Rolled Lamb Breast Stuffed with Apricots and Pistachios

Dressing Lamb Primark up as Lamb Prada 

Stuffed Lamb Breast

Rolled & Stuffed Lamb Breast

This was my first time cooking lamb breast, an exercise I would most definitely repeat in future.  Unlike chicken breast, which can often be dry and lacking in moisture, lamb breast comes from the fatty, underside and muscular unused side of the animal so has a high fat content.  The meat therefore requires long slow cooking to tenderise, which allows the fat to render away leaving a tasty succulent piece of meat.

There are various suggested ways to cook a lamb breast, but the most exciting in my mind is to  roll the two breasts together and adding extra flavouring by stuffing with a delicious filling.  This particular beautiful piece of meat was butchered by yours truly on my lamb butchery course at Drings, Greenwich.  On the course we de-boned and trimmed two breasts of excess fat, and then had the option to stuff with a merguez harissa sausage meat mix.  Unfortunately the sausage mix wasn’t gluten-free, so I opted to take my breasts home to be stuffed and rolled at a later date.  I love the spicy sausage idea though – might try that next time!

Apricot, Pistachio and Herb stuffing

Apricot, Pistachio and Herb stuffing

For my filling I went with a vibrant Eastern Mediterranean combo of pistachio, apricots, and herbs.  I was absolutely delighted when the finished roast sliced beautifully with the colourful filling exposed just like a swiss roll.  Having waited a long time for it to cook, having no idea how it would turn out, I can’t tell you how awesome a triumph that felt!

The best thing about lamb breast is that it is an extremely economical cut – apart from liver usually the cheapest meat per weight from the animal.  Cooked in the right way it can certainly live up to the more popular and extravagant rack or shoulder cuts in taste.  Many butchers will sell them pre-stuffed, but if you want to have a go yourself don’t forget to ask for some butchers string.  I had to improvise with some triple wrapped cotton and it wasn’t particularly easy to remove from the roast – in fact one of my guest dinners found it as a treasured prize in her meal.  Ooops!

Pea, Courgette and Rocket Salad with Feta.

Pea, Courgette and Rocket Salad with Feta.

Serve with sides of choice – use your creative vegetable imagination.  For this stuffing I’d recommend something like roasted butternut squash/carrots, courgettes with mint, a green-bean rocket courgette and feta salad (pic above) or some griddled peppers and tomatoes with pomegranate dressing (I did the last 2 from that list).

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 2 lamb breasts, trimmed of excess fat.  You will also need some butchers string.
  • 25g shelled pistachios, bashed
  • 40g dried apricots, diced
  • Tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Seasoning

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C.  
  • Place your 2 lamb breasts skin side down on a board, overlapping.  
  • Mix the pistachios, apricots, coriander and lemon with a little seasoning, spread the mix along the meat, then roll up.
  • Secure the rolled meat with string – it is likely you will need to tie in 3 places. There is a specific butchers knot you can attempt if you feel confident enough…
  • Place the lamb on a rack in a roast tray (it needs to be on a rack so the fat runs out) in the oven for 25 minutes.  After which point the skin should have crisped up.  Turn the oven down to 160 degrees and roast for a further 2 hours.  Basting with its own fat at half hourly intervals to keep it moist.
  • Once done leave to rest covered in foil for at least 10 minutes before carving into slices.
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Baked Figs, with Fig & Rosemary Biscuits

Getting figgy with it 

Dried Frigs & Rosemary, The biscuits

Dried Frigs & Rosemary, The biscuits

This recipe is BOGOF (Buy one get one free).  The biscuits and the baked figs can equally be enjoyed separately but make one cracking combination in a dessert.  So you get them both in one post.  Lucky you.

Let’s start with the biscuits.  The basic recipe for these came from the fabulous Fitter Food Book.  I took the basic chestnut cookies – which combine chestnut flour & butter, then brought together with an egg – then added some ground ginger, diced dried figs & rosemary. Even though rosemary is traditionally paired with dishes like lamb it works really well paired with fig and chestnut in these biscuits – the other well know dish which makes use of chestnut and rosemary is Italian Castagnaccio cake.

