Fennel, Pea & Lamb Tajine

This is what we had for dinner tonight and it was sensational if I do say so myself! I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to ensure you get the delicious caramalisation at the end is to watch it for the last 10 or so minutes, or as we did tonight get everyone around the table – dished up the kids serves – then put it back on the heat to reduce the liquid to almost nothing.

The benefits are almost mind blowing, you go from a great meal to a sensational and memorable meal but really the best way to get that is to be there watching it so it doesn’t burn. Trust me it’s worth it however painful it might be, you won’t regret it.

You will need/we used:

4 thick lamb chops, BBQ or forequarter are the best

1 spanish onion, diced

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp smokey paprika

handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 carrots

2 medium size fennel bulbs, cut into quarters

1 1/2 cups peas

What to do:

Add a lug of olive oil into your cast iron pan (one with a lid) and saute, add the chops and sprinkle over half the cumin, paprika and some salt & pepper, brown the chops and turn once, then add the carrots and put the chops on top of them, arrange the fennel over the chops (you may need to cut them into eighths, it just depends on how large they are to begin with). Sprinkle the remaining spices and chopped parsley over the fennel and add about a cup of water. You want to not quite cover the chops. By this time the tajine should almost be at the boil, cover with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down so it’s just simmering and cook for about an hour, keep checking it though.

About 15 minutes before you think it’ll be ready add the peas, scatter them all over the tajine and cover again. Tonight I turned ours off about 10 mins before I wanted to serve it, thinking it’s ready, I know that the cast iron pan hold it’s heat and I didn’t want it to burn. Hubby says (and he was right damn it) that there was still too much water, so we took out some for the kids and put it back on the heat for another 5 or so mins on high to really reduce the water, I kept tilting the pan so we could see what was left liquid wise and we were left with a sensational meal!

We served it with bread and ate with our hands which is really half the fun and of course reduces the need to wash up loads of dishes :D

Hope you give this a try and love it as much as we did xx Kate

Spaghetti Bolognaise aka “Sk betty”

So this working mother thing requires a heck of a lot of organisation, especially with 2 children under 4 who are starving & tired when they get home from child care. So Thursday being the day off and market day I decided to make a supply of Spag Bol or Sk betty as it’s become known by Zachie.

You will need: (to make this much and enough for 3 adults & 3 kids)

1.5 kg Minced Beef

2 large brown onions, diced

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

3-4 large mushrooms, diced

4 400gm tins of crushed gourmet tomatoes.

handful of chopped parsley

lug of olive oil

2 tsp smokey paprika

Salt & pepper

3 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup tomato paste

3 tsp powdered beef stock (Massell)

3 tins of water

In your largest pan fry off the garlic & onions until they’re translucent, add the diced mushrooms & fry off. (I dice the mushrooms fairly finely so they’re about the size of the mince meat) then add the meat in batches so that it is all browned & broken up before you add more, you want to fry & brown the meat not stew it. Once it’s all cooked & mixed in you add all the crushed tomatoes & fill the tins with water and add 3 tins worth of water, add tomato paste, paprika, beef stock & salt & pepper to taste.

Don’t add too much salt at this stage as you can always add more towards the end of cooking. Add the chopped parsley & bring to the boil, simmer gently for 1 &1/2 hours stirring regularly until the sauce thickens. Pack into freezer proof containers & freeze, when I am freezing sauce I leave it a little runnier than I would if I am serving it straight away so that when the time comes to use it I can simmer it a little to increase the flavour.

This quantity gave us 2 large 2 litre containers 1 small one for the kids and a bit leftover which I was thinking I could put on nachos or something.

To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook spaghetti until it’s al dente, approx 12-15 mins, serve with lots of grated parmesan.

P.S. The gourmet tomatoes I get from UCG wholesalers in Preston – Bell Street they’re 79c a tin, so unless the supermarkets have them on special, that’s the best buy in my opinion, also love Annalisa tomatoes too.

Stuffed Eggplants

Yummy hey? Now this is a little fiddly, but oh my goodness they’re delicious and worth it. I am deliriously happy as this was my second attempt at these tasty little morsels, this time with meat & hubby loved them! They’re great because you can make them and then stick it in the fridge and leave it there for a day or so, or even freeze them and then take them out in the morning and stick in the oven when you get home from work etc.

You will need:

8 Lebanese eggplants (they’re the long skinny ones)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

500g lamb mince

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed.

1 Litre of tomato passata or 3 tins of crushed tomatoes

1 heaped tsp smokey paprika + 1/2 tsp extra

1 heaped tsp ground cumin  + 1/2 tsp extra

small handful of finely chopped parsley

200g danish feta

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 brown onion diced.

Cut the eggplants in half & scoop out the flesh leaving the skins intact. Set the flesh aside. Place the skins in a large pot of boiling salted water and ensure that they remain submerged under the water. (a smaller saucepan lid on top of them works)

Dice the remaining eggplant flesh and pan fry in extra virgin olive oil with the garlic & onion until golden and tender, add the mince and ensure that you break up any lumps, continue to saute until golden brown. Add the spices & salt & pepper, then 500ml of the tomato passata and stir to combine.

Drain the eggplant skins and set aside to cool slightly.

In another saucepan add some garlic, olive oil 1/2 tsp paprika & cumin with salt & pepper to taste, and the remaining tomato passata, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 mins, check taste for seasoning.

Take a large oven proof dish and pour the tomato sauce onto the base of the dish, fill the skins with the stuffing and place in the tomato sauce – nestle in close together but don’t over fill them too much. Once they’re all done, sprinkle with any remaining meat sauce, parsley and top with crumbled feta.

Cook in the oven for 30 -40 mins at 180 degrees celsius or 350 farenheit. Serve with crusty bread & a green salad.

You can easily omit the mince meat if you’re vegetarian and add some finely diced celery & or mushrooms at the same time as you pan fry the eggplant.

Lamb & Cauliflower Tajine

1 Brown Onion Diced

4 Carrots, peeled, cut in half length wise and then in half width wise

handful of chopped Italian Parsley

6 Lamb Loin or forequarter chops

1/4-1/2 a Cauliflower head

1 Tomato halved

2tsp Ground cumin

2 tsp Paprika

Salt & Pepper to taste

1/3 cup water

Place the onions & spices in the base of your tajine or a cast iron pan. Add the chops and allow to brown slightly. Remove chops and place the sliced carrots on top of the onions, then layer the chops on top.

Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets and lay over the top of the chops, place the tomato on top, pour in the water and sprinkle a little extra, salt, cumin & paprika over the cauliflower. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to cook slower for at least 2 hours or until almost all the water has evaporated. If you’re using a cast iron pan then you may need to add a little extra water and keep an eye on it as it seems to get hotter & hold the heat for longer than a tajine.

Serve with crusty bread & a garden salad or greens.

P.S. I was NEVER a fan of cauliflower but this has completely changed my mind, I even ate it by it’s self… no white sauce in sight!