red wine & vegetable braised lamb neck

It has been years since I last cooked lamb neck and I feel I have missed out on beautiful & succulent, tasty and very tender meat. It was a delicious dinner and I had lots of leftover lamb meat, which was recycled into two beautiful lamb & vegetable pies.

My preferred method of cooking here is low and slow, braised in lots of red wine with vegetables and good stock. Others may argue that it is best treated like a steak and cooked on the fire, quickly on a high heat and served pink.
I will definitely give this a go as soon as the weather allows it.

Delicious with roast potatoes, garlic mash, rice or couscous and a side of buttered vegetables.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | a little effort
1/2C flour & a little more if needed
4/6 lamb necks (depending on size)
olive oil for browning meat + extra for vegetables
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
600ml red wine
4 C good quality chicken stock
4 rosemary stalks, sprigs only
2t fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
1/2t juniper berries, crushed
1/2t cumin seeds, crushed
1/2t coriander seeds, crushed
2T brown sugar
1/2t salt
black pepper
2T butter

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/340 F/150 with fan.
Dredge the lamb necks in the flour. Heat olive oil in a large oven proof pot or Dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides until beautifully caramelized.
Set aside.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same pot without wiping it clean. Add the butter and melt. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, carrot & celery and cook for a further two minutes.
Add the tomato paste and brown sugar and cook for about three minutes, while stirring.
Crush the cumin, juniper berries & coriander seeds in a pestle & mortar and add it to the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
Pour the red wine into the pot to deglaze while scraping any bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour the chicken stock into the pot, add the crushed tomato and stir.
Add the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme, salt & pepper and bring the mixture to a light boil.
Submerge the lamb neck into the mixture, cook on a light boil for about two minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with a tight fitting lid or tin foil and carefully place the pot into the oven.
Braise for 3 – 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is almost fall off the bone tender.

Carefully remove the lamb neck from the pot and set aside.
Using a handheld blender, blend the vegetable mixture until smooth and strain it into a sauce pot. If the mixture is a bit thick, add a little more chicken stock or water.
Alternatively, simmer until reduced. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar if needed.

Place the lamb neck onto a serving dish and drizzle with a little of the rich, red sauce.
Garnish with fresh mint & parsley and serve with extra sauce on the side and your choice of starch and vegetables.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x

breakfast or brunch – spicy tomato eggs

Starting my day well and happy is important and since I am a very earlier riser, cooking breakfast naturally forms a part of my morning routine. I love cooking breakfast just as much as I love eating it.
Some of my favorite ingredients and spices are tucked into this one dish, so starting my day savoring each and every bite of this meal really adds to paving the platform for what the rest of my day will bring. It really can only be good.
It is said that traditional shakshuka is originally from Tunisia, North-Africa. It is also, however, very popular in Middle-Eastern countries.
It is a healthy, filling and nourishing meal and one I can almost guarantee you will make again.
Think tomatoes, soft poached eggs, spices and herbs all together in one pot, with a spicy bite and served with buttered ciabatta or sourdough toast and sliced avocado.
Definitely my idea of a great way to start,well, any day.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
1/2 white or red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1t ground cumin
2t paprika
1/4t chili powder / cayenne pepper
4 thyme stalks, leaves only
1T brown sugar
1/2t salt
black pepper to taste
1/2t onion seeds
1t ground turmeric
1T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
100g baby spinach
small bunch cilantro / coriander
small bunch fresh parsley
basil leaves
6 eggs
creme fraiche to serve (optional)
1T olive oil
1T butter

how to do it
Heat the olive oil & butter in a medium sized pan / shallow pot.
Saute the chopped onion until glossy. Add the garlic and cook for about two minutes.
Add the cumin, paprika, thyme, chili powder, turmeric, onion seeds & tomato paste, stir and cook for about two minutes.
Pour the crushed tomato into the mixture, add the quartered tomatoes and cook on a medium simmer for about five minutes, stirring twice.
Add the spinach, stir and cook for a further three to five minutes until wilted. Season the mixture with the sugar, salt & pepper and stir through.
Using a large spoon, make little wells in the sauce and crack the eggs into each well. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs cooked.