Fig biscuit dough from Fitter Food

Fig biscuit dough from Fitter Food

Chestnut flour is incredibly sweet on its own, and the butter adds a wonderful texture to a biscuit.  Considering there is no gluten or processed agent in this recipe these are amazing biscuits – they actually have the texture and taste of real biscuits!  There is no need for extra sugar in this recipe but I did add a teeny sprinkling of coconut palm sugar to the top of the biscuits before baking – this added a caramel sheen. Sadly this was the last of the chestnut flour I bought on my last trip to Italy.  If you want to get hold of some in the UK  – see here for info on where to buy. 

Fig, ginger and rosemary biscuits

Fig & Rosemary biscuits

With the biscuits made and sampled (I had originally cooked them for another purpose).  I had a vision of them decorating the side of a dessert plate – and what better to pair them with than yet more figs!  Figs are in season at the moment, and looking absolutely plump, colourful and delicious.  Baking them with a bit of fiery ginger & warming honey made for the perfect almost Autumnal dessert!  The whole dish was finished with a dollop of crème fraiche mostly to  bring down a little of the gingery heat, but also to add some richness.  If you don’t tolerate dairy products you could switch this up for coconut yoghurt, or a dairy free ice-cream.

Baked Figs, with rosemary and ginger biscuits, and creme fraiche

Baked Figs, with Fig & Rosemary Biscuits, and Crème Fraiche

It got dark by the time I served this up to my dinner guests, and I changed my mind about where to dollop the crème fraiche.  Apologies for the dark, and crème-messy photo.  You get the idea though right?

Here’s both recipes:

Fig & Rosemary Biscuits   

Ingredients (makes a batch of approx 26 small biscuits)
I used a heart shaped cutter – which was cm across at widest point

  • 225g Chestnut flour
  • 2 tsps ground ginger
  • tsp finely sliced rosemary
  • 110g room temperature butter (ideally grass fed)
  • 4 dried figs, finely diced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsps of coconut sugar (to sprinkle over)

Method

  • Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Mix together the chestnut flour with the ginger, finely sliced rosemary and butter till crumby.  Add in the dried figs (they are quite sticky) along with the egg and thoroughly mix together till you can bring together the ingredients as a dough.
  • Roll out the dough to desired thickness, and use a pastry cutter (or bottom of a glass cup) to cut out your biscuit shapes.   Patience is definitely of the essence when rolling the cookies.  The easiest way to work with the non-gluten dough is to roll out a bit at a time – generally getting 3-4 cookies from each roll out.  With no gluten there is no worries about over working the dough – hoorah!
  • Place the figs on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle over the coconut sugar.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

——-

Baked Figs (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 4 figs
  • 2 teaspoons of raw honey
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C.  
  • Cut each fig into quarter – but just cut down half way.  Don’t cut all the way through! Push the figs from the base so the top forces its way apart.   
  • Place the figs in an oven proof dish.
  • In a separate small bowl combine the honey, ginger and vanilla extract.  Drizzle over the figs, then place in the oven to cook through for 20 minutes.

For the final dish, plate up a fig, with a dollop of crème fraiche and 2 (or more 😉 ) figgy biscuits on the side.  Drizzle over any excess liquid from the baking dish. 

Lamb & Tomato Curry

Tamatar Gosht 

Tamatar Gosht

Tamatar Gosht, Yellow Cauliflower Rice and Cucumber Raita

I‘ve been watching Rick Stein’s India series recently – a fascinating series documenting cuisines and recipes from all over India.  It reminded me that I don’t often cook up a curry, mostly because I haven’t the foggiest what to do with all the spices despite usually having a cupboard full of them!

Using this enticing Tamatar Gosht recipe by Pukka Paki (which she explains isn’t actually a curry, but more of a stew) as my basic cooking inspiration and method I set myself a kitchen challenge to cook up a tasty curry.  Firstly I pulled ALL of my spices out of the cupboard, and did my best to make a reasonable guess at the quantities I could use for my recipe.  Turns out I didn’t have every spice I needed from Sumayya’s recipe but didn’t want to be discouraged and not try so I may have free-styled a bit; additionally making use of cardamom for its fragrant flavour and adding some coconut cream, for a richer finish.  I didn’t add the tempered spices at the end – but I’m sure it would have added an exquisite taste.

I chose to slow cook my curry to allow the meat to tenderise as much as possible and after 2 hours it was gorgeously soft  – though I wish I could have had time to leave it for longer.   The flavour was incredible.  I chose to serve mine with yellow cauliflower rice – with the turmeric in the rice as well as the curry this is surely as anti-inflammatory as they come!

