I have created a curry monster…! When Hubby first arrived on these shores with his American palate, his spice tolerance was firmly skewed towards all things Mexican. His first curry confused his tastebuds what with being all spicy but in a way he wasn’t used to, but he soon overcame that and now gets a little grumpy if he goes more than a week without a curry. Which probably explains why I feel like I’ve made a curry every weekend for the last wee while, because the curry monster has been a bit demandy-pants!
So I’ve been trying out some new recipes, with Hubby as guinea pig, and two are proving to be quite good. There’s a chicken pathia that I’m still working on that is almost there (but not quite!) and then there’s this lamb and spinach one, a particularly great find from the peeps at Olive Magazine. And since it’s National Curry Week, it seemed like a good time to blog it!
My favourite curries always seem to be lamb ones, that slight gaminess that lamb has just seems to partner perfectly with lovely aromatic Indian spices. Lamb is even better when you slow cook it for hours, which is the biggest adaptation I made to this recipe, extending the cooking time from an hour to two and a half. The result is a sweet melt-in-the-mouth lamb that almost falls apart when you stick a fork in it. And the spinach wilts perfectly into the spicy sauce to add a lovely layer of flavour as well as a bit of texture to the dish.
Another thing to highly recommend this recipe is how easy it is to make, with the help of a food processor to save you time chopping the onions, garlic and ginger. There’s also no need to skin or deseed the tomatoes (which always takes ages!) as they melt down into a lovely sauce. And if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes to hand (or can’t be arsed dealing with them!) a can of chopped tomatoes will do the job just as well. Honestly, all the hard work is done by the slow cooking, leaving you free to put your feet up and enjoy the lovely aromas coming from the pot or, as in Hubby’s case, be driven mad with hunger by them for the better part of a weekend afternoon! But don’t take my word for it’s deliciousness, take Hubby’s, who has demanded this curry two weekends in a row and declared it his (new!) favourite 🙂
Lamb & Spinach Curry
A slow cooked melt-in-the-mouth lamb curry to celebrate National Curry Week.
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
600g lamb neck fillet, cut into bite-sized cubes
4 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can chopped tomatoes)
1 tbsp tomato purée
100g spinach, chopped
1 lamb stock cube
Throw the ginger, garlic and onions in a food processor and pulse blitz everything until it's somewhere between a liquid and a paste.
Heat about 1 tbsp oil (or ghee) in a stewpot then brown the lamb in two or three batches (if you crowd the pan the lamb will end up stewing and not browning). Remove all the lamb and set aside.
Add the blitzed onion mix to the empty stewpot, sliced green chillies and 1/2 tsp salt (with a little more oil if you need to) and cook for 5 minutes.
Next, add the spices to the pot and stir well until the spices are mixed throughout the onions, and cook for another couple of minutes.
Stir in the tomato puree and give that a minute or two to cook in before adding the lamb back to the onion and spice mix. Stir well and let it cook for a minute or two.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of sugar. Fill the empty tomato can with cold water (equivalent of 2 cups) and bring to a simmer.
Cover and cook for at least 2 and a half hours - lamb neck fillet loves slow cooking!
About an hour into cooking, add a lamb stock cube and stir until it's melted into the sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning and add more cayenne if required. If the sauce is looking a bit thin, continue to simmer without a lid to help it thicken up.
Add the spinach for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
We seem to be eating a lot of lamb at the moment, not that I’m complaining as it’s such a fave in our house, and since we’re smack bang in the middle of Scottish lamb season it seems a shame not to indulge! So here’s another recipe from my #whambamthankyoulamb afternoon with QMS, and one I’ve been looking forward to making again to check it was as tasty as I remembered. It totally was if the happy smile on Hubby’s face is anything to go by 🙂
This recipe wins on taste and effort and really is perfect for a midweek make. The meatballs take next to no time to roll up and can even be done in advance and left in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to cook. The cherry tomatoes and fresh basil lend the sauce a freshness that I promise you’ll come back for, and if – like me – you’re thinking that tarragon and lamb is an odd combination let me assure you that it really really works. Really.
Tarragon Lamb Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce
Lamb and tarragon meatballs make for a quick and tasty supper.
1 slice of stale white bread, grated or zizzed into crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
handful of fresh tarragon leaves, gently chopped
25g fresh basil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
200g cherry tomatoes
pinch of sugar
splash of balsamic
400g penne pasta
salt and pepper to season
50g parmesan shavings (optional)
CSI-style vinyl gloves (optional)
Mix the lamb, half the garlic and onion, breadcrumbs, egg, a pinch of salt and pepper and tarragon leaves. Get those CSI gloves on if you have them and roll yourself 12 golfball-ish sized meatballs. Cover with clingfilm before popping into the fridge for 30 minutes or so – the fridge bit is optional and you can skip it if you’re rushed, but it does help the meatballs hold together better when you’re cooking them. Not a mealbreaker if you can’t.
