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.

Welly on a plate

Welly on a plate

Welly on a plate

Wibble wobble

Wibble wobble

Welly on a plate

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Tomorrow marks the start of Wellington On A Plate 2011 – 17 days of culinary heaven involving beer, blind dining, burgers, cupcakes, cocktails, canapes, chocolate, demonstrations, degustations, dinner deals, fashion shows, a hummus contest, kitchen tours, long lunches, martinis, an amazing Masterclass, offal, oysters, pasta and pastry making, pies, pinot noir, truffles and a look at zoo food (among other things). I’ve been so immersed in writing about the festival for work that I now feel a bit like you do when you’ve cooked an epic feast. Yes, it all looks lovely, but I’ll happily settle for a cup of tea and a lie down!

However, if you like the look of this lovely apron and teatowel, you can buy your own here or you can stay tuned because I might, just might, have some goodies to giveaway when The Kitchenmaid turns one next week… In the meantime, are you attending any Wellington On A Plate festivities? What are you looking forward to?

Rye and molasses bread

I’ve finally assuaged my white bread guilt and made a successfully dark and flavoursome loaf after weeks of turning out lead bricks. There are various recipes floating around for no-knead brown breads that you mix up and stick in a cold oven, but I can’t seem to make any of them work. This one, however, adapted from something I copied down from A Pod And Three Peas ages ago, does the trick. It’s a bit like homemade Vogels rye bread, only nicer.

Rye Molasses Bread

Rye and Molasses Bread
This bread came out of the oven looking so dark and brooding I wanted to call it Heathcliff, but thought that might be a Wuthering Heights pun too far. The molasses gives it a distinctive flavour, but you could always substitute treacle or golden syrup. Either way, this bread is really, really good with slabs of cold unsalted butter.

2tsp dried yeast
650ml warm water
1Tbsp molasses
500g wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
100g rolled oats
1tsp salt

Put the water and yeast into a large bowl (or the bowl of your freestanding mixer) and whisk together. Add the molasses and whisk again. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Leave for five minutes, then either plug into your mixer and let the dough hook work its magic for about five minutes or turn it out and knead it for five minutes. It is a really, really wet and sticky dough – the mixer is far easier.
Scrape the dough into a well-greased and lined large loaf tin (mine has an internal measurement of about 25cm x 8cm), slash the top and put the whole thing into a plastic bag. Leave until doubled – around 60-90 minutes – then bake at 200C for about 45 minutes. I turn it out of the tin at this point and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to get a nice, crusty bottom. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Sweet sweet Friday: Just Rhubarb

I’ve been perusing a lot of menus lately – I want to emphasise that this has been at my desk rather than at a damask-covered table – and chuckling to myself at the ridiculous labels some restaurants come up with for their dishes. There seem to be two major trends. One is to over-egg the pudding as much as possible, with lots of flowery language (and mention of froths and foams on the plate), while the other is to be as stark as possible. There’s almost as much artifice in the latter as the former, but it’s certainly more appetising.

Anyway, here are the two options for today’s pud, a deconstructed rhubarb fool:
‘Pretty in pink’: Evergreen Horowhenua rhubarb, oven-poached in the hand-squeezed juice of a Gisborne navel orange, served with a quenelle of Fonterra’s finest Greek-inspired yoghurt and a Meyer lemon-scented butter biscuit of Scottish heritage.
Or: Rhubarb, Greek yoghurt, lemon shortbread.
Rest assured it tastes pretty good either way…

Oven-poached Rhubarb
You could cook this on the stove if you wanted to, but sticking it in the oven is much less fuss.

500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 large orange

Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the rhubarb into a large, ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Pare the rind from the orange using a potato peeler. Tuck this into the rhubarb, then cut the orange in half and squeeze over the juice. Then cut the orange into chunks and add to the dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool, discard the orange pieces and peel, then cover and put in the fridge until ready to use.
For a ‘deconstructed’ fool, put the rhubarb and a bowl of whipped cream or Greek yoghurt on the table and invite your guests to help themselves.
(If you don’t think your fellow diners are up to a bit of DIY, fold the rhubarb through about 500g Greek yoghurt until marbled. Dollop into glass bowls and take to the table with your most special silver spoons. Either way, thin, crisp shortbread is a great accompaniment.

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.