Navarin of Lamb – the perfect bridge between winter and spring…

So the cold wintery weather continues to hang on in the UK with biting cold frosty mornings and impressively persistent flurries of “wintery showers”. However, the clocks are soon to change and the mornings are getting lighter, meaning we are no longer waking bleary eyed in the dark looking around in confusion as the alarm clock blasts into our dreams (thank gawd!) and there are lots of little green shoots pushing their expectant way out of the ground in our garden. In other words, Spring, if not quite fully here, is definitely in the air. If you’re anything like me though, the cold weather is still making you feel like hibernating in your cosiest jumper with a nice warming stew most evenings after work…

Getting a little bored of even the tastiest most comforting of Winter Food however, I decided it was time for something, while still warm and comforting, that was a little more spring-like. Enter the classic French Navarin of Lamb – perfect for this time of year!

It is still hearty and meaty, still warming and comforting, still a lovely one pot, but has an added freshness and uses young spring vegetables. Spot on.

To make this for two, you will need –

  • Around 500g of lamb, a cut that is good for slow cooking – we trotted off to the butcher who gave us some tasty neck.
  • Butter. Quite a decent amount. (Well, it is French)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 small onion
  • Handful of chantenay carrots
  • Handful of small new potatoes
  • Handful baby turnips
  • Handful French beans (or mange tout if that’s all you happen to have, like us!)
  • around 300ml lamb stock (not sure exactly how much we used)
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree

Chop your lamb into nice big juicy chunks, melt a large knob of butter with some oil in a pan and add the lamb, frying until brown.

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Mmmm juicy.

Add the chopped onion and continue to fry for a few minutes then sprinkle the flour over evenly coating all the lamb and fry for another minute or two. Stir in the lamb stock, tomato puree and bouquet garni, season well with salt and pepper then leave to simmer for around 45 mins.

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Mid-cooking deliciousness.

Add the turnips, carrots and potatoes and cook covered for another 15 mins before adding the beans/mange tout for the last 10 mins.

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Serve with a glass of red and some crusty bread, the perfect compromise for an early spring onepot!

 

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Bistro West, I love you

Last weekend my mum and dad came down to Manchester for a visit. Much as I love living here, I do miss Scotland and wish that I could see my family and friends that live north of the border more often. So a visit from the parents is always a treat, even the more so as it’s also usually an excuse for some indulgent food treats! (plus my mum always brings down some of her unbeatable homemade chicken and rice soup and some of the delicious granary bread from the local baker that you can’t get down here)

We decided to treat ourselves to a really nice meal out and I knew just the place to take them – Bistro West 156 in West Didsbury. This is a small, perfectly formed bistro where you are always guaranteed a warm welcome and an outstanding meal. The other half and I have been delighting over the famous fish pie, the black pudding salads and desert trios here for many years, in fact he used to live just a two minute walk away, so the temptation was all the more! Anyway, for all these reasons, plus the fact that this is usually our restaurant of choice for celebrating special occasions, the Bistro holds a special place in my heart.

The meal last weekend didn’t disappoint (aside from the fact we still weren’t quite in season for the winter fish pie! ūüėČ )

I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo in before my dining companions began demolishing the starters, but we shared some incredibly moreish fried salt & pepper squid with chillis, spring onions and a sweet chilli dressing as well as a lovely rustic ham hock.

We then moved on to the mains and I ordered salmon baked in filo pastry with sundried tomatoes, basil and cream cheese, on a bed of creamy crushed potatoes, peas, leeks and little gem – I’ve never really put salmon with tomato before, but the flavours worked really well and the filo pastry was beautifully flaky and crispy.

My mum and dad both picked the mixed fish grill which consisted of seabass, salmon and beer battered haddock. This batter was definitely a contender for the best batter any of us had ever tasted – batter perfection! This came with chunky chips, peas and tartare sauce, yummy!

Rob had an amazing Moroccan-spiced slow roast lamb shank with sweet potato couscous, crispy onions (ohmigod these were insanely good!) and lemon and corriander yoghurt.

This dish was a beast, but sadly he didn’t need as much help as we anticipated!

