Persian style spiced lamb shank stew

Middle Eastern spices and the richness of lamb are a marriage made in heaven so get cooking this slow cooked lamb shank stew. The flavours are fresh, warming and fragrant so, if this is new to you, this is a great way to try them. I have opted for a balance of spices such as cumin and coriander which bring dishes to life. Give yourself plenty of time for this to slow cook in the oven to allow flavours to develop.

Seeing as it’s autumn and the nights are now cold and dark, I have added colour by serving this with mixed vegetable cous cous but it would be just as delicious with saffron rice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the stew
Glug of vegetable oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 ground cardamom
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
300ml good quality beef stock
Handful of dried apricots- halved if large

For the cous cous
Glug of vegetable oil
200g cous cous
Approx. 300g mixed vegetables e.g. aubergine, red onion, courgette
Pinch of saffron
Fresh coriander- chopped

1. Start by preheating the oven to 140c/ 120 fan. Take a large pan with a well fitting lid and add a glug of oil over a medium to high heat. You need to brown off the lamb shanks so they are golden all over; this will add to the flavour later so don’t rush this. Make sure they are golden all over and remove from the pan; set aside.

2. If you find a lot of fat has come out of the lamb shanks then drain a little off so you have around 1 tbsp left. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onion and garlic until they soften but not colour. I add a pinch of sea salt at this stage to season but do remember to check the seasoning as you go and adjust to taste. Add in the spices and cook for a further minute or two. Stir to ensure that they spices coat all the onion well.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and stock before adding the shanks back to the pan. Bring to a gentle boil before covering with the lid and placing in the preheated oven. Cook on a low heat for 2 1/2- 3 hours; when the lamb is ready it will come away from the bone really easily. At 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time the apricots need to be added; if they are put in at the start they will disintegrate but if you put them in near the end they add a wonderful sweetness.

4. When you are nearly ready to eat, start making the cous cous. This could not be easier! Take the vegetables you have chosen and dice so they are in pieces that are easy to mix through the cous cous. Add a small amount of oil in a pan and gently cook the vegetables. Vegetables such as onion, squash and aubergine go well with the richness of the lamb. Season and remove from the heat. For the cous cous, boil a kettle and, in a measuring jug, add some water and the strands of saffron. Pout over the cous cous to cover it and place a tea towel over the top to allow the cous cous to absorb the water. Fluff with a fork and add a drop more water if you need. Toss through the vegetables, a liberal sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander and it is ready to serve with tender lamb.

Delicately fragrant Persian style spiced lamb shank stew- a true winter warmer!

 

 

 

 

 

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Thai beef panang curry

Thai beef panang is a great introduction to cooking Thai at home. It tends to be milder than a lot of Thai curries but can easily be adjusted if you prefer a bit more fire in your curries! Other meats, or even, tofu can be used in place of beef however this stands up the spices well so do give it a go. Peanut is included in this recipe as it traditionally is- remember it is important to find plain peanuts and not ones that have been already salted or roasted.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Vegetable oil
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp palm sugar
Handful of pea aubergines or chopped baby aubergines
Few kaffir lime leaves- deveined and chopped
4 minute steaks
1- 2 red finger chilli peppers- deseeded and finely chopped

For the spice paste

2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coarse sea salt
Few peppercorns
3 dried red finger chillies- soaked in water until softened
1 piece of fresh lemongrass- finely chopped
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
3 garlic cloves- chopped
Small piece of galangal- finely sliced
1 1/2 tbsp shelled plain peanuts
Few kaffir lime leave- deveined and finely chopped
2 tsp shrimp paste

1.You can make the curry paste well in advance to save you time later; it stores well in the fridge too. Take a small pan and dry fry the coriander and cumin seeds for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until the spices start to release their fragrance.

2. Place the toasted spices and all the other ingredients, apart from the shrimp paste, in a small processor or pestle and mortar and blitz until they form a paste. The shrimp paste needs to be cooked before adding to the mix so it doesn’t taste as strong. do this by taking a small piece of kitchen foil and loosely wrapping the shrimp paste in it; cook in a dry frying pan for a minute before adding to the spice paste and combining well.

3. When you are ready to make the curry, take a large pan and heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Take the curry paste you have made already and fry for a few minutes until the flavours begin to be released. Pour in the coconut milk and add the before bringing to the boil. Add in the pea or baby aubergines, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar and simmer for around 10 minutes to allow the spices develop and the sugar dissolves.

4. Keep the pan on low and add strips of minute steak; they will cook in a few minutes in the curry so keep an eye on them. When the beef is done to your liking, divide the curry between four bowls and top with fresh red chilli or extra peanut (adjust according to taste). Serve with jasmine rice.

Classic beef panang curry- bursting with flavour to wake up your tastebuds!

