Sticky Lamb with Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Lamb forequarter chops are about half the price of lamb cutlets. If you’re on a budget with a large family, you might want to try this recipe. Forequarter chops contain more fat than cutlets, but in this recipe it mostly dissolves during the cooking.

The sweet potatoes go well with the lamb. If preferred leave out the bacon. You think this recipe is going to serve more people, but the lamb is so tasty everyone comes back for a second helping! A green salad goes well with this family meal.

1 kg or up to 1.5kg lamb forequarter chops
Sticky Glaze:
2 Tbs honey
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 Tbs chilli paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
Fresh coriander to garnish
Sweet Potatoes:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 onion cut into 8ths
3 Tbs olive oil
3 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
2 rashers bacon, diced
1 cob fresh corn
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the chops into 2 or 3 smaller chops by cutting lengthwise and avoiding the bones. Mix the glaze and use it to marinate the chops.  Put aside.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunky chips. Place in a bowl with the onion, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well. Tip into a large oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly. Put aside.

Dinner can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Arrange the drained lamb in a single layer on a baking tray and cook for an hour or until well-cooked and sticky as shown in the photo. Keep the glaze. Depending on your oven they might take a bit longer. Halfway through cooking time, turn them over, brush with remaining glaze.

Put the sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time as the lamb and cook for about an hour or until cooked through. Meanwhile cook the bacon for a few minutes in a frying pan. Add the corn kernels removed from the cob and continue to cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. About 10 minutes before the sweet potatoes are ready, top with the bacon and corn mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan (if using) and put back in the oven for the remaining 10 minutes or so.

Serves 4

Aleppo Pepper & Honey Chicken

According to Wikipedia, Aleppo pepper is a variety of capsicum used as a spice, particularly in Turkish, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Also known as Halaby pepper, its pods are ripened, semi-dried, de-seeded and crushed.

I’ve been seeing quite a few recipes which call for this spice and realised it was one which, believe it or not, I didn’t have in my collection. It’s not sold in Australia in your average supermarket selection, but I found it at The Essential Ingredient.

If you look at images online you will see that Aleppo Pepper varies in colour from bright red through to a dark brownish red. I suggest you buy a bright red one, as the colour is a big part of the appeal of this spice. The flavour is somewhere between a spicy, tangy pepper and a very subtle chilli.

This recipe can be halved or doubled. If preferred, you can use chicken breasts or bone-in pieces, such as wings or drumsticks, instead of boned thighs, adjusting the cooking time accordingly. I prefer to use thighs as chicken breasts tend to be a bit dry.

This recipe is easy and absolutely delicious, with a subtle pepperiness and a very attractive colour. You will want to make it again. Perfect for a weekend BBQ, but it can also be cooked in the oven.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
2 Tbs Aleppo pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
To serve:

Lime wedges

Trim chicken pieces of any excess fat. Place in bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well, then leave to marinate for at least half an hour or overnight if that suits you.

Cook the drained chicken in a preheated oven 200°C for 20-30 minutes or on a BBQ – preferably a charcoal grill. If cooking in the oven, cook in a single layer and you may want to line the baking sheet with baking paper which comes up the sides a bit, to make the washing up easier. Burnt honey is always a pain to clean!

Garnish with lime wedges to serve.

Serves 6-8

 

Tandoori Marinade & Tandoori Chicken Salad

This marinade is great for chicken, fish or lamb you are going to cook on the barbecue. It’s also a main ingredient in Tandoori Chicken Salad. The marinade keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Buy a cooked chicken and the remaining ingredients at the supermarket and you have a quick and easy meal for the warmer weather. Quantities are flexible.

300ml plain Greek-style yoghurt
1 knob fresh ginger, size of a walnut
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 Tbs oil
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs peanuts, cashews or pine nuts
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Tbs fresh coriander
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Makes about 2 cups

Tandoori Chicken Salad

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions
3 cups bean sprouts
1½ cups finely sliced celery
1 cup roughly chopped coriander
1-2 cups cooked small pasta (optional)
1-2 cups Tandoori marinade (see recipe above)
To serve:
Lettuce leaves
Thin slivers of red capsicum or red chillies

Mix all together, adding more salt if necessary. Use as much marinade as you need to moisten everything. Serve in a mound on lettuce leaves, garnished with red capsicum or chilli.

