Category Archives: Recipe

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Slowly but surely I’m building up my curry recipe collection.  Every now and then, I give one a go, admittedly some are better than others, but, the ones I think have potential eventually end up as an official recipe.  I take the base, do lots of research in my cook books and on the internet, tweak and twist until I get what I want.  Then I practise a few times to make it mine.  This lamb curry has been knocking about with me for a good few years.  For some reason, I can’t remember what, I fell out of love with it, but never forgot it.  Over the last month or so, I’ve resurrected it, got it just so, and now am proud as punch with it.

It follows the basic principle of so many curries in that it is basically a stew, but this one doesn’t have the sharp spike of heat you might associate with Indian food.  The spinach sauce gives a delicious fresh contrast to the sweet fatty lamb.  If you can make a stew you can make this curry.

The Recipe

Preparation Time:  Under 15 minutes
Cooking Time:  About 2 hours

Serves 4 to 6
800gr / 1.7lb  leg of lamb meat, boned, trimmed and cubed
1 large onion, sliced in thin rings
2 tbsps vegetable oil
500gr / 1.1lb of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
100gr / 3.5 oz. of fresh ginger peeled and halved
3 green chilies, pricked with a knife
1 green chili, cut in half with the stalk removed
2 tbsps coriander powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
2 x tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
Serve with some natural yogurt on the side or drizzled over the curry

Lamb and Spinach Curry  Method

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, then add the lamb, let it brown on quite a high heat being careful not to overload your pan – you may need to do this in batches. Resist the temptation to try and move the meat around the pan straight away.  If you do this too soon, before it has browned, it will stick.
  2. Add the chopped onions and the three pierced green chilies, stir through the meat. Allow the onions to cook until soft and browned lightly, a few minutes should do this.
  3. While the onions are cooking add the garlic, ginger, remaining chili, spinach and tomatoes to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Add the spices and some a little salt to the pan, stir through.
  5. Pour the spinach mixture into your pan and mix it through the meat. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, turn to a low heat and let simmer gently for about one and a half hours or until the lamb is tender and cooked through.
  6. Remove the three chilies after about an hour. If you don’t they will disintegrate and you will have a really hot curry (unless of course you want this).
  7. Check the salt and also the balance of spices before serving. You may want it spicier or want to add a little extra of a certain spice.  If you do add more spices, cook for a few more minutes before serving.

Tips and Variations              

  • You can easily add more vegetables to this dish, aubergines (egg plant) work well.
  • If you are serving with rice, try making it fragrant by adding a cinnamon stick and some lime leaves while it cooks.
  • The idea is that this is quite a dry curry, but you can add more water to it if you want a more liquid version.
  • When making curry, I always measure my spice powders into a bowl before I start cooking. This is much easier than trying to do this quickly when everything is bubbling.
  • Basically, this recipe follows the same technique as a stew, so, that means it is important not to let it cook too aggressively. To tenderize the meat, your curry needs to cook gently.

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Until I tried this recipe, I used to think of fennel as strictly a summer vegetable, well, proved wrong again.  I love fennel, even raw in salads, and I’ve always roasted it, but along with other vegetables to add to warm salads mostly.  But there’s something about this way of preparing it that opens a whole other world of possibilities.  For example, this fennel is delicious on the side of roast chicken, and you can cook it while your chicken is in the oven too.  I think it’s something to do with the use of a bit of butter and the cheese – that’s what makes this dish warming in the winter and soothing in the summer.

