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Food for Big People, Uncategorized

Winter To Do List, Numero Uno – Tagine in the Tagine

June 8, 2012

Of all of my travels, I really loved Morocco. It wasn’t my all time favourite, by any means but it certainly filled me with a wonderful sense of adventure. Maybe it was for the amazing scenery that I didn’t expect. I thought it would be arid, but it was lush and mountainous. Maybe it was the food, which was a feast for the senses at every meal….or maybe it was for the crazy ass misadventures I had with my best friend who was as clueless as I was about traveling in a country where every second person is out to rip you off, or sell you for camels. We were 21 and 22 respectively, and thought we knew everything. Man, we were dumb. We got into some very near scrapes in a place where you need to have your wits about you…..but jeez, we’ve laughed at our torrid tales since, and I wouldn’t change a single moment.

I’ve seriously had this beautiful, glossy red tagine for years. It was a gift from a dear friend who knows I’ve got a penchant for all things edible and she was a little shocked to hear recently that I’ve never actually used it…..well, I have, I’ve served in it regularly, but as I already said, I was terrified my tagine wouldn’t withstand the heat and would break and then my kitchen would be minus one beautiful red tagine. Kind of silly really.
So, I decided I was going to run the gauntlet and give it a crack. I was going to truly let my tagine let it’s Moroccan flag fly and live as it was meant to. It held up well. I think it may have deepened a little in colour but maybe it’s my imagination. If you don’t have a tagine you can either use a lidded casserole dish or a cast iron pot with lid that can go in the oven. Some people brown their meat and spices on the stove top first, before transferring to oven, but I skip that step as I love to cut a corner!

It’s not rocket science to make a tagine, it’s really just a stew with a different twist, but using the tagine was a bit of an experiment. I can proudly say that I can cross this one off my winter to do list, and hold my head high with the sweet smell of success. It’s delicious……like, really.

You could use lamb shoulder already cut off the bone if you wanted, but I bought a tasty little leg and boned it myself. I served this tagine with cous cous studded with pistachios and herbs, and a simple salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red capsicum, fetta, mint and coriander dressed with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, a little sweet paprika, sesame seeds and sumac. The secret to perfect cous cous that many people don’t realise is that you need to steam it for 20 minutes after you’ve rehydrated it with boiling water. It makes your cous cous much fluffier and lighter. Add your nuts et al at the end.

Here we go….let us tagine.

Yield : 2 adults and 2 toddler portions

You will need :

  • 700g lamb, chopped into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 brown onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a big handful of fat green olives
  • 1 preserved lemon (if you don’t have it you can use the zest of your lemon)
  • 1 lemon for squeezing over tagine at the end
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch Dutch carrots
  • 1 big handful each of parsley and coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional, I used it because I have it)
  • a slug of olive oil
  • cous cous and salad to serve

Preheat oven to 160C.
Mix all of your spices, salt and pepper together. Pop your lamb, garlic and onion into a bowl. Scoop then flesh out of your preserved lemon and cut the rind finely (if using normal lemon, finely grate zest). Add to meat. Throw in your spices and mix well to coat. Put a glug of oil in the bottom of your tagine or pot and lay your meat mix on top. Scatter your olives over the meat, and place your cinnamon on top. Add your stock. Meat should be just covered in liquid.

Place lid on and pop into the oven and forget about it for two hours. Take it out and give it a stir, and add your carrots, immersing them in the liquid. It was still very wet so I put it back in without the lid for an hour, stirring occasionally, by which time the meat was falling apart and the sauce was rich and thick. Take out of oven and throw your fresh herbs in and give it a generous squeeze of lemon. Do a final stir and you’re done!
Serve with cous cous and salad.

Food for Big People, Food for Little People, Lunch, Lunch

Quick and tasty lunch……Quesadilla with Guacamole

May 16, 2012

I get totally over sandwiches for lunch so I endeavour to always have tortillas in the cupboard.  D Man loves when I wrap stuff in them and they’re great toasted and served with my fresh tomato salsa, like a low fat corn chip. A quesadilla is like a sandwich, but with a Mexican accent – el sandwicho, if you will. Tortillas are handy for quick dinners also, fajitas are huge in my house and don’t take long to throw together…..we’ll talk about those another day.

I think the first time I had a quesadilla, it was actually made by my big brother, Emo (like Elmo without the L, not like I Cut Myself To Feel). He was living in Yorkshire at the time and that has no relevance whatsoever to this recipe, but it’s an interesting fact. He made it vegematarian for me that day, and although I’ve made it with all manner of shredded Mexican flavoured meat – chicken, pork, and beef, and even prawns – this lunchtime treat is coming to you vego, just because you’ll probably have all of these things in your fridge and be ready to throw a quickie lunch together and your munchkin can eat it before their afternoon sleep and leave you picking up corn kernels for the afternoon.