Serves 4

Barbecued Cabbage Wedges with Ginger-Miso Dressing

A recipe for barbecued cabbage caught my eye recently. The sauce includes miso, a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans found amongst the Asian ingredients in Australian supermarkets. If you live elsewhere you may have to visit an Asian grocery store.

Some recipes call for white miso and others for red miso, but they’re fairly interchangeable. I have them both in the fridge, where they keep, once opened, for several weeks. Miso has a strong umami flavour which goes well in marinades and sauces for fish and meat. It also goes well with this delicious barbecued cabbage.

If you can’t be bothered lighting the barbecue you can make this dish in a frying pan. The cabbage once caramelised becomes quite sweet, the way onions do when you fry them.

1 medium to large cabbage
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground back pepper
Sauce:
2 Tbs miso paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Snipped chives or finely sliced spring onion tops

Light the barbecue. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage, then with a sharp knife cut it into 8-10 wedges. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, using your hands to coat the cabbage thoroughly, then season lightly.

Cook cabbage wedges on the barbecue over a medium to high heat, turning every 2  minutes or so, for 10 minutes or until well charred and tender, but still a bit crunchy in the middle. Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the sauce.

Serve cabbage drizzled with some of the sauce and sprinkled with the chives or spring onion tops

Serves 8

Barbecued Baby Octopus

Whenever I serve baby octopus I think of my dearly departed Dad.

Kenf

His name was Kenneth but in the family he was always known as Kenf. For someone brought up on a very traditional British diet Kenf was quite adventurous when it came to eating. He loved Chinese food and spicy curries. In fact he pretty much ate anything you put in front of him.

My parents came over from the UK to visit us in Paris and I decided to serve baby octopus. As we finished our meal I glanced up and although he didn’t say anything I could tell that he wasn’t impressed.

“What do you think?” I enquired. “Well if you really want to know” he replied “I thought it was like eating Dunlop rubber”.

Maybe they were a bit chewy, but I didn’t think they were that bad! Since then I’ve found this recipe which isn’t chewy (thanks to the red wine) and I often wonder if it would have met with Kenf’s approval.

If you like things spicy add a bit of finely chopped fresh chilli.

IMG_0156

1 kg baby octopus (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Olive oil

If using fresh octopus clean thoroughly, rinse and drain well. If using frozen octopus thaw, rinse and drain.

Place balsamic vinegar and wine in a saucepan with the octopus. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discard the wine and place octopus in a bowl with the soy, chilli sauce, tomato sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Heat BBQ to high and cook the octopus for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy on the edges. Serve on a bed of rocket or with steamed rice, garnished with coriander and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

Roast Parsnips & Jerusalem Artichokes with Onion Puree & Parsley Oil

Also known as sunchokes or topinambours, Jerusalem artichokes belong to the sunflower family. In early winter, after the flowers have died down, the tubers can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable.

We grow them in our veggie garden at the farm (you need a bit of space or they can take over) and while I like them, I have to agree that our kids’ nickname, fartichokes, is very appropriate. I prefer to use them in recipes where they’re combined with other vegetables, to reduce the windy effect.

Serve this dish with roast meats or as a side dish at a barbecue. If you don’t have any Jerusalem artichokes use more parsnips or substitute potatoes. The onion puree should have been a pale colour, but when the onions were frying I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still tasted good!

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Chilli

500g Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 2-3cm chunks
500g parsnips, cut into even-sized chunky sticks
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion Purée:
2 large onions, finely chopped
25-50g butter (you decide!)
3 Tbs cream or sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parsley oil:
A handful of fresh parsley
A few leaves of spinach or rocket
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Mix vegetables with oil in a bowl and add seasoning. Line a baking tray with baking paper then tip vegetables onto tray and spread into one layer. Bake at 200°C for 30 mins or until tender and browned at the edges.

