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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Dumplings, as I have recently commented, are a traditional extra cooked as part of a warming stew and good served as an alternative to potato (or as well as if you really must).  However plain dumplings, whilst being homely, are rather boring so various ingredients can be added to flavour, and improve, this useful little wintery filler.  I recently posted a recipe with dumplings flavoured with caraway seeds and perfect for the traditional Hungarian dish of Goulash.  I have also already posted my own Beef & Bean Casserole recipe, served with plain dumplings.  Last year I found a recipe at Mother May Have for carrot dumplings, which were served with stewed beef.  In that case the dumplings did not contain suet, but nonetheless an idea was born.  I successfully incorporated grated carrot into the basic suet dumpling mixture and on that occasion added fresh coriander, often used to complement carrot in soup though usually in its ground form.  Grated carrot and suet dumplings make a good marriage, so it makes we wonder which other root vegetables would also be good – parsnip and beetroot are two experiments I intend to try.  I have other thoughts as well: different herbs or spices, cheese, citrus zest ….! 

The minced lamb and lentil mixture here is one of our favourites.  I have been making it for some years, initially inspired by an idea in The Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones (nothing to do with the diarist, I’m sure!) but so much adapted it has long since become my own work.  The resulting stew is warm and comforting: as I have said before, I love the grainy quality of cooked red lentils and usually add pearl barley to the mixtured as well.  There are always carrots and often some peas too.  The quantities of the vegetables can, of course, be adjusted according to personal taste.  In the past I have served the dish with rice or boiled potatoes but recently have replaced them with the carrot dumplings: a perfect winter meal in a bowl.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/375g minced Lamb
1 large leek, sliced into rings
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes
2ozs/60g red lentils
1oz/30g pearl barley
10fl ozs/300mls water (plus more if needed)
2 large carrots, cut in rings (or quartered lengthwise & chopped)
3ozs/100g frozen peas
Salt & ground black pepper
1-2 potatoes (optional – in small pieces or diced. See 6 below)
Dumplings:
1 quantity Basic mixture
1 medium carrot, grated (use around 2ozs)
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped

1.  Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. 

2.  Add the minced lamb and cook until the redness is gone.

3.  Chop the plum tomatoes and add to the pan with the leek, carrot, pearl barley and lentils plus the chopped rosemary and the water.  Bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the barley and lentils have started to soften.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

4.  Meanwhile mix together the dumplings using the basic recipe.  Grate the carrot and add about 2ozs to the mixture with the chopped rosemary (alternatively fresh coriander or other herb).  Any extra carrot can be stirred into the panful of stew.  Divide into enough balls for 2-3 per diner.

5.  Add the peas and then the dumplings to the pan.  Make sure there is enough liquid in the pan as the dumplings will steam so add more water if needed.  Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer and cover with a lid.  Cook for 10-15 minutes more depending on size of dumplings. 

6. Check seasoning and serve in bowls.  Can be served with potatoes, or chunks of potato can be cooked into the stew (added at the same time as the carrot, or later if cut into small dice).

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I am experimenting with some North African recipes at the moment but also, as always, trying to be mindful of not overdoing it with the calories in day-to-day dishes.  For this reason it is always good to find something that sounds tasty but falls into the ‘not quite so naughty’ category.  (Eating this recipe cannot guarantee a smaller waistline but it is certainly not an unhealthy option.)

Some weeks ago, in a charity shop, I found a copy of The Time to Eat Cookbook by Sîan Davies, a book published by the diet help organisation WeightWatchersAlthough I am not following the WeightWatchers regime there are some delicious and simple recipes in the book, following sensible healthy eating rules.  All give an idea of the total calorie numbers, but as I am slightly adapting the original recipe I shall not be including this information.  However, as the changes are mostly healthy options, this recipe broadly keeps to the ideals of the original.  The changes I have made are: using Ras el-Hanout, a North African Spice Mix which can be bought ready made or mixed at home, the option of tinned plum tomatoes in place of fresh ones and the addition of chopped preserved/Pickled Lemon, which is popular in cooking across North Africa.  Alternatively, dried fruit (raisins, dried apricot or prunes), which are also often used in North African dishes, could be added in place of or as well as the pickled lemon and/or aubergine.  This would obviously affect the calorie count of the dish, giving bigger portions.  I have chosen not to add any calorie counting details to my recipes.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Lamb & Rice Pilaf
(Serves 4) 

