Harissa Roast Lamb (or, the alternative Sunday Roast)

Doughs And Donts_Harissa Roast LambI don’t know if ‘I’m going to make an amazing roast’ is a normal reaction to feeling a bit down in the dumps of life. But that’s what I did on Sunday. 

Things are up and down, stressful and sad, and a roast is like a project. It’s something you can dedicate a big portion of the day to and enjoy at the end. For a few hours, this is the focus. But it’s gone away when the washing up is done, which is equally ideal. Most of the projects I begin in bursts of sadness (the children’s novel,  tidying my room, learning to knit) normally end up abandoned.

Not a roast, though. A roast gets seen through the end. It’s a pick me up with its feeling of accomplishment and with its juicy taste.

Doughs And Donts_Harissa Roast Lamb

Roasts shouldn’t be saved for sadness, of course. Make them whenever the feeling takes you. Everyone needs to feel accomplished once in a while. Everyone sometimes needs a meal a lot more grand than the situation demands. 

I could’ve just done a standard roast (there is always temptation to try and get the crispiest pork crackling ever possible), but on this occasion I was struck by inspiration. Recently, Ellabell of eatingwithmyfingers.com fame, posted a photo on instagram. Take a look and then read her whole blog because it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. There it was. Harissa roast lamb. I love harissa. Ever since I had it over some Mac and Cheese from a Camden Market street food stall a year or so ago it was has been one of my greatest food flavour loves. 

Doughs And Donts_Harissa Roast Lamb

Now, Ella, caught in the throes of her boyfriend’s cancer diagnosis (donate to their fundraiser here) never published a recipe for this lamb. So I kinda guessed one, with a bit of help from this recipe over at the BBC. I stole Ella’s method of cooking the lamb on top of some shallots, apricots and garlic, but also nicked the BBC method of using harissa paste. I served it with some roast sweet potato and some criminally underdone cauliflower which my housemates dutifully still consumed. 

Here’s a recommended soundtrack for while you make this. A good mix of melancholy and folksy swells of hope.

Harissa Roast Lamb
A spicy alternative to a traditional Sunday roast.
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup harissa paste
  2. Juice of 1/2 lemon
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 tbsp honey
  5. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  6. 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  7. 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  8. A few good grinds black pepper
  9. A joint of lamb, of a size that will feed all you need it to*
  10. A few handfuls of dried apricots
  11. Several echalion shallots
  12. 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven.**
  2. Crush up the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, rosemary and pepper in a pestle and mortar
  3. To make your marinade, combine the crushed herbs and spices with the harissa paste, lemon juice, olive oil and honey and mix thoroughly.
  4. Scatter the apricots, garlic and shallots across the bottom of a roasting pan. Place your joint of meat on top, and with a knife put a few deep slits into the meat so the paste can penetrate.
  5. Rub half the marinade over the meat, and leave it for about half an hour to soak in a little.
  6. Pop the meat into the oven and roast for half of the appropriate amount of time**.
  7. Remove the meat from the oven and drizzle over the rest of the marinade, before putting it back into the oven for the rest of the time it needs.
  8. Remove the meat and leave it to rest for about 20 minutes so the juices can redistribute.
  9. Serve, with a few apricots and shallots and whatever else you fancy.
Notes
  1. *Mine was 1.15 kilos. The marinade in this recipe covered it once before roasting, and once during, with a little to spare. If your joint is massive you could always make a little more.
  2. **I don't know how much your meat weighs, or how well done you like it, so to work it out you can use this roast timer over at the BBC: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/tools/roast-timer
Adapted from Eating With My Fingers / BBC
Adapted from Eating With My Fingers / BBC
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Chili Sin Carne (or, the go to dinner for your vegan friends)

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

All the stuff I’d cook to impress normally involves meat.

Actually I’m not sure beercan chicken is that impressive. But anyway.