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

The Recipe

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Baking Time:  20 minutes
Serves:  4 to 6

Ingredients

About 1.5kg / 3.3lb fennel bulbs (normally this is about 4 or 5) – halved, stalks removed.  Keep back the green feathery frons for dressing.
4 x tbsp unsalted butter
2 x tbsp Niolly Prat (Optional – I only use it if I have it in the house, I don’t go out and buy it specially for this recipe.  You can also use white wine or vermouth, or exclude the alcohol altogether.)
50gr / 1.5oz. freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Method

  1. Cook the fennel in a large pan of boiling salted water until softened, but not mushy. This should take about 20 minutes, it depends on the size of your bulbs.
  2. Whilst the fennel is boiling, set your oven to 200°C/400°F and use about a third of the butter to grease a roasting tray.
  3. Once boiled, drain the fennel and then cut each piece lengthways into 2 or 3 thick slices. Lay out in the roasting tray.
  4. Drizzle the Noilly Prat over your fennel (if you’re using it), dot the rest of the butter over and sprinkle the cheese. Give a few grinds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt (not too much, the water for your fennel will impart a little salt and pecorino is a salty cheese).
  5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese and butter have become golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle over the fresh fennel frons before serving.

 Tips and Variations

  • An excellent side dish to fish or chicken.

Baked Fennel and Pecorino

Warming Winter Soup Selection

Warming Winter Soup Selection
Warming Winter Soup Selection

There’s nothing tastier or more satisfying than a steaming bowl of soup, especially on a cold winter’s day.  I love the hearty broths and almost stew style soups I grew up with as much as I relish a more contemporary puréed vegetable version or a spicy Asian style broth.

If you’re not a cook, soup is a great place to start, it’s easy, forgiving and can be very quick too.  Or if you want to eat more consciously or healthily, you can really pack in lots of nutrients into your soup.  Then of course, it’s a classic way to use leftovers or those vegetables that lurk in the back of the fridge, not looking quite there best anymore – put them in a soup and nobody’s the wiser.  A soup can help you out in busy times too, make a big pot and it’ll keep you going for a few days, the flavour intensifying.  Or of course it’s perfect for freezing so that even in the most hectic of times you’ll have a hot, satisfying and healthy meal to look forward to.  You might have noticed I’m a big fan of this most versatile of meals, and here’s my selection to keep you going through these cold, dark winter days.

Warming Winter Soup Selection

Lentil and Ham Soup

Lentil Soup with Chorizo

Minestrone Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken Broth

Dutch Mustard Soup

Warming Winter Soup Selection

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

This is my kind of cake, a bit spiced and a bit dense and a bit squidgy.  This is my kind of baking, a few turns of the spoon and it’s ready.  My spiced sweet potato cake is a version of my carrot cake and was borne out of the fact I bought too many sweet potatoes and wanted to use them before they went a bit musty.  If you’re not used to baking both this recipe and the carrot cake version are a really good place to start.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake Recipe

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

For the Cake (You will need a 20cm baking tin)
150ml / 5 fl. oz. melted butter
225gr / 8oz.  self-raising flour
2 x tsps baking powder
150gr / 5 oz. light muscavado sugar
150gr / 5 oz. walnuts, chopped roughly
250gr / 9 oz. grated sweet potato
2 x large eggs
150gr / 5 oz. crème fraiche
2 x tsps cinnamon
2 x tsps ginger powder
1 x tsp nutmeg
Zest of an orange
Juice of half of the orange

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

For the Icing
200gr / 7 oz. cream cheese
50gr / 1.5 oz. icing sugar (or to your taste)
A few drops of vanilla extract
75gr Almonds, chopped roughly
75gr Walnuts, chopped roughly

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/360°F degrees and line your tin with baking paper.
  2. Place all the cake ingredients in a bowl and mix them together until everything is equally brought together. A few turns with a wooden spoon should do it – yes, this cake is that easy.
  3. Pour the mix into your tin, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. To check if it is cooked through, pierce with a skewer, which should come out clean, not with wet mix on it.
  4. Place your chopped nuts in a baking tray and put them in the oven at the same time as the cake. They should take about 7 to 10 minutes to turn golden brown, but watch them carefully as they can burn easily and every oven is a different so it can be difficult to say exactly how long this will take.
  5. When the cake is ready, allow it to cool for a few minutes, then remove it from the tin and allow to cool completely before icing. If you don’t allow it to cool, the icing will melt and slide off the cake.
  6. To make the icing, mix together the cream cheese and icing with the vanilla until smooth and creamy.
  7. Spread the icing over your cooled cake, sprinkle over the nuts and store in an air tight container in the fridge. The cake will keep for a few days.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Tips and Variations

