Random recipe: Orange and lamb tagine

Once upon a time I used to scour charity shops and school fairs for cookbook gems, hoping to find a first edition Mrs Beeton tucked among the multiple copies of Alison Holst’s Microwave Menus. While that never happened, I did come across plenty of great finds – The Silver Palate cookbooks, pristine paperback Elizabeth Davids, a Jill Dupleix that I’d always wanted and once – a brand new copy of How To Eat for 50p – among others.

But a year or so ago I realised I was in danger of being swamped by these dusty finds; that I didn’t really need to pick up every half-decent cookbook I found and that it would be perfectly safe for someone else to buy. Then I met a woman who told me that one of the largest charity shops in Wellington gets so many books donated to it that twice a year they load up a container and take it to the tip. No, not the recycling depot, the tip. The charity can’t afford to send them overseas, so they dump them. Now – there are all sorts of issues here, not least being – why don’t they give them away – but it made me reconsider what I do with my own collection. I’ve recently decided that there are lots of books that, while I don’t use them anymore, deserve better homes than being stuck in a damp charity shop while waiting to be bulldozed into landfill. I’ve selected both the books and their recipients carefully and it was such fun watching their reactions that I’m planning to do it again in a few months’ time.

The thing is though, that all this largesse has meant that I had very few books to choose from for this month’s Random Recipe challenge. The instructions from Dom at Belleau Kitchen were to select a book from the throw-out pile you’re supposed to compile when spring/autumn cleaning – and in truth, I had only one. But the results were so convincing that I’m going to have to keep it!

A few years ago you couldn’t move for being offered something made out of Jo Seagar’s ‘You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble, Darling’. This book, which features the author up to her pearl-strewn neck in a bubble bath, was first published in 1997, then a reprinted and updated version came out 10 years later. I have the original version, which I picked up from a charity shop for $2. I bought it out of nostalgia, more than anything. It was badly waterstained and I didn’t expect to ever use it, but the thing that swung it for me was the inscription on the front to the previous owner, ‘Anna’ – ‘ with much love from Momma and Poppa’. Gulp.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Lamb and Orange Tagine
Anna obviously used it her copy of ‘You Shouldn’t Have…’ a lot – the book fell open at the recipe for lamb tagine, which has ‘Excellent!’ scrawled across the top in blue biro. It turns out Anna was right – though I played around a bit with Jo’s original recipe to make it even more ‘excellent’ – or at least, a little lighter and not as sweet. I’ve annotated the book accordingly, all ready for its next owner.

500g lamb shoulder, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2cm ginger, grated
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup vegetable stock
3 large mandarins or 2 oranges, washed and roughly chopped, (including the skin)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup prunes, cut in half
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Handful of coriander leaves, roughy chopped

Heat the oven to 160C.
Put the olive oil in a large, cast iron casserole and set over medium heat. Tip in the lamb, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, then add the carrots and spices. Cook for another minute, then add the mandarins or oranges and the vegetable stock. Stir well, then cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is very tender. Check it a couple of times to make sure it isn’t drying out – add a little water if it seems dry.
Add the prunes and stir well. At this point you can let the tagine cool completely, then refrigerate and reheat the next day. If you’re planning to eat it now, return it to the oven after adding the prunes and let cook for another 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coriander just before serving with rice, couscous or flatbreads. Serves four.

Are you a charity shop cookbook buyer?

Treat me: Spanish Hot Chocolate

Winter is coming, I can feel it in my bones. There’s only a month until the Shortest Day (after which winter really starts in this part of the world) and even though it’s been bright and sunny, there’s no mistaking that chill in the air.

That means porridge is back on the breakfast menu and so – occasionally – are delicate demi-tasses of my very own homemade Spanish hot chocolate. It’s thick, velvety and just the thing to cheer you up on a grey morning. Want some?

Spanish Hot Chocolate
Spanish hot chocolate is like nothing else on earth. It’s rich, thick and has a chocolate hit strong enough to sustain you until aperitivo hour. I’ve finally clocked how to make it at home – not quite as much fun as drinking it in Spain, but infinitely more achievable at the moment.
For best results, use the best cocoa powder and chocolate you can find. This makes enough for a good-sized jar – instructions follow on how to take it from powder to liquid heaven.

1 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup caster sugar – increase this to 1/2 a cup if you like things very sweet
6 Tbsp cornflour
200g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz until it forms a fine powder. Alternatively, sift the cocoa, caster sugar and cornflour into a small bowl, then stir in the finely chopped chocolate. Transfer to a screwtop jar.

To make two small servings:  Mix 1/3 cup (6 Tbsp) of the chocolate mixture with 1/2 cup milk of your choice (not low fat milk, ok?) in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring all the time, until it thickens, then add 1 1/2 cups milk and stir frantically. Keep cooking over low heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Divide between two cups. Follow with a brandy and a cigar, then go to work.

Have a great week, everyone x

Treat me: Easy Easter Brioche

Do you dream of waking up on Good Friday to a trayful of freshly made hot cross buns? Me too. Over the years I’ve tried many ways of achieving this, ranging from buying them in the day before, to getting up at the crack of dawn. Neither one is particularly good – especially if you already get up at the crack of dawn and everyone in your household is ravenous at breakfast time. The first hot cross bun of the day is like the first cup of tea; you shouldn’t have to wait for it.