I’m giving the amounts for you and a toddler, so two quesadillas, but adjust amounts to the amount of peoples you’re providing for as it’s a yummy lunch for everyone.

Yeild – dos personas (2)

You will need -

For tortillas

  • 85g grated cheese
  • Half a red capsicum, diced finely
  • Half a cob of corn, sliced off cob (or tinned if you have that)
  • A quarter of a spanish onion, finely diced
  • A small tomato, diced
  • 1 large spring onion, finely sliced
  • A handful coriander
  • A squeeze of lime
  • 4 tortillas (for gluten free option use corn tortillas but be sure to read ingredients throughly, most are a mix of corn and wheat)

For guacamole

  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • Juice of half a small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of natural yoghurt
  • Half a clove of finely minced garlic
  • A large pinch of fresh chopped coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional : A little finely chopped spanish onion, tomato and dash of tabasco.

Pop a large fry pan on the stove and heat over a moderate flame. Add a little olive just to oil the pan. Do not pool oil, we’re not frying here, just toasting. Throw into a bowl all of your ingredients and toss well. Lay out two tortillas and divide the mixture evenly between the two. Place the remaining tortillas on top and pop one into pan, keeping an eye on it until it is golden brown. To turn it over, lay a dinner plate on top and flip it. Don’t be hesitant, or fluff about, just flip it quickly or you’ll mess it up and end up with bits of corn and capsicum all over the show. When it’s golden on the outside and the cheese is all melted on the inside and holding all the bits together – we’re good to go.

Repeat with remaining quesadilla. Slice into wedges.

For guacamole put your avocado and yoghurt into a bowl and mash until all squashed and yummy. Add garlic, coriander and lemon juice and stir well (add optional ingredients now also if you’re doing it). Season to taste and place on the side of your plate.

Top each wedge with guacamole (D Man always says ‘dip, dip, dip’. I’ve told you before, I know, but it’s so sweet I’ll tell you again!).

quesadilla 3 Devour and pretend you’re in sunny Mexican climes sipping a margarita. Ariba!

Food for Big People, Food for Little People, Lunch, Lunch

Bang Up Lunch – Polenta Chips with Fresh Tomato Salsa

April 19, 2012

Often lunch time hunger hits around the time D Man goes to bed so it becomes a matter of ‘what goodies do we have in the fridge?’. I get well over eating sandwiches and salads so sometimes I get a little creative. As I’ve mentioned, I love a left over, and polenta is one thing that although, once eaten wet and delicious can never be revived to that state, it takes a whole new form when you cook it again in a little oil – the polenta chip is born!

When I’m finished with my wet polenta I pop it into a square container so it can shape up into a nice block, then you just slice it to whatever thickness you want, roll it in seasoned polenta and give it a little fry in some oil. I try not to use too much oil, but it does benefit from a little to get that nice golden crunch. I just add a little at a time so it doesn’t get drenched, then I make sure I drain it on kitchen towel. This is a great entree, or lunch and D Man loves these dipped in tzatziki, or anything dipped in anything really. He just likes to dip and lick, murmuring a little ‘dip, dip, dip’ as he goes. The salsa is kinda adapted (read : stolen) from my dear friend, who often gets requested to bring a whoop of the stuff to parties. It’s great on quesadilllas, with corn chips….hell, I even eat it with Corn Thins. Use chilli as you will. I like it hot, but D Man is still a little gun shy when it comes to chilli. A little is ok for toddlers if it’s a part of your diet. They actually love flavour and new sensations, just don’t singe their faces off!

So, let’s bang this lunch together. If you don’t have left over polenta, you’ll need to make it a couple of hours in advance to give it a chance to solidify. It’s especially yummy if you’ve put lemon zest and parmesan through it…..but that’s just me.

Yeild : depends on amount of polenta you have, but makes about 1 cup of salsa.

You will need :

For salsa – 

  • 4 fresh tomatoes, cut into quarters, seeds removed then finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Spanish onion- finely chopped
  • 2 big handfuls finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 birds eye chilli,finely chopped, if you’re game
  • a big pinch of cumin
  • salt and pepper

For polenta chips – 

  • Sliced, solid polenta
  • Fresh raw polenta for dusting
  • Salt and pepper

Throw all of your salsa ingredients into a bowl and stir. Season to taste. Add more lime, salt, cumin or chilli to your taste. Leave to sit and stew while you cook your polenta. Season your raw polenta on a plate and roll your cops in it, ensuring all sides are covered. Heat a little oil in a pan on the stove, and ensure it’s quite hot before adding chips. Pop them in and turn them regularly ensuring all sides get equally browned. Add a little more oil as required. Make sure you don’t drench them. They are ready when they are golden and crunchy. Leave to cool for a minute or so on kitchen paper to remove excess oil, and serve with salsa. Easy, yummy, fast.