Monday, 20 April 2015

Middle Eastern Cauliflower Cous Cous

A couple of week's ago I took part in Meat Free Week, a movement to raise awareness about the dangers of aggressive over-farming, the importance of compassionate farming and the health benefits of increasing your veg intake. Don't get me wrong, I'm highly unlikely to become vegetarian, in fact my last post on here is for an absolutely amazing leg of lamb. But it is a great way to get more creative with your vegetables. It's coming up to summer holidays, beach wear and just generally feeling good about ourselves so if I can find more exciting ways to eat well and be healthy I'm all for it!

I'd read a lot about cauliflower rice and cous cous over the past couple of years but it wasn't until I tried it myself that I realised how amazing it is. In layman's terms the blitzed up brassica is acting as the starch. It's grainy in texture, surprisingly un-cauliflower like in taste and it's so good for you. I've tried many variations of this over the past few weeks but this one wins hands down. I served it the other night with that pesto lamb, the strong Middle Eastern flavours balancing perfectly against the light mint of the pesto. The spice mix here is ras el hanout which is available in the spice sections of all major supermarkets, it's warm and spicy with a hint of curry from the cumin and coriander. 

Middle Eastern cauliflower cous cous

  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 small red pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 50g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 200g drained canned chick peas
  • 1 tbs dried ras el hanout spices
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

  1. Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves and stem and cutting into florets. Put a handful of florets at a time in a food processor and pulse until you have grain like texture. Don’t overdo it or you’ll get paste. Pour the grains into a large bowl and continue pulsing a handful at a time until you are done.
  2. Dry toast the chopped pistachios in a hot deep-sided pan (ie not a frying pan) and once ready transfer to a dish for later.
  3. Add the ras al hanout spice to the same pan and dry toast it until the spices release a strong aroma, then add half the oil. Once hot add the chickpeas and fry lightly until golden brown. Transfer to the pistachios dish for later.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and once hot sauté the sliced pepper, fennel and onion for approximately 15 mins on a low heat until soft and caramelised. Add this veg mix to the chick peas and pistachio nuts for later.
  5. Finally in the same pan again, add all your cauliflower grains, stir carefully over a low heat to get the flavours left in pan evenly mixed with the grains. Place a lid on the pan and leave to heat for 3-5 mins. It must be on a low heat or it will burn, although a little colouring is good. You aren’t cooking the grains, you just want to get them piping hot. Then take all the mix of veg, pistachios and chickpeas and stir through the grains until evenly distributed. Season to taste and serve.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Mint & Rocket Pesto Roast Leg of Lamb

As I write this it's 22℃ outside, the sun is shining, the trees and shrubs are opening up their buds and spring is well and truly in the air. I’m not originally from Surrey but I have to say with each passing year I realise how lucky I am to have ended up here. We have some of the country’s most beautiful landscape on our doorstep and an abundance of walks to enjoy. 

Of course at this time of year the lamb is perfect, tender and widely available from a number of local suppliers, so it's the obvious choice for a special meal.This recipe really encapsulates the freshness of spring. The mint is just starting the poke through in the garden, the basil seedlings on my window sill are just beginning to uncurl and the grocers are full of fresh green spring vegetables and new potatoes. So for a light evening with meal with salad or shared with friends over a long Sunday lunch served with new potatoes and prosecco, this dish will really excite you. And exactly a week from now the British asparagus season officially opens, although to be fair it's been a long winter, so give them time. 

I tend to always use hazelnuts in my pesto nowadays as the quality of the pine nuts coming from China is sinking and I recently had a bout of pine mouth which was as disturbing as it was thankfully short lived! And of course you can always use parmesan rather than the slightly saltier pecorino. But why would you? I bloody love pecorino, and a good one is always worth the effort of seeking out. The times listed below assume the lamb is room temperature before cooking and will produce a perfect pink, succulent roast.  If you possess a meat probe/thermometer you want the central core of the meat to be 50C to produce a medium finish.

Mint and rocket pesto roast leg of lamb

Serves 4
  • 1kg half leg of lamb
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil for searing

For the pesto
  • 30g mint, roughly chopped
  • 30g basil, roughly chopped
  • 60g rocket, roughly chopped
  • 50g finely grated pecorino
  • 25g chopped hazlenuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas Mark 8.
  2. In a food processor add all the pesto ingredients except the olive oil and blitz until relatively smooth. Now add the oil glug by glug until you have a slightly wet paste. You may not need it all. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Season the lamb, heat the oil in a red hot frying pan and sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides. Place in a roasting pan and take a sharp knife to score a criss cross pattern lightly into the skin. Using your hand or a spoon smear half the pesto across the top of the meat and rub into the scores you have made.
  4. Place the roasting pan in your very hot oven for 15 mins, then turn the heat down to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and cook for a further 15mins, remove from the oven and cover with the rest of the pesto. Then cook for a further 10-15 mins on the same heat. This will give you perfect medium lamb. If you don’t like it pink, add a further 15 mins onto your cooking time.
  5. Now remove the roast from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 30-40 mins.