I have vegetarian (and vegan) friends. Sometimes they come round for dinner and I will dutifully cook them a nice, meatless meal, like this great big batch of Chili Sin Carne. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

It’s great even if you don’t have vegetarian friends, because you can get it all sorted before your friends pop over (which basically means chopping things then putting them in a pot) , leave it to simmer until you want to settle down for food then serve it up quickly. So I don’t know why I’m writing this like I somehow begrudge cooking for vegetarian friends. I don’t, come round more often, let’s eat all the chili there is. We’ll have a vegetarian chili PARTY. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Chili Sin Carne

It’s also great because it’s cheap (this whole 6 odd portions cost me somewhere in the region of £4.50, and I have sweet potatoes left to feed me for most of the next week), and it’s comforting without being full of cheese or chocolate or bacon like most of the best comfort food. Admittedly you can put dark chocolate in chili and it tastes banging. But this one doesn’t have that. It just has pure vegetable goodness and a bit of spice. 

Chili Sin Carne (or, the go to dinner for your vegan friends)
Serves 4
A vegetarian/vegan chili for comforting dinners and entertaining your meat-wary friends.
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr 20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 onion, chopped
  2. 1 fresh red chilli, minced (more if you want it spicier)
  3. 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  5. 3 cloves garlic minced
  6. 1 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1 tsp ground coriander
  8. 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  9. 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  10. 1 x 400g tin red kidney beans
  11. 1 sweet potato
Instructions
  1. Heat oil over a medium heat in a big saucepan or pot. Add the onion, bell peppers and chili and cook for a few minutes to soften, until the onion starts to turn clear.
  2. Add the garlic and the spices, give a stir and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and sweet potatoes.
  4. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave it for ages - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, for it to reduce and to deepen the flavour.
  5. Serve, maybe with rice or scattering some avocado over the top.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni (or, pasta for bad days)

Doughs and Don'ts - Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

Summer is turning into Autumn: rain is falling with more frequency, leaves are just starting to turn, there’s more of a chill in the air and I am spending more and more time wrapped in my polka dot duvet watching Great British Bake Off ad nauseum on BBC iPlayer. 

Recently, I have had a string of Bad Days. 

These bad days have much to do with my mental health, and a little to do with the things happening in actual life and not in my head. Dealing with a mental health condition is tough because, in my case, all I want to do is cry into a pillow in between naps.  Sometimes it’s hard to want to do things, and the only thing I think I can at least try to do between naps and crying is to look after myself properly. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

So I pick myself up and out comes my big red pot, because the only way I know how to look after myself is to cook. This is what I do when I am feeling bad or sad. Make food. Food is the closest thing we have to magic, I think. It is alchemy that makes good things to alter the mind. This is the time when all I want is comfort and warmth. Sausages, spice and big red pots are the way to do this. Also if you added red wine or a beer it would probably make this extra comforting. 

Also, just so you know where my allegiance lies, I am putting all of my heart into backing Sandy to win GBBO 2015. What a lovely lady she is. 

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni
Serves 4
Warm, slightly spicy sausage goodness. A spag bol by any other name.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 - 8 cups pasta*
  2. 8 pork sausages
  3. 1 tbsp oil
  4. 1 onion, chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 red chilli, minced
  7. 2 tsp smoked paprika
  8. 2 1/2 tbsp dried basil
  9. 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  10. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  11. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Take the casing off the sausages.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a nice big pan. Once hot, add the sausage meat. Keep it moving to break it all up a bit. Cook the meat until it starts to look a bit browner and a lot less pink.
  3. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and continue to heat for a few minutes until the onion begins to go clear and the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add in the paprika and basil and fry for another minute.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, the tomato puree and the balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over a low heat until reduced and a bit thicker.
  6. While the sauce bubbles, cook your pasta according to packet instructions.
  7. Dish up it, mixing the sauce all into the pasta.
Notes
  1. *I measure pasta by filling a bowl for each person I'm serving for with pasta, then popping it in the pot. So, this might not be quite right. I used rigatoni for this one largely because I think it visually appealing, but any pasta will of course be fine. Follow your heart on pasta shapes, always.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Learning by Doing: Pastry

I would normally buy pastry. In a pack, all ready made and ready to use. 

