WordPress is acting up, but to make up for the lack of recipes last week, I have an additional post for you for this week. Also I’ve been receiving some requests these days in the run-up to the holidays. This is the first for this season. For me, this recipe is an oldie but a goodie, as they say. And it’s comforting. December has officially started – I say officially because culturally Christmas begins way to early. One of my neighbours has had her tree up for more than three weeks. That’s crazy if you ask me. I don’t think I’ll have mine up till next week, together with the traditional Bambin (Baby Jesus) and/or Presepju (Crib). And some things are still in boxes anyway. I’m learning slowly is the less I have the happier I am. I’m still working on that.
I have been waiting for quite a while to post this. A year – simply because asparagus are now in season. I have to honestly say that sometimes I’m not very good with the seasonality of ingredients, mainly because I have not been to a market for ages. Not good I know but life and travel get in the way of practicality. Nowadays travel for me means going back and forth to Malta, the land of sunshine, fresh produce, bread, lemons and the best almond sweets. There’s no need to tell you how much I eat and when I come back home I know that I’d have to shift some of the weight. Back to life, back to reality.
I live in a Victorian building. It’s not insulated well and even though we do have heating, it still gets cold in the evening. Last week temperatures were almost unbearable, and everyone was rightly complaining. Main reason: the snow. We’re still using the oven almost everyday. Baking pizzas, cakes and the likes helps to warm up my tiny kitchen. Yep – that’s the excuse you see!
One of my favourite things is the Holiday Hot Cake from Nigella Express. It’s easy and you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it. It doesn’t look good on photos either but it *is* good. I don’t like advocat too much so I don’t add anything with the whipped cream. I make it during Christmas, but this year it has made a very special appearance during the Easter break. No one minded.
You can find the recipe on Nigella’s website here. Enjoy!
An Easter feast would not be complete without an impressive piece of meat at the center of the table. For me it just has to be lamb. For me, lamb was an acquired taste. It has a powerful overwhelming flavour and I don’t like to eat it regularly. Although this meat is very popular in Mediterranean countries, I don’t think it’s cooked often enough in Maltese kitchens. Beef is still numero uno, followed by pork. When I was a child roasts were a huge part of my life. Given the British influence on my country, I do think that kids my age grew up with Sunday roasts. Family tradition was important and in this the Maltese are very Mediterranean. We still believe in having lunch and/or dinner together at the table, though this ritual is also undergoing a gradual demise, together with other familial traditions. Unfortunately major celebrations like weddings, Christmas and Easter are the only few occasions where families still get together. Yet, there is hope…
I never roasted or braised anything other than chicken before we came over to the UK. This is only because of that one haunting phenomenon that stops us from doing whatever we want to do: fear. When I started this blog I knew I had to overcome my kitchen anxieties. I have so many more I want to conquer! But I didn’t know where to start. Since there are so many recipes for lamb, I had no idea where to start. My confusion disproportionately grew, until I found the one that broke the irrational cycle. You say drama, drama, drama. I say Oh-God-I-will-burn-the-whole-thing-with-the-kitchen. That’s fear for you.
James Tanner, one of my favourite chefs, has an easy recipe for a braised shoulder of lamb in Takes 5. I wanted to replicate the exact same recipe. As it happens I had to make some changes. (I still used the essential ingredients and recipe from the book as inspiration. His method is a bit chefy and I wish I did what the recipe said but I took some shortcuts.) As a result of my usual and still unexplained absentmindedness, I bought a boneless shoulder, instead of one with the bone in. So the cooking times went all wacky on me, but after the crisis was averted, I was happy with the result. And even happier with the eating, of course. This is what I did.
- 1.5 kg boneless lamb shoulder
- 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 large onions, thickly sliced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 10 large garlic cloves, left whole and unpeeled
- 200ml a good robust red wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 230ºC. Rub the lamb shoulder with regular olive oil, salt and pepper, and place it in a hot cast iron pan, on top of the sliced onions. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and take off any excess fat.
Now reduce the temperature to 175ºC. Add the dried thyme and garlic cloves to the lamb, together with the red wine and vegetable stock.* Cover the pan and cook for around 1 hour, or until the lamb is pink in the middle.
As with any roast meat, let it rest for a while before carving on a warm dish covered with kitchen foil. If you want to make a thicker gravy I would stick with James amount of wine, i.e. 500ml.* I will eventually try the full recipe and get the bone in cut. After all, the meat next to the bone is more tender and tastes better. I did like the boneless shoulder though and will come up with a stuffing to go with it. In the meantime buon appetito and Happy Easter.
I wrote about this recipe quite a while ago but today being Shrove Tuesday, a.k.a. Pancake Day, here it is again. I love pancakes and would eat them every week. If only!
Just a note before we start: instead of buttermilk, you can use the same quantity of milk and leave it at that. You can also add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for around 15 minutes. Also feel free to leave the salt out completely. I prefer a salt-free batter personally but I know that J likes a slightly salty flavour. For extra taste and colour contrast J likes to add some blueberries, but you could add raspberries, or nothing at all.
- 175g plain flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt – optional
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- 35g butter, melted
- 150g blueberries – optional
- If you don’t have buttermilk start off by preparing the milk as suggested above. If you’re using only milk then read on.
- Measure the flour, baking powder, salt (if you’re using it) and sugar and mix them in a bowl.
- For the waffles, or for fluffier pancakes, separate the eggs and use some muscle power to beat the whites into soft peaks. (Or use electric beaters!)
- Mix the milk/buttermilk with the egg yolks and melted butter. Pour these into the dry ingredients but try not to mix the batter too much.
- Fold the soft beaten egg whites into the mixture and use a ladle to pour a bit of the pancake batter on a preheated and greased griddle (or a good non-stick pan). Sprinkle in some blueberries if you want at this stage.
- Cook on one side until you see bubbles forming throughout the surface and the edges have solidified. Then turn the pancake over on the other side. Repeat until you have used all your batter.
Serve alone with some golden syrup or honey, fruit or my favourite treat, that marvellous hazelnut spread from the land of dreams: Italy. Or however you want for that matter! Enjoy!