Oh and in case you were wondering about the etymology tamatar means tomato and gosht = meat. 

Tamatar Gosht

Tamatar Gosht, with Yellow Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seed
  • 12 whole cardamom pods
  • tsp turmeric
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
  • 800g diced lamb neck fillet
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato purée
  • 125mls lamb stock (or water)
  • 4 Tablespoons of coconut cream (the top bit from a cold can of coconut milk, also available in a small can of pure cream)
  • Fresh coriander leaf to finish
  • + to serve some yellow cauliflower ‘rice’ (1/4 cauliflower per person sautéed in coconut oil with 1/4 tsp turmeric and a few cardamom pods) and a cooling grated cucumber raita.

Method

  • Heat a splodge of coconut oil in a large saucepan, and when hot add in the coriander seed, cardamom pods, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger.  When the spices are coated and spluttering add the garlic and cook till it softens.
  • Next add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 mins while they soften/turn in the spices.
  • Next add the meat.  When it is sufficiently browned on all sides add the tomato purée and keep stirring for around 5 mins as it cooks out.
  • Next add the stock and bring to the boil.  Then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and leave for as long as you can bare.  Ideally 2-4 hours.  Check on it every 30 mins or so and give it a bit of a stir.
  • When you’re ready to serve stir through the coconut cream (this bit is optional), season with salt to taste and top with fresh coriander.

what’s your favourite spice combination for a tasty curry?

Lamb Stuffed Vine Leaves (Dolmades)

My Big Fat Greek Faff

Dolmades - aka stuffed vine leaves

Dolmades – aka stuffed vine leaves

Big respect to my Greek Mamas.  These seemingly harmless little rolls of deliciousness were absolutely the most fiddliest faffiest thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of cooking.  I have a new found respect for anyone who can perfectly roll these little vine cigars, without; a) lamb mice spilling out everywhere, or b) without internal cortisol levels exploding off the scale (both a and b in my case).  I usually find this sort of culinary exercise therapeutic – but that was before I’d worked with vine leaves.  Still, the end product was absolutely worth the effort, and they tasted just like I was hoping.  So there you go!  Hard work will be rewarded.

In a twist to the conventional Mediterranean rice stuffed leaves the now somewhat ‘traditional Paleo’ version uses grated cauliflower – an example of which I sampled at Pure Taste Pop Up last week. Attempting a cauliflower with lamb recipe has been on my ever increasing ‘to cook’ list for yonks.  Its also taken me yonks to find vine leaves suitable to use. I found mine by actually asking rather than searching (I’m obviously vine leaf blind) in my local Turkish shop.  Apparently they can also be found in Asda (Melis is the brand I used and you should look for). Or you could of course raid your nearest vine yard for some REAL ones… Though who lives near a vineyard?? not me!!

These were really good.  They tasted just like I’d hoped, and not far from those I’ve sampled in Greece before now.  However I wish I’d added some sultanas and pine nuts for a more extravagant taste – and perhaps some cumin too – but people – I’m currently on a budget exercise and working with what I have in the cupboards.  Feel free to fragrance the lamb with whatever Mediterranean spices you are accustomed to.

Fact of the day:  Dolmades are also known in Cyprus as Koupepia, according to my Brother in Law’s Cypriot family!

Ingredients (makes approx 32) 

  • coconut oil
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon All spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 125g grated cauliflower (about 3/4 of a whole head)
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Water to cover

Method

  • Fry the garlic in a dollop of coconut oil, when softened add the meat, spices, stir to coat then keep frying till the meat brown (approx 5-6 mins).
  • Next add the grated cauliflower and fry for another 2-3 mins.  Take off the heat, squeeze over the juice of half a lime and stir through the chopped parsley. Leave to cool while you prepare your vine leaves.
  • Gently unroll and flatten the vine leaves (they will be rolled up together if in a jar with brine as mine were, and were quite fiddly to pull apart).   It is preferable to count out enough vine leaves at this stage so you’re ready to get a rhythm going with the rolling. It gets a bit messy!
  • Ready to roll?  1) Place the vine leaf with the rough veiny side up, and put a heaped teaspoon of the meat mixture in the middle (top left).  2)  Fold up the bottom (top right). 3) Fold over the right side (bottom left), then the left tucking the top and edges in as you go. 4) Place the vine leafs in a deep frying pan with the loose edge facing the bottom of the pan (bottom right).  You should get approx 32 out of this recipe.  You can stack them in the pan if necessary, but don’t go more than 2 deep. 
How to roll the vine leaves...