But, I wanted to learn to make it. I thought maybe it would be like bread. Bread is better (and cheaper) when you can just knock it up yourself. Maybe, thought I, pastry is loads better when you knock it up yourself. 

So, this Saturday was pastry day. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Be Ro Cookbook

The recipe I tried was for shortcrust pastry, from the Be-Ro cookbook. I love this thing. My nan used to have one. My mum has one and regularly makes the rock cakes in it. I was gifted a copy last year for my birthday. It is absolutely banging for the basics.

The first thing I discovered when having a go at shortcrust pastry was this: LARD IS GROSS. 

Doughs and Dont's_Lard

Also, I think maybe not actually necessary. But more on that.

Anyway, the first thing the recipe says is to put lard, butter and plain flour together in a bowl, with the lard all flour all cut into chunks. You then rub it all together until it looks like breadcrumbs. Just to reiterate, lard is gross. 

Dough sand Don'ts - Pastry ProgressDough sand Don'ts - Pastry Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that done, you then mix in 2 tbsp of water to bring it all together. What the book actually says is ‘using the knife to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff dough.’ I found with the knife thing I obviously just didn’t get that, because I was definitely just dragging a knife through crumbs for a bit rather than making anything resembling pastry. 

I used my hands to bring it all together in the end. You are then supposed to knead it ever so slightly to give a nice smooth dough. This gets wrapped in clingfilm, chilled for about half an hour.

Dough sand Don'ts - Pastry Progress
Mine did look lovely and smooth. I did leave it in the fridge for far longer than 30 minutes though (about 4 hours, actually). 

Once it’s chilled, remove it from its clingfilm confines and use for whatever it is you want it for. In my case I was popping it on top of a savoury pie. 

When I went to roll mine out I did notice it was very crumbly, and very fragile. Couldn’t move for cracks in that pastry. I did quite a good patch job as I went along but definitely far crumblier than it was meant to be… eventually, I ended up with a serviceable pie lid. Also I had a load of pastry left, because I wanted the lid quite thin. I made a shedload of decoration with it. 

Dough sand Don'ts - Pastry ProgressDoughsandDonts_pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s my BIG TIP for making pastry. 

When you make pastry for a pie, make sure you don’t overfill the pie dish so it all splurges out into big brown mess and covers your oven in bubbling, burning white sauce. MMMM. 

Dough sand Don'ts - Pastry Progress

Now. This was not necessarily the best pie ever because I totally winged a chicken and leek pie recipe and it was a bit on the stodgy side. BUT THE PASTRY.

Well, the pastry was OK. 

It was crumbly – way too crumbly – and the bits where I’d decided to massively embellish it all backfired, as it made it too thick and the pastry took ages to cook through and was a bit raw in the middle. There’s a reason those GBBO judges are always on about thin pastry. Also… it tasted fine. But not great. I’ve been taking a look at a few other recipes and a lot use all butter and (wisely) avoid the lard. A buttery taste might be far better.

SO. This was not a failure. Not a success, though. If you’re ever making a shortcrust pastry, here’s some tips:

  • Do not overwork your pastry. The reason mine was so crumbly was because I overkneaded. Try and master that knife technique referenced in the book, as its probably gentler than getting your hands in. 
  • Use butter and avoid lard. Lard is gross. 
  • Roll your pastry thin and keep any decorative pastry art thin too. 
  • Make sure the pastry is cooked through before you go chomping on through it. 
  • Fill your pie dish appropriately, ffs. 

Must try harder in future. Will have another go… 

 

Raspberry, Goat’s Cheese and Walnut Salad (or, an alternative to cake)

Raspeberry, Goats Cheese and Walnut Salad
Last weekend I went to York with my mum. From Friday to Sunday we ate nothing apart from cake. Actually we did have paella before the first round of cake, and chips at one point…

But ultimately it was all about cake. A lot of cake. We basically went away only to eat cake. Here is the four cakes we ate between us in a single (short) sitting:

Bettys Tea Room

Oh and there was an ice cream sundae with brown bread ice cream and toffee.
If ever you’re in York I thoroughly recommend a trip to Betty’s. And that you buy several fat rascals to take away with you to help with withdrawal symptoms.