350g/12ozs lean lamb mince or diced lean lamb
1tsp olive oil (or less, leave this out and dry fry if possible)
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2tsp Ras el-Hanout (originally ½tsp each ginger & cinnamon plus 1tsp paprika)
1 aubergine, diced & salted
225g/8ozs courgettes, diced – if small ones then sliced
225g/8ozs long grain rice, pre-soaked and drained in at least 2 changes of water
220ml/½pt/10fl ozs water and 2tsp vegetable stock, or lamb stock if available
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes, diced 
          or
450g/1lb chopped fresh tomatoes (plum type if available) & a little water, as needed
2tbsp chopped preserved/Pickled Lemon (optional)
2tbsp chopped fresh mint, reserving a little to garnish
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  Fry the lamb mince for 5 minutes in as little extra oil as necessary, ideally using a non-stick pan should mean it can be dry fried.  Drain off any excess oil before continuing.

2.  Add the onion, garlic and Ras-el Hanout (or ginger, cinnamon and paprika).  Stir well.

3.  Drain the aubergines.  Add to the pan with the courgettes, juice from the tinned tomatoes (if using – set aside the drained tomatoes to stir in when the pilaf is almost finished), rice and stock.  (Any extra dried fruit should be added at this point.)  Bring to the boil. 

4.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is soft.  Check periodically to make sure that it does not boil dry.

5.  Add the tomatoes (or the drained tomatoes set aside when the liquid was used at stage 3), preserved lemon and most of the mint and heat through. 

6.  Transfer to a warmed dish and scatter over the remaining chopped mint before serving.

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This substantial dish, with the often used combination of lamb and chickpeas, is flavoured with sour preserved Pickled Lemons (simple to make at home) and hot chilli based Harissa paste, both commonly used flavours in North African cuisine.  Given a good slow cooking, either on the stove top or in a Tagine, the lamb is tender and soft.  It should be served with a simple couscous, perhaps flavoured with some of the juice from the pickled lemons and some additional coriander.  Alternatively it can be flavoured with some balsamic vinegar, some additional mint and some green peas.   I often add chick peas to couscous, unless they are already included in the main dish.

This recipe, originally named Moroccan Style Stewed Lamb with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon by Antony Worrall Thompson comes from the UKTV food website.  I have adapted it slightly, using lamb fillet, reducing the amount of Harissa paste for a milder flavour and substituting tinned chopped tomatoes.  I have also added a cinnamon stick, a lovely complement to a lamb dish and a flavour traditionally used in the cooking of North Africa.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb lean leg of lamb (I used lamb fillet)
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
400g/14fl oz tin of tomatoes, chopped or 4 skinned & chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp harissa paste (use 1tsp for a milder taste)
1 cinnamon stick (optional – my addition)
325ml/12fl ozs water (425ml/15fl ozs  if using fresh tomatoes)
400g/14fl oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
350g/120zs peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 preserved Pickled Lemon, finely diced (2-4 tbsp depending on personal taste)
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped coriander

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2 if using a Tagine, or a similar lidded pot.  Alternatively, this dish can be cooked on the stove top without using the oven.

2.  Cover the lamb with ground black pepper.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Brown the meat on all sides.

3.  Chop the onion and add it to the pan with the crushed garlic.  Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned.  Add a little of the water if needed if the mixture starts to stick.

4.  Stir in the tomatoes, harissa paste and the water (or the remainder if some has been used already). 

5.  Heat to simmering, cover and cook on a medium heat for 1¼ – 1½ hours.  Alternatively, transfer mixture to a Tagine and bake in the oven.  Check periodically and top up with water if necessary.  Cook until the lamb is almost tender.

6.  Add the drained chickpeas and diced pumpkin.  Cook until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes more. 

