Shoulder of Lamb with a raisin & rosemary stuffing

All of a sudden, the sun is shining and spring seems to be here!  Hooray for that!  Lamb is that quintessential spring meat and some fantastic Welsh lamb should be appearing very soon in your local butchers and supermarkets.  Not to put a damper on New Zealand imported lamb as it is very tasty – but, thinking about carbon footprints it is much more preferable to eat meat that is far closer to home.  Looking forward to Easter I sometimes feel that the traditional, humble, lamb has been usurped by the fattened turkey!  Terrible, terrible; think again if you are planning on turkey this Easter.

Lamb has an element of sweetness, especially the shoulder; pair that with a slightly sweet stuffing and they compliment each other so well.  Lamb does take well to sweet vine fruits and, also, other fruits such as apricots and dried figs!  This would make a very special Easter roast and is more of a spring roast than a wintery recipe.  The stuffing takes very few ingredients from scratch and takes very little time to prepare.  Just remember to have some butchers string to tie up the meat – I get mine from my local butcher.

Shoulder of Lamb with a raisin & rosemary stuffing 

Shoulder of Lamb with a raisin and rosemary stuffing

Shoulder of Lamb with a raisin & rosemary stuffing

Serves 4 and takes around 2 hours to prepare and cook

You need:
1kg boneless lamb shoulder

25g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
100g fresh breadcrumbs
50g raisins
The juice and zest of 1 orange
A few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped

Do it:

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

Melt the butter in a small pan and add the onion and garlic, cook until soft.  Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the butter and onion mixture along with the raisins, rosemary and the orange juice and zest.  Season it all with some salt and pepper and mix to bind the stuffing together with your hands.

Open the lamb out flat and spread the stuffing over then gently roll the lamb and tie with some butchers string.  Any remaining stuffing could be put in a small ovenproof dish and covered with tin foil and then cooked in the oven with the lamb.

Place the lamb in a roasting tin and cook for around 80 minutes.

Serve with some buttered baby leeks and new potatoes.


Smoked Salmon Risotto

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Smoked Salmon Risotto

I am a massive fan of smoked salmon – even a heinous bout of food poisoning after eating it at a very swanky restaurant in a very swanky hotel many moons ago didn’t put me off!  This … is a super summer lunch dish – and as today is too hot to cook in the evening I am limiting my cooker and kitchen to lunchtime and lunchtime ONLY!!  The elegant taste of the warm salmon in a light, creamy, unctuous, risotto is so moreish.  Served with a lightly dressed green salad on the side is an absolutely perfect spring into summer supper dish!

Setting summer aside (but not too quickly) – this is also a great dish for making after the Christmas revelries using up the left over smoked salmon and blue stilton that always seems to be hanging around after the big day (well maybe not the smoked salmon so much) and making that break from all the heavy food of the season.

It’s pretty inexpensive to make if you choose smoked salmon trimmings: you can get them from all supermarkets – Tesco’s are pretty good and currently the cheapest by far!  You will have to feel through the trimmings for any stray bones and cut off the darker or drier edges of the fish – but I think it is well worth the bother to reduce the cost.  Get two packs and if there is any left over salmon use the next day with some cream cheese (or beat up any left over stilton with a little crème fraîche) and slather in a bagel for a lunchtime treat!

Serves 2 but can easily be doubled.  Takes around 30 minutes from bag to table.

You need:

175g risotto rice
600ml of chicken stock
100g smoked salmon
200g of good quality baby plum tomatoes
100g of mature blue stilton (use any blue cheese if you wish or even cheddar!)

Do it:

Heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the risotto rice for 1 minute.  Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender (be gentle with the stirring as you don’t want to break up the grains too much).

Meanwhile, slice the smoked salmon into strips and halve the tomatoes.  Grate the blue stilton.

When the rice is ready, gently fold the tomatoes into the rice and cook for two minutes – stirring gently.  Now add the salmon and cheese to the rice and, again, fold in gently enough just to mix and then cook until the salmon and cheese are heated through (should take just a couple of minutes at the most).  Season to taste and serve immediately.

Seafood Salad Platter

This is one of the best seafood salad recipes I have tried.  The fragrant stock really makes this salad worth trying – and it really isn’t too much trouble to make!  Serve it up with a fresh warm baguette and a green salad on the side or a rice salad pepped up with thinly sliced raw green chillies, finely diced tomatoes and a good drizzle of lemon juice – superb. Serves 6 but you can halve the ingredients for 2-3 and of course, double it up for 12 – just make sure you have a platter large enough! 