Meanwhile cook onions in the butter for 10-15 mins or until soft, stirring often. Place in food processor with cream or sour cream and process till smooth, then season to taste.

For the parsley oil, pour boiling water over the parsley and spinach or rocket, then refresh under the cold tap and squeeze out excess water. Place in food processor, then add olive oil with motor running until you have a bright green sauce. Add salt to taste.

Spread onion purée in serving dish. Arrange roast vegetables on top, then drizzle with the parsley oil.

Serves 6

Roast Carrots and Beets

I often make mixed roast vegetables, but sometimes it’s nice to combine just two. Carrots and beetroots go together well and look very colourful.

Serve with roast meats or as a warm salad for lunch, by arranging them on some lightly dressed salad leaves, then sprinkling with crumbled feta or goat’s cheese and a few toasted walnuts or pecans.

Roast Carrots and Beets

500-800g carrots, peeled and cut into chunky sticks
500-800g beetroots, peeled and cut into wedges
3 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
Chopped fresh parsley (or another herb) to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place vegetables in a bowl and add remaining ingredients except the parsley. Mix well. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper and spread the vegetables out in one layer. Bake for 30-40 mins or until tender and starting to brown on the edges. About halfway through cooking time swap the vegetables on the outside of the tray with ones nearer the centre, in order to achieve more even cooking.

Tip into serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs.

Serves 6-8

Boris and the Barbecue

Early in our marriage we were posted to Israel where we lived in the leafy suburb of Herzliyah Pituach, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. It was one of the few times in our lives that we didn’t have a dog, but our neighbours had a boxer called Boris. They travelled a lot and Boris got lonely, so he spent as much time at our house as he did at theirs. When he felt the need for company he’d just turn up and we were always pleased to see him. Well, almost always.

A Minister was visiting from Queensland with his wife and secretary, so we invited them to join us for a very informal barbecue lunch. Matthew headed off late Saturday morning to pick them up, wearing jeans and an open-neck shirt.

Our guests arrived dressed to kill in white linen suits or similar attire. We sat in the garden sipping a glass of wine while Matthew lit the barbecue. Within five minutes Boris had arrived, his little stubby tail wagging excitedly as he sniffed the air in anticipation of things to come. He could smell a barbecue from a mile off.

Boris was a friendly soul and his usual way of greeting new friends was to slobber his way along their knees. As Matthew tried to stop him and apologise Mrs Minister said through clenched teeth “It’s okay we don’t mind dogs.” Her face said differently as she studied the remains of Boris’s breakfast, now smeared all over her white pants.

Matthew poured more wine, everyone relaxed and we moved to the table for lunch – barbecued lamb cutlets and salad, followed by apple strudel. Boris was starting to be a pain, snuffling under the table looking for scraps. Matthew escorted him home twice, but he kept coming back. We decided to give him a couple of chop bones at the far end of the garden, to keep him quiet.

Suddenly the sound of Boris choking interrupted the conversation. Matthew leapt up, rolled up his sleeve and thrust his hand down the dog’s throat to retrieve the bone. Our guests looked on in horror.

You will be relieved to know that Boris survived the ordeal and went on to attend many more barbecues, although bones were strictly off the menu. In honour of our dearly departed four-legged friend here’s a barbecue recipe without bones. It was given to me by an Australian friend in Israel and is very simple but always a winner. The quantities are flexible – if you use more pork just add more soy sauce, garlic and ginger!

Candy’s Barbecued Pork Rashers Candy's Barbecued Pork Rashers

800g to 1 kg pork belly rashers/slices
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated or very finely chopped fresh ginger

If the pork slices have skin, remove it. If they’re very thick slices hammer them out a bit with a meat hammer. Mix soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a shallow dish. Add the pork and turn to coat thoroughly. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight. Cook for about 15 minutes or so on a hot barbecue, turning a couple of times, or until well cooked and crispy.

Serves 4

Warm Chickpea and Zucchini Salad

As I ate this salad I thought of my brother, who has been a vegan for the past few years. It’s one of the most delicious vegetarian dishes I’ve eaten in a long time.

