Tag Archives: Entrée

Moroccan Lamb

This is always a huge hit in my house and is one of my favourite dinner party dishes because it can be prepared in advance. The aromas from the kitchen are enticing and create a warm feel to conjure up the exotic essence of North African cuisine.

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Rainbow ingredients!

I love the food of Morocco; I love the colours created by the spices and fresh vegetables, especially their tantalisingly heaven sent aromas! I love food markets; the hustle and bustle, the choices and the throng of human interaction. I am always excited by the prospect of exploring a new market, especially in a foreign country – I am always looking for something that is new and that will broaden my culinary knowledge so that I can create a different taste experience. That said, I was not at all prepared for the experience was about to befall me!

Living in the south of Portugal, it is a relatively simple journey to travel to Morocco and so, some months ago, we did just that. Within ninety minutes we had crossed the border into Spain and then approximately three hours after that, we arrived at the port of Tarifa. From Tarifa, ferries run at regular intervals to Tanger (Tangier) in Morocco – the journey time is only 35 minutes. To me, the ferry was like a ‘tardis’ – it sailed forward in nautical miles and backward in time – how can two lands be so geographically close, yet light years apart? Now you might be thinking – this woman has spent too much time on the King’s Road, or cocooned in middle class suburban life – if so, you are wrong! I have travelled widely and worked in developing countries  – often, avoiding the luxury, anonymity and sterility of five star hotels, so as to dip into the customs and cultures of other communities. I have learnt that it takes a long time to become immersed in and to understand or appreciate what makes another culture tick. All that said – I was totally unprepared for the cacophonous sound, putrid stench of rotting fish and garbage, together with the aggressive nature of the local men that greeted us on docking at Tanger. On exiting the ferry’s stern on foot, we and other travellers, were subjected to a stampede of advancing barefoot porters in long white caftans and jellabas, tugging bags and cases from our hands and shoulders; in desperate attempts to earn a few Dirhams as a ‘guide’ for the day, to subject one to a death-defying taxi ride, introduce an hotel or restaurant or to take you for tea to the shop of a brother, brother-in-law or uncle who sells the best carpets, coats, bags, blankets and trinketry! It was thoroughly exhausting because these chaps just don’t take no for an answer. I am a great supporter of those who want to work and, for respectful treatment, would have given generously. However, the persistence of these rapacious men, young and old, was menacing; making even the most mild mannered recipient, resort to demonstratively wild gesticulations and inappropriate language, in order to convey the message – no thank you. The wearisome thing was when one such ‘guide’ got the message – turning on his heel and spouting angry words of disappointment – another arrived to chance his luck!

Eventually, we made our way to the kasbah where the spice, vegetable, meat and fish markets were located. I enjoyed the experience, colours and evocative bouquets of the spices piled high in pyramids, mingling with the earthy aromas of freshly ground coffees. There were hundreds of similar stands, but we were thankful and fortunate to find one very helpful and knowledgeable vendor (pictured below as he prepared his own special blend of ‘ras al hanout’,) who truly heartened us and went some way to balancing our initial impression of the country. I’ll not mention the fish and meat markets, suffice to say, I will be slightly more accepting of some of the seemingly ‘nanny-state’ regulations governing food hygiene in the European Union.

The ‘up’ side of our shopping experience in Tangier was the availability and choice of herbs and spices, on sale at very agreeable prices. Our visit was an eye opening experience; but I will be better prepared when we next return. So, with shopping baskets loaded with two varieties of olives, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, coriander seeds and powder, paprika, cloves, turmeric, precious strands of orange saffron and a special spice mix particular to each vendor ‘ras al hanout’ meaning ‘top of the shop’; and avoiding the sellers of Berber rugs, ceramic plates, brass tea pots and lanterns, we headed back to the port to be transported back to Spain on the next available ‘tardis’.

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Mixing spices to make up ‘ras al hanout’!

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The spice and vegetable souk. A wondrous variety of olives!

My Moroccan lamb dish works well with a combination of vegetables and can be adjusted to individual taste. I like the flavours to be prominent, but others may prefer a more subtle result – if so, just lessen the ginger and cinnamon. Keep tasting as you go – my recipe serves as a launch pad, it’s fun to experiment and produce your own individual dish. Serve with cous-cous or rice.

 

 

Moroccan Lamb

Prep Time: 40 Mins Cooking Time: 3 Hours Total Time: 3 Hours 40 Mins

Ingredients:

  • Shoulder or leg of lamb (frozen is fine)
  • Bottle of red wine
  • 1 litre of stock
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 350g chopped tomatoes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • squeeze of tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon powder
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pitted chopped dates
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 10 whole pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup of sultanas
  • salt and Pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • zest of one lemon to garnish
  • Chopped almonds to garnish
  • Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped to garnish

Directions:

  1. If using frozen lamb, defrost thoroughly.
  2. Slow roast the lamb in a stock mix and add fresh rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Seal the roasting pan with foil and place in an oven on a slow temperature 150/160 degrees centigrade for 3 hours. When cooked, the meat should be tender and fall off the bone. Set the meat aside once taken off the bone.
  3. In a large deep pan or wok, add the olive oil – add the onion, carrots, butternut squash, ginger and garlic.
  4. Add the ginger and cinnamon. Add the chopped tomatoes and squeeze of tomato paste.
  5. Add the chopped dates and the lemon juice.
  6. Add the honey. Mix together thoroughly.
  7. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Keep tasting the sauce and adjust as necessary depending on your taste for sweetness or sharpness.
  8. Add the whole dates and sultanas.
  9. Simmer until all the vegetables are cooked and the spices have developed.
  10. Add the lamb meat and mix together to combine thoroughly. 
  11. Ladle into a large dish.
  12. Garnish with almonds, the zest of a lemon and freshly chopped coriander.
  13. Serve with cous-cous or rice.