Having eaten all this delicious food, washed down with equally delicious wine, we were all feeling really rather full. The deserts in Bistro West are however, in my opinion, legendary, so there was no way we were missing out! After a little rest we were ready to peruse the desert menu. I’m not going to lie readers, this was a stressful situation for me – how the hell am I supposed to choose between plum and almond frangipani tart with CRUMBLED AMARETTO BISCUIT ICE CREAM, a trio of creme brule with sticky ginger cake and STEM GINGER ICE CREAM or a melting chocolate and orange pudding with, get this, COINTREAU AND ORANGE ICE CREAM!!? (excuse the ice cream excitement, but oh my god, how amazing do they aaalll sound?!) I had already discounted the sticky toffee pudding with god damn honeycomb ice cream as I knew there was absolutely no way I could squeeze in a sticky toffee pud. I agonised over the other three for a while and eventually after much soul searching plumped for the tart – I adore both frangipani and amaretto so this swung it in the end!

Here’s the creme brule trio

And the melting chocolate and orange pudding (which you’ll see I didn’t get a chance to photograph before it was half demolished! You get the oozy chocolatey picture though…)

All in all, I think you’ll agree, a truly scrumptious feast and the perfect place to spend some time with my parents. Everytime I go, I just love the Bistro more!


Cooking with Dad: The Ultimate Roast

So while I was visiting my mum and dad in Scotland last weekend, my dad also did a bit of cooking. As is often the case with the male members of a household, he doesn’t tend to cook the regular day to day meals but rather likes to specialise in the Occasion Meals; Sunday Roasts, Summer¬†Barbecues¬†and Christmas Dinner. And boy oh boy, he does them well!

My dad’s main speciality is a roast dinner¬†centred¬†around a majestic leg of lamb. In our family, this has come to be known as Dad’s Luscious Lamb ¬†As well as a special treat Sunday dinner we also often have this for a New Year’s Day meal. Pretty much everytime I visit home I put in a request for Dad’s Luscious Lamb and, luckily for me, he is usually only too happy to oblige! This is definitely one of my favourite ever meals despite not being a traditional roast kinda gal! (Clearly this is a roast on another level!)

The vegetables we have with this vary depending on who’s eating and the time of year etc. Last weekend we decided on roast baby beetroots (a new discovery of my parentals and one I will be copying myself very soon!) roast parsnips (not seasonal, I know, and I am trying to eat with the seasons more, but we had a hankering…) and some creamed spinach. No ¬†matter what the accompaniments to the¬†Luscious¬†Lamb are, the whole heavenly plateful is then covered in a thick, rich red wine gravy. (Which is so good that I’m practically salivating just thinking about it!)

I must say I didn’t really get any pictures of the cooking process as I was mainly too busy drinking copious amounts of tea in the garden with my mum to be too involved in the actual cooking, but the basics are…;

Slather your leg of lamb with butter, garlic and thyme, plus a dry mixture of ground ginger and ground coriander. Sear the lamb for a few minutes in a very hot pan. Place the lamb in a roasting tray on a bed of onions and carrots. Pop  in the oven for the relevant length of time depending on size and desired pinkness.

My Dad’s Amazing Gravy is then made by pushing the carrots and onion through a sieve to get the delicious juicy flavours and combining with the meat juices from the bottom of the roasting tray. Add copious amounts of red wine. (Three quarters of a bottle to be precise!!) Reduce.

The betroots and parsnips were roasted simply in the oven. If you use baby beetroots, you don’t even need to bother peeling them, you won’t even notice when you eat it.

We also had some creamed spinach which my mum had made previously. The spinach is from my dad’s vegetable patch and so I find is always much more flavoursome then¬†the stuff you buy in the shops (as of course is the case with most things). I adore the nutty flavour of really tasty spinach. My mum makes this by softening onion and garlic in a pan, she adds the spinach and a tablespoon or two of reduced fat cream then whizzes the whole lot up in the blender. Lip smackingly good.

This picture doesn’t really do justice to the ultimate deliciousness of this plate of food. (I definitely need to up my food photography skills now I’ve started this blog) Every single morsel and mouthful of this meal were absolutely bursting with flavour. The lamb, as always, was so succulent and juicy and the red wine gravy, as always, so good that I invariably ended up drinking the remains…. One word, Luscious

For dessert, a bowl of juicy sweet Scottish strawberries liberally drizzled with sambucca. (Are you beginning to understand the secret’s to my parent’s kitchen?!!)