Lamb and prunes (Persian Style)

This is a classic combination of lamb and prunes, found across many cultures and cooking styles. This particular recipe is from the north west of Iran, near the border with Turkey. It is totally delicious and relatively easy. I found the recipe in the magnificent book ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Of course, we don’t have 100% of the ingredients in South Uist, but she makes suggestions that helped me to adapt to local circumstances. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb neck fillets or lean tender lamb (I used boned lamb chops)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped in half
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 100g yellow split peas
  • 8 prunes
  • Oil to fry the potatoes. 

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat until they are browning. 
  • Add the meat, turmeric and curry powder, and continue to stir and cook until the meat is browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for another couple of minutes, and then cover the meat in boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 
  • Meanwhile, soak the apricots in water for at least 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the yellow peas – put them in a small saucepan and cover with water, and simmer over a low heat. The peas should be soft but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, and put them in cold water with the salt. 
  • When the meat is nearly tender, drain the apricots and add to the stew along with the prunes and split peas. Add a little water if needed to make sure all the ingredients are covered. Bring back to the boil and continue to simmer until the peas are soft. 
  • About 30 minutes before serving, check for seasoning. Drain the potatoes, and fry them in hot oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden and crispy. 

Serve the stew with the fried potatoes on top. This goes well with plain rice. 

Venison Curry

For Christmas, we had pot-roast venison, with a lemon and horseradish gravy. We had a lot of venison for two people, so I also made this curry. It is adapted from a very odd recipe from the BBC website – the quantities were mad, and didn’t match between imperial and metric, so I sort of made up the gaps. It was delicious, although rather hot. I’d like to make it again, so here is what I did. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg venison, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2cm of ginger root, grated
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp kashmir chilli powder, or 1 tbsp ordinary chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp crushed juniper seeds
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp molasses sugar or other brown sugar or treacle
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • greek-style thick plain yoghurt
  • 500ml stock (I used the lemon gravy)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole dish, and fry the chopped onions over a medium heat. 
  • After around 5 minutes, add the crushed garlic, grated ginger and chopped chillies. 
  • When the onions are browning, add the venison, and stir in to cook and brown the meat.
  • Add the spices and cook for a few more minutes, stirring them in well. 
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and stock, and bring the mixture to a simmer. 
  • Cook over a low heat on the hob or in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. If you are using left-overs, half an hour should be enough. 

To serve, stir in two tablespoons of yoghurt, and garnish with the chopped coriander. Serve with nan bread or rice, and with a side-dish of yoghurt. 

Venison casserole with red wine

I am lucky to live in a place where wild venison from red deer is readily available. This year I have bought my venison from South Uist Estates. We’ve now got rather a lot in the freezer, and the Christmas Day menu is sorted. 

Tonight I made a casserole using the recipe in The Game Cook by Norman Tebbit. I did add a few variations, couldn’t help myself. It was very very good. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 900g shoulder of venison, diced
  • 100g smoked pancetta, or streaky bacon cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 300ml stock
  • 150ml red wine
  • 100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Bouquet garni (I used the mystery herbs with added bayleaves)
  • a couple of good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

MARINADE INGREDIENTS:

  • 150ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brandy or rum
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • Peel of 1/4 orange, shredded

METHOD:

  • Put all of the marinade ingredients in a plastic box with a secure lid. Add the venison, shake it all around to mix, and then leave overnight in the fridge. 
  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Take the venison out of the marinade, wipe off the chopped onion and orange, and set aside. Strain the marinade and save that as well. 
  • Heat the oil and butter together in a large casserole dish, and gently fry the pancetta. Once it starts cooking, add the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown. 
  • Toss the venison in the seasoned flour, and then add the flour, herbs and meat to the pan. Keep stirring the meat in the pan until it starts to brown. 
  • Once the mixture is really dry, add the marinade, the red wine and the stock, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, and  bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. The liquid should cover the vegetables and meat. 
  • Add the mushrooms, check for seasoning, and then put the casserole into the oven for a couple of hours. 

Serve with mashed potato, and a green vegetable. Try adding celeriac to the mash, or serving with roasted parsnips. 

Persian rice, beef and cabbage

This is a truly delicious meal, I keep sneaking back for extra portions. It uses a surprisingly small amount of meat to make a meal for around eight people. 