Now I am not someone who counts calories. Or who is generally even that fussed. I am mostly about things tasting good. But even I have a limit. So, on Monday night, back in my own house, it was definitely a day for a salad.

Weighed down by weekend cake and tiredness it needed to be a quick one. Armed with a discount punnet of raspberries and a deep, possibly unusual obsession with both goat’s cheese and balsamic vinegar, I set to work. And, speedily, a salad did happen.

It was good.

(it was not as good as four cakes from Betty’s in York)

Raspberry, Goats Cheese and Walnut Salad

Raspberry, Goat's Cheese and Walnut Salad
Serves 3
Quick, simple, tasty. Not as good as cake.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
10 min
For the dressing
  1. 1/2 cup raspberries
  2. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 tbsp honey
For the salad
  1. 6 - 8 cups salad leaves (I used baby spinach, watercress and rocket)
  2. 1 1/2 cup walnuts
  3. 1 cup soft goat's cheese, crumbled
Instructions
  1. For the dressing, put all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mash together.*
  2. In another bowl, combine salad leaves, walnuts and goat's cheese.
  3. Pour the dressing over everything. Serve.
Notes
  1. *could be done in a blender for smoothness, but I was not interested in washing up a blender.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Comforting Mac and Cheese (or, the pasta of celebrations)

Doughs and Don't - Comforting Mac and Cheese

Sometimes I have had a bad day. Sometimes I need to watch the Swan Princess in my pyjamas and swallow my sadness with big gulps of pasta covered in creamy cheese. Enter this dish. 

Sometimes I have had an amazing day. I have energy and joy and want to hug people in the street and I want something dlightfully delicious and probably covered in creamy cheese to celebrate. ENTER THE MAC AND CHEESE. 

DoughsandDonts_MacoroniCheese2

This is a ‘just got a new job’ dinner and a ‘just broke up with my boyfriend and want to sit and cry for a bit’ dinner. It’s what you cook when your flatmates have a look in their eyes betraying a deep deep inner sadness. Basically its tasty and really comforting and not at all healthy. Perfect ‘fuck this’ food. 

It is also quick, taking less than 30 mins to make, and infinitely customisable. This version is full of garlic and wholegrain mustard because those things make other things taste great. 

It makes about 4 – 6 servings (more if you eat it with a side or as a side…). If I’m doing ‘make it better’ mac it is not unlikely I will eat 4 – 6 portions. If I am doing ‘good day getting better’ mac I might share it. Maybe. Or I might put on my pyjamas and watch the Swan Princess and enjoy all the gooey gooey cheese myself. 

 

Comforting Mac and Cheese (or, the pasta of celebrations)
Serves 4
Gooey cheesy pasta to make the worst day seem actually amazing.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups pasta (whichever shape you like)
  2. Pinch of salt
  3. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1/3 cup butter
  5. 2 1/2 cups cubed mature cheddar
  6. 1/2 cup flour
  7. 1 1/2 cups milk
  8. 1 tsp dried dill
  9. 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Cook pasta according to packet instructions (add a pinch of salt to the water), until al-dente.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter.
  4. Once butter is liquid, add garlic. Cook for 20 seconds until the garlic just begins to get fragrant.
  5. Add the flour. Beat the flour and butter together into a thick, thick, nearly solid paste.
  6. Add milk and stir until the paste has combined with the milk. Heat for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste a little, but do not boil.
  7. Add the cheese, the mustard and several good grinds of black pepper. Keep stirring until cheese has melted.
  8. Drain the pasta. In an oven proof dish, combine the pasta and sauce thoroughly.
  9. Cook for 6 - 10 minutes, until the top is just starting to crisp and brown.
  10. Change into pyjamas, serve hot and dig in.
Notes
  1. You could probably use less cheese but I don't because I really want the cheese.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/