Lucy had another little lamb and this is how she cooked it

Hello, my name is Baabaara. Image via here

I thought it was best to get the gratuitous and possibly bad taste lamb photo out of the way early on. Please, don’t be offended – I love lambs as much as the next person, especially if that person is cooking this spicy, slow cooked lamb shoulder in my oven, then serving it up to me with crispy roasted potatoes and steamed greens.

Braised Lamb Shoulder

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb
This is my version of a Hugh F-W recipe. It is a firm favourite in our house for a number of reasons, not least because it is very low-maintenance and extremely delicious. Mature lamb (ie, the sort that lies about being younger than it is) is especially good cooked this way.

1 lamb shoulder, bone in (about 2kg)
2tsp cumin seeds
2tsp coriander seeds
2tsp fennel seeds

2tsp black peppercorns

2tsp cinnamon

3tsp sweet smoked paprika

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 dried chilli, chopped (or 1-2tsp chilli flakes)

3tsp sea salt

2Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C. Toast the cumin, coriander, peppercorns in a dry pan until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and add the garlic, rosemary, smoked paprika, dried chilli and salt. Crush/grind for a bit, then add the olive oil. If you don’t have a mortar you can do this in a mini food processor or just use a bowl, a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease.
Score the skin of the lamb and put it into a large, lidded, ovenproof dish (like a Le Creuset or similar). Rub half the spice paste over the meat, then put in the oven for 30 minutes. Take it out and rub the remainder of the spice paste on to the meat (I use the back of a spoon). Tip a small glass of water into the pot (not over the meat), put the lid on and return to the oven, turning the heat down to 120C. Let cook for at least six hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
If you want to cook this in advance, remove the meat from the pot when it is done and discard the bones. Pour the liquid into a container and let cool, then refrigerate both the meat and liquid. To reheat, put the meat back into the (now clean!) pot. Scrape the layer of fat from the now jelly-like liquid and throw it away quickly before anyone sees. Put the jellied liquid in with the meat and reheat at 150C until piping hot.

Random Recipe #6: How To Eat

It was easy choosing the book for this month’s Random Recipe challenge – all we had to do was pick our favourite title. Finding something in it that I hadn’t made before was slightly harder.
I first read Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat when visiting my sister in the UK in 1999. I was having a mid-twenties crisis and the flu – a bad combination – and my recovery involved a lot of lying on her sofa and reading. Looking back, perhaps Nigella had some impact on what happened next: I went to Italy, came home, applied for journalism school and got my own copy of the book, which has gone everywhere with me ever since (I bought another copy when we moved to London a few years later).

How To Eat predates the BBC commodification of Nigella into a finger-lickin’, satin dressing gown-wearing caricature. There are few pictures and none of her except a very Sophia Loren-esque author photo. But the writing is wonderful and the recipes are incredibly useful, whether you’re cooking for one or planning a long Sunday lunch. I never thought I’d have a use for the section on ‘feeding babies and small children’, but it was the only book-based information of its kind that I wasn’t disgusted by, even if I’ve yet to feed the Small Girl duck liver sauce. Yet.
When it was published the Daily Telegraph reviewer called How To Eat “the most valuable culinary guide published this decade”. Some 13 years later, I think that still holds true.

Hummus with seared lamb and toasted pine nuts
My copy of How To Eat falls open naturally at many well-thumbed pages so it took some turning to find something we hadn’t eaten before. Now I’ve discovered this I think we’ll be having it a lot.
In the book, Nigella devotes a lot of words to discussing the making of hummus – the soaking and cooking of chickpeas etc. Ignore this bit if you think making your own hummus is akin to kitchen slavery, but it really does taste better. AND, cooking your own chickpeas means you can use their cooking liquid to slacken the hummus instead of adding more oil. Don’t be tempted to use the brine from the tin – do as N suggests and dollop in a bit of Greek yoghurt instead.
For the lamb, she suggests using lamb noisettes, cut into little rags and tatters, but I used lamb rumps, sliced into 2cm steaks and quickly fried (it was such nice meat, I didn’t want to tear it up).
You can find her updated version of the recipe here – essentially it’s just a case of, a) make hummus, b) toast pinenuts, c) sear lamb, d) dollop hummus on plate, add lamb, sprinkle with pinenuts and chopped parsley. Over-achiever that I am, I also made some flatbreads to go with it, but you could just as easily use bought ones. It’s just that I like a sprinkle of smugness with my dinner, don’t you?

Big Red: Braised Beef & Tomatoes

At this time of year there’s always lots of press extolling the virtues of slow cookers. Occasionally I wonder about getting one, then I remember that we have a giant slow cooker tucked into the corner of the kitchen. It’s called an oven. O-V-E-N. Set low, it also conveniently heats the room. Bet your benchtop slow cooker can’t do that…

Big Red Braised Beef
I’ve just taught the Boy Wonder how to make this, which is good, except I’m going to have to teach him something else really quickly lest we end up eating it all winter. It takes about 15 minutes prep on the stovetop, then you can put it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. Quantities here are approximate – you can always stretch a smaller amount of meat with more vegetables and/or cooked beans.

2Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500-750g beef suitable for stewing (shin is my favourite), cut into 2cm cubes
2tsp smoked paprika and/or 1tsp dried chilli (less if you don’t like it hot)
2Tbsp flour
125ml red wine
2 tins tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C. Take a large, lidded, ovenproof, stoveproof pot (like a Le Creuset) and put it over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions, carrots, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the spices and fry for a minute or two, then add the beef and flour Turn up the heat and fry for another couple of minutes, stirring to try to brown it as much as possible. Add the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes. Stir well. Add enough water to barely cover the meat (you may not need any) and bring to the boil. Clamp the lid on and stick the pot in the oven. Cook for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meat is so tender it falls apart when prodded. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thin, let it cook with the lid off on the stovetop for 10 minutes to reduce. Eat then and there with crusty bread or mash and some sort of greens, or let cool and refrigerate/freeze.