Leg of Lamb, slow roasted with a Ruby Port and Red Currant Sauce

Lamb is always a treat, especially so here in Portugal as imported meat is quite expensive; but I was fortunate enough to stumble across a fresh plump looking leg in a local butcher’s shop that didn’t break the bank so I couldn’t resist. I normally avoid Portuguese lamb as it often seems scrawny and lacking in fat. Well, I suppose I would be if my main source of fodder had to be scavenged from the rocky and sun burnt pastures that are typical of the Algarve hinterland. The leg of lamb that I caught sight of, was an Irish import, reared where lush green grass is luxuriant and baby lambs frolic carelessly unaware of the fate that awaits them! Portuguese lambs are not afforded this blithe existence, prior to ending up on the butcher’s block, later to be served as tough, tasteless mutton.

My lusciously lovely lamb was destined for a long slow cook, spiked with garlic, in Portuguese Ruby Port – the wine and water bath (300ml Port and 300ml water) accompanied by sprigs of rosemary and thyme. The liquid should be enough to provide a depth of about 300mm.

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Leg of lamb rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, spiked with garlic in a bath of Ruby Port/water and flavoured with sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Once the lamb is dressed to roast slowly in the oven – 150 degrees centigrade for three hours – cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil.

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Beautifully tender lamb which carves easily, full of sweet rich flavour.

I served the lamb with roasted potatoes and carrots, dressed with a generous pouring of the Port and redcurrant sauce. The ‘dollop’ of butter is, of course, optional but irresistible!!

 

Ruby Port and Redcurrant Sauce

Prep Time: 10 Mins Cooking Time: 30 Mins Total Time: 40 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 200/250 ml of ruby Port (If you have used a Port and water mixture in which to slow roast your lamb, then strain and use this liquid).
  • 2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • a knob of butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. If using the cooking juices from the lamb (half Port and half water), strain the liquid into a saucepan. I have a separating jug which is a great tool to separate the fat/oil from the liquid.
  2. If starting from scratch, pour the Port into a saucepan, add the crushed garlic and redcurrant jelly. On a gentle heat simmer until the jelly has dissolved. Add the rosemary and salt/pepper to taste.
  3. If using the roasting liquids, add an extra splash of the Port, then follow as the step above.
  4. Simmer to reduce the liquid. Remove the rosemary sprigs.
  5. Taste the sauce and adjust if necessary to add a splash of water, more salt or pepper.
  6. Add a good knob of butter and continue to simmer the sauce – this will make the sauce thicken and give it a glossy texture.

Salt Cod (Bacalhau) with Rough Mashed Potatoes and Cream

Dried salt cod (Bacalhau) is, unarguably, the most outstanding ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. The tradition of drying and salting this fish dates back to the 15th century and was/is a method of preservation. Caught in the cold wild seas of the North Atlantic, the fish was salted in the hold of the ship and kept, sometimes, for many months or years. Given salt cod is not caught off Portuguese shores, it is bizarre that it became such an important part of Portugal’s food culture. On average, a Portuguese person eats around 10kg of dried salted fish per year and it is the main ingredient served in celebration at Christmas. It is used in hundreds of dishes and can be cooked in a multitude of ways; but I have chosen one of my favourite methods –  known in Portugal as bacalhau com nata (cod with cream)! I state now, that it is my recipe! The Portuguese are very possessive about their cuisine and I know that one of the cooks that I worked with in my restaurant, here in Portugal, would have raised her eyebrows ….. and more. Forgive me, Cristina!

 

All supermarkets here sell bacalhau or dried salt cod. In its preserved state, it looks quite unappetising. Miracles happen after soaking in water as the meat starts to take on its original form.

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I always ask the fishmonger to cut the fish for me into pieces easier to soak in a pan.

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It is important to soak the fish for at least 2 days, changing the water regularly.

Remove the fish from the water, rinse and place in a baking dish. Cover with milk or a mix or milk and water; seal the tray with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Remove the dish from the oven – be careful when peeling the foil off (steam’s hot!) – remove the cod from the liquid and allow to cool.


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Thick flakes of juicy cod.

The white meat will flake away very easily. For me the next part is very important!! Take time to remove any bones – I pick over the meat fastidiously – as I know that my son would down knife and fork instantly on unearthing any offending item.

Follow the recipe below to create the creamy sauce – and then combine all the components. Serve with buttered carrots. It’s absolutely fishilicious!!


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Add the vegetables to the pan and simmer until softened

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Serve with cracked black pepper and buttered carrots!

Bacalhau (salt cod) with vegetables and cream

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • I cup of fish stock
  • bacalhau, soaked, cooked and flaked – discarding the skin and bones
  • bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a knob of butter
  • 200ml of cream
  • 600/700g of potatoes
  • salt (be cautious as the fish will be salty, despite soaking)
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large deep pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, leek and carrot.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes and add the fish stock. (I make stock in batches and freeze it like ice cubes)
  5. Simmer until the vegetables soften. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too thick.
  6. While the sauce is simmering, boil the potatoes. When cooked add a knob of butter and rough mash the potatoes. Set aside.
  7. Add the cream to the sauce and mix together.
  8. Gently fold in the flaked fish, rough mashed potatoes and parsley.
  9. You can serve the meal at this stage (carrots are a great accompaniment) or transfer to an oven proof dish, sprinkle the top with some grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes at about 180/190 degrees centigrade.
  10. Enjoy!