Curry Night

It’s pretty exciting to have curry week and chocolate week at the same time, two of the greatest comfort foods of all time. I’m using it as a prompt to get me to try some of the recipes that have been building up in my magazine cuttings file.

Here is a lovely posh lamb balti that would work as a romantic dinner for two, a family meal or scaled up for a curry night with friends.
Based on the “All in one posh lamb balti” from an old issue of BBC Good Food magazine. I skipped the marinade part and adapted the recipe for the slow cooker.

Slow Cooked Lamb Balti

Serves 4 to 6

  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions
  • 1.5 tsp each of ground cumin, ground tumeric and kalonji seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tbsp garam masala
  • 6 tbsp balti or other curry paste
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • A can of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney
  • Half a bunch of coriander leaves
  • A small pack of pomegranate seeds

Brown the lamb shanks. Fry the onions in a little oil till soft. Add the spices and toast for a minute. Add the curry paste and cook for another minute.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic. Add to a food processor with the tomatoes and whizz to a paste.

Put everything, lamb, onions, tomatoes and remaining ingredients into the slow cooker. Add a couple of pinches of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have some. Put the lid on and cook for around 6 hours. Test for seasoning and thicken the sauce with ground almonds. Add the chopped coriander. Plate up and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

I served it with rice, poppadoms and The Bytham Kitchen’s award winning carrot, ginger and garlic chutney, one of the treats we picked up at the Melton Mowbary food festival.

Final Food Fantasy

Biting winds, sleet, rain and hail are harsh reminders that winter is not over yet. On a day like this you need extra comforting comfort food, something rich and slow cooked. Preferably with a sticky chocolatey pudding for afters. The stuff of life style magazine fantasy, where the slow cooked lamb is safely in the Aga while you and your similarly attractive and wellington clad friends leave the comfort of the wood burning stove in your stone built cottage in an historic market town, to go for a bracing walk in the country. On the way back you stop at a charming pub to sample the excellent local ales and ciders. Arriving back at the cottage with cold cheeks but warm bellies, it’s time to put the finishing touches to the meal. Someone opens a bottle of wine and to a background of soft music the evening flows by in laughter and amusing conversation…..

What do I get eh? Trusting my tiny and unpredictable electric oven to do the job and hoping the “vintage” gas fire will keep the living room warm, I dash out through deepest suburbia on the school run. Stopping at the local Co-Op for some peas and carrots. The meal time conversation is centered on Minecraft and other video games, no wine, no music, but at least there is laughter and good food.

Slow cooked Lamb

This works best with a whole leg but a half leg or shoulder would be just fine, but will take less time to cook.

Brown the meat all over in a large casserole dish. Pour over 300ml of white wine 300ml of stock (vegetable, beef or chicken would all work). Surround with whole carrots, the peeled cloves of a bulb of garlic and 2-4 onions, peeled and halved. Cook on a low heat, 120°c or equivalent, for up to seven hours. Reduce the juices in a saucepan by about a third, add a splash of sherry and a spoonful of redcurrant jelly, season to taste. Serve the meat in chunks, with the vegetables and some roast or mashed potatoes.

If you don’t have a casserole dish large enough for a whole leg, use a large roasting tray and give it a tin foil hat, which has the added benefit of stopping mind reading aliens from knowing what you are having for dinner.

based on a recipe in the book: BBC GoodFood Slow-cooking recipes


Artisan Vinegar

I love ‘Delicious’ magazine. I love the pictures, the editorial and the recipes, which are exactly the kind of food I like to cook. One of the most amazing dishes we have tasted in a long time was the Braised Lamb Shanks with Red Wine ,Tomato and Vinegar.

Debbie Major introduced us to the artisan malt vinegar being produced in a de-commissioned nuclear bunker in Cornwall Never has malt vinegar sounded so exciting. I couldn’t get my hands on any in time to cook the meal so I used Debbie’s tip to add a little balsamic vinegar to regular malt.

I adapted the recipe for my slow cooker by using a little less wine and hardly any stock. The result was rich, pungent, sweet and utterly wonderful. There are quite a few steps involved, but on the whole it was a relaxing recipe to cook, filling the kitchen with the heady aroma of herbs and wine. Served with celeriac mash and buttered greens, it makes a lovely family meal that would be just as good doubled up for an informal dinner party. See if anyone can guess the secret ingredient!

I’m now down to my last bottle of home made wine, I hope the next batch is ready soon! We are blessed with a south facing garden with just enough brick wall to grow a grape vine up.

Lastly isn’t it annoying that since so called “cheaper” cuts have become fashionable, they ain’t cheap anymore?