My life and passion for food.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Perfect Roast Lamb with Homemade Mint Sauce






























all ready to rock & roll

Roasted to perfection

The first rule of perfect roasted lamb is to find the best quality meat, lovingly prepared for the oven from a butcher you can trust. 
If you can obtain locally reared lamb....perfect.   If you use a supermarket just check where it's come from.  There's nothing wrong with New Zealand lamb but the carbon footprint is high....why buy foreign meat when the best you can buy is all around us
Cheap meat is usually means poor quality.   This boned out leg of lamb came from just across the border in North Wales....wonderful sheep rearing country. It's naturally full of mountain grass flavour....I like to help it along making it even more flavoursome by roasting over a bed of vegetables.....these in turn with the meat juices & a little red wine will make a fabulous gravy.
This should serve 6 good portions
I used a large....roughly 4½lbs in weight (before the bone was removed) and securely tied.
I didn't manage to secure the bone....if you can all the better
It weighed approx 3½lb perhaps a little more after boning out 
2 carrots chopped....just wash no need to peel
2 sticks of celery chopped
1 large onion chopped
4 tomatoes quartered
3 or 4 cloves of garlic left whole
few sprigs of fresh rosemary
a few parsley stalks
a glass or so of good red wine
2 cups of water
salt & pepper
For the gravy a few teaspoons of slated cornflour to thicken, a dsp redcurrant jelly
For the mint sauce
a big bunch of mint leaves.....I used spearmint and apple mint ....stalks removed
2 spring onions (scallions) and the green part
caster sugar to taste
red wine vinegar just a glug
boiling hot water
Chop the mint & spring onions finely
pour over a little boiling water
then a tbsp or so of red wine vinegar
add sugar to taste ....I used around 3 or 4 tsps
Leave to infuse for an hour or so
This is a thick sauce....we almost use it like another vegetable
The meat:-  Weigh your meat.....it needs to roast for 20 minutes per 1lb  ...500gms for well done 
If you like your meat a little pink then reduce the time to around 15 mins per lb after the first 20 minute blast
heat the oven to 220c/400f/gas mark 6
Place all the chopped vegetables in the bottom of a roasting tray if you have the lamb bone add to the tray also
Season the meat all over with sea salt & black pepper
Tuck the rosemary into the  meat strings as I have in the photo
Place the meat on top of the vegetables....the fatty part facing upwards
Add 2 cups of water to the roasting tray
Roast uncovered for 20 mins then turn the oven down to 180c/350f/gas 4 for the remainder of the time
If you're a purist or unsure then check with a thermometer....it should read 80c/170f in the centre when thoroughly cooked 
I like my meat a little pink ..... so I roasted my 3½lb joint for....an initial 20 mins at 200c then around an hour at 180c.  A total of 1½ hours
Remove the meat from the oven....wrap well in tin foil and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes while you make the gravy
The gravy.
there should still be some liquid left in the roasting tray with the vegetables
Add the glass of wine to this and place on a medium heat of the stove top
Scrap around the tray, scooping up all the juices and stuck on meaty bits
Add the redcurrant jelly and a couple of teaspoons initially of the slated cornflour
If the gravy looks to thin add a little more
Strain into a jug through a sieve squeezy and pushing out all the liquid from the vegetables as you do so. Discard the vegetables
Reheat the sieved gravy.....check for seasoning and adjust as necessary
Serve with your favourite vegetables.
We enjoyed ours with new potatoes, broad beans, peas, carrots and broccoli from the garden



Pasta with Beetroot, Feta & Pine Nuts


Delciously healthy vegetarian fodder, cheap as chips too.
Beetroot is a great favourite...not so much the pickled in jars kind but the fresh sweetly roasted or boiled kind.
I grew the beetroot myself and they were picked, cooked and on the table within hours...some of the wonderful leaves & stems are included along with the cooking liquor......waste not want not.... this gave a wonderful colour to the actual pasta as well as adding a real depth of flavour to the dish.
Feta, Pinenuts and a good glug of decent Balsamic vinegar added to produce a wonderful flavour combination......just perfect for a summery lunch.