While the meatballs are chilling, preheat your oven to 200 °C/400 °F/gas mark 6. (If you’re skipping the chilling then probably best to do this bit first.)
If you have a casserole that is as happy in the oven as it is on the stove (and vice versa) then you can do this all in one pot. If you don’t, do your frying in a standard frying pan and then transfer to a casserole for the oven, or just cook the whole thing on the stove.
Put some oil in your casserole or pan and cook the meatballs in batches until they are mostly browned all over but not cooked through. Remove to a plate (with kitchen roll to soak up some of the excess oil) and set to one side.
Drain the oil from the pan, then gently sauté the rest of the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes. Season with salt, then add a pinch of sugar and a goodly splash of balsamic vinegar to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes. Bring up to the boil and leave simmering for 3–4 minutes.
Next, return the meatballs to the pan along with the cherry tomatoes and basil. Give it all a gentle stir so as not to break your meatballs, and bring to a simmer. Once it’s simmering, pop a lid over it and place in the oven for about 20–25 minutes (or leave on top of the stove for the same amount of time).
Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet and drain so that it’s ready when the meatballs are.
Remove the pan of meatballs from the oven. For best noms, remove the meatballs from the sauce onto a plate and then add the drained pasta to the pan and mix well with the sauce. Add the meatballs back in and mix again so that everything is coated in the tomato sauce.
Plate up, sprinkling over some parmesan shavings and a few sprigs of basil. Serve up, and marvel at the unusual but totally tasty marriage of tarragon and lamb 🙂
Lamb is my favourite red meat, hands down. Roast has to be lamb, curry has to be lamb (but pathia or kofta?), and the pie has always got to be shepherd’s, never cottage. So when I got invited by Quality Meat Scotland to an afternoon of sharing their new recipes for cooking Scotch Lamb with Scottish food bloggers I couldn’t say yes quickly enough! And what a fantastic afternoon it was, and not just because it culminated in a plate of this 🙂
Hubby works for Scotland Food & Drink so we usually try to shop the Scottish options when we can (he makes me put things back if they’re not Scottish, honestly!!) but I learnt a couple of things at the Scotch Lamb afternoon that made me even more determined to shop Scottish when it comes to lamb.
Did you know…
1. that to qualify as Scotch Lamb, the wee bleaters have to have spent every day of their lives in Scotland – born, raised and processed?
2. that Scotch Lamb was one of the first red meats in Europe to have been granted the Protected Geographical Indication status?
3. that apparently we Scots eat only half as much lamb as the English…! #gobsmacked!
Scotch Lamb is just coming in to season now and the season continues until February/March, so there really isn’t a better time to tuck in and support Scottish, ESPECIALLY since it’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight right now! Not to mention all those nasty food miles you’ll be saving…
But back to the afternoon! It was held at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School where we got to watch one of their chefs demonstrate three fairly different recipes, all using different cuts of Scotch Lamb. The first was a Lamb Biryani, which went against convention and used neck for a relatively quick cook – delicious! Second was Lamb Meatballs with Penne… I had never heard of of using tarragon with lamb before but it is a properly winning combination and one I can’t wait to try again – deliciouser! Last, and zomg not least, was the Lemony Lamb Fillet which was the most delicious dish of the three! It’s not a cut of lamb I’ve ever cooked with before, but that is going to change…
What I loved about all three of the recipes, other than the downright tastiness of them, were just how quick and easy they were to cook. And to prove it wasn’t just because the chef was good at her job we all got to pick one of the three dishes to try cooking ourselves right there and then (fyi, the Lemony Fillets seemed to be most everyone’s favourite!). It also gave all of us a chance to chat while we cooked, which was awesome as some of the bloggers were ones I’d been following for a while so it was kind of like meeting my blogging heroes 🙂
Socialising and eating aside, I came away from the afternoon wondering why I’d never really thought about cooking lamb for midweek suppers, but I realised that all of my lamb recipes are real labours of love that are better suited to the weekend. Not anymore! In fact, I’m already planning on making those tarragon meatballs tomorrow, they were that good.
If you’re interested in checking out the official recipe it’s here, along with all the other new Scotch Lamb recipes which I recommend having a peek at, but I’m going to write this up the way I cooked it on the day because it was absolutely lush, properly melt in the mouth stuff, and I don’t want to change a thing 😉
300g Scotch lamb fillet, all fat removed and sliced lengthways into three strips
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil 300g new potatoes, halved if large
Bought mint sauce OR…
a large handful of fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
75 ml cider or malt vinegar
Other stuff you’ll need…
pestle and mortar, or a small bowl and rolling pin (or spoon)
griddle pan, or large frying pan
First things first, set your griddle pan over a high heat and leave it until it’s searing hot and literally smoking. Start a saucepan of water heating too – new potatoes, unlike their larger non-new brethren, should go into hot water and not cold apparently.