7.  Chop the preserved lemon, mint and coriander, stir into the meat mixture. 

7.  Serve with simply flavoured couscous or flatbread.

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I have finally finished watching Gary Rhodes’ series of programmes exploring the food of the Caribbean. This dish, from Barbados, tasted as good as it looked on television and it was not too difficult to make.  I have cooked with beetroot as a vegetable in a stew with success and found some lovely lamb fillet in the supermarket.  The recipe needed the Bajan green seasoning (otherwise it would not be Bajan style) but it was not too difficult to make.  I made a half quantity and as I was trying just a small quantity of stew have frozen half for another occasion.  Another time I would make the full quantity but would recommend storing the remainder in the freezer, unless it will be used very quickly.  The recipe required green bananas, which are always available in specialist food shops but sometimes they can be found in the supermarket or even on the local street market, especially in the colder months.  Both the Bajan Seasoning and the Banana added a distinctive flavour to the dish that I would definitely not want to omit.

Here is a link to the original recipe for Gary Rhodes’ dish, called Blackbelly Lamb Stew and also the recipe for Bajan Seasoning.  The recipes come from Rhodes around the Caribbean, which was first shown on the UKTV Good Food Channel.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Bajan Style Lamb Stew
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb Lamb, from the shoulder, cut into 4cm pieces (I used lamb fillet)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
sprig Thyme, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
sprig Marjoram, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried marjoram)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 sticks Celery, finely sliced
1 tbsp Bajan Seasoning, (see separate recipe below)
dash of pepper sauce, or Tabasco (I used ½tsp chilli powder)
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
25g/1oz Butter
½ tbsp Plain Flour
1 Carrot, peeled and diced
1 large raw Beetroot, peeled and diced
3 small green Bananas, cut into 3cm chunks
1 Bouquet Garni, (Bay Leaf, Thyme, Marjoram)
½ Oxo Beef Stock cube (used on television, but not online ingredient list)

1.  Wash and dry the lamb.  Toss with the garlic, herbs, crumbled half stock cube, onion, celery, Bajun seasoning and pepper sauce.

2.  Heat a dry pan and add the sugar. Cook briefly and when it caramelises, add the lamb mixture, stir and fry very gently for a few minutes.  (The cooking of the sugar should be very brief and it needs to darken but must not burn, otherwise the dish will have a bitter flavour.)

3.  Add the butter and flour into the pan and mix in well. Add the carrot, beetroot, green bananas and bouquet garni (or bay leaf and a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram).

4.  Pour over enough boiling water to cover all the ingredients and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until meat is tender, topping up the pan with a little more water during cooking if necessary.

5.   Serve with rice.  Sprinkle with a little parsley if you wish.

Bajan Green Seasoning

1 Onion, chopped
small bunch Spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 red Chilli, seeds and stem removed (Scotch Bonnet/Habanero if available)
1 tbsp Thyme, leaves
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
1 tbsp chopped Marjoram
100ml/4 fl ozs White Wine Vinegar
1 Lime, juice only
1 tsp Curry powder
pinch ground Allspice
pinch ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp Salt

1.  Chop the onion, spring onions, garlic and chilli together finely.  Use a food processor if available.

2.  Add the herbs, vinegar and lime juice and mix in very well. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

3.  Cover and store.  Ideally Bajan seasoning should be stored in the fridge for a week before use so that the flavours can mature.  It will keep in the refrigerator for six months or can be frozen in a plastic lined ice cube tray and stored in the freezer.

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In her novel Chocolat, Joanne Harris writes a little about the Mexican background of the history of chocolate and the novel’s heroine, Vianne, serves her customers hot drinking chocolate flavoured with chilli. It may seem unusual, but cocoa has also long been used to complement the flavour of meat and is a key ingredient in the Mexican dish ‘Mole Poblano’. Chocolate and chilli are surprisingly good together, the heat of the peppers blending beautifully with the rich dark flavour of cocoa.  The Basque country of South West France, the city of Bayonne in particular, is well known for its fine chocolate and on holiday last year we enjoyed sampling a chilli flavoured variety. The chilli was surprisingly subtle but with a definite hot spicy ‘kick’.

I was delighted to discover this recipe for a spicy marinade for roast lamb which contained chocolate – and it was every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be. I made a few adaptations, using fresh orange in place of orange juice and squeezing some of this juice over the rice to give it a citrus flavour. The recipe would work equally well with some good thick lamb steaks or slow cooked lamb fillet.  The original recipe for Leg of Lamb with Chilli Sauce comes from Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.

