Archive for the ‘Spicy’ Category

This is one of those relatively simple dishes that is ideal if you only want a light meal on a hot summery day, but actually I would be happy to eat at any time of year!  Apart from the time taken to marinade the meat and prepare the kebabs, it is quick to cook in a preheated oven.  Accompany with a portion of boiled Jasmine Rice, plus salad or some peas served on the side, if you wish.  The tomato and chilli sambal is a perfect sauce to accompany to the dish.

Yet again this recipe comes from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.   The finished meat was spicy and fragrant but not especially hot.  I used ready made tamarind paste in place of soaking and preparing tamarind pods (although the sourness of lemon juice would give a similar flavour).  Now I know we like the recipe I may see if I can find some Indonesian Soy Sauce, Kekap Manis, but the first time I used a combination of dark soy sauce and dark brown sugar.  The only other change to the recipe was to thread the marinaded meat alternately with cherry tomatoes, cubes of yellow or orange pepper and green pepper or slices of pre-blanched courgette.  This gave extra colour and a healthier dish: anyway I love grilled vegetables in kebabs.   I grilled my skewers of meat but they would be ideal cooked on a barbecue.   A piece of meat and one or two small pieces of vegetable combined on a cocktail stick would also make a good starter or buffet dish. 

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Tamarind Chicken Satay
(Serves 4, 6 if using vegetables as well as meat)

4 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and cut into 1.25cm cubes
Cherry tomatoes, sliced courgette & yellow/orange pepper (optional)
1tbsp sunflower oil
5cm piece tamarind, soaked in 100ml hot water 
2tsp tamarind paste 
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp ground cardamom
½tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon kekap manis sweet soy sauce
1tsp dark soy sauce and
½tsp dark brown sugar or jaggery

Tomato & Chilli Sambal
1 red chilli pepper (for less heat remove the seeds and/or reduce the amount/size of chilli)
1 small piece fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed & finely chopped
450g/1lb fresh tomatoes, peeled & seeded
4 tbsps oil
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
Salt & pepper

1.  Put the pieces of chicken in a large bowl. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour them over the chicken. Stir well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but longer if possible.

2.  Soak the skewers in a bowl of water.  This prevents them from burning: especially important if barbecuing.

3.  Grind the chillis, ginger and garlic together in a food processor or using a pestle and mortar. Chop the tomatoes coarsely, use the food processor if available and blend them into the chili mixture.

4.  Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Fry the tomato mixture for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.  To prevent sticking, add the lemon or lime juice and a spoonful of water, if the sauce starts to become too thick.

5.  Stir in the sugar and season to taste.

6.  If using vegetables as well as chicken cut each into similarly sized pieces, allowing the same number of pieces for each portion.  If using courgette the pieces need to be blanched: pour over boiling water and leave for 5 minutes, before plunging into cold water or cook for 1-2 minutes in a microwave oven.

7.  Thread the marinated chicken cubes onto thin wooden skewers.  If using vegetables as well then alternate the chicken with the vegetable pieces, using each colour of vegetable in turn.

8.  Brush the threaded kebab with any remaining marinade supplemented with a little extra oil if necessary.

9.  Preheat the grill and cook the chicken gently, turning frequently, until golden brown.  This should take 5-8 minutes.  Continue to brush the chicken with the remaining marinade during cooking.

10.  Serve with Boiled Jasmine Rice.  Peas and salad can be served as an accompaniment but if serving chicken and vegetable skewers a small side salad should suffice.

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This lovely combination of cold chicken and vegetables dressed in a spicy yoghurt mayonnaise and served with hot rice, makes a perfect light but spicy dish for a warm summer evening.  We enjoyed it so much I took the recipe on holiday with me, along with some tomato relish plus little packet containing the spices I needed and then made it in our holiday caravan in the French alps.  (I am always looking for straightforward and quick to prepare holiday recipes, after all it’s my break too!)  The finished dish looks very pretty and would be an attractive addition for a buffet, perhaps as an alternative to the much sweeter Coronation Chicken.  A small portion, perhaps on a bed of lettuce with little or no rice, would make a delicious starter.
Update 6.2.11:  I made this recipe as part of a buffet in a quantity that would serve 50 people.

