With the arrival of March, we are closer to Spring. The sun will return at last, and daffodils and tulips blowing in a light breeze will become a familiar sight once more. Lamb always makes me think of Spring, it’s the perfect roast for Easter. Although Spring doesn’t arrive until March 20th this year, this recipe allows us to jump ahead into the spring mindset. This is no Easter roast though – it’s another tasty way to enjoy this tender meat, coated in hot, smoky paprika and sprinkled with fragrant oregano. As the chops are massaged with the paprika spice and herbs, their flavours permeate the meat, but does not overpower it. Fried for only a short time, the taste is locked in, whilst the meat stays tender, remaining deliciously pink in the centre. Plus, far away from the wintry stews we’ve been indulging in so far this year, the chickpea stir fry is light and full of flavour. Whilst the garlic and chili provide a warm kick to the stir fry, the chickpeas are soft with a bite; the chunky vegetables lend their own textures and flavours with each mouthful. A brilliant accompaniment to the lamb, this dish will transport you in time forward to the arrival of Spring.
- 2 lamb chops
- ½ courgette, chopped into thick chunks
- ¼ aubergine, chopped into thick chunks
- ½ red pepper, finely sliced
- Good handful of cherry tomatoes
- ½ 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- ½ red onion, finely sliced
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red chili, finely sliced
- Hot, smoked paprika
- Dried oregano
- Salt and black pepper
- Olive oil
- Season the chops with salt, pepper and the paprika. Sprinkle on both sides with a little oregano, and set aside for later.
- In a large saucepan, heat a little oil, and fry the onion for 8 minutes, until soft. Reduce the heat and the garlic, red pepper and courgette and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the aubergine, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and sliced chili. Stir well to combine, and leave to warm through on the hob, until the cherry tomatoes have blistered. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, fry the lamb chops in a separate saucepan for 2 minutes each side. Then, when still pink in the middle, transfer to a plate and add the chickpea stir-fry. Season again, and serve!
(adapted from recipe by Jamie Oliver)
Back from my holiday, I am full of culinary inspiration. Food seemed to taste better in France. This may just be artistic exaggeration, the result of eating outside everyday on a roof terrace in 30 degree heat, but what still remains undeniable is the excitement of buying ingredients. Resourcing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and bread from stalls, markets and independent shops as opposed to chain supermarkets gave cooking a breath of renewal – the smell of ripe tomatoes, rising yeast and sweet peaches made you drool with desire before cooking had even begun! Nice was especially great for this, boasting home to the famous Cours de Saleya in old town. Though primarily hailed as a flower market, it also has a great range of fresh vegetables, fruits, olives and cheeses. The guidebook was particularly insistent that I visited the market, and so I did on a Sunday morning, and was not disappointed. The buzz of the market and the enthusiasm of everybody there for what they were selling was incredible!
Not only was I able to cook new things aided by the many wonderful fruit and vegetable markets, I was able to take ideas for new recipes from eating out. For example, although I would consider myself to enjoy meals with fish, I had never strayed too far from the traditional British Fish & Chips! But away in France, I dived deep into the fruits de mer, and surfaced with a taste for sea bream, mussels and squid. Most recently I dared to try scallops, which were equally delicious. And so many seafood recipes will soon appear as I try to recreate a little bit of France in my English kitchen! But to begin my French renaissance, the dish of Piperade.
Piperade sounds like a strange combination – a rich bodied tomato sauce, with scrambled egg and crusty bread. It’s a Basque dish; a group of people who partially inhabit South West France on the Bay of Biscay. However from this small area of France, its popularity has spread across the entire nation and is served in many cafes and restaurants. It’s simplicity is its triumph, and is an easy supper for anyone to make. Don’t be put off thinking that scrambled egg belongs on toast as part of a full English and tomato sauces ought to remain in Italian cuisine – they pair well together and make a filling dish that has a rustic feel. Bon appetit!
- 6 ripe salad tomatoes, quartered
- 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 eggs, beaten
- Torn basil
- Salt and black pepper
- Dried chili to taste
- Olive oil
- Crusty bread, to serve
- Heat a large saucepan over a low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and fry the sliced onions and dried chili until the onions are soft and the chili fragrant. This should roughly take about 8 to 10 minutes
- Add the garlic and sauté for a while longer, remembering to ensure that it should not brown, only soften
- Add the peppers and allow to soften. Season, and then add the tomatoes. Stir to combine all the ingredients and simmer
- Meanwhile, heat a smaller pan or saucepan over a medium heat and add a small drizzle of olive oil or butter. When hot, add the beaten eggs and turn the heat to low.