For 2/3 decent portions I used

6 medium sized beetroot....washed well. leaves removed and saved. Chop the stalks finely and slice through the leaves
if you buy the beet without leaves then substitute with a little spinach, Swiss chard or similar greens 
1 small onion finely diced
2 tbsps aged balsamic vinegar
a little olive oil for frying
a handful of toasted pinenuts
around 6oz of Cavatappi, macaroni or penne or similar pasta
1 tsp sea salt or so
fresly ground black pepper to taste
3/4oz Feta Cheese crumbled
1 tsp dried oregano
a little extra virgin oil for drizzling


Method

Cover the unpeeled beets with water in a saucepan, add a tsp or so of salt, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked through....approx 35 minutes
Leave in the pan until cool enough to handle.......keep the cooking liquor, it adds an incredible earthiness and you lose none of it's flavour & goodness
it also turns the pasta red....so lovely.
When cool enough to handle, gently remove the skins and chop into approx 1" cubes
Put the pan with the cooking liquid back on the stove and bring to the boil.
Add the pasta and perhaps a little more boiling water and cook as per packet instructions.
Meanwhile, add a little olive oil to the a frying pan,  sautee the onion until transluscent
Add the beet stalks first, cook on for a couple of minutes then add the leaves
Throw in the balsamic vinegar...and stir through, heat for a minute or so
Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss everything together
Add the feta stir through....check your seasoning
Sprinkle over the Pinenuts, the oregano and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil 








The pasta turns a lovely shade of red when cooked in the saved beetroot liquorThe pasta turns a lovely shade of red when cooked in the saved beetroot liquor

Roast Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives




Perfect as a summery starter or a light lunch for 4-6 people
The Anchovies are completely optional if you want to keep the dish vegetarian
You won't believe the intensity of flavour that a little roasting can make to a simple tomato salad.   This dish is divine....serve at room temperature for the full impact.  Use the very best vine ripened/heirloom tomatoes you can buy....or even better home-grown and picked that day. And .....don't forget ....you'll ned plenty of fresh crusty bread to mop up those fabulous juices.


You will need a ovenproof dish, choose a pretty one for serving too.

Ingredients:-

12 large ripe but firm tomatoes
1 small tin of anchovies... plus it's oil  (can be omitted ....use an extra tbsp of olive oil, and season with sea salt if leaving them out)
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 large cloves of garlic chopped
a small bunch of fresh basil
around 20 or so Kalamata or black olives
Seasoning.....freshly ground black pepper.....if using the anchovies you may not need any salt whatsoever


Method:-

First skin the tomatoes.....cut a cross in the base of each one.....pop into boiling water for 1 minute or so..... remove ....straight into icy water and the skins will be easily removed
Cut each tomato in half.
Place a little of the olive oil in the base of your oven dish and spread it around
Place the tomatoes on top cut side facing up
Sprinkle over the chopped garlic
place a little anchovy fillet (if using)  on each tomato
sprinkle a little chopped basil over the dish ( reserve some leaves for the finishing of the dish)
Season with black pepper
Pour over the reserved anchovy oil, the balsamic vinegar and the remaining olive oil

Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven 200c/400f/gas 6
Roast for around 50 minutes

Remove and cool
Tuck the olives in and around the dish
Finish with fresh whole basil leaves just before serving

Serve with plenty of crusty bread ......you'll be fighting over the sauce it makes .....we always do .



Roast tomato saladRoast tomato salad
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Monday, 18 August 2014