The recipe came from one of my favourite cookbooks and probably one of my best charity shop finds: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.  Ideally this would be a good use for cold meat left over from a roast.  As I had none I gently pre-cooked some lightly seasoned chicken thighs in a small saucepan along with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion, allowed them to cool and removed the flesh in strips.  This was then used to finish the recipe. One ingredient that I dispensed with was onion purée.  I certainly was not going to buy a ready made version, if I could find some, as it would be so easy to make myself, but it was rather a lot of work for such a small amount.  In the end I simply gently cooked half a finely chopped small onion in the microwave. On subsequent occasions I have used a good tablespoon of my own home made Spicy Tomato Relish in place of the onion, tomato puree, chilli powder and cayenne pepper, just adding the paprika.  The relish includes a little apple and sugar, making it slightly sweeter, but it was enjoyed by all and I will make it this way in future.  If using tomato relish in the recipe chilli and cayenne can still be added to taste for lovers of spicy food but less will be needed than in the original recipe.  In my version I have also adjusted the proportions of other ingredients, including doubling the quantity of sweetcorn and adding an extra pepper in a different colour.

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Mexican Style Chicken Salad
(Serves 6)

450g/1lb poached chicken, breast or meat from thighs, cut into small pieces
140ml/¼pint mayonnaise (more if you wish) – not salad cream
140ml/¼pint natural yoghurt (more if you wish)
1tsp paprika
3 medium peppers, seeded & finely sliced: suggest one each red, orange & green
½ x 325g tin sweetcorn, drained (but more if you wish)
a little paprika to garnish
1tbsp Spicy Tomato Relish
1tsp chilli powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½tsp tomato purée
1tsp onion purée

1. a.If using the chicken thighs lightly season them and gently cook in a small saucepan with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion.  When cooked thoroughly, leave to cool, remove the flesh in strips.  Drain and reserve any cooking liquid, which can be cooled and frozen to use as stock.  Set aside the drained onion unless using tomato relish, in which case it can be kept with the stock if you wish.

b.  If using cold leftover chicken cut it into strips, checking for and removing any gristle.

2.  Deseed the peppers and cut into small strips, a similar size to the strips of chicken.

3.  Open and drain the sweetcorn.

4.  Mix together the yoghurt and mayonnaise.  Stir in either the tomato and onion purées (or onion cooked with the chicken or some onion chopped and gently cooked until transparent) along with the chilli powder and cayenne pepper or the tomato relish, which already contains spices. (If using tomato relish a little additional chilli powder and/or cayenne pepper can be added, according to taste.)

5.  Mix in the sweetcorn, peppers and chicken and stir well.  Chill before serving with warm long grain rice, lightly sprinkled with paprika.  Alternatively serve on a small bed of lettuce leaves.

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We inherited most of a bag of nacho tortilla chips that were left over after a party and I managed to persuade the family to let me make this rather than just finish them up.  Just a few days before I had seen versions of this recipe in two different places but as we don’t normally buy crisps it was an ingredient I did not have. 

There were two sources for this recipe, both from Sainsbury’s supermarket.  The first is the Summer 2010 leaflet titled ‘Try something new’, the recipe was called Cheesy Nachos.  The second source was from a free instore recipe card, which adds beans to the mixture.  One recipe used salsa dip, which is available from the supermarket, but the other had instructions for a sauce.  My own basic Simple Tomato Sauce could be substituted or alternatively it would be a good way to use home made Tomato Relish.  Chilli powder or sauce can be added if not already in the sauce or relish used or this could be replaced with another spice such as cumin.  No need to buy expensive branded tortilla chips, the supermarket own brand ones are just as good.  Once cooked the top layer of chips are mostly crunchy, but the lower layers are less so.  Do not make this dish too long in advance as the tortilla chips will lose their crispness.

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Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake
(Serves 4)

1 bag plain flavoured Tortilla chips/Nachos (about 100g/3½ozs)
1 125g ball Mozzarella cheese
2-3 chopped spring onions or ½ red onion
1 x 400g tin cannellini/red kidney/black eye beans or chick peas – optional
100g/3½ozs Salsa dip (approximate amount)
100g/3½ozs Tomato Relish (approximate amount)
1 portion Simple Tomato Sauce (approximate amount)
Chilli & or cumin powder or chilli sauce, unless relish/sauce already spiced, to taste

1.  Heat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  Finely chop the spring onions or red onion.

3.  Cut or tear the mozzarella ball into pieces.

4.   Reserving 6 unbroken tortilla triangles for the top of the dish, start to layer the Tortilla Bake nto an ovenproof serving dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish with about ⅓ tortilla chips and follow  with ½ beans (if using), ½ tomato sauce, ½ onions and ½ cheese.  Repeat (⅓ chips and remaining beans (if using), tomato sauce, onions and cheese). Finish with the remaining ⅓ chips placing the 6 reserved chips on top.

