Lamb with Orzo

I was pondering on what to cook for us this evening when my friend E said she was doing a dish I made for her and her husband earlier this year. Perfect reminder. Lamb with orzo is one of those fabulously easy one-pot wonders which is delicious either pared down to the simplest version or zhuzhed up with extra bits and bobs. In this version I have added some spinach, button chestnut mushrooms and a diced courgette. This is clearly in the interests of keeping the washing up to a minimum while meeting our daily veg quotient. However, it is still completely delicious without any additions if you prefer.

Orzo is a small pasta shape which looks a bit like large grains of rice and is relatively easy to find in the supermarket. Any smallish pasta shape will work if you can’t find it. This amount serves two of us extremely well with some leftover.

You will need:

400g diced lamb

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp hot smoked paprika (if you don’t like spicy heat you can use sweet smoked paprika instead)

1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

1 tin of tomatoes (I used tinned cherry tomatoes)

1 lamb stock cube

1 tsp dried oregano

A few sprigs of mint, leaves removed and shredded but keep the stalks

250g orzo pasta

100g Feta cheese
Heat a little oil in a large pan and sear the diced lamb on all sides, a few pieces at a time. When nicely browned remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. When all the lamb is done add the onions to the pan and allow to soften. As they start to turn golden add the chopped garlic, chopped rosemary and cinnamon sticks and stir.

Return the lamb to the pan, add the tin of tomatoes, paprika, oregano, mint stalks, a few twists of black pepper and a tomato tin of water.

Bring everything up to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer gently until the lamb is completely tender. Approximately and hour and 15 minutes.

Stir in the orzo, bring back to a very gentle simmer and cook for about 15 mins or until the orzo is cooked to your liking. You will need to stir regularly to stop the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the shredded mint leaves.

Serve with the Feta cheese crumbled over the top.

Stuffed squash

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When you want easy peasy squashy squeezy this is the perfect thing. It’s comforting to eat, lower carb, gluten free and very satisfying. You can use any squash you like but in the UK butternut seems to be available pretty much all year round. I would serve this with a salad at any time of the year because it’s the easiest way to get your five a day and doesn’t involve cooking. Not that I want you to get the idea that I’m lazy or anything – it provides a nice crunchy contrast. Yep. That’s it. However you could have it with any additional veg you fancy. Or indeed none at all.

You will need:

1 butternut squash

2 tbs oil

250g minced beef or lamb

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbs tomato purée

2 tsp hot smoked paprika (use sweet paprika if you don’t like spicy)

250ml red wine or stock

Fresh parsley

2 tbs double cream or 50g cubed Feta (or both!)

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Cut the squash in half from stalk to tip, brush the cut surface with a little oil, sprinkle with salt and put onto a baking tray. Cover the tray with foil but not too tightly, leave a little bit of room between the foil and the squash. Bake in a pre-heated oven (180ºc) until completely tender when poked with a sharp knife. Allow to cool while you prepare the mince filling.

Heat the remaining oil in a wide shallow pan then add the onion and fry until beginning to go golden brown then add the mince and continue frying until there is no trace of pink in the meat. Add the garlic, tomato purée, paprika and wine or stock. Bring up to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick.

Remove the foil from the squash and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibres from the middle of each half and discard. Pile the meat sauce into the resulting cavity and all over the top and then put the squash back into the oven for about 20 minutes to heat through. You can re-cover with the foil if you wish but I find it isn’t really necessary.

Serve with a little cream spooned over (beef) or scattered with cubed Feta (lamb) and plenty of chopped parsley.

Mrs Patmore goes Moonlighting

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When I’m not being you know who, I do other things too. Here are all the things I blog or have blogged about…

At the weekends you will often find me in the North West of England running a private supper club with another friend of mine and some of the recipes in here will be things I’ve done for that. If you are interested in seeing what we do here’s a link: The Swallows Secret Supper Club

I started a blog teaching my daughter to cook while at Uni. It’s in mothballs a bit at the moment but there are some nice recipes on there. And she’s very funny. Annoyingly. Learning to cook: Two Nerds One Scone

My mother had vascular dementia and died in 2013. I cared for her during the last couple of years of her life and true to form I blogged about it. This was mainly for my own benefit – it was a safe place to put things at the end of the day and then wipe the slate clean for the following one. It became a lifeline for me and proved useful to others in a similar situation. It’s quite a long read and the link takes you to the first post: Her Absent Mind

Around the same time that I started looking after Ma I started taking photographs, again as something to do as a distraction from the often difficult days. I took up a 365 challenge on a photography blogging site and ended up taking a photograph every single day for three years instead of just one. I still update it now and then but I love to look back on the posts I made. I highly recommend a project like this, it made me a better photographer without a shadow of a doubt: Blipfoto

I have a feeling I’ve forgotten one. I may be back.

Chicken Pilaf

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This is based on a Hairy Biker’s recipe with a few tweaks. It’s easy to make and surprisingly fragrant, if you want to add a little heat then by all means add some fresh chilli along with the garlic and onion.