Gluten-free Peach & Almond Cake


I tweaked a recipe I regularly use the make this cake. Based on a  the River Cafe Apple & lemon cake. I've substituted the apple & lemon for peaches & almonds and wheat flour for rice flour to make it totally gluten-free.
This is a great dessert cake for any coeliacs out there. The cake has ground almonds & rice flour instead of regular flour but you could also just substitute the rice flour for gluten-free self-raising flour. If you don't have to worry about the gluten just use regular SR flour.  You will need a 23cm loose bottomed tin, buttered and lined with parchment paper
Set the oven to 150c/300f/gas2
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Ingredients
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4 medium sized ripe but still firm peaches
150gms/5oz ground almonds
110gms/4oz unsalted butter melted
300gms/11oz caster sugar
½ tsp almond extract
2 large freerange eggs
6 tbsp rice flour and       
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder   (sift the 2 ingredients together)          
(or substitute the rice flour & baking powder for 6tbsp gluten-free SR flour or 6 tbsp regular SR flour)
extra tbsp caster sugar for sprinkling over the cake
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Blanch the peaches and remove the skin
Cut in half and stone them
Slice thinly into slices
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Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick & creamy
Slowly add the melted butter & almond extract mixing well
Fold in the ground almonds, rice flour, baking powder
Add 2/3rds of the sliced peaches reserving the remainder for the top and mix gently through the batter
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Pour into the prepared tin
scatter over the remaining peaches and sprinkle with the tbsp caster sugar
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place in the centre of the oven and bake for approximately 1 hr 20 mins -1 hr 30 mins
Check after  1hour 10 mins  but mine has always taken a while longer
This is a moist cake but a skewer should still come out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
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remove from the oven and leave in the tin until completely cold.
I like to put the cooled cake in the fridge for an hour or so, it makes it so much easier to slice. If you can't wait just dig in
Remember this is a dessert although it would make a great afternoon tea.
 It's delicious with cream or Greek Yoghurt in fact I had the last slice of this one for a cheeky little breakfast this morning with my coffee  shhhh!!!! don't tell a soul

2,414 people reached



Lahmacun aka Spicy Turkish Beef Pizza



This recipe is a complete revelation to me...it's just wonderful. Fabulous flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean, sunshine in eat bite.   The Turks make this with either minced lamb or beef....beef is what I had and it worked so very well.  The pizza topping needs no pre cooking....everything is baked in a really hot oven then topped with the salad....totally delicious and one you must try.
 this recipe will make 2 10" pizzas
You can either use pre-bought pizza bases or follow the simple bread recipe below....it really is worth the effort to make your own

Ingredients.
to make 2 10" pizzas
For the bread:-

12 oz plain flour
a little polenta for rolling out
2 tsps salt
2 tsp easy blend dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
approx 8 fl oz/240 ml warm water

For the Spicy Beef Topping :-
around 3/4 tbsp of Tahini (sesame paste) to spread over the pizza bases


250gms/ ½lb  lean minced beef 
1 onion finely diced
1 clove garlic crushed
1 red chilli chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
1½ tsp cinnamon powder
1½ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp Sumac  ( if you can't get this Zataar is available in most supermarkets use it instead and add a little more more lemon juice to the mix)
2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (if you can't get this try reducing balsamic vinegar to a syrup)
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp Pine nuts

Salad:-
3 or 4 tomatoes sliced into quarters
a 6" piece of cucumber cut into slices
1 small red onion finely sliced
a little chopped parsley and mint
half a chopped red pepper
squeeze of lemon juice 
optional feta cheese crumbled

For the bread bases.

in a food processor fitted with a dough hook add the dry ingredients
combine then add the oil and gradually add the warm water
you may not need it all  the dough should be slightly sticky but not overly wet
Mix slowly to knead for around 5 minutes.
Remove the dough, place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for at least 1 hour until doubled in size
I like to make my dough the night before it's needed and then just leave it in the fridge to slowly prove
 if doing it this way take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before rolling out
Cut the dough in half
Sprinkle some polenta on the work surface and roll each half out into approx 10" circles.
You may have to do this in a couple of sessions. the dough can be very springy..I find it easier to let it rest slightly then roll again into shape

Brush each side with a little olive oil and place on baking trays

Heat the oven to 230c /450f/ gas 8

Combine all the topping ingredients together except for the Tahini & pine nuts
Mix well together

spread the Tahini over the bases
spoon the spiced beef mix over 
sprinkle with pine nuts
Bake for around 15 mins in the hot oven
the base should crispy around the edges and the meat thoroughly cooked through

serve while still hot with the salad placed in the middle of each pizza
add a little Feta cheese if desired

I hope you enjoy it just as much a we did ♥








Spicy Beef  Turkish Pizza

Monday, 11 November 2013

Blitzens





Poor Blitzen......why should Rudolf get all the attention? I wanted to devise a little treat for grown-ups over the Christmas period. These Apricot, Amaretti, Almond squares are based on the kiddies Rocky Road. They're chewy thanks to the Rolos & have a little crunch from the addition of Maltesers. I've just upped the anti and given them a little twist and a touch of sophistication for the adult palate. Just leave out the Amaretto if serving to children and perhaps use milk chocolate instead of the bitter dark.