100_7613 Lamb with Chilli Sauce

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Roast Lamb with Chilli Sauce
(Serves 4)

1kg/2¼lb leg of lamb (or replace with lamb steaks or fillet)
5ml/1tsp cocoa powder
125ml/½tsp Cayenne pepper
125ml/½tsp Ground Cumin
125ml/½tsp Paprika
125ml/½tsp Ground Oregano
140ml/¼pt water
140ml/¼pt orange juice (2/3 oranges depending on size – includes garnish)
140ml/¼pt red wine
1 clove of garlic, crushed
30g/2tbsp brown sugar
15ml/1tbsp cornflour
Pinch of salt
Orange slices and fresh coriander to garnish

1. Trim the paper thin skin and any large pieces of surface fat from the lamb with a sharp knife. Place lamb in a shallow dish.

2. Cut one orange in half and remove a slice or two. Place in a covered container to reserve as a garnish. Squeeze the juice from the remaining pieces of orange and take enough from other oranges to make up to a generous ¼pint.

3. Leaving aside the cornflour, mix at least half of this orange juice with the remaining marinade ingredients. Pour this over the lamb, turning well so it is completely coated. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

4. Drain the lamb and place in a roasting pan. Reserve the marinade. Cook in a pre-heated 190oC/370oF/Gas 5 oven for about 2 hours or until meat is cooked according to taste basting occasionally with the marinade juices.  (If you usually leave the joint to roast while you are out then put most of the juices in the roasting dish and cook on a lower setting, turning the temperature up and basting the joint for a final 10 or 15 minutes before resting and serving the meat.)

5.  Remove lamb to a serving dish to rest and keep warm.  Add any remaining juices or a little water to the pan, stir to loosen the sediment, strain and put aside for a short while.  Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  

6.  Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water in a sauce pan and then stir in the skimmed, strained marinade juices.   Heat gently, stirring all the time, until thickened. (This can also be done in a jug in the microwave by alternately giving short bursts of heat and stirring until thickened.)  More orange juice, wine or water can be added if necessary. Keep a little orange juice back to stir through the rice, if you would like.

7.  Garnish with the reserved orange slices and sprigs of coriander.  Serve with white boiled rice, stirring through just a little reserved orange juice to give a zesty flavour, the sauce and mildly spiced vegetables curry (so it does not overpower the lamb dish, but including more coriander which complements the citrus flavours).  The original recipe suggests you could also serve this with boiled potato and conventionally cooked vegetables.

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I love Roast Lamb, but am not a great lover of the mint sauce with which it is traditionally served.  This quick and simple method gives a lovely background hint of orange, as well as the more obvious rosemary flavour. Just be aware that these lovely flavours could be masked by mint sauce! 

This recipe is my own.  I find that I enjoy this even though I am not a lover of meat and fruit combined.  Perhaps because the recipe is not particularly sweet and I like the background citrus flavour. For a more pronounced orange flavour, you can squeeze one of the oranges and use the juice as well, either in the marinade or the gravy (or both).  The joint needs to be defrosted and prepared in advance of roasting (the night before, assuming it is for Sunday lunch next day) otherwise it can be cooked according to normal roasting times.

100_2534-lamb-with-orange-and-rosemary

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Roast Lamb with Orange & Rosemary

A lamb joint of your choice and size to suit number of diners
Marinade:
Zest of 2 oranges (3 if a large joint)
Juice of ½-1 orange (depending on size of joint) – optional
Large sprig of fresh Rosemary, shredded
1-2tbsp Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Defrost the joint and place in a roasting tin on a rack so the fats and juices drip down below the joint.

2.  If using the orange juice, then pour over the joint now. (Or you could add some juice to the gravy later – or as well – if you wish.)

3.  Rub the joint with olive oil.  Sprinkle over orange zest and shredded rosemary, tucking sprigs of Rosemary into any gaps and slits in the meat.  Season.  Leave to marinade overnight or for as long as possible.

4.  Roast according to usual timings for the size of joint.  I tend to put joints of meat in a very low (140oC) oven very low from quite early (just before I leave for church) and raise the temperature when I return, which is often nearly three hours later, removing the lid for the final 15minutes of cooking.

5.  For the gravy separate the meat juices and remove the fat before thickening.  If you wish you can add a little orange juice (or additional orange juice) at this point.

6.  Lamb is lovely served with new potatoes and peas, if both are available, as well as other vegetables of your choice.

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