Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roast Lamb for Two and Yorkshire Pudding

Who says you have to have a big family to enjoy a roast leg of lamb dinner? Buy some meaty lamb shanks and join me in the kitchen for roast lamb for two and Yorkshire pudding.

Just doing a little shopping in my local grocery store, Hock Choon, yesterday and I came across the biggest lamb shank ever, almost one kilo it was.  And I suddenly remembered an old Nigella episode where she was eating alone and roasted a lamb shank for one.  Ha, I thought, this little baby will do for two of us.  Who says you have to have a big family to enjoy a roast leg of lamb dinner? 

So, on the menu tonight:  succulent roast leg (albeit the lower part) of lamb, Yorkshire pudding, buttered sweet peas and lots of gravy.

For the lamb
1 large meaty lamb shank (800+grams) or, I suppose, 2 small shanks -please adjust roasting time downward accordingly
2 sprigs rosemary
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup red wine
Olive oil
Ziploc bag for marinating

Pull the leaves off of half of each rosemary stalk and chop finely.  Add a generous amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Score the fat on the lamb. By which I mean, cut through the fat in even lines with a very sharp knife.

Rub the salt, pepper and rosemary into the meat.  

Pop it in the bag and add a good drizzle of olive oil and the red wine.  Marinate for as long as you can.  Overnight is best but a few hours will also do.

When you are ready to roast it, preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C and take the lamb out of the refrigerator to warm.  

Put the lamb in a baking pan and drizzle a little olive oil all over.  Roast for 30 minutes.  (At this point, make your Yorkshire pudding batter. It needs to rest before cooking so the lamb roasting time is perfect.  See below.) 

After 30 minutes, turn the lamb over and pop it back in the hot oven.

Roast for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F or 60°C for rare or 150°F or 65°C for medium rare.

Wrap the lamb loosely in foil while you make the gravy and bake the Yorkshire pudding

For the Yorkshire pudding
110g or 4 oz (by weight) or 8/10 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz milk
2 oz water
1 1/2 tablespoons of fat – oil, duck fat, bacon drippings or some combination of same

Measure all of your ingredients into a blender or vessel for a hand blender.  I always put the egg at the bottom, and then the milk and water and then the flour.  This stops the flour from forming a thick paste at the bottom that sticks to the sides.   

This should be the consistency of thick cream.
 Mix thoroughly.

Leave the batter to rest until the lamb is out of the oven.

Add your fat of choice to the Yorkshire pudding pan and pop it in the hot oven.  I used duck fat rendered from recent pan-frying of duck breasts.  (If you have the opportunity to render and save duck fat or bacon grease for that matter, make sure to strain it through a single layer of paper towel and refrigerate. Most paper towels are two thin sheets. Separate them carefully and use only one as a filter.)

Once the fat is smoking, open the oven door, pull the shelf out and pour the batter into the pan.  (If you want to take photos, this requires two people.  Fortunately my sweetie was home to take over photography duties.)

I told him, No flash! The dark is not his fault. 

Here the duck fat is surrounding the batter. Fear not. I poured some off when I extracted the crispy batter.  It doesn't all soak in. 

Close the door quickly and bake for 20 minutes until brown and crispy.

When you are ready to serve, slice the lamb and cut the Yorkshire pudding into sections.  Add a nice serving of hot buttered peas and a liberally helping of gravy.

That would be our gravy yacht at 2 o'clock. You only have a gravy boat? I'm sorry. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fresh Tomato Soup

Is there anything more fun than the Specials board at a nice café or restaurant? For me, nice means fresh, often locally grown food put together with flair.  I love to see what the chef thinks is a good idea, based on seasonal vegetables.  Here in the tropics, many vegetables and fruits are available year round so chefs are spoiled for choice. There is no reason not to be creative.  And the best part of a trip to Singapore is that PORK turns up on the Specials board and menus!  While pork is available in Kuala Lumpur, many of the restaurants do not serve it to cater to the majority Muslim population.

Last weekend I met some wonderful friends for lunch at the PS Café in Paragon Shopping Centre in Singapore.  We were all three delighted to see that the soup-of-the-day was Tomato Bacon. We practically rubbed our hands together in glee (okay, I did) while we ordered each a bowl.  Much to our disappointment, we were informed the tomato soup was finished.  At 11:45 a.m.  Before the lunch crowd even got started.  Turns out that Tomato Bacon was Friday’s soup-of-the-day and no one at the PS Café could be bothered to erase the blackboard and add the new soup for Saturday.  Which turned out to be a very unsatisfying smoked turkey/potato. With deep sighs and eventually justified reservations, we ordered it.  Very disappointing, PS Café.  On at least two fronts.  (They never did change that board the whole time we sat there, and, fair warning, when you puree the whole pot of soup, including the turkey, the soup texture is gritty! )

But ever since then, I have been itching to make my own tomato soup.  This one does indeed have bacon, but, by simply eliminating the bacon step, it would be a delicious fresh vegetarian tomato soup.