5.  Bake uncovered for 10minutes in the centre of the preheated oven.

6.  Serve warm as an accompaniment to a light supper, as part of a buffet or even as a starter.  Best eaten warm but could be served cold at a buffet as long as not made too far in advance.  It will be less crisp if cold.

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Sometimes a recipe that I just have to try pops into my Inbox from one of the sites that sends me regular updates.  A trip to the supermarket shortly after I first saw this recipe and I had a attractive jar full of feta cheese waiting for me to try.  I had to be patient and do as the recipe suggested, but as soon as the week was up I ‘dived in’ – and was not disappointed!

So, thank you to my UK Food Bloggers fellow member, Nic at Cherrapeno for her recipe: Make your own Marinated Feta.   Of course, we all adapt and amend recipes to suit our own tastes.  The ingredients below are for my own version, adjusted to complement the size of block of feta cheese available locally, but with some other ‘tweaks’ too.  I love olives so added some to the second jar I made and will definitely add them again.  I halved the number of chillis as I did not want to spicy a flavour.  The oil is delicious too so don’t forget to mop up the puddle on your plate with some of the crusty bread you serve alongside.  I would definitely serve this as a starter, along with some other marinaded items, such as mixed peppers.  I have tried making this with the cheaper feta type cheese you can buy, which is usually called something like ‘Greek style salad cheese’ and it is fine, though for entertaining I would definitely splash out and buy real Feta.  Only problem with this recipe is that the jar doesn’t last long enough!

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Marinaded Feta

200g packet Feta cheese
½tbsp dried oregano
½tsp coriander seeds, ground – ¼tsp ready ground powder if seeds unavailable
½tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, depending on size
1 small fresh red chilli (2 if you wish) – split lengthways, remove seeds for a milder taste
3-4 small sprigs fresh rosemary
25g/1oz green or black pitted olives, or a mixture (optional)
Olive oil

1.  Drain the whey from the packet of feta and pat dry with a paper towel to remove the maximum amount of liquid. 

2.  Cut into cubes: I cut the block into four long pieces lengthways and then crossways into cubes – around 36-40 pieces.  (Make the pieces larger if you wish by making 3 strips and then crossways into larger cubes.) 

3.  Place the cubes in a bowl.  Sprinkle with oregano, crushed coriander seeds and black pepper.

4.  Cut the tomatoes into three our four pieces each.

5.   Sterilise a jar (about 500-600ml) that is big enough to take all the ingredients by pouring in water from a boiling kettle, draining and filling immediately.  (Make sure the lid is sterlised in a similar way.)

6.  Gradually fill the jar with the cubes of cheese, the pieces of tomato and the olives, poking in the chilli and sprigs of rosemary from time to time so all the ingredients are fairly evenly spaced through the jar.  Make sure that all the herbs in the bowl are included as well.

7.  Pour in a little oil from the sun dried tomatoes (about 2-3tbsp) and top up with extra olive oil as needed.  The ingredients need to be fairly tightly packed with the oil filled to the brim.

8.  Seal the jar tightly.  Refrigerate for 1 week before using. (The marinaded feta will keep for 6-8 weeks in the fridge).

9.  Serve at room temperature for lunch or as an starter. This would also make a good culinary gift.  I have used the excess oil and chilli as a starter for the next jar and I think this could be done two or three times, before needing to start again from scratch.

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Recipes for versions of Lentil Lasagne abound online and in cookery books, but I just couldn’t find a definitive one we really liked.  They had a tendency to be dry tasting and a bit bland.  I wanted a sauce base starting with onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato and a selection of other flavoursome vegetables we like plus, of course, red lentils to soak up the liquid.  I decided to make a similar mixture to the Masoor Dhal (Red Lentil Dhal) I serve with Indian food, adding extra vegetables, but keeping the spice mix much simpler: fragrant but definitely no heat plus some of our favourite fresh coriander.  After that the mixture could be simply layered with sheets of lasagne, white sauce and cheese in a similar way to traditional meat Lasagne al Forno made with Ragu Bolognaise.

