Slow Cooked Lamb with Tomatoes, Dried Fruit and Spices

Winter time calls for hearty stews, casseroles and tagines to lift the spirits and bring joy, warmth and wonderful cooking smells into the home. You can cook them in advance and they are also perfect for leftovers the next day. Cooking with dried fruit divides opinion, but I for one am a huge fan and if someone really dislikes prunes, apricots or raisins I suppose they could easily pick them out so as to avoid eating them, but in many respects I feel they would kind of be missing the point. I think the fruit adds to the depth of flavour and gives it a touch of sweetness that makes this dish stand out from the crowd.

I don’t have a proper tagine dish so I cook mine initially in my Le creuset pot and then transfer it to two oven proof dishes. It works equally well with rice, which you can cook with a couple of cardamom pods, so as to make the dish more exotic, or couscous with a sprinkling of roasted almonds. I have added a chilli to the dish, naturally, but this is optional and tastes equally delicious without.

The amount I cooked was more than sufficient for a large group, so just divide by 2 for a family of 4/5.

Slow Cooked Lamb with Tomatoes, Dried Fruit and Spices

Adapted from a similar recipe by Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen

Serves 6

3 tbsp olive oil

1.6kg lamb cut into bite sized portions

2 inch ginger, grated

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 red chilli, chopped

6 spring onions

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground cumin

1.5 pints chicken stock

32 vine cherry tomatoes

handful of fresh thyme

15 dried apricots

10 pitted prunes, cut in half

50g/4oz raisins

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

rock salt, sprinkling

1) Preheat the oven to 160 degrees

2) Add  2 tbsp olive oil to a deep cooking pot and gently fry the ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onions for a couple of minutes.

3) Place the lamb into the pot and stir gently so that all the lamb begins to cook and change colour from a deep red to a lighter brown. This will take around 6 minutes. Once the lamb has changed colour add the rest of the spices and really stir into the lamb. Add the stock and then transfer into one or two oven proof dishes and place in the oven for 1 hour.

4) Whilst the lamb is cooking place the vine tomatoes in a separate oven proof dish with a few sprigs of thyme, a little olive oil and a sprinkling of rock salt. Place into the oven for 30 minutes so as to intensify the flavour.

5) When the oven roasted tomatoes have finished cooking add these, along with the dried fruits, a small handful of chopped coriander to the main dish and cook for a further 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a little extra fresh coriander sprinkled on top and either rice or couscous on the side.


Carrot and Walnut Muffins in the most adorable cases

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When I was strolling around Gastown, the almost gentrified area of downtown Vancouver, I ambled into a rather delightful home interiors store called Orling & Wu. A treasure trove of throws, cushions, lamp shades, wallpapers and candles, clearly artfully chosen by its two owners. Within the store I came across the most stunning selection of muffin case designs that I have ever seen. They were utterly gorgeous and the type of cases that inspire you to throw a tea party in order to show them off, they certainly deserve the attention.

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On closer inspection I learned that the cases were sourced closer to home – in Sweden of all places. The company Kala:s far:m designs and creates these little gem muffin, cake and cupcake cases. In each delicately boxed case there is a recipe – what an ingenious idea – and in mine was carrot muffins, which I thought I would share with you. I’ve altered it slightly, so below you will find my version. I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, but these muffins taste really good and deliciously moist, I may even be converted.

Carrot and Walnut Muffins

Fills 20 cases

300g/12 oz granulated white sugar

200ml olive oil

3 eggs

3 carrots, grated

250g/10 oz self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

50g/2 oz walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.

2. Beat the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and then add the eggs.

3. Grate 3 carrots and add these to the mixture.

4. Mix the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, almost all the walnuts (save a few if you are going to do some butter cream on the top) and salt and stir into the egg and sugar mixture.

Carrot and Walnut Muffins

5. Carefully spoon the mixture into the muffin cups so that just over half the muffin cup is full. If you fill them to the top they will spill over the sides when they are in the oven.

6. Place in the oven for 15-17 minutes at 150 degrees centigrade and then leave to cool prior to putting any butter cream on top.

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Butter cream

I tend to leave some of my muffins butter cream free as I know some people prefer them without a topping so the proportion below will cover about half of the muffins. Do double quantities if you want to cover all of them.

75g/3 oz unsalted butter

175g/7 oz icing sugar

a few drops of warm water

1. Take the butter out of the fridge when you begin to make the muffins themselves, so that it softens.

2. Beat the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. To save time I used an electric mixer but good old fashioned arm power will work equally well. If you need to soften the icing then add a few drops of warm water.

3. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

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4. Enjoy !