Olive oil
105g or 3 3/4 oz bacon
4 cloves of garlic
5 medium ripe red tomatoes
3 oz or 85g tomato paste (half the small can or tin)
1 liter or 4 1/4 cups or almost 34 ounces of vegetable stock (fresh or made with cubes – either would work)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
Black pepper
1/4 cup cream to serve

Chop the bacon into little strips.  In a pan big enough for your soup, fry the bacon with a little olive oil.

Peel and chop the garlic finely.  Here, for the first time, I used smoked garlic which is available in many local stores, but once you get past the smoky outside, the garlic inside seemed pretty much the same as the regular raw garlic.  I was rather disappointed because the outside smelled like an outdoor campfire and reminded me of the happy Girl Scout campouts of my youth.  So go ahead and use normal garlic.

When the bacon is cooked and most of the fat is rendered, add the chopped garlic and let it fry over a low fire for just a few minutes.  You don’t want it to brown which makes garlic bitter. (If you are going for vegetarian soup, start by gently frying the garlic in the olive oil alone.  Remove it from the pan when it softens slightly.)

Meanwhile, halve your tomatoes and remove the core and seeds.  Chop the tomato into small pieces.  Set aside one chopped tomato for later.

Remove the garlic and bacon from the pan.  Or just the garlic if that's the way you roll. 

Add the tomato pieces (not the reserved one!) and give it a quick stir.

Add the liter of stock, the half teaspoon of sugar,  a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the tomato paste to the pot.

 Allow to cook for 20 minutes on a low to medium heat then puree the soup carefully in a blender.

Add the soup back to the pot and then add in the bacon/garlic pieces and the reserved tomato pieces.   Cook for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and to cook the reserved tomato slightly.

At this point, the soup can be taken off the heat and even cooled, to be served at a later time.   Before serving, gently warm the cream in a microwaveable measuring cup or in a separate pot.  Heat the soup to boiling, turn the stove off and add the cream, stirring well.   

Serve immediately.  Of course, you will need grilled cheese sandwiches or hot buttered toast on the side.  Dipping of either is not only allowed, but encouraged. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Garlicky Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Garlicky Brussels Sprouts are the best Brussel sprouts - crunchy and tender - the roasting brings out their natural sweetness, complemented by the garlic. Delicious! 

Food Lust People Love: Roasted Garlicky Brussels Sprouts are the best Brussel sprouts - crunchy and tender - the roasting brings out their natural sweetness, complemented by the garlic. Delicious!

So many of the vegetables I grew up hating, I now love.  The baby green cabbages we call Brussels sprouts were one of my most hated, right up there with okra (except fried), merliton, squash, cabbage (except raw), turnips and eggplant. My mother used to make me eat these, which only increased my loathing.  I must have been about 12 or 13 when she had an epiphany.  She loved these vegetables and her daughters did not.  She finally said, “More for me!” and stopped forcing them on us.  Which, of course, opened up the window for us to begin liking them.  Go figure.

This is one of my favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts.  If you give them a try and still don’t like them, this recipe works just as well with broccoli florets.  When my daughters are at home, I often mix the two in the pan and then they pick out the broccoli for their plates. Leaving me the Brussels.  And so the cycle continues.

1 1/4 pounds of Brussels sprouts
2 cloves of garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Drizzle olive oil on the baking pan.  Cut the hard ends off of the sprouts and cut the larger ones in half. 

Toss them in the pan, including all the loose leaves, adding another good drizzle of olive oil, until they are nicely coated.  If you need to use your hands here, please do.  I certainly did.

Spread them out in a single layer.  Sprinkle generously with seal salt and freshly ground black pepper and pop into the preheated oven.

Meanwhile grate or finely mince your garlic.

Roast the sprouts for about 15 minutes and then take the pan out of the oven and stir the sprouts around.  Add the garlic and mix thoroughly.  If the sprouts look dry, add a little more olive oil.

Roast for about 15 minutes more.  The sprouts should be nicely colored, but tender, and the loose leaves will be deliciously crispy.  Serve, making sure everyone gets some of the crispy bits.  They are my favorite part! 

Food Lust People Love: Roasted Garlicky Brussels Sprouts are the best Brussel sprouts - crunchy and tender - the roasting brings out their natural sweetness, complemented by the garlic. Delicious!