Parmigiano and prosciutto

This might sound strange, given I earn my living by tapping away at a keyboard, but one of my resolutions for 2013 is to spend less time online. It’s so easy now to get caught in the interweb that some days I feel I spend more time interacting with virtual life than the real thing. That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up entirely – I mean, I have this blog to feed, delectable things like this to marvel at and a shoe habit to maintain – but I want to spend more time doing things that don’t require a broadband connection. Pottering about in the kitchen with friends over the holidays was a good reminder of the benefits of actual reality.

Parmigiano e prosciutto alla Bess
This was one of the things lovely Bess whipped up for our New Year’s Eve feast. Her brother, a chef who divides his time between Martha’s Vineyard and New Zealand, taught it to her and in an ideal world, I’d be at your place making it for you. Instead, invite someone over to your place and show them how to make it.

a small block of Parmigiano Reggiano (or best local equivalent)
a packet of prosciutto (or best local equivalent)
extra virgin olive oil (I have been using this delicious fennel-infused Wairarapa oil)

Lay the slices of prosciutto on a flat plate. Grate over the cheese, then drizzle with the oil. Serve with glasses of prosecco (or best local equivalent). Cheers!

What foodie trick have you learned in ‘real life’ lately?

Lucy had a little lamb, Pt 4

After telling the great and the good of the New Zealand Food Bloggers Association that I didn’t like food blogs that focused on pets, a group of cheeky minxes started tweet-bombing me photos of their furry friends. When that joke got tired they turned into the baabaarazzi*, sending me photos of frolicking newborn lambs.

The silence of the lambs Image: Shirleen Oh

Now, I am pleading with them to stop. Those telephoto lenses must be very intrusive and I hate to think of those wee lambs getting stressed. I prefer photographing my little lambchops when they are snuggled into a tray with agria potatoes, garlic and olives (with a little parsley to remind them of grass).

Tray-baked lamb, potatoes and olives
This combines all the things we love in this house – lamb, potatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic and lemons – in one super easy dish. Throw the half the ingredients in the oven, get on with bathtime or having a strong gin, throw the other ingredients into the dish, make a salad, set the table and dinner is ready.

6 good-sized roasting potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
8 lamb leg chops
2 onions, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup of kalamata olives, stoned
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 200C. Splash a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large roasting dish – I use the giant ones that double as racks in our oven – and toss in the potatoes, onions and garlic so everything is coated in the oil. Put the tray into the oven for 30 minutes, shaking occasionally.
Put another tablespoon of oil into a bowl and add the anchovies, then the lamb chops. Rub the chops with the oily anchovy mixture and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
When the potatoes have cooked for 30 minutes, remove the tray from the oven. Make spaces for the chops and scatter the olives on top. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the chops and your preferred level of done-ness. Squeeze the lemon over the top, then sprinkle with lemon zest and chopped parsley. Serves four.

* Thanks to Shirleen for ‘baabaarazzi’. Isn’t it genius?

Apple and beetroot meatloaf

I never thought I would become the sort of parent that hides vegetables in things. I never thought I’d have to negotiate about the wearing of tutus, deal with the constant need for things to be pink or have arguments about whether Daddy was a king or a princess.
However, I felt quite proud of this little number, which manages to combine quite a lot of vegetables and the colour pink. True, I did have to say it was “just like sausages” before she’d deign to sit on her royal bottom and eat it, but small victories are what parenting is all about. Or am I doing it wrong?

Apple, beetroot and fennel meatloaf
Because I can’t resist a cheap pun I’ve taken to calling this ‘beetloaf’. Well, wouldn’t you?
If you have a processor with a grating/shredding attachment, this is a good time to use it. Even if you don’t, this takes less than 10 minutes to get in the oven.
Like most meatloaves, this is even better cold the second day, even if you’re eating a slice of it at your desk.

500g good pork mince – ask for pork shoulder, if you’re at the butcher
1 large apple, cored but not peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 large beetroot
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large loaf tin with baking paper – enough so there’s a decent overhang on the two longest sides so you can lift the loaf out afterwards.
Grate the apple, onion and beetroot. Tip into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients. Mix well with clean hands, then pack the resulting mixture into the prepared loaf tin.
Bake for an hour, by which time the top should be dark golden brown and crusty. Leave in the tin for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with crunchy potatoes and something green. A dollop of apple sauce is good too. Serves four.

Lucy’s little lamb burgers

The world – or at least the part of it I live in – has gone burger mad. Not only are more than 60 Wellington restaurants battling it out to win Burger Wellington 2012, but McDonald’s have introduced a new lamb burger to their menu, using New Zealand lamb.
I can’t vouch for the McDonald’s burger (please don’t ask me to) but I’m happy to give you my own recipe. We’ve been eating these baby burgers a lot lately – they’re about a quarter of the size of a ‘proper’ burger but still very filling. You’ll have to wait for the upcoming issue of Frankie to see how to make the baby buns – but in the meantime, here’s how I construct our little lamb burgers.

Little Lamb Burgers

Little lamb burgers
You don’t have to make these with lamb – in fact, the last time I made them I used a mixture of beef and lamb mince (a combination due in part to shopping sans glasses). The secret is to handle them as little as possible. Don’t go squishing the mince in your hands for fun, treat it like you would a delicate fillet of fish (that’s fillet, not a ‘filet of fish’).

500g good lamb mince
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 red onion, finely chopped
about 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Mix everything together and shape into flattish small balls – about 50g each. Line a tray with baking paper and put the burgers on top. Cover loosely and put in the fridge until about 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook them.
To cook, either heat a heavy pan and fry them in a little oil, or bake them at 200C for about 15 minutes, turning once to brown both sides. I think the panfrying method gives a slightly better result, but baking has the benefits of being hands-free.

To assemble, spread a baby bun with hummus, then top with a tangle of baby salad leaves, a slice of beetroot (essential in a Kiwi burger), the burger, a dollop of redcurrant jelly or chutney and the bun ‘lid’. For a beef burger, ditch the beetroot and add a slice of blue cheese.

Have you sampled any Burger Wellington offerings yet? Don’t miss the one at Cafe Polo – it’s the best burger I’ve ever eaten.

Lucy had a little lamb, Pt 3

After doing a lot of eating out and watching Masterchef in recent months – both in the name of work – I have realised how nice it is to eat really simple food. Foams, gravels and deconstructed this and that are all very clever and tricksy but they’re not exactly heartwarming to eat, are they?

This, on the other hand, is like going back in time to when you got home from school and asked what was for dinner and your mother said, “something-out-of-my-head-and-don’t-take-the-lid-off-the-crockpot”. In other words, it’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder chops. Really easy. Really delicious.

Lamb And Tomato Stew
… complete with no-frills photography to enhance the experience

Simple lamb shoulder stew
Don’t even think about adding anything fancy to this, unless it’s a can of drained and rinsed white beans about halfway through the cooking time.

olive oil
4 good lamb shoulder chops
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 ribs celery, de-stringed and roughly chopped
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup kalamata olives
salt and pepper

Heat a spoonful of oil in a heavy, ovenproof, cast iron casserole pot until hot. Brown the chops, one at a time, until well-coloured on both sides. Remove to a plate.
Wipe out most of the fat, then add another slosh of olive oil and saute the garlic, onions, celery and carrots for five minutes, until starting to colour. Tip in the tomatoes and olives, plus half a tomato tin’s worth of water. Stir well, then lay the browned chops on top.
Grind over lots of salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, then put the lid on and transfer to an oven preheated to 160C. Cook for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The meat should be tender and falling off the bones. Serves 3-4, with crusty bread or rice and something green on the side.