Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lamb Tagine with Red Onion & Pomegranate Relish

I was intending to make this over the Christmas period (it comes from Nigella's Christmas book) but somehow never got around to it. A couple of weeks later though the carton of pomegranate juice I had bought for the purpose was still sitting in the fridge so I thought I may aswell use it up while it was still in date.

The tagine itself is a pretty simple recipe and easy to make. I had intended to eat it on the day it was made however at the end of the cooking time there was a pretty substantial layer of oil sitting on the top. I decided instead to cool it down and put in the fridge overnight so I could easily scoop off the fat the next day.

The tagine turned out to be lovely - the spices giving a lovely subtle flavour to the tender lamb. The surprise of the evening, however, turned out to be the Red Onion and Pomegranate relish. Now don't go shaking your head and saying you don't do raw onion - trust me this is gooood. I thought twice about making it myself but I'm so glad I did. It turned out to be the making of the dish. Soaking the onion in the lime and pomegranate juice all but elimated the strong oniony flavour and turned it into a sweet, crunchy accompaniment to the lamb - delicious.

Lamb & Date Tagine
(adapted from Nigella Christmas)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1kg diced leg of lamb
250g soft dried pitted dates or pitted medjool dates
250ml pur pomegranate juice, from a bottle
250ml water
2 teaspoons Maldon salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1) Warm the oil in a large frying pan, add the oil and cook them gently over a low heat for 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally

2) Add all of the spices and turn well in the onions

3) Turn up the heat and add the meat, turning it occasionally until it is browned on all sides

4) Add the dates, pomegranate juice, water and salt and bring to the boil. Put the lid on, turn down the heat to an absolute minimum and let it cook ultra-gently for two hours. Alternatively you can cook it in a shallow casserole in the oven for two hours at 150c/gas mark 2

5) As mentioned above this best cooked a day or two in advance and any fat skimmed off the top when cool. After cooking allow to cool and store in the fridge for up to three days. When ready to serve return it to the pan and add 75ml water. Bring slowly to the boil and let it bubble gently for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer, stirring for 15-20 minutes. Add a little more water while cooking if necessary.

Red Onion & Pomegranate Relish
(adapted from Nigella Christmas)

1 red onion
60ml lime juice
juice and 40g seeds from 1 large pomegranate or 60ml pure pomegranate juice from a bottle and 40g pomegranate seeds from a packet
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
salt to taste

1) Peel and cut the onion in half and cut into very thin half-moons

2) Put the onions into a bowl with the lime juice and pomegranate juice, and let them steep for half an hour

3) Drain the steeped onion into a little bowl, discarding the oniony juice, and add the pomegranate seeds

4) Toss with the coriander and season with a little salt

5) Strew some of the relish on top of the tagine and serve the rest in a bowl on the side

Both dishes serve 6-8

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a new cook book and this year was no exception (thanks Sis!). The new addition is the small, but rather beautifully formed, Life is Sweet by Hope and Greenwood.

As you can see from the cover it offers an enticing array of recipes for sweet things such as fudge, caramels and truffles. It's an attractively laid out book with lots of great pictures and is written in an engaging matronly way so you know where you stand right from the start.

The first recipe that took my fancy was the peanut butter fudge. I have to say that this didn't turn out to be quite as straightforward as I'd hoped. It was one of those times when you could really use the writer of the recipe standing next to you ready to answer questions like "Should it look like that?" and "Why is my thermometer not working??".

As it turns out I think I used the wrong pan. I used my big preserving pan which was just too big as the mixture was not deep enough for the thermometer to work properly. This base was also a bit too thin so the bottom of the mix began to burn before the rest had fully cooked. The burnt bits appearing off the bottom resulted in me calling a halt to the cooking process earlier than I should have done and so my fudge didn't set hard enough. It was, nevertheless, very yummy in that that excessive, guilt-inducing way that comes from eating something containing a LOT of sugar and butter - this stuff is made for sharing!