There is not really an original recipe to acknowledge for my Spicy Vegetable Dhal Lasagne, however as my starting point one of the main recipes I used was this one for Lentil Lasagne from Forkd, which was tweaked and adapted until it became my own Spicy Vegetable Dhal Lasagne.  I chopped the vegetables into quite small pieces, but they could be left larger for a more chunky lasagne.   We were delighted with the tasty result: here it is.

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Spiced Vegetable Dhal Lasagne
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered
200g/60zs red lentils (masoor dhal)
1-1½ pints water
1tsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 x 400g/14oz tin tomatoes, chopped
15ml/1tbsp tomato puree
½tsp sugar
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1 large courgette in small dice  (or 4-6 baby courgettes in small slices)
1 large yellow pepper (or red if not available), chopped2tbsp chopped fresh coriander, reserving a little as a garnish
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
200g/6ozs grated mozzarella or mild cheddar
9-10 Lasagne sheets

For the sauce:
¾pint milk
2tbsps cornflour
1tsp butter or margarine
½tsp mild French mustard
½tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2.  Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry together the onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms until soft but not brown.

3.  Check the lentils and remove any stones or twig and add to the pan with at least 1pint of water, the tomato puree, well chopped tinned tomatoes, sugar, ground coriander, ground cumin and stock powder.  Stir well, bring to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until the lentils start to soften (about 20 minutes).

4.  Add the grated carrot, diced courgette and chopped pepper. Stir well.  Add salt & black pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to start to soften.  If the mixture becomes to thick then add some more water.  The lasagne sheets need to absorb plenty of liquid from the dhal mixture or they will not be soft enough.

5a.  Meanwhile make the white sauce.   Blend the cornflour with a little of the milk.  Heat the remaining milk and combine with the blended cornflour.  Pour this mixture into a saucepan and stir continuously over a moderate heat until the mixture thickens.  It should be a pouring consistency so add a little more milk if it is too thick.
5b.  Gradually combine the milk with the cornflour in a microwave proof jug.  Heat in 30 second to 1 minute bursts on a high heat, stirring well between each burst of heat, until the mixture starts to thicken.  It should be a pouring consistency so add a little more milk if it is too thick.

6.  Stir the French mustard and nutmeg into the thickened white sauce and mix well.

7.  Mix most of the chopped fresh coriander into the dhal mixture, reserving a little for garnish if you wish.

8.  Starting with spoonfuls of dhal mixture, layer the lasagne: sauce, about 2tbsp white sauce, a sprinkling of grated cheese and sheets of lasagne.  Continue in this way ending with a final layer of dhal mixture.  I usually add some more boiling water at this point around the edge of the lasagne, which will either be absorbed by the pasta or evaporate in the hot oven.

9.  Pour the remaining white sauce over the final layer of dhal mixture and cover with the remaining grated cheese.

10.  Bake for 30-40minutes until the top is golden and crispy and the water has completely disappeared.

11.  Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

12.  This dish does not really need extra vegetables, but a simple side salad makes a good accompaniment.  For extra hungry diners it could be served with a garlic bread.  Leftovers can be frozen but, as usual, should be thoroughly reheated before serving.

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This is a lovely mild and fragrantly spiced oriental style dish, perfect for summer, with the creamed coconut and acidic lime juice complementing each other beautifully.  They are flavours of the east, but the book does not connect this recipe with a particular country.

The original recipe for Pork with Lime & Chilli comes from Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner. I used my wok to cook the recipe, but it could equally well be made in an ordinary saucepan or frying pan.  Just remember to start at least an hour beforehand (preferably longer) to allow enough marinading time for the pork.  The only changes I made to the recipe was to use less oil: the meat was originally deep fried, which I felt was really not necessary and to reduce the amount of chilli from 1 green and 1 red to just ½-1 green chilli.  Chilli lovers may like to increase the amount according to taste.

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Pork with Lime & Chilli
(Serves 4)

1 clove garlic, crushed
1tsp brown sugar
1tsp oil
1tsp lime juice (about ½lime)
1tsp cornflower

450g/1lb lean pork, cut into 2.5cm/1inch cubes
1tbsp oil for frying
½-1 small green chilli, deseeded & chopped
8 spring onions, trimmed and diagonally sliced
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground nutmeg
Small pinch ground cloves
4tbsp light soy sauce
1 lime, juice & zest
50g grated creamed coconut
140ml/¼pint boiling water
Salt & pepper to taste

1.  Combine the marinade ingredients with the pork cubes in a large bowl.  Stir well so the meat is well coated.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1hour, preferably more.