- When the eggs have begun to harden in the pan, use a whisk to form scrambled curds. Using a whisk will ensure the eggs remain soft and do not dry out!
- Once the egg reaches a scrambled appearance and has a creamy texture, add to the tomato sauce and stir in gently to avoid breaking the egg further.
- Scatter torn basil over the dish, and serve immediately accompanied by crusty bread.
Although it was a while ago now, I am coming round to think that perhaps I was too harsh with my branding of lasagne as a “Food Technology” dish. Before I broke up from University for the holidays, I ate out with my family, and saw on the menu a roasted pork lasagne – which as I’m sure you’ll agree, sounds fairly sophisticated. A far cry from a school kitchen. Despite having no recipe for this dish, it sounded delicious; knowing how to cook pork, garlic and peppers respectively, I guessed that it’d turn out okay!
Whilst the main components of the dish were given in the restaurant menu, I chose to modify the tomato sauce, using sage to replace the basil or oregano found in ordinary lasagne. The herb sage pairs perfectly with pork. Used most frequently in sausages, the sage gives a savoury and minimal peppery flavour to the meat. Opting for this instead of Italian basil or oregano sets this lasagne aside from the usual bolognese variety, and thus makes it stand out as a dish. Moreover, the ready-listed ingredients went well with the choice of herb. Roast garlic is far sweeter in taste compared to the sometimes harsh flavours of raw pureed garlic – combined with the sage, the peppery nature of the herb offsets the sweetness of the garlic and creates an excellent balance of flavours. So here is my make-shift recipe, inspired by the menu of a lovely little pub in Kenilworth.
- 350g diced pork
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 5 cloves of garlic, skin left on, with one end trimmed
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 400g tin of tomatoes
- ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Dried sage
- 20g butter
- 20g flour
- 300ml cold milk
- Grated cheddar cheese, to taste
- Timing is crucial to this recipe – have a watch or a clock to hand!
- In a large piece of silver foil, place the garlic cloves with their skin still on with one end trimmed. Season with salt and coat in a small amount of olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly, and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the time – half way through the 25 minutes place the peppers in the oven to roast too.
- Whilst the garlic is cooking, prepare the two sauces and the pork.
- Begin with the tomato sauce, as this needs to simmer for the longest, and therefore can be left on the back burner whilst other components are made. Begin frying sliced red onions; when softened, add the tinned tomatoes and stir. Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low and simmer.
- Around this time, the 25 minutes for the garlic should be reaching half way. To an oiled baking tray add the sliced peppers, and place in the oven for the remainder of the cooking period for the garlic.
- Heat a small amount of oil in frying pan over a medium heat. As the oil warms, add the diced pork and fry until browned, seasoning with pepper. When browned, remove from the heat and cut each pork piece into thin slices.
- Take the tomato sauce off the heat, and add the balsamic vinegar. Break the shape of the tomatoes against the side of the saucepan. Season, and sprinkle in some dried sage. Stir in the pork slices.
- Check the garlic and peppers – remove from the oven. Add the peppers whole to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Open the foil wrap and leave the garlic to cool slightly, then squeeze the soft garlic out from the hardened clove shell into the tomato sauce. Stir once more, and then return the sauce to the heat to simmer through again.
- Now turn your attention to the béchamel sauce. Melting the butter in the pan, add flour until a ball forms. Stir in the milk gradually until a smooth sauce is created; season and add grated cheese to taste.
- As all components are complete, now is the time to form the lasagne! In a deep oven-proof dish, layer the lasagne – to ensure the lasagne doesn’t stick to the bottom of the dish, first place down a layer of pork and tomato sauce, followed by lasagne sheets.
- Then, order another layer of pork sauce, followed by béchamel sauce, followed by lasagne sheets. Repeat this order until all the sauces are used up, finishing with a layer of béchamel sauce over lasagne sheets. Top the final layer of béchamel sauce with more grated cheese, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned and slightly crisp.
- Remove from the oven, and serve with a fresh rocket salad.