Indulgent tartiflette

Tartiflette is a comforting French dish popular amongst those heading to Alpine resorts. Just picture the scene, coming back in from a day on the slopes and in need of a comforting dish to warm you up whilst sipping a glass of wine or two- heaven! If you like potato, cheese and bacon then this is the perfect dish for you! In my version I have added spinach as a nod towards one of your five a day but you could leave it out if you prefer or replace with kale if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Bag of baby spinach- approx. 250g
Knob of unsalted butter
800g waxy potatoes, such as King Edward
150g smoked bacon lardons (fried off) or smoked ham (cut into squares)
200g Reblochon or Camembert cheese
300ml double cream
120ml vegetable stock

1. Firstly preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wilt the bag of spinach into a saucepan over a medium heat and allow to cool slightly before squeezing out any excess water.

2. Rub a little softened butter in the inside of a baking dish approximately 20cm x 25cm in size. I sometimes use individual baking dishes so everyone has their own so it’s up to you. If you like, at this stage you could also cut a garlic clove in half and rub around the dishes for an added dimension.

3. Cut the potatoes into 3mm thin slices and layer in the dish with the spinach, bacon or ham and 150g of the cheese. I have also fried off a couple of shallots and layered this through as well for an extra texture so do try this next time. Leave the thinnest potato slices for the top so they go crispy when it’s cooked. Season to taste.

4. Pour over the cream and stock and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Take it out of the oven and pop the remaining 50g of cheese over the top and place back in the oven until golden and bubbling. Serve with steamed greens or a crisp salad if you like.

Light the open fire and try this indulgent tartiflette for a little taste of France! Heavenly…

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Venison sausage, cavolo nero and bean casserole

This time each year I usually come across a vegetable that then becomes a borderline food obsession and this year it’s cavolo nero’s turn. Cavolo nero, also known as black cabbage or Italian kale, is perfect for pepping up soups, stews and pastas. I have kept this recipe as simple as possible so each constituent ingredient can be tasted and savoured. I used venison sausages for this recipe as the rich flavour goes well with the irony flavour of the cavolo nero and the creamy cannellini beans. A lot of casseroles and stews use red wine in the base but I have gone for a dark ale to create depth in place of wine so give it a try!

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Ingredients- serves 3
Vegetable oil
6 good quality venison sausages
1 large red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
250ml dark ale or porter
400g tinned cannellini beans
400ml hot beef stock
400ml passata
Handful of fresh thyme
1 head of cavolo nero- washed and chopped

1. Start by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Take a large casserole pan and add a glug of oil; heat to medium and brown off the sausages. Turn them as you go to ensure they are uniformly golden; remove from the pan when they are ready, cut into thirds or quarters and set aside.

2. Using the same pan, fry the onion and garlic together for a few minutes until they soften but don’t colour. I add salt at this point to help draw the moisture from the onions. If you have found that the sausages have given quite a bit of fat then do drain some of this away before adding the onions. Next up goes the tomato puree which should be stirred through the onion and garlic to give a coating; cook for a minute or two before adding the ale. Reduce the volume of the ale by half.

3. Add the beans to the pan and combine well with the onion, garlic and ale mix before adding the stock and passata. Drop in the thyme and add the sausage and cavolo nero; bring to a gentle boil before popping in the oven for 60-75 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the cavolo nero looks like a lot- it will cook down as the casserole is in the oven. Serve with a creamy mound of mashed potato or hunks of bread and enjoy.

Venison sausage, cavolo nero and bean casserole- a satisfying dinner for those dark, chilly nights!

Prawn, courgette and tomato penne

During the autumn and winter months our dinner tables are full of rich, decadent dishes but sometimes a break from this is needed so this prawn and courgette pasta does the trick. The idea behind this came following a recent trip to Italy where they served a similar pasta dish which was light and oh so moreish. Take a leaf from the Italian’s book and keep the sauce as light as possible. I used raw king prawns to make sure they stay juicy when cooked; you can use a combination of king prawns and smaller prawns if you like but throw in the smaller prawns later in cooking so they don’t dry out.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g penne
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
60ml dry white wine
1 small courgette- deseeded and chopped
100g baby plum tomatoes- halved or quartered depending on size
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2-3 tbsp. low fat crème fraiche
Fresh lemon
Handful of fresh basil

1. Get going by bringing a large pan of water to the boil and cook the penne according to packet instructions; aim for an al dente finish. Drain well and set aside whilst you make the sauce.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of olive oil. Cook the garlic and shallot until it is softening but make sure it does not turn golden. Add the courgette and tomatoes and cook for a further minute or so. Pour in the white wine and reduce by half. Reduce the heat to low and stir through the crème fraiche before adding in the prawns. Simmer until the prawns turn a gorgeous blush pink before finishing off with a sprinkling of fresh torn basil and a squeeze of lemon juice to lift the flavours. Remember you can adjust the creaminess of the sauce by adding more crème fraiche or loosening up the sauce with a splash of water if you find it becomes too thick.

Prawn and courgette penne- quick, light and a cinch to make!