2.  Have all the ingredients ready to use before starting to cook: 
a.  Measure the ground spices into a small bowl. 
b.  After zesting the lime cut it in half and before squeezing out the juice, remove two thin slices and cut each in half.  Reserve these as garnish for serving.  (Only if the lime is small and does not produce much juice a little extra juice can be squeezed from the lime used for marinading the meat.) 
c.  Dissolve the grated creamed coconut in the boiling water and combine with the soy sauce, lime & zest.

3.  Heat the remaining oil in a wok and add the marinaded pork cubes.  Stir fry, turning the meat in the oil for about 10minutes until the cubes are golden brown.  Remove the meat from the wok, place on a sheet of absorbent paper and set to one side.

4.  Remove any excess oil from the pan, leaving a very small amount.

5.  Reheat the wok and stir fry the chilli and spring onions.  Stir fry for 2minutes.

6.  Add the ground spices and fry for no more than 30seconds. 

7.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.

8.  Return the cubes of pork to the sauce, heat through and adjust the seasoning.

9.  Serve on a bed of rice: plain boiled or Thai Jasmine with a small half slice of lime as decoration, accompanied by a side dish of simply stir fried vegetables or a side salad.

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We love duck (if it is on the menu then my daughter will always order it) but I rarely cook it at home, however it is now becoming much more easily available and also a little less expensive.  When we saw Rick Stein cook this recipe on television we all commented on how delicious it sounded.  I tried very hard, but could not find the recipe anywhere online.  I am not sure how I managed to find it, but was delighted to discover that the Yorkshire Foodie had made a version using chicken rather than duck.  Having tried and enjoyed this chicken version I decided the original duck recipe would be perfect for the special meal I was planning for my mother’s birthday (to be followed by Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade). 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com ..... Chicken Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce


The original recipe comes from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey.  For the chicken version I used meaty chicken thighs.  I also squeezed fresh orange juice: one orange per person but it would be easier and probably just as good to use concentrated orange juice.   I used less chilli than in the original recipe to give just a little heat.  The meat should be, in Rick Stein’s words: ‘meltingly tender’.  His total cooking time given for the duck pieces is 2hrs, which seems rather long: I was happy with the results I got from about 1½hrs in total.  Obviously the chicken thighs cook much more quickly. The sauce should thicken naturally as it reduces, however it can be thickened using cornflour if necessary although this should not be a very thick sauce.  Mix 1tsp-1tbsp cornflour with a little cold water, gradually add spoonfuls of the sauce into the cornflour/water mixture and then return this mixture to the remainder of the sauce inthe pan, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens very slightly.  A little more cornflour can be added, in the same way, if it does not thicken: add more water if the sauce is too thick.  Certainly rice is perfect as a side dish (I cooked Thai Jasmine, which is widely available).  The chicken version was served with steamed broccoli but for the duck I wanted to serve a vegetable dish from the region.  My research drew a blank so eventually I opted for a simple Chinese Style Stir Fry using a selection of vegetables: onion, peppers, courgette, garlic and ginger.  (I also cooked a few chips on the side to keep a diner who was not keen on rice happy!)  I like it when recipes are unusual, simple and delicious and this is all of these, plus it gets favourable compliments: what more does a cook want!  Perhaps I will be cooking duck a little more often now. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com ..... Duck Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce


Duck or Chicken Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce
(Serves 4) 

Sunflower oil for frying (a very small amount, especially if cooking duck)
4 Duck legs
8 Chicken Thighs or 4 chicken legs/breasts (meat can be skinned to reduce fat)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped/grated
1″ piece of ginger, peeled & grated
4 Oranges, squeezed or 250ml Orange Juice from a carton
2 tbsps Thai Fish Sauce/Nam Pla
2 tsp sugar
2-3 Star Anise
½-1 small Red Chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat & a larger chilli for more)
Black pepper
1-2 sticks lemon grass, remove core and chop finely
2-3 Large Spring Onions, thickly sliced, for garnish

1.  Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and gently fry the pieces of meat in as little oil as possible for 3-5 minutes per side (depending on size of piece). Remove and put to one side. 