While you’re waiting, rub the olive oil onto the lamb and then loosely sprinkle over half the lemon zest and garlic before pressing the flavouring lightly into place. Give it all a good grind of black pepper and then turn over and do exactly the same to the other side.
As soon as the water is boiling, lightly salt and then drop in your potatoes and leave them on the boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re tender.
Next, make the so-ridiculously-easy-you’ll-never-buy-it-ready-made-again mint sauce. Finely chop the mint and put into the mortar or a small bowl, sprinkle the sugar and salt on top and then crush to release all that lovely minty juice from the leaves. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, the rounded end of a rolling pin will do the job just as well, or failing that, squash it all together firmly with the back of a spoon. Add the vinegar – you might want to hold some back and taste first, adding more vinegar until you hit your preferred sweet/sour mix – and stir together well. Set aside until needed.
By now your griddle should be smoking hot, perfect for searing the lamb fillets and giving them that lovely chargrilled flavour. Sear for about 2 to 3 minutes per side which should be enough to leave the middle perfectly pink but not bloody (if it’s too pink, just pop it back on the griddle pan for another minute or 2).
THE IMPORTANT BIT! When you remove the fillets from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest for about the same amount of time the lamb was cooking, so between 4 to 6 minutes depending. This allows all the lovely juices to be reabsorbed, giving you a far far juicier eat. Don’t be tempted to skip this and tuck right in, your lamb will be drier for it.
While the meat is resting, drain the potatoes and then return them to the hot pan. If you’re not quite ready for them yet just pop the lid on to keep them warm.
When you are ready, add the butter to the pan and break the potatoes up with the back of a fork so that they’re less mashed and more bashed. Plate the potatoes and then slice your lamb fillets and lay on top. Finally, daub with the mint sauce, and then tuck in.
I’ve always been a fan of Delia when it comes to the classics and her Shepherd’s Pie recipe has never let me down, but I’ve always had a hankering to make it the traditional way from leftover roast. Unfortunately, there never is any leftover roast when my family gets together, and making roast lamb just to turn into Shepherd’s Pie seemed a little extravagent. This Easter though, neither my brother nor I could make it home but my mum still made my dad his festive lamb roast and surprise surprise (not!), without the presence of two greedy children and their spouses, there were leftovers! Which were very kindly dropped off as the parentals passed by on their way out for lunch the next day, so that they wouldn’t go to waste. And waste them we did not…
Hubby is the King of the world slow cooking, his pulled pork is legendary 😉 so I left it to him to figure out how to render down the lovely piece of leftover roast lamb into the perfect filling for a Shepherd’s Pie. He did not disappoint 🙂 The lamb just fell apart in the pot, and after all that time slow cooking in gravy and stock had soaked up their lovely flavours while maintaining that slightly sweet note that lamb has. As lovely as Delia’s version using lamb mince is it wasn’t a patch on using leftover roast, and I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to go back to Delia after this, the trad style was just that good. What a fab last Shepherd’s Pie to end this winter on 🙂
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a distinct lack of carrots in amongst the lamb… It was the only thing we didn’t have to hand 🙁 Since they wouldn’t survive the slow cooking process I’d probably dice them up and then cook them off vichy style, and then stir them into the pot of lamb just before you make the pie up.
Shepherd's Pie Traditional Style
Leftover roast lamb, slow cooked in gravy and baked under a thick layer of fluffy mashed potato.
500-600g leftover lamb roast (ours was leg but shoulder would be just as good)
2 red onions
2-3 cloves garlic, mashed but whole
Enough lamb gravy and/or lamb stock to cover
Any leftover drippings from roasting (optional)
Splash of red wine (optional)
2-3 tsp Balsalmic vinegar
1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2-3 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sugar
small can of petit pois
And for the mash…
2lb (900 g) potatoes (Desirée or King Edward, or anything that is good for mashing)
2oz (50 g) butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Cut the lamb into bite size pieces and put in a large saucepan or stew pot.
Roughly cut the ends off the onions, quarter and add to the pot with the lamb. Peel and mash the garlic and pop those in too.
Add the remaining ingredients, making sure that the lamb is covered by about 1 inch / 2.5 cm of liquid. Cover and simmer for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
After two hours remove the lid, and continue to reduce the liquid on a low simmer, stirring occassionally, until it’s a rich sauce. This may take another few hours.
Make the mashed potato topping when you’re in that last phase of reduction – Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces before placing in a pan of boiling salted water. Cook until they’re tender and then drain. Return the cooked potatoes to the hot pan, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to steam for about five minutes. Add the butter and mash, season to taste. Don’t be tempted to add milk like you would a normal mash because you want this mash to be firm on top of the pie. Set aside until you’re ready to put the pie together.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F, gas mark 6.