Scatter the chopped cilantro and parsley over the mixture.

Spoon a dollop of creme fraiche onto each egg and garnish with basil leaves.
Serve with crusty bread or toasted sourdough.

Moroccan lamb stew

Stews are my go-to meals in winter. I love the process…the time it takes to prepare as well as the time it takes to cook. All this while i quaff on a glass of good red wine with a crackling fire in the background.
Any good stew needs time and good quality, fresh ingredients. I chose lamb knuckle for this dish although other cuts like lamb shoulder or leg are also delicious choices. The end result with any of these cuts will be meltingly tender meat with fantastic flavor.
The spice ‘ras-el-hanout’ is a spice found in varying forms and means “the head of the shop.” It is a blend of over a dozen of the best spices in different proportions.
Ras-el-hanout is certainly a pantry staple in my home.

ingredients | serves 6 | easy
1.3kg lamb knuckle or stewing meat
1/2C flour
2T olive oil (and more for browning the meat)
2T butter
1 large white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves chopped or sliced
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, cubed
1 cinnamon stick
3t ras-el-hanout
1t fresh ginger, grated
1 can crushed tomato
2.5C beef broth
1 can chickpeas, drained
salt to taste
pepper to taste
handful fresh parsley, chopped (garnish)

how to
Preheat the oven to 165 degrees C. Dredge the cubed meat with the flour.
In a large oven proof dish like a Dutch oven, heat a glugg of olive oil and brown the meat, in batches, using a little more oil as needed. Set aside.
Drizzle the 2 tablespoons olive oil into the pot and add the butter. Heat these together until the butter has melted. Add the chopped onion and saute until glossy, about three minutes. Add the garlic and ras-el-hanout, stir and cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
Add the carrots, potato & yellow pepper, stir to coat and cook for about two minutes. Add the ginger, cinnamon stick, crushed tomato & beef broth and bring the mixture to a lightly simmer. Tip the meat back into the pot, stir and leave to cook on medium heat until boiling.
Season with salt & pepper and stir through.
Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid or tin foil and place into the oven to cook for 2 – 2.5 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven, add the chickpeas and cook for a further 15 minutes. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Garnish with the parsley and serve with couscous, rice or mashed potato.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x

stuffed pork belly roast

Pork belly is a beautiful boneless, fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig. Many will say it is best served pink when stuffed and roasted although I prefer a longer cooking time, that yields perfectly moist and tender meat.
There is much debate about the perfect crackling and there are many methods to achieve the crunchiest crackle, although I have learned that it only takes a little patience and the right preparation to achieve this tasty, teeth breaking goodness.
In my view, the toughest part of cooking the perfect belly is scoring the meat, which is an impossible task without a very sharp knife. I have, in the past, used a shaving (minora) blade, which certainly isn’t the ideal but it works quite well.
My butcher, however, was kind enough to score, roll & tie this large pork belly on my behalf, which really simplified things. To save you time and effort I suggest contacting your butcher to arrange for them to do all the hard work so that you can focus on the important task of cooking this tasty piece of meat.

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
for the belly
1.4kg pork belly, scored and dried
olive oil
1/2c – 1c coarse salt

for the stuffing
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
60g butter, melted
olive oil
2t fennel seeds
20g fresh sage leaves
zest of 1 lemon
60g walnuts
40g semi-dried tomatoes
large handful fresh parsley
5T breadcrumbs

for the trivet
1 whole garlic head, halved
1 onion, quartered
4 celery ribs, halved
2 large carrots, halved
3 leeks, halved
1/2lt chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
1c white wine
2 stalks rosemary
1c apple juice