Really easy to make as there's no baking required just a few hours of chilling in the fridge.  They will be perfect with coffee after Christmas lunch instead of the usual Mince Pies or After Eight mints.

Ingredients

200g/7oz good quality 70% solid Dark Chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
3 tbsp. Golden or Corn Syrup
150g/5oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp. Amaretto liqueur (optional)

Melt all of the above in a large bowl over simmering water. Remove from heat as soon as it's all melted & combined.

100g/3½ oz dried apricots chopped
75g/ 3oz flaked almonds
100g /3½ Amaretti biscuits lightly broken
a packet of Rolos slice them in half
130g approx. 4oz White Maltesers

line a 9"/23cm tin with baking parchment

Reserve around a third of the melted chocolate mixture
Reserve around 20 Maltesers & half of the chopped apricots for the top

Add all the dry ingredients to the melted chocolate and mix well together
Pour over the remaining reserved chocolate
Decorate with the remaining apricots & Maltesers and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight
use a really sharp knife to cut into 20 equal squares.  
Stored in an airtight container in the fridge they should keep for at least a week.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Key Lime Pie



I just love to have visitors to my blog, I've taken some time to prepare this recipe and to blog it so I would be so grateful for some feed back. Please leave a comment or better still visit come over & visit me on my Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/la.difference.catering where I'm available all day most days .

Light, fresh and tangy , I'm sure there couldn't be a better dessert to finish your summer dinner with.
Once the pastry case is made it's just a matter of zesting some juicy limes and squeezing out the juice to add to condensed milk & eggs. The recipe is so simple and the result is just amazing. This recipe should serve 10-12 people.

I used a deep 11" 28cm loose bottomed quiche tin oiled well.

The pastry (unsweetened shortcrust as the filling is sweet enough)

4oz/125g cold unsalted butter cubed
4oz/125g Vegetable shortening (Trex or Cookeen)
1lb plain white flour
pinch of salt
approximately 3tbsp cold water to bind.

In a large bowl rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add a couple of tbsp. of cold water and bring the pastry together to form a ball adding a little more water if needed,

Flatten, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to bake it.

Gently roll out the pastry quite thinly. (you will have plenty enough left over to make jam tarts)
Line the greased tart tin with the pastry carefully pushing it into the edges. Leave an overhang of around 1" of pastry in case it shrinks while baking.
Refrigerate again for around 20 minutes.
Set the oven to 190c/375F/gas 5

Scrunch up a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the tin and fill with baking beans, rice or whatever you use.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 minutes
Remove the paper & beans and continue baking until the pastry is golden & crisp approximately another 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven & trim off the excess pastry to the top of tin.

For the filling.  

6 to 8 Limes depending on the size
 you will need to zest 5  and you will need around 200ml/7fl oz lime juice in total
2 13oz/400g tins of condensed milk
6 large eggs separated
whipped cream & lime slices to decorate

set the oven to 190c/375f/gas 5

Whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry
whip together the egg yolks & condensed milk
Slowly add the lime zest and juice, mix well
Fold in a few tbsp. of the egg white to loosen the mixture
Then fold in the rest.
Pour into a large jug

Place the tart case on an oven tray and place it in the centre of the oven
Carefully pour in the batter until it almost reaches the top of the pastry. Do not overfill any spare mixture can be cooked in an oven dish (cooks treat)
Bake for around 20 -25 minutes or until the filling is set.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before gently removing from the tin.

Decorate with whipped cream and slices of lime