  • This is a dense cake and so it does take quite a while to bake.  If you notice that the top is becoming too dark, cover it with silver foil until the cake is completely baked through.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Port Soaked Stilton

Port Soaked Stilton

Port Soaked Stilton

There are lots of foods and drinks I just can’t have Christmas without, and my Port Soaked Stilton is firmly on the list.  It hasn’t always been there, I mean it’s not, like so many of my Christmas food wishlist items, something from my childhood Christmas, in fact we didn’t eat cheese at Christmas and certainly not blue cheese – far too posh.  There was probably a bottle of port in the house though, just because you had to have port at Christmas, in case somebody came round who drank it, so you would have to have some in.  It’s a Scottish panic, people coming round and you don’t have their drink of choice available.

Anyway, my Port Soaked Stilton is not from way back then – it comes from the time I had my delicatessen in Amsterdam.  Every December, I would buy about 20 full Stilton cheeses and 3 or 4 Shorpshire blue (Stilton and cheddar mix) and I’d feed the Stilton with port and the Shropshire blue with whisky for weeks.  I can still see them now, lined up with a bottle up-ended in each one, all slurping away getting silently soused.

I’d have an order book especially for the cheeses and each client who placed an order trotted off excitedly to wait until the day I deemed the cheeses ready opened and portioned up – then they’d get a call to come in and pick up their treat.  It was great fun and every year I needed more Stilton to keep up with demand.  As well as my award winning cheese fondue mixes, I became known for Port Soaked Stilton and lots of other cheeses that I marinated in delicious matching booze especially for the festive season.

Port Soaked Stilton is really easy to make, and it’s so handy to have around at Christmas for all those after dinner moments or even as a gift.

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Time Needed to Soak:  3 to 5 days
Serves: 20

Ingredients
2.2kg / 4.8 lb. Stilton Cheese.  This should be cut in a wheel shape from a whole stilton.
400ml /13.5 fl. oz. (A small bottle) of Ruby or Tawny Port

Port Soaked Stilton

Method

  1. Line a dish which is large enough to hold your Stilton liberally with cling film. Use a couple of layers and make sure you have enough to cover the cheese completely.  Use a dish (or as I do a pie dish) with a lip on it so the port doesn’t spill out.
  2. With a skewer (or even a knitting needle) poke lots of holes all over one side of the cheese. Press the skewer down through the Stilton so that it almost hits the bottom, but doesn’t go right through.  Wiggle the skewer a little in each hole to widen it.  The holes should be roughly about 1 cm / 0.5 in. apart.
  3. Place the cheese into your lined dish and pour about half the port over, slowly, allowing it to drain into the holes. Cover loosely with the cling,  and place in the fridge.
  4. The next day, pour over the remaining port and put back in the fridge. If the port has leaked out of the cling film from the previous day, pour it out into a bowl or jug and pour it over the cheese again.
  5. If you have more time, just keep pouring off the port every couple of days and pouring it over the cheese again.
  6. Whenever your last day of soaking the port is, pour off any port, slice the cheese into portions whilst it is sill in the dish, pour the port over it, cover with the cling and put back in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve after dinner with a glass of port on the side.
  • Try this with Shropshire blue cheese, instead of port use whisky – but be a bit careful with the quantity – whiskey is so much stronger than port after all.
  • I know, I know this is a rather large piece of cheese, but the reason I do it like this is because I normally only make it for Christmas and New Year. I use it for drinks parties, after dessert treat for all those festive meals and I often give pieces away too.  It’s handy to have around.  But of course you can do this for small pieces of cheese as well.

Amsterdam Private Food Tours

If this has made you hungry for more, why not book one of my Private Amsterdam Food Tours?  Just you and your own party with some of the very best food the city has to offer.

Port Soaked Stilton