Roast shoulder of Lamb

Once again I’m neglecting this blog, despite my new year resolutions. I have been cooking though (a bit) and exercising (a teeny tiny bit) and taking a couple of photos (but not as many as I should) and combined all three a couple of Sundays ago when I visited the Alexandra Palace farmers market. It’s a great market, being -2 in January there were not as many stalls as there should be, but I did manage to get a lovely looking rabbit and leek pie, some Jerusalem artichokes, chocolate cake, beautiful thick smokey bacon and fresh bread. It was all fairly reasonably priced too (which the exception of the bread which was a stonking £3 for an average tasting loaf), but the bargain of the day was a fine shoulder of lamb for £5.  It’s not often I get a big joint of meat (read: never) so it seems appropriate that I should make a special meal out of it.

Shoulder of lamb takes a while for it to cook. This shoulder was fairly small so only took two and a half hours, but it’s best to keep an eye over it and see how it’s doing. You know it’s done when the meat falls of the bone like this:

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, start of with some nice herbs, a handful of rosemary (with the leaves taken off the stem and chopped), chopped thyme, sage, some dried oregano and the contents of about four camnomille tea bags.

Together with some salt and pepper, rub the mixture all over the lamb along with a drizzel of olive oil and honey. Pop the joint in a heavy casserole dish (Mum and Dad gave me a lovely, lovely Le Creuset dish for Christmas which is perfect for this kind of meal) and add about 200ml of water to keep the whole thing moist.

Put into an oven at about 175º and like I said before, keep an eye on it for the next couple of hours and add a little water if it get too dry. Also, I’d give it a little baste once in a while too; I didn’t and it took two days of soaking and scrubbing to get my dish clean. Take heed!

We ate the lamb with some potato and Jerusalam artichoke mash and it was lovely, the perfect meal for a cold, dark January evening.

Mexicana

It was my birthday last week. To help commiserate my last year in my twenties, flatmate Jen took me to dinner. Wahaca to be precise, a Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden run by Masterchef winner Thomasina Mier. It has an ethos very close to this blog’s heart; food is locally sourced and of good quality and follow the seasons. Cocktails are good and contain a decent amount of booze without being overpowering. I had a hibiscus flower margareta which a perfect summers day drink. The food was delicious, it was my first time eating proper Mexican (ie, not having anything other than that El Paso crap)  and we’re definitely be going back there again. If you find yourself in the area you should too! The lovely thing about this place is at the end of your meal. Rather than recieving mints with your bill you get chilli seeds and instructions on how to grow them. More places should do this methinks.

On food at a party

We had a bit of a do last night, a Halloween party with fancy dress, dodgy cocktails and lots of nice food and it’s the food I want to talk about today. Oh yes, I cooked a lot of food, all surprisingly good, although I failed to take many photos, probably due to the dodgy cocktails.

First up was the pumpkin soup. It’s really easy and quick to make. Simply get a couple of onions and celery, chop roughly and sweat off in a pan with a bit of butter along with pieces of pumpkin. Cover with water and cook until all the veg is soft. Blitz and add salt, pepper, a grating of nutmeg and a dash of double cream.

Pork was next. Dice some shoulder of pork and brown off in a pan with some chopped onion and leeks. Add a bit of flour then cider and water and cook for about half an hour before adding thick slices of brambly apple. It’s a really lovely dish this. Leave it cooking for a few hours so the pork gets really soft. It’s proper autumnal comfort food, this, absolutely perfect for eating in a bowl and standing outside the flat watching other people’s fireworks go off. I can’t help thinking that it it would be lovely to have some dumplings in there too.

Also on the menu was black pasta with red pesto, red peppers and button mushrooms. Also known as giant spider legs with spider poo, blood and devil’s tears if you want the proper Halloween name. Here’s a photo!

It looks pretty horrific I know, but it’s actually quite tasty, honest.

Also, for a quick snack are these lovely edible eyeballs:

These are just tinned lychees with pitted black cherries inserted in them, but they look real, especially in candlelight.

Anyway, the party was a success more or less. Dave did his best impression of Grandad from the Munsters and the various pumpkin carvings Julia did were awesome. There are some photos here if you fancy looking at blurry pictures of my living room. I will show you this shot of Dave though because it’s fricking awesome.

(also, also I’ve finally got my visa and travel insurance for Australia. Less than six weeks to go!  I’m so excited I may actually literally explode)

Last weekend

  • Those swanky Virgin pendolinos trains from Euston to Carlisle are very nice, but have the ability to make me feel very travel sick.
  • staying in a old castle in the middle of nowhere is awesome and must be done on a regular basis.
  • Cooking a six course meal for 20 people is very hard.
  • Having people playing ghosts and having makeup on them to make it look like they’ve had their eyeballs stolen isn’t as wierd as it sounds.
  • Dressing up as a RAF captain and running round all guns blazing, shooting down some occultists then running away like girls from the Big Bad is the best fun ever. Really.