I derived the recipe from the astonishingly good book, Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. There are a couple of tweaks to match local circumstances and my store cupboard. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g basmati rice
  • 400g white cabbage – I used a whole sweetheart cabbage
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 200g mince
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tbsp tomato puree OR 250ml passata
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20g butter

METHOD:

  • Put the rice in a large bowl, and cover with water, stirring to loosen any surface starch. Drain, and repeat this step three times, then leave the rice to soak in salted water for 30 minutes or more. 
  • Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan. Bring the water back to the boil, and cook uncovered until the rice grains are on the surface of the water. This takes about six minutes or so. The rice should feel cooked, but still with a little bite to it. 
  • Drain the cooked rice and rinse with cold water to separate the grains and stop them cooking. 
  • Chop the cabbage coarsely and saute it in 1 tbsp of oil over a medium to high heat, seasoned with the black pepper. After five minutes, as it starts to brown, remove from the pan.
  • Add a bit more oil to the pan, and the chopped onions, fry for around 10 minutes until starting to brown. 
  • Add the mince, turmeric, and cumin, and fry until the mince is well browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and cabbage. If you are using tomato paste and not passata, then add 200ml boiling water. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the mixture is looking a little dry, or starting to catch, add another drop of water. 
  • Using the large pan, put a couple of tablespoons of oil at the bottom, and heat it. Then add alternating layers of rice and cabbage mixture, starting and ending with a rice layer. Wrap the pan lid in a tea towel and jam it firmly on top. 
  • Put the pan over a medium heat and cook until the outside of the pan is hot. 
  • Melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, and pour this over the top of the rice mountain in the pan. Put the pan into an oven at Gas 3, 170C, and bake for 30 minutes. 
  • When the dish is done, it should be turned out onto a platter, and served with yoghurt, pickled vegetables, and a salad of herbs. At this time of year, not that many delicious herbs in the garden, so I skipped that bit. 

 

Wild goose with carrots and pomegranate molasses

This is a bit of a riff on a Persian recipe, but as I didn’t have some key ingredients, I went off-piste. This is probably frowned upon by the purists, but it was delicious. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 wild goose breasts, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 20g butter
  • 500g carrots, cut into batons (about the size of your little finger)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron water (a tiny pinch of saffron in boiling water)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, over a medium to high heat. Add the chopped onions, and fry for around 10 minutes until they are browning. You’ll need to keep an eye and keep stirring to stop any sticking or burning. 
  • Add the goose, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, and fry until the meat is browned. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste, salt and pomegranate molasses, and cook for another couple of minutes, until it is all hot through.
  • Pour in enough water to cover everything by a couple of centimetres. and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for an hour and a half. 
  • Heat the butter in a frying pan. When it starts to foam slightly, add the carrot batons, and lower the heat. Gently fry the carrots until they start to brown slightly around the edges. 
  • Add the carrots to the stew with the saffron water. If needed, add a little more water to the stew. Bring back to a simmer, and then keep cooking until the carrots are very soft. 

Serve with basmati rice. 

Baked Beef Curry

We are still enjoying the supply of beef from Louise’s Askernish herd, just delicious. We made this very easy beef curry last night, and reheated it the next day. It is from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 kg stewing steak
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 225g chopped onions
  • 300ml plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Heat the oil in a casserole dish, and when the oil is hot, add the cardamom and cinnamon, stir once and then add the meat. Keep moving the meat until is browned all over, then transfer to a bowl. 
  • In the same pan, add the cumin seeds and onions, on a medium to high heat. Keep stirring and cooking for 10 minutes, until the onion is browning. Turn off the heat when the onion is cooked. 
  • Return the meat to the pan, and then add all of the other ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with the lid, and put it into the oven to bake for at least an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 

I served this with almonds browned in a little oil, and with baked potatoes. 

Sweet and Sour wild goose with almonds

We have some wild goose breasts in the freezer, and I am always looking for good ways to cook them. Somewhere I have a traditional goose soup recipe to try, but before I could test it,  I came across a recipe for a lamb dish in Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. 

I must tell you, it was sensational, best recipe ever for wild goose. Spices are available from Seasoned Pioneers, and the other ingredients I got from Persepolis in Peckham. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g slivered or flaked almonds
  • 2 dried limes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 goose breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 100g dried barberries
  • 30g butter
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water
  • a small pinch of saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar or date syrup
  • a large pinch of salt, to taste

METHOD:

  • Cover the almonds in cold water, and leave to soak. 
  • Cover the limes in boiling water, and put something on top to weigh them down so they remain immersed
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t stick as they fry – they should be sticky and beginning to brown. 
  • Increase the heat to high, and add the goose meat and turmeric. Fry until the meat is browned on all sides. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cinnamon and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour. 
  • Rinse the limes, and pierce them in three or four places. Add them into the stew along with the drained almonds, and simmer for another half an hour. 
  • Fry the barberries in the butter. 
  • Just before serving, when the goose is cooked, check the flavour. Add salt and sugar to balance the sourness, and boil off any excess water. 
  • Add the rosewater, saffron water and barberries, and serve with plain rice. 