how to do it
preheat the oven to 230 degrees C/210 with fan.
Lay the pork belly down on the meat side and score the skin in a diamond shape, taking care not to cut all the way down to the meat.
Dry the belly using towel paper. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter in small skillet and cook the onion & garlic until tender, taking care not to burn it. Set aside to cool.
Combine the fennel seeds, walnuts, dried tomatoes, parsley, breadcrumbs and butter together in a food processor and process until well combined and almost finely chopped. If the mixture is too dry, add olive oil a little at a time until you have reached a paste like consistency. Set aside.
Turn the belly over with the meat side facing up. Sprinkle the meat with the lemon zest.
Combine the onion mixture & the stuffing mixture and spread it over the belly leaving about a centimeter open on each side.
Pack the sage leaves on top of the stuffing. Season with black pepper and a little salt.
Carefully roll the belly and lay it down on the seam side. Using cooking string, tie the belly at about 2cm intervals.
Rub the belly with olive oil and then rub the coarse salt into the skin making sure you get into the scored lines.
Place the halved garlic head, onion, celery, carrot & leek into a roasting tin, place the belly on top and into the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes to crisp up the skin.
Remove the tin from the oven and turn the heat down to 160 degrees C/140 degrees with a fan.
Pour the apple juice & white wine around the belly taking care not to touch the meat. The liquid should not reach the meat and only cover the vegetables.
Place the rosemary stalks into the liquid and roast the belly for further 2 – 2.5 hours.
If the skin is not crisp enough after the cooking time, pour the liquid & vegetables into a pot and roast the belly again at 230 degrees C for a further 15-20 minutes while you make the sauce.
If you are happy with the crackling, set the belly aside to rest for about 20 minutes while making the gravy.

Make the sauce
Using a handheld blender, blend the vegetables & liquid until almost smooth. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until reduced. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve back into a pot. Reduce the mixture for a further 15 minutes if necessary. Taste and season.

Slice the belly in thick rounds and serve it with spring onion & mustard crushed potato, glazed carrots & gravy.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x

warm barley & quinoa salad

For me, salads scream summer and since we are currently enjoying our beautiful winter season, it is fair to say that salad is almost last on my “have to make” food list. However, this warm salad of barley and quinoa was the perfect lunch comfort on a chilly day. At the fireplace with a glass of red wine, of course.
If you are not all that fond of smoked meats then grilled chicken breast, chorizo and grilled steak re also wonderful alternatives. I can definitely also recommend soft poached eggs.
The dressing is simple and delicious so take a few extra minutes and make it yourself. Home-made is so much better (and healthier) than store bought.
A simple way to mix the ingredients is using a glass jar to which you add all the dressing ingredients, seal it, shake it up and leave it to stand for a few minutes. Less mess and fewer things to wash up.

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
200g cooked pearl barley
150g cooked quinoa
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
300g smoked chicken, sliced
250g mushrooms, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only & extra for garnish
120g mange tout or green beans
1C cherry tomatoes, halved
1C walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
2T olive oil (more if needed)
3T butter
handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
fresh rocket or watercress (optional)
avocado, optional
salt to taste

for the dressing
3T apple cider vinegar
3t Dijon mustard
3T maple syrup or honey
1/2C olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt
grind of black pepper

how to
Cook the pearl barley and quinoa to the packet instructions and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the two tablespoons olive oil and butter together and saute the red onion for about two minutes. Add the sliced garlic and mushrooms and cook, while stirring, until the mushrooms are just cooked, about five minutes. Add the mange tout, tomatoes and thyme leaves, season with salt & pepper and cook for two more minutes.
Set aside.
In the same pan, warm the pearl barley & quinoa together with a tablespoon of butter. Season.
Spoon the barley & quinoa into a large salad bowl and top with the warm mushrooms & onion mixture. Add the sliced smoked chicken, walnuts & rocket.
Garnish with the parsley and extra fresh thyme.
Serve with sliced avocado, if using.

for the dressing
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid or whisk together in a deep bowl until emulsified. Seal the jar and shake for a few minutes. Add more olive oil & seasoning if desired.