2.  Remove as much oil as possible from the pan: duck in particular is a fatty meat which would make the finished dish to greasy.  Fat can be saved for another dish: duck fat, in particular, is popular for oven roasted potatoes. 

3.  Lower the heat and fry the ginger and garlic lightly for about one minute or until lightly golden, being careful they do not burn. 

4.  Add the orange juice, sugar, fish sauce, star anise, chilli and lemon grass.  Season with black pepper.  Stir well and gently bring the sauce to the boil. 

5.  Return the pieces of duck or chicken to the pan.  Cover pan and simmer very gently for 35-40 minutes (for chicken thighs) 1¼-1½hrs (for duck or thicker chicken pieces) or until the meat is tender, removing the lid to allow the sauce to reduce a little about 10 minutes before serving.  Turn the pieces of meat from time to time. 

6.  Cut the spring onion along the length of the white parts to give long strands (or alternatively they can be diagonally sliced).  Add to the pan no more than 5-10 minutes before serving.  The green parts of the onions should be cut in the same way and kept to one side for garnishing the finished dish. 

7.  To serve the meat should be placed on a warm serving plate and kept warm. Skim any excess fat from the sauce before finishing.  If necessary, the sauce should be reduced by boiling to concentrate the flavour before it is poured over the top of the meat.  If there is a large quantity of sauce then it can be lightly thickened with a little cornflour and water. 

8.  Scatter the reserved green spring onion pieces over the dish just before serving.

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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.

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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 
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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We love the flavours of North Africa: with ingredients such as spicy coriander and cumin, fragrant cinnamon and orange flower water, hot chilli and ginger, sour pickled lemon, salty olives and sometimes even the sweetness of fruit, although readers of other pages on this site will know that I am not keen on very sweet fruit with meat.  I was delighted, therefore, to be given a Tagine for my birthday: not absolutely necessary to cook the dishes but lovely to look at and use for serving and especially for entertaining.  Along with the Tagine, I was also given a recipe book containing a good selection of ideas for using my new pot.  This was the first recipe that caught my eye: we love beetroot cooked with meat and in combination with orange the dish sounded unusual and delicious. 

This recipe was taken from Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Başan.  I have altered the quantities and proportions a little and have adapted the recipe for cooking in the oven.  (My Tagine cannot be used on the stovetop as I have an electric cooker with a ceramic hob.)  I served the Tagine with wedges of butternut squash oven baked with olive oil and a sprinkling of Ras el-Hanout, a spice mixture which is exclusive to North Africa (I mix my own) along with Couscous flavoured with pickled lemon and fresh coriander.  I often add chickpeas to the couscous mixture but these would also be good added to the Tagine at the same time as the orange segments.

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

Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Beetroot & Orange
(Serves 4-6)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (original uses ghee)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large red onions, halved lengthwide and sliced
1inch/2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (amount can be increased)
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 beetroots, peeled & quartered (uncooked)
1lb/500g lean beef, cut into bite sized pieces
2 or 3 thin skinned oranges, segmented
1tbsp dark, runny honey
1-2 tsp orange flower water
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 knob of butter
2-3 tbsp shelled pistachio nuts
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped (original uses flat leaved parsley)

This recipe can be either cooked on the hob, as in the original instruction, or at Step 6 transferred to the oven and baked. 
If using the oven it should be pre-heated to 160oC Fan/170oC/325oF/Gas 3

1.  Melt the oil in a pan (alternatively a Tagine or lidded casserole dish suitable for stove top use) and stir in the garlic, onion and ginger until they start to colour.

2.  Add the chilli, crushed coriander seeds and cinnamon stick.

3.  Add the beetroot pieces and cook gently for 2-3minutes. 

4.  Add the beef and gently cook for 1 minute.

5.   Pour over enough water to almost cover the beetroot and beef.  Bring to the boil. 

6.  Transfer to a Tagine or ovenproof dish with a well fitting lid and place in the oven.   Alternatively leave in the pan, cover and reduce heat.  Cook for 1 hour, until the meat is very tender.

7.  Add the orange pieces, honey and orange flower water and season.  Cook, covered, for a further 10-15 minutes.

8.  Melt the butter in a small pan and lightly brown the pistachio nuts over a medium heat.

9.  Sprinkle them, with the coriander or flat leaved parsley, over the meat mixture and serve.

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