Peanut Butter Fudge
(adapted from Life is Sweet by Hope and Greenwood)

500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
340ml/12 fl oz evaporated milk
2 tbsp double cream
100g/4oz butter
2 large rounded tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

1) Line a 20cm/8in square baking tin, 4cm deep, with baking parchment

2) Place the sugar, butter, evaporated milk, double cream and butter into a deep, heavy-bottomed pan over a gentle heat. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved - this takes about 5 minutes.

3) Turn the heat up to medium, place a sugar thermometer in the pan and bring the mixture to the boil - it will double in size.

4) Bring the mixture up to 100c/215f, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to a gentle boil. Boil for a further 10 minutes, but take care when the thermometer reaches 115c/240f, as at this point the mixture boils easily. Remove from the heat.

5) Using an electric hand whisk, food processor or wooden spoon (anyone who manages to do this by hand deserves a medal!!) beat the mixture for 10 minutes and then add the peanut butter. Beat for a further 15 minutes, or until the mixture loses its shine, thickens up and starts to appear grainy. Pour into the prepared tin.

6) Set aside to cool. After about 1 hour, score the surface into rough squares with a knife. Once cold and firm, break into squares.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The Hai-Cookie Exchange

A few weeks ago I came across a brilliant idea - a cookie exchange! This was proposed by Molly from Batter-splattered who requested volunteers willing to make and post a dozen cookies to a fellow blogger who would return the favour. In addition to the cookies we were also asked to include a festive Haiku (Haiku -> Hai-cookie... d'you see!). A haiku being a three line poem with the lines consisting of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively.

I didn't want to post anything overseas so I sent off an email in the hope that there would be someone else in the UK keen to join in. And I was in luck as I was paired up with Rebecca who runs the blog From a North London Kitchen.

A few days later a little parcel arrived which turned out to be a real box of delights. Not only did I receive two bags of cookies - one containing festive iced stars, and one containing Cranberry, White Chocolate and Macadamia nut cookies....

....but I also received a bag filled with Vanilla Marshmallow AND a box of chocolate pieces flavoured with mint. Fabulous!

Needless to say it was all delicious and was quickly devoured. It was also accompanied by a lovely card containing the following:

Festive Happiness
Mulled wine with a dash of spice
Knitting and my cat

So then it was my turn. Unfortunately a bout of illness and general Christmas mayhem meant that I missed my window to make and post my cookies before Christmas but the following week I was ready to go. The December Sweet & Simples Bakes challenge was Cranberry & White Chocolate cookies and I had planned to kill two birds with one stone and put some of the challenge cookies in my parcel so I couldn't believe the coincidence when I received almost exactly the same flavour! I decided to go ahead with my plan all the same though but made an extra batch of oat and raisin cookies to add a bit of variety. So here's my box ready to go...

And my haiku...!

It's nearly New Year
Time to make resolutions
For the year ahead

This exchange was great fun and I would love to take part in one again some time.

The recipe for the Cranberry & White Chocolate cookies can be found here.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sweet and Simple Bakes - Cranberry, Pecan & White Chocolate Cookies

For this month's Sweet and Simple Bakes challenge we were invited to make Cranberry, Pecan and White Chocolate Cookies.

I was looking forward to making these as I'd had my eye on the recipe for a while (I'd first seen it in Nigella's Christmas book). Dried cranberries are one of the best things you can put in a cookie in my opinion - they have that nice chewy texture you find in raisins but with a sharper flavour that stands out nicely against the background of biscuit and chocolate.

These cookies turned out really well even without the pecans that I'd forgotten to put on my shopping list. The only thing I'd say, and this applies to all cookie recipes, is that you need to err on the side of caution when it comes to cooking times. Just a couple of minutes over and you move from desirably chewy to slightly too crunchy.

Thanks to Maria and Rosie for hosting another great challenge. The recipe can be found here.