Lamb and Rhubarb Stew

This is just too good to be true, and too good not to share. The Hebrides produces the main ingredients so well. Mint and rhubarb grow in my garden, and there are sheep all around. The recipe is Persian, and this version comes from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil, or 50/50 oil and butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb, off the bone and cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 120g parsley, finely chopped
  • 50g fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 stalks of rhubarb sliced into 2cm lengths
  • 2 tsp date syrup, or brown sugar

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a casserole dish, and lightly brown the onions. 
  • Turn up the heat a little and add the lamb, turmeric, salt and pepper, and fry until the meat is browned on all sides
  • Pour over boiling water, so that the meat is covered by around 2 cm of water. Simmer for an hour and a half. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and cook the herbs for four to five minutes, until they start to darken. 
  • Add the flour, and continue to stir and cook for another three minutes or so. 
  • Add the herbs to the lamb stew and simmer for another half an hour, to make a thick minty stew. At this point, the stew can be set aside and can be finished another day. Just add the herbs, and then stir and freeze, and then do the half hour simmer on defrosting. 
  • Add the rhubarb and date syrup, stir it in and then cook the stew on a low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t stir, as this will break up the rhubarb

Serve with rice. 

Kabab-e kubideh – Minced meat kebab

When I was much younger, I lived in Teheran, and we used to have barbecues when we were out and about – often my dad would barbecue chicken, but we’ve had some amazing meals. We had a sort of portable barbecue, and some rush fans to get the charcoal glowing hot.

I made these kebabs under the electric grill at home, but they would taste so much better cooked under an open sky, the sun throbbing in the sky, with mountains on the horizon and an icy river flowing through the rocks below.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1kg beef mince, or 50/50 beef and lamb
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
  • A pinch of saffron, ground in a pestle and mortar and dissolved in a tsp of hot water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Chop the onion and garlic, and put it in the blender with the lime juice and blitz it.
  • Put the meat, onion/garlic/lime, salt, pepper, saffron and baking soda in a large bowl. Kneed the mixture with your hands for 15 minutes to make a paste
  • Divide the meat into eight or so lumps, and press this around the skewers. The skewers should be flat, so that the kebab doesn’t spin round. We used some stainless steel strips cut into 18 inch lengths. Mold the meat around the skewers. Once they are ready, set aside in a cool place.
  • If you are using a barbecue, this should be lit and burning for around half an hour before cooking, so that the charcoal is glowing hot. We had the grill set to high.
  • In a small pan, melt the butter and combine with a dash of lime and a pinch of salt. A little cayenne pepper could also be added here.
  • Brown the kebabs quickly on each side, so that the outer layer is firm; this is to stop the kebabs falling apart.
  • Baste with the butter and lime, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
  • Serve with flat bread, and salad. The kebab can be garnished with lime juice or sumac powder. The best salad would be yoghurt, spring onions, herbs and garlic, perhaps with some walnuts.

Sri Lankan beef casserole

OMG this was delicious. I used a recipe from Curry Easy by Madhur Jaffrey, but adapted it because I didn’t have any brisket, just stew packs. I also had some wonderful local beef to use.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg beef (preferably brisket, tied for a roast, but diced for stew works OK too)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
  • 4 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 inch of cinnamon stick
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 inches of ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, or 1 tsp lime pickle
  • 350ml stock
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 250ml coconut milk.

METHOD:

  • sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper
  • Put a small heavy pan over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the coriander, cumin, fennel and fenugreek. Toast for 30 seconds, and then empty onto a bit of kitchen paper or teatowel. Once the spices have started to cook, crush them in a pestle and mortar.
  • Preheat the oven to gas 3, 160C.
  • Put the oil into a large casserole dish. Once the oil is hot, brown the meat on all sides, and set it aside
  • Next, fry the onion ginger, garlic and cinnamon in the same pan. Cook for around five minutes.
  • Add the vinegar, stock, cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt and the roasted ground sices. Stir together and add the beef. Bring to the boil.
  • Cover and place in the oven for around 2 hours.
  • When the meat is tender, transfer the casserole to the hob and stir in the coconut milk.

We served this with rice, but it also goes well with potato or bread.