Soup

There are times, I hope you’ll agree, when your fridge seems full of vegetables that you’re not actually going to use for your dinner. They may have got a little floppy, maybe a bit mushy, perhaps have a few black bits on them. They’re a little too old to use as fresh vegetables. There is a way to avoid wastage or composting my friends. The answer is soup. Pure, lovely, warming soup. I made some last Friday and am still eating it now. Normally my soup is rubbish – it’s bland and tends to turn a funny brown colour. But not this time. I’ve made a nice soup and I’m going to share you my top secret soup recipe (and keep it for posterity so I don’t make another crappy soup again.) I name my soup…

These vegetables aren’t mouldy yet, but they’re getting there soup

The picture doesn't give the soup justice. It's actually a lovely forest green colour

To make this soup, you need vegetables. I used:

Onions so old I had to wear my snorkeling goggles for fear of crying out all my bodily fluids
Carrots (actually quite fresh)
Celery
3 peppers where the other half for all of them had been used a while back and the remaining edges had that weird rubbery texture
Cauliflower, with the black spots taken off
Mushrooms
Spinach
Parsley – I used lots and lots of this. I’m sure parsley grows in my fridge, I don’t ever recall buying the stuff…

Chop your vegetables into largish chunks. Heat a nice big pan up with some butter and add the onions, celery, carrots and peppers. Cook for about ten minutes with some arrabbiata spices. Add the rest of the vegetables and give a quick stir and cook for another few minutes. Then cover the veg in water. But don’t use too much water. I used enough water to cover most of the veg, but there was still the odd florette poking out into the air. Simmer until all the veg has been cooked nicely. Add lots of salt and pepper. Blitz until it’s almost smooth. Stir in a bit of single cream. Eat with warm bread and butter, preferably sitting in a comfy sofa with a good book, a cup of tea (I recommend Roobios tea) and watch the rain fall outside.

 

 

 

I am typing this one handed

So it turns out that I’ve buggered up my shoulder. Too much of a bad posture and too much playing of Half Life 2 on the laptop and arsing around on the PSP. It means I’m off work sick today, enjoying the ‘delights’ of daytime TV and sitting around in Dave’s pajamas.

So while I’m waiting for the rain to stop so I can go up to the chemists and buy more Deep Heat patches, I thought I’d give you the recipes of the Christmas food mentioned in the last post.

First up, marrow chutney.

I have yet to try any yet, but it looks rather nice. You need:

3 lb marrow

1lb red onions

1lb ripe tomatoes with skins and seeds removed

1pt white wine vinegar

4oz dates

2tsp allspice

a nice big bit of fresh ginger

2tsp salt

2tsp freshly ground black pepper

1andahalf lb brown sugar

Peel the marrow and cut into small chunks. Peel and chop the onions. Slice the tomatoes.

Put all these ingredients into a pan with half the vinegar. Chop the dates and add to the pan. Simmer gently until soft and pulpy. Add spices, pepper and salt and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Stir in sugar and remaining vinegar. Continue cooking until thick (no liquid should ooze into the path made by a wooden spoon as it is drawn across the pan). Pour into warm jars when finished.

Next we have the mincemeat. It’s a good recipe, there’s no cooking involved, just bung everything in a bowl, mix, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight and the next day add the alcohol.

50g melted butter

100g dried apricots, roughly chopped

100g raisins

100g sultanas

175g currants

100g candied peel

50g whole blanched almonds chopped

140g light muscovado sugar

1tbsp orange marmalade

1tsp mixed spice

1tsp ground cinnamon

finely grated zest and juice of one lemon

4 generous tbsp brandy

4 generous tbsp sherry

I’ve yet to use any of this in cooking as I’m letting it mature, but it smells delicious and I think it could be rather tasty indeed. It keeps for two months.

TV free post

By the last couple of posts it looks like that all I’ve been doing recently is watch TV.  As true as that is (I’m watching The Avengers as I write this. God bless Steed), I have been up to quite a bit of other stuff too. Quick round up as I’m sure there will be more to write about at the end of the weekend.

  • I have a decent chunk of the allotment now nicely dug and vaguely weed free. Garlic and onion sets have been planted, which is nice – it’s good to have new stuff growing.
  • My sister, Carrot Fly has moved in. She’s got her first proper job in London (she’s a consultant ecologist) and seems to be settling in well. It’s fun to have her here although she seems to have a habit of disappearing on the weekends so she’s yet to help on the plot. But that’s about to change as she’s here these next two days. If the forecasted gales and torrential rain don’t stop us first.
  • I’ve been a victim of crime again. Some pooey-bum stole the crappy little lean-to greenhouse I had outside the flat. I’ve bought a bigger, better one to replace it and this time it will be bolted to the wall.
  • We have been to the cinema a lot. I can highly recommend The Prestige and The Host. I have also completely fallen in love with Daniel Craig. *sigh*
  • I’ve started to cook food in preparation for Christmas. I’m halfway through making mincemeat for pies – sherry and brandy will be added to the mixture tomorrow and i’ve just finished off a batch of marrow chutney. They both seem to be quite decent, so I’ll post the recipes on here soon.

Oooh, that’s a big weapon you have there Mr. Craig.