500g chicken thighs

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated

large pinch of saffron

1 tbsp coconut oil

5 cardamom pods

2 x 3cm pieces of cinnamon stick

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

5 cloves

2 bay leaves

250ml chicken stock

1 medium cauliflower or two boxes of ready made cauliflower couscous

seasoning

To serve:

2 tbs pistachios, roughly chopped

1 punnet of pomegranate seeds

small bunch each of coriander, parsley and mint, chopped

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Put the saffron in a cup with a little hot water and leave to steep.

Heat the coconut oil in a large lidded shallow pan  and fry the chicken thighs for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir through. As the onion starts to soften add the whole spices and the bay leaves.

Pour in the stock and the saffron (including the water) then season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together making sure you scrape up any bits off the bottom of the pan and bring up to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

Cut the cauliflower into chunks and blitz to a rubble in a food processor. You can now buy this ready made in most supermarkets so use a couple of boxes of that by all means if you don’t have a food processor – or are terminally lazy like me.

After about 5 minutes the liquid in the pan should have reduced and the chicken will be tender. Remove the chicken and onion mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon to a plate and cover with foil to keep it warm.

Add the cauliflower to the pan and stir to coat in the saffron yellow stock. Turn the heat to medium and stir and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the cauliflower is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir the chicken and onions through the cauliflower. Scatter over the pistachios, pomegranate seeds and chopped herbs.

(The whole spices aren’t meant to be eaten)

14-09-16 Salmon à la Nage

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This is a lovely fresh, simple dish which can be tailored to suit likes/dislikes and available ingredients. I like to include courgettes, spring onions, baby plum tomatoes, some celery or fennel and a few sugar snap peas. But you could use whatever you have or prefer instead. I wouldn’t use any sort of root vegetable though, the cooking time is relatively brief. Things like spinach or bok choy also work well.

À la Nage basically means poaching in a flavourful broth or liquid. This particular version is salmon in a mix of wine and stock but it could just as easily be halibut in coconut milk with chilli and lime or mussels, clams etc in vermouth.

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For 2 people

2 salmon fillets

2 tbs oil

1 medium sized courgette, diced

1 small fennel bulb, sliced

1 fat garlic clove, very thinly sliced

100ml vegetable, fish or chicken stock

100ml white wine

10 or so baby plum tomatoes, halved

3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal into 2cm pieces

A large handful of sugar snap peas, sliced

Flat leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Juice of half a lemon

 

Heat 2tbs of oil in a wide shallow pan. Add the courgette, fennel and garlic. Stir and fry until the garlic is fragrant and the vegetables are starting to soften.

Add the stock and wine and bring up to the boil. Then turn the heat down and allow to come to a gentle simmer.

Nestle the fish, skin side up, on top of the vegetables, cover the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes. When the salmon is cooked the skin will peel off very easily. Try after 4 mins but it may take a bit longer.

Lift the salmon out of the pan, throw in the halved tomatoes, spring onions , sugar snaps and the parsley. Whack the heat back up for a minute or so and bring it all up to a bubble.

Squeeze in the lemon juice, season to taste.

Serve the salmon alongside the vegetables.

 

21-05-16 Aioli with Jersey Royal Potatoes

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Aioli is an unctuous garlicky version of mayonnaise, utterly delicious and when I made this I thought it was crying out to be partnered with some new season Jersey Royals to make the best potato salad ever.

  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs capers
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped chives
  • 500g Jersey Royal potatoes, boiled until tender and allowed to cool to room temperature

Blend the egg yolks, garlic cloves, lemon juice, saffron and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a food processor then slowly pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the funnel while the food processor is running, until it forms a thick sauce. Stir in the shallots, capers and herbs.

Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces then combine with the aioli.

Serve with some salad leaves or pea shoots.

On Being Mrs Patmore

Nearly 12 months ago an idea was floated past me by a friend of mine – would I be interested in cooking for herself, her husband and their four children for three days a week? Why, yes, it appeared that I would. So after a little bit of plotting and planning I pitched up at their house in the first week in January 2016 and so it began.

I have a bit of a history regarding blog writing – I think I’ve got 5 now – so it’s a bit of a mystery to me why I didn’t start a blog immediately but as soon as the penny dropped last week I’ve been setting this one up. This is a new ‘theme’ for me so there may be a few teething troubles until I get used to it.

Almost from the very beginning we fell into the habit of referring to me as ‘Mrs Patmore’ however, if you haven’t seen Downton Abbey then the joke doesn’t work. Mrs Patmore is the cook at a stately home in the British period TV drama. So naturally following the same comedy vein I refer to my employers as Lord and Lady Grantham. I tell you, the laughter barely stops.

The children range in age from 13 to 5 and we’ve quickly settled on regular menu choices such as pizza, sweetcorn pancakes and the like and their parents follow a low carb regime for most of the time so it’s very often two different meals each evening. I also do baking for school events, visitors, birthdays etc. and I do all the shopping for the food I prepare, it’s rare that I have very little to do.

So welcome to my blog. A mix of food photos, ideas and recipes along with a bit of chat and anything I think might be interesting to share.

As Mrs Patmore famously said ‘Anyone who has the use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse!’ So lets get started…