If you’ve never tried frying canned chickpeas give it a try – it elevates them to a whole new level. Instead of the zucchini you could use broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or snow peas.

The recipe serves two as a light main course or four as a side dish, accompanied by grilled chicken or steak. It would also go well with barbecued lamb. To bulk up the salad to serve more people place a layer of rocket or other salad leaves, lightly dressed with vinaigrette over the base of the serving dish, then pile the salad on top.

Warm Chickpea and Zucchini Salad3 Tbs olive oil
3-4 zucchinis (courgettes) cut into 2cm chunks
1 can chick peas, rinsed, drained and dried with paper towel
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar (see note)
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls chopped fresh mint
2 handfuls chopped fresh parsley
100g marinated goat’s cheese or feta cheese

Heat about half the oil in a frying pan and cook the zucchini, chick peas and garlic for 5-8 minutes or until softening and browning a bit. Add salt, pepper and the vinegar and continue to cook, stirring for a minute or so. Scrape out into a serving dish. In a mortar and pestle, crush the seeds. Wipe out the pan and add the remaining oil. Add the pepitas and the crushed seeds and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the pepitas are starting to change colour and the pan smells fragrant. Add to the zucchini in the serving dish and mix gently. Top with the herbs and cheese and serve while still warm.

Serves 2 as a light main course

Note: I used caramelised balsamic vinegar which is a bit sweeter

Cubanos

We recently watched a movie called Chef starring Jon Favreau who was also the writer and director.

Favreau plays an amiable chef who works in a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles. The owner of the restaurant – a controlling, nasty piece of work played by Dustin Hoffman – forces the chef to cook dated dishes he doesn’t want to cook and they end up getting a very bad review.

Encouraged by his Cuban ex-wife the chef quits his job and starts a mobile food truck business with a friend, selling Cuban fast food. It’s a huge success, the chef reconnects with his 10 year old son, remarries his gorgeous ex-wife and everyone lives happily ever after.

The toasted sandwiches called “Cubanos” looked so delicious I decided to do some research and make them for Café Cat. They’re pretty high in cholesterol so I wouldn’t recommend eating them every day!

Cubanos were often eaten for lunch by workers in sugar mills and cigar factories in Cuba in the late 1800s. They are now popular in various parts of the United States, especially Miami.

In the movie they made them with Cuban bread, which looked like a wide baguette called a Flute in France. Any roast pork will do, but if you want authentic Cubanos make the Cuban version below.

I once watched Nigella Lawson make toasted sandwiches in a frying pan with a chopping board and a weight on top. I couldn’t help wondering why she didn’t jusr buy a proper sandwich press. They aren’t expensive and allow you to make toasted sandwiches with any kind of bread or wrap.

Cubanos

Baguettes or large bread rolls
Sliced roast pork (see below)
Sliced ham
Sliced Swiss cheese
Sliced dill pickles
Your favourite mustard
Melted butter

Split baguettes lengthwise and cut into sandwich lengths – about 15cm – or split the bread rolls. Heat up a sandwich press until hot. On one side of the sandwich place a layer of ham, a layer of sliced pork, a layer of sliced cheese and then a few sliced pickles. Spread mustard generously on the other half, then stick the sandwich together. Brush both sides with melted butter, place in sandwich press, close lid and cook until the bread is golden brown and cheese is melting. Serve immediately.

Cuban Roast Pork

2-2½ kg pork shoulder roast
4 tsp salt
1 cup lemon, lime or Seville orange juice
1 bay leaf
3 tsp oregano
3 tsp ground cumin
15-20 cloves garlic, depending on size, peeled

Stab meat all over with a sharp knife to make deep holes.  In a food processor or blender blend salt, fruit juice, bay leaf, oregano and cumin. Pour over the pork and rub in well, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day remove pork from fridge and let come to room temperature for a good hour. Preheat oven to 140°C, tip off the marinade and reserve. Roast meat, uncovered for 4-5 hours or until well done. Baste often with the reserved marinade and turn occasionally. Remove from the oven and put the pork on a plate or cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest. This pork is enough to feed a crowd with Cubanos.