When the lamb is ready, drain the can of petit pois before tipping into the pan. Give it all a good stir before spooning the lamb and petit pois into your baking dish. Level the mixture out with the back of the spoon without packing it down.
Lastly, spread the mashed potato on top of the lamb. The best way I’ve found to do this is to use a spatula and spread large blobs of mash around the inside of the dish until you’ve got a ring of mash, leaving a gap in the middle for you to dollop the last bit on to cover – this method gives you an even spread of mash without dragging mash and lamb all over the place. I like to roughly fork the mash topping, it encourages the forked up bits to go all lovely golden and crispy.
Pop in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mash is crusty and golden. Share and scoff!
It’s Spring! Although last week felt more like summer and next week is meant to feel like winter… but according to the calendar, it is Spring, officially! So let’s celebrate with some lamb, glorious, lamb 🙂 I really do think it’s my favourite red meat, and not just because roast lamb is an excuse to eat mint sauce… Of all the ways to cook it, though, this is a favourite.
Curry and lamb work so well together, and what I love about this curry is how wonderfully aromatic it is. And like so many curries, all the hard work is up front, but the meatballs are so deliciously moreish that it’s worth all the prep work, and then some!
The original recipe is from an old and much splattered copy of Delicious. The version I’m sharing is tried and tested and adapted to make prepping a little lazier, but no less tasty for it.
Lamb Kofta Curry
A glorious and unabashedly aromatic curry that'll win over even those people who don't (usually) eat lamb. There won't be any leftovers!
2 medium-hot red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
2.5cm fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 pint/500ml lamb stock, hot
7.5cm piece cinnamon stick
8 green cardamom pods, cracked open
50g creamed coconut (Bart’s do four individual sachets in a box, which I can highly recommend)
500g lean lamb mince
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish
1 medium egg, beaten
Sunflower oil for cooking
Salt for seasoning
2 dried curry leaves, crumbled (optional)
Prep before you start
Finely chop the onions, mince the garlic and grate your ginger (fifi's top tip - don't forget to use frozen ginger to make grating the stuff so much easier!) Get those CSI gloves on and de-seed and finely chop the red chillies, then remove the gloves carefully and set aside as you’ll need them again later. Measure out your spices into a small bowl – coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and cayenne pepper.
Heat some oil in the stewpot before adding the onions and garlic, and fry gently for 7-10 minutes until they are lightly browned.
Then add the red chillies, spices and a little salt, and cook gently for another 5 minutes.
Turn the heat off and remove half the fried onion mixture to the mixing bowl and leave it to cool. Leave the other half in the stewpot as this will form the base of your sauce.
While things are cooling, finely chop up the fresh coriander.
Once the fried onion mixture is cool, add the lamb mince, chopped coriander, beaten egg and a little salt into the mixing bowl with it. Get those CSI gloves back on, and then use your hands to mix everything in the bowl together (fifi's top tip - vinyl gloves will save your hands from succumbing to the spices and turning a not very fetching shade of yellow!)
Now, if you want to check the seasoning of the lamb and spice mixture, cook a wee bit in the frying pan and taste. Adjust seasoning if you think it needs it. Once you've made these a few times you may not feel the need, or want, to do this bit. I don’t any more 🙂
Roll the lamb and spice mixture into meatballs, about golf ball sized, and set them onto a baking tray. Once you’ve made them all, pop the tray into the fridge for about half an hour to firm the meatballs up a little.
Take the meatballs out of the fridge and heat some oil in a heavy-based saucepan before frying off the meatballs – it usually takes me about 3 batches as I don’t like to crowd the pan. You just want to seal the meatballs and get a little colour on them, not cook them through. Place the fried off meatballs onto some kitchen roll to blot the worst of the grease.
While you’re frying off the meatballs, it’s time to get the sauce going. Add the ginger, tomato purée, lamb stock, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, coconut (and curry leaves if you’re using them) to the remaining onion chilli spice mix in the stewpot and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.
When all the meatballs are fried off, drop them gently into the simmering sauce. Partially cover with the lid, and then simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring gently every now and then. After this, the sauce should have reduced and thickened a little, and the meatballs should have set.
If you’re planning to freeze and eat later, this is where you should turn the heat off, spoon the lot into a plastic container and leave to cool before putting it in the freezer.
If you’re planning to eat it now (or reheating what you’ve thawed out), put the lid on the stewpot and let it simmer away for another 15-20 minutes. If it’s looking a little watery, I crank the heat right up for a couple of minutes or until sauce is looking more robust.
Serve with boiled rice, and garnish with some fresh coriander. I defy you to leave any meatballs standing…