But this way – using a clever, no-knead, no stress method – is perfect. All you do is make up a batter-like dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do in the morning is wait for the oven to heat up, then these lovely, light, buttery buns are ready to eat 15 minutes later. If that’s not an Easter miracle, I don’t know what is.

Easy Easter Brioche Buns Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Easter Brioche
If you’ve had hot cross bun disasters in the past or are a novice yeast baker, this is the recipe for you. There’s no kneading, just a bit of energetic stirring with a wooden spoon. If you don’t have a muffin tin you can make a giant loaf in a 23cm cake tin – it will take more like 25-30 minutes to cook.

200g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel (or finely chopped crystallised ginger, or other tangy dried fruit)
150ml milk
250g strong or high grade flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten
140g unsalted butter, softened but NOT melted, and cut into little pieces

Put the dried fruit in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep while you get everything else organised.
Put the milk in a small pan and bring to nearly simmering point, then remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, spices and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Drain the dried fruit and set aside.
Pour in the milk, the orange zest, the vanilla, the eggs and the dried fruit. Beat well until you have a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place until doubled – this will take about an hour.
Beat the risen batter until it deflates, then add half the butter and beat well with a wooden spoon until it is all mixed in and there are no lumps. Repeat with the remaining butter and beat until the batter is smooth.
Grease the holes of a 12-cup muffin pan with a little butter or oil, and divide the mixture between them.
Cover the tin with a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.
In the morning, turn the oven to 170C and take the tin out of the fridge. When the oven has reached temperature and the buns have lost their chill (about 35 minutes, in my house) put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Leave them in the tin for five minutes, then gently ease out with a spatula. Makes 12.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone x

The great kitchen makeover

For the first time in 10 weeks, our house is a tradesperson-free zone. There is no need to scramble out of bed before they arrive, no need to skirt around ladders and buckets of plaster and dropsheets. It’s lovely.

There’s more chaos to come in a week or two (flooring) and we are still missing a bedroom door (among other things), but at least the kitchen is done. The best part is that the kitchen has one of those those sleek bespoke kitchen doors. And now I can show you!

Here’s ‘the journey’ as Kevin McCloud would say….

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It wasn’t a majorly fancy makeover – we – or rather, the nice builder – knocked out the old pantry, then we got a new one installed on the other side of the kitchen. It might take a village to raise a child, but it took five men more than two weeks to get the pantry sorted. Well, actually, in the end it took one man who knew what he was doing about half an hour to sort it. He was a top bloke.

Major credit also has to go to my beloved, who replaced all the horrible 80s melamine joinery with nicely painted plywood facings, which ended up costing about $200 rather than the $2000+ we’d been quoted elsewhere. He also ripped out the grotty cabinet above the bench by the sink and got rid of the grimy shelf on the other side. Oh, and he carefully crafted a wooden benchtop wotsit to cover the hole where the old extraction unit was. Even the builder was impressed by that.

The only task left is to sort out the cake tins and that cupboard where plastic containers and empty jars go to breed. If you have any tips on dealing with those issues, I’d love to hear them.

Treat me: Raw raspberry lamingtons

You might think I married my husband for his wit, good looks and charm, but there’s more to it than that. What sealed the deal is was that his mother makes the best lamingtons in the world. Once I realised he was the heir to a freezer full of chocolate-dipped, cream-filled spongy delights, there was no turning back. 

Raw Raspberry Lamingtons

More than a decade down the track though, I’ve come to realise that there are other lamington-makers out there. In fact, there are hordes of them, all of them making exotic lamingtons like there’s no tomorrow. They’ve been whipped into a coconut-dusted frenzy by an adorable English flight attendant by the name of Peter, who is no slouch himself in the lamington department.

Peter is such a champion of lamingtons that for the last four years he has devoted himself to reinventing them every February. Don’t tell my MIL, but I think he could give her a good run for her money. In the meantime, he’s thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us. And so without any further ado, I bring you my raw raspberry lamingtons…

Raw Chocolate Gluten Free Lamingtons

Raw raspberry lamingtons

These are not your ordinary lamingtons – there’s no sponge, no eggs, no sugar and – gasp – no cream. These are lamingtons, 2014 style. They’re raw, gluten and dairy-free, and contain no refined sugar. But there’s plenty of coconut, chocolate AND raspberries – for those of you who can’t decide whether a lamington should be brown or pink. I was inspired by this recipe, but took it in a completely different direction. The ultimate test was when I asked my brother-in-law to try one. “These,” he said, “are dangerous. Is the recipe going on your blog?”

100g ground almonds

120g dessicated coconut

4 Tbsp coconut oil

3 Tbsp real maple syrup or honey

60g (about half a cup) frozen raspberries

Line a small plastic container (like a takeaway container) with plastic wrap and set aside.

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until it clumps. Press this mixture into the prepared container and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, until firm. You can leave it for a day or so if you like, it won’t come to any harm, though you may accidentally eat some of it.

When you are ready for stage two, remove the coconut mixture from the fridge and cut into small bars. Gently melt 120g dark chocolate with 1 tsp of coconut oil (I do this in a heatproof bowl in a warming oven, but you can use a microwave on low or a double boiler) and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the coconut in a small bowl and line a tray with baking paper.

Dip the bars into the chocolate, then roll them carefully in the coconut. When you have finished, put them in a lined, lidded container and put them in the fridge before someone comes by and gobbles the lot. Makes about 12-15, depending how much gets eaten along the way.

Have a great weekend, everyone x