrot roasted with spices & maple syrup – the drizzle of maple syrup was a spontaneous addition, and lent the dish a light, round sweetness
    Potatoes with zest and herbs – chosen as much for convenience as taste: boiled potato quarters tossed with orange zest, olive oil, salt & pepper, rubbed oregano, marjoram & rosemary… easy, quick and tasty
    and from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
    #59 Corinne’s Lamb with Spring Onion, Ginger & Coriander & Ginger Relish – Page 363 – tender, flavoured lamb which was easily sliced, and a relish reminiscent of Thai flavours – with refreshing lime!

Two nights ago, I had sprinkled spices and chopped garlic, swirling it into the thick white yoghurt, watching as the colours interacted to become a colourful cream…

It was a perfect pre-bedtime activity. All I had to do was make a simple yoghurt sauce, pour it over a leg of lamb, hide it in the fridge and go to bed!

Today, when I took the lamb out of the fridge, it smelled comforting and just mmmm!

I burnt my fingers a few times juggling hot plates and trays… I also scarred my oven with lamb dripping, nearly broke the sieve, and dipped the oven mitten in sauce. I was slightly amused by it all, but I did not have the mood or time to take photos during the cooking process!

By the time my friends arrived, I was afraid of touching any plates without the protection of at least two intermediary tea towels, but all went well from there. Introductions between them done, we all sat down and got down to some important business – eating and connecting!

The lamb had a deep brown crust and was soft and flavoured within. The yoghurt sauce and oven had worked their magic!

The Browns made some amazing crumble! Sticky, sweet and delicious. We devoured it with a generous scoop of ice cream on top.

PS. This video is just the cutest!! :-)

Leg of lamb, and others

I tried to commit suicide by sticking my head in the oven, but there was a cake in it.
~ Lesley Boone

Today I set myself to play in the kitchen again to prepare dinner for 6 of us – it took around 2.5 hours including cooking time, but there were no complex procedures involved. And the obedient, intelligent oven did most of the work.

I do love ovens, they simplify life so.

Tonight I decided to do 1 new recipe from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” (leg of lamb), 2 repeats of Tessa-recipes (fish and tzatziki), 1 impromptu salad, 1 impromptu potato dish. The new dish was:

#14 Leg of lamb with oregano & lemon – Page 111 (pictured below)

Bread & tzatziki not pictured here, but this was the main part of our dinner. The lamb was easy enough, marinaded simply with oregano, lemon juice, salt, pepper – browned quickly then baked for 2.5 hours with the potatoes for company – it emerged brown and victorious, but not soft as they make it in good restaurants in New Zealand where the meat is just falling off the bone like clouds in heaven. Hmmm! Will have to work on that one.

This simple salad consisted just of orange zest, orange cubes, watercress & lettuce leaves, cucumber slices. Served with balsamic cream and olive oil on the side. A good mix, I conclude, and an excellent side dish which won’t overpower your main – but I don’t think I’ll try eating watercress salad again (frightful). It reeked so much of ‘grass’ I felt like I was a cow.

These babies… red potatoes, peeled, cut, boiled for around 10 minutes, then dressed with a little olive oil, orange zest, rosemary, black pepper & salt. This tasted light and refreshing. I think it is a good side dish (especially for lamb/chicken) when you are out of ideas and need to make something quickly.

The ling fish fillet was most wonderful – white and innocent, a delight to prepare. This is what it looked like with parsley and a tiny drizzle of olive oil before the rest of the sauce went on it…

The fish was a repeat of the oven-baked tomato, celery & parsley-dressed fish I did not too long ago – except I had to reproduce it from memory, since I do not have my book with me here. I think it tasted better today!

    Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros’ ‘Falling Cloudberries’:
    4 stems celery – would’ve included the leaves, but we had none left
    700g firm white fish – cut into squares/size of your preference
    1 can tomatoes – chopped
    2 fresh tomatoes – chopped
    a handful of fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
    juice of 1 lemon
    4 cloves garlic (adjust this to your preference), finely chopped
    1 shallot, sliced
    salt & pepper to taste
    olive oil
    Simple, simple method:
    Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Lay a deep baking tray with foil, and coat it thinly with a little olive oil. Lay the fish out in a single layer.

    Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, stirring it gently until it combines in an even mix. Pour this over the fish.

    Cover the tray with foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

    Remove the foil, and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. It should smell very fragrant and the fish should be juicy and very tender.

    Serve with crusty bread/salad/both.

Summer Winter Dinner

If a pot is cooking, the friendship will stay warm.
~ Arab Proverb

Good company for dinner is one of the best pleasures in life. I had that this evening :-)

I begin to surprise myself now with the way I think I am actually getting into this Cook-through the Cookbook thing… I fear I may even be mildly – just mildly – addicted to it! Hmm. In any case, tonight’s recipes of choice from “Falling Cloudberries” were:

#11 Tava (Cypriot Baked Lamb & Potatoes with Cumin & Tomatoes) – Page 173
#12 Baked Amaretti & Vin Santo Plums with Mascarpone Cream – Page 326

And I’ll admit it, I cheated and edited the recipes.

Since we got home pretty late, I didn’t want to spend 2.75 hours cooking the lamb & potatoes! So I par-boiled the potatoes and browned the lamb, reducing the cooking time by around 1.75 hours. I was also skeptical of just using cumin, so I added in cinnamon and paprika.

This is what it looked like pre-baking:

And here it is on a plate… not a great photo I’m afraid! (No angles would make it look appetizing). It did taste far better than it looks in the picture. It was also a ‘wintry’ meal perfect for today’s grey weather. However… I did not think it was fantabulous.

Dessert, on the other hand…

You know how sometimes it feels like only chocolate cake or tiramisu or sticky date pudding count as ‘real’ desserts?

I did not need cake at all tonight. Because, these peaches, and the mascarpone cream, were delectable.

Substitutions: I used peaches instead of plums, oat biscuits because the supermarket did not have amaretti biscuits, a mixture of Spiced Gold & Kahlua because we did not have vin santo.