There is a bit of a school of thought here as whether to use fish or chicken stock to use with fish – personally, I prefer chicken stock as I find that fish stock can overpower – but it is totally up to you.  If you can, use fresh stock which you can make yourself or now buy in the chiller cabinet at good supermarkets such as Waitrose; if you can’t then use a stock cube but don’t add any extra salt when seasoning. Oyster knives are pretty easy to find these days – Waitrose and Peter Jones/John Lewis sell them, as do many fishmongers now.  They cost around £5.

 It takes around 80 minutes to cook and chill.

 You need:

 450g fresh raw mussels
6 fresh raw oysters in shell
6 fresh squid tubes (body)
24 fresh raw tiger prawns with tails on
250 ml of fresh fish or chicken stock
75 ml of dry white wine (such as Soave)
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 small leek, trimmed and halved
1 stick of celery, cut into 4
3 tbsp (45ml) of olive oil
1 tbsp (15ml) of white wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15ml) of lemon juice
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp of freshly chopped, flat, leaf, parsley (+ a little extra to dress)
1 tbsp of freshly chopped tarragon
Some lemon quarters to garnish

 You will also need: a large platter, an oyster shucker (knife) or a good solid clean screwdriver, some ice for chilling.

 Do it:

Firstly, prepare the shellfish: wash and scrub the mussels in cold running water and remove any ‘beards’.  Open oysters with the shucker or screw driver and take out the oysters; clean the lower shells and set aside.  Cut each squid lengthwise in two then open flat and score the insides lightly in a diamond pattern (don’t cut all the way through). Shell the prawns, leaving the tails on and removing any black veins.

Next, bring your stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the wine, onion, leek and celery, season with salt and pepper (omit the salt if you are using a stock cube) and bring back to the boil. Pop in your shellfish then cover with a lid and boil for 2 minutes shaking the pan until the mussels have opened (you know the rule if a mussel doesn’t open throw it away!).

Once the mussels have opened pour the stock and shellfish gently into a bowl and then place that bowl in a larger one containing ice.  When almost cool, strain the stock into a pan and reduce to 150ml (which is ¼ of a pint).

While the stock is reducing, discard the onion, celery and leek from the shellfish. Remove one side of each mussel shell and discard.  Put the shellfish and stock (once reduced) in the fridge to cool.

When ready to serve whisk the oil, vinegar and garlic into the stock, check the seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Pour over the shellfish and tip in the herbs and mix this together with clean hands then arrange the shellfish on a platter, putting the oysters back in their half shells and arranging decoratively then pour over the remaining stock dressing and dress with the parsley and lemon quarters.


Piri Piri Chicken

I was wondering what to do with some amazing chicken supremes I had bought and I thought of Piri-Piri Chicken. Making Piri Piri chicken is far easier than you think and is divine.  I have tried all the expensive sauces out there and none of them had the flavour and punch I was looking for! I didn’t want a marinade that is over hot – I wanted the fragrant fire that comes with a good Piri-Piri sauce!  Then I devised this recipe which is dirt cheap and so easy that a child could do it! It takes amazingly few ingredients to create a stunning flavour.  You could also do this to a turkey breast or even a pork escalope!  I think it is the vinegar gives the piquancy that I wanted.  My tester is always my son and his friends – they loved this and said it was better than Nando’s ….. which is saying something!

Piri Piri Chicken (with roasted tomatoes and plain rice)

Piri Piri Chicken (with roasted tomatoes and plain rice)

This takes very little time to make and you don’t even need to marinate if you have no time you can just use this straight away – although I would recommend marinating in the fridge for up to 24 hours if you wanted to!

Serves 4 (if you are only making for two just use 2 breasts but keep the proportions of the marinade the same).

You need:

1 red pepper (preferably a long sweet pointed pepper)
1 red chilli
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (30ml)
Freshly ground salt and pepper (a few good turns of each)
4 good-sized chicken breasts – skinned
Plus, a little oil if using a frying pan 

Do It: 

Deseed and remove the membranes of the red pepper and do the same for the chilli.  Put the pepper and chilli in a food processor with the garlic, oil and vinegar along with some salt and pepper and whizz until finely chopped and blended.  Put your chicken breasts into a large food bag (a good sized freezer bag will do) and rub the marinade mixture well into the breasts making sure they are evenly coated.  Pop in the fridge to marinate for up to 24 hours if you wish.

Heat up a griddle grill pan (or use a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of oil) add the chicken breasts and cook slowly (basting with the remaining marinade) until done – this can take up to 10 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the chicken – on average it should only take about 5-6 minutes per side – just check to make sure they are cooked thoroughly and the juices run clear with no pink meat.

Slice in strips and serve with whatever takes your fancy.

Piri Piri Chicken recipe

Piri-Piri Chicken grilling on the bars.