How to roll the vine leaves…

  • Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over the pan, and cover the vine leaves with a plate to keep them in place whilst they cook.  Now pour in enough water so that the edges of the plate are submerged. Bring the water to a light simmer, then cook on low for 40-45 minutes.
  • After 40-45 mins drain off the liquid, leave the pan to cool (leave the plate on at this stage) then remove and eat!

I took mine to a picnic, but they’d make a great canapé, or part of a meze meal with other dishes such as TabboulehButternut Squash DipMeatballs, or other yummy things from my Recipe Index.  You’ll find I’m a huge meze fan!

What dishes would be in your ultimate meze platter?

Breakfast Crepe Fiorentina

Eat the Italian Flag! 

Crepe Fiorentina

Crepe Fiorentina

There is an amazing pizza topping that goes by the name Fiorentina; a crispy pizza base, awash with spinach and a perfectly set egg.  Fiorentina  pizza immediately makes me think of a friend of mine, who orders it on each trip to a pizzeria without fail – always requesting that the egg yolk should be soft/runny rather than cooked to a solid.  I’m with him on this one – the beautiful yolk doubles up as a rich sauce!

This is my version of pizza fiorentina – except this time its on a gluten-free chestnut flour crepe AND eaten for breakfast (though you could eat it any time of day of course).  I cooked this up when I had some idle time to spare on August bank holiday Monday, having long ago mentally bookmarked a crepe & egg idea from a random food magazine (I read many,  can’t recall where I saw it).  It wasn’t particularly time-consuming or complicated – but I felt like it was a bit of a treat breakfast suitable for a bank holiday, especially as I’d been out for an hour and a half long walk BEFORE breakfast.

Whist chestnut flour is gluten-free and a perfectly clean eat (it is just ground dried chestnuts) it is quite starchy and doesn’t have the most amazing amount of nutritional benefits.  That said, I really love it and from time to time it is a great treat, plus it makes fantastic crepes (sweet or savoury) that just aren’t possible with other paleo approved flours. Considering there is no gluten in this recipe the pancake will hold together pretty easily – the whole egg in the batter acts as a binder in this instance.

I think I prefer the photo without the tomatoes on top - but not the taste!

I think I prefer the photo without the tomatoes on top – but not the taste!

Since the crepes must be cooked one by one, and each takes a good 5 mins to finish once you’ve popped the egg on, I’d suggest you indulge in this when you’re having a private breakfast for one moment.  Otherwise you might drown in your own saliva, waiting for the second one to cook whilst your breakfast companion starts on theirs.  You would serve your partner first wouldn’t you??  Other option – keep them warm in a low oven or buy 2 frying pans…

Ingredients (serves 1)

Pancake:

  • 25g Chestnut flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • Pinch salt

For the dish:

  • Handful spinach
  • coconut oil to fry the pancake
  • 1 pancake (see above)
  • 1 egg
  • fresh/dried herbs to dress (fresh oregano is superb)
  • + additional black olives or sun-dried tomatoes to dress

Method

  • First make up the crepe batter, by mixing all the ingredients together.  Ideally you want to use a whisk or even a hand blender so that the flour dissolves fully into the liquid.
  • Next sauté the fresh spinach until wilted, remove from the pan and squeeze all the moisture out (or else your crepe will end up soggy).
  • Heat up the coconut oil in the pan and pour in the chestnut batter, tilting to ensure a smooth covering all over the pan.  After 3 minutes the underside should be browned and the pancake can be flipped over.
  • Now place the spinach on top of the pancake, creating a well for you to crack in the egg.  The white may spread a little.  Fold over the sides of the crepe to hold the egg in.  It should take another 3-4 minutes for the underside of the pancake to cook and also for the egg to cook through.  If the bottom is burning and the egg isn’t cooking, turn the heat down, and cover the pan to hold the heat in and cook the white.
  • Slide off onto a plate and decorate with fresh or dried herbs, black pepper and any other extras you desire such as sun-dried tomatoes, parma ham or black olives.

If you think you might know someone who’d like this recipe too, don’t forget to share it with them!