Under construction

article-1204508-05EF9DE0000005DC-988_964x783

Always So Hungry is having a facelift.

Please hang in there while things get up and running again. 

Easter Lamb

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I spent Easter in north Devon with my soon-to-be in laws, walking along beaches, exploring smugglers’ villages, cooking and chilling out.  The weather held for two out of three days, which is more than you can expect from an English bank holiday, so no complaints there.  I always find that Easter is a wonderful time for gathering together and breaking bread, without the stresses of decorating, present buying and the dreaded turkey cooking that comes with Christmas.  This is a much more relaxed affair, free from quite so many expectations.   There’s really only one thing I insist on at Easter: roast lamb, at its best right now.
 
This year, I studded mine with garlic and slow cooked it for 5 hours on a bed of spuds and onion.  However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you could try this almond milk braised recipe.  Cooking with almond milk is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages and I was not disappointed.  It adds a richness that works particularly well with the fennel and beans here, and makes for a really succulent, tender lamb.  You could also veer towards north African with the flavours, adding chilli, coriander and cumin before roasting then scattering with pomegranate seeds.  I think that would work particularly well, but felt that something a bit more classic would be more appropriate for Easter.
 
The photographs in this post are, yet again, taken by Faith Mason during an Easter-themed testing session.  I particularly love the black and white photo of duck eggs, with their pearlescent shells.  The blue eggs are in fact not painted (although that would be pretty fitting for Easter), but come from Cotswold Old Legbar hens and naturally have a slightly turquoise hue.  You can find them from Clarence Court, along with many other exciting egg varieties.  
 
 
 
 
 
        
 

Almond milk Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Fennel and Baby Carrots

You will need:
1/2 shoulder of lamb, approx 1kg/2 lb 3 oz
3 fat garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 green chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly bashed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
300ml/10 fl oz almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
baby carrots, to serve
flaked almonds and chopped parsley leaves, to serve

 

 

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.  Using a small knife, make little incisions all over the meat and insert the slivers of garlic.  Mix together the parsley stalks, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, smoked paprika, olive oil and 1 tsp of salt (preferably sea salt) in a small bowl to form a thick paste.  Rub this all over the lamb.

2. Place the onion and fennel in a roasting tray, season and pour over the almond milk.  Sit the lamb snugly in the tray.  Cover with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, basting a few times, then remove from the oven and tip in the beans.  Continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, until tender.  Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes then scatter with chopped parsley and flaked almonds.  Serve with steamed baby carrots, still slightly crunch and, if you like, some of the beans, fennel and milk whizzed into a thick sauce. 

Healthy Hot Cross Buns

Alright, so the title of this post is a little misleading.  I’m not entirely sure it would be possible to make healthy hot cross buns, as there is no way of getting around it- they are a treat.  But you can make them a bit healthIER.  I’ve tried to lighten them up a little with the addition of spelt flour, oats, agave and grated apple for sweetness and oil instead of butter for richness.  There’s still plenty of spice there and if you pop them in the toaster, you’ve got a perfect Easter breakfast.  This was originally a recipe I created for Women’s Health Magazine.  You can see it and other healthy treats here.  Make a large batch then freeze the rest for later.

Lighter Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns

You will need:

500ml skimmed milk or dairy-free alternative

4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

4 cloves

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 2 oranges

300g spelt flour

300g strong white bread flour, plus about 100g extra for kneading and the crosses

1 tsp salt

100g oats

1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast

50ml sunflower oil

3 tbsp agave nectar

1 large egg, beaten

1 apple, coarsely grated

2 tsp cinnamon

60g currants

2 tbsp apricot or fig jam, ideally a no added sugar brand

Method:

1. Bring the milk to boil with the cardamom pods, cloves, lemon zest and zest of 1 orange. Set to one side and allow to cool to blood temperature.  Meanwhile, sift the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the oats, yeast, oil, agave and beaten egg. Once the milk has cooled, remove the cloves and cardamom and pour into the bowl.  

2. Mix together until the ingredients are well incorporated. Then tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface and knead for a good 10 minutes, either by hand or using the dough attachment of a table top mixer. It will seem like a very wet dough, but keep working it, slapping it onto the work surface to develop the gluten. It will eventually come together to form a sticky, but elastic dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove in warmish place for about 1 hour, until risen.

3.     Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and flatten slightly. Mix together the apple, cinnamon, currants and remaining orange zest and sprinkle over the dough. Knead briefly to distribute all the ingredients. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces and roll into smooth balls. Arrange the buns on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets in rows of 4, about 1 cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for a further hour.

4. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200/gas mark 7. In a small bowl mix together 30g of flour with 2 ½- 3 tbsp water, adding the water gradually until you have a thick paste. Scrape into a small sandwich bag. Once the buns have risen and puffed up, cut off the tip of one corner of the sandwich bag and use to pipe crosses over the buns. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, swapping shelves halfway through. Meanwhile, heat the jam with 2 tbsp of water in a small pan until the jam has melted and is syrupy. Sieve into a small bowl and use to brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and allow to cool before tucking in.

 

Kale Pesto

kale 2

Kale has had some brilliant press lately as a cure-all superfood.  Whoever does its PR deserves one hellova pat on the back.  I mean, it’s a cabbage.  And although delicious, who ever thought that a cabbage could have so much appeal?  Yet somehow kale is everywhere now- in juices, salads, stews and even crisps.  A fad, perhaps, but this leafy veg actually deserves it’s moment in the limelight- it’s full of beta carotene, Vit C, K and calcium.  It has a gorgeous, earthy taste and is genuinely versatile- steam it, bake it, have it stir fried, boiled, juiced or massage it (really) with some olive oil, lime juice and salt for a few minutes to tenderise it, then add pine nuts and cranberries for a salad worthy of a Californian health fanatic. 

I’m putting my two cents in with my  recipe for Kale pesto.  My take has chilli and rosemary in it, for extra punch.  I also bake the garlic and chilli in the oven first as I find this adds a lovely smoky flavour.  This recipe makes a large amount- it should last you all week.  Have it with pasta, gnocchi, drizzled on baked aubergine, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, mixed with a little water for a salad dressing, spread on toasted bread or a homemade pizza, in sandwiches, mixed with mince and made into burgers, stirred through peas with a little goats cheese, in a potato salad, as a dip, dolloped on soup, with white beans, lamb, fish, chicken or swirled through mash.  Your pick.

Frequent readers of this blog (all two of you) will note that there’s been a small change to the way I write recipes- I’ve now added imperial measurements, which I hope will be useful.  

kale 1

Kale Pesto

You will need:
200g/7oz kale (approx 1 bag), woody stems removed
4 garlic cloves
2 long red chillies
3 large sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
25g/1/2oz Parmesan, grated
50g/1oz pine nuts, toasted
150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil

Method: 

1.  Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.  Place the garlic cloves (still in their skins) and chilli on a small oven tray and bake for about 20-25 mins, until the chilli is starting to char and the garlic is soft.  Allow to cool completely. 

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the kale and simmer until just tender, about 3-5 min.  Drain very well, squeezing out any excess water.

3. Place the kale, rosemary, lemon zest, Parmesan and pine nuts in the bowl of a mixer (or use a handheld blender).  Squeeze the garlic out of their cloves and add these along with the chillies, removing the seed if you like.  Whizz to a paste, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running.  Add lemon juice to taste and a little water if very thick. 

kale 3

Paprika Chicken

   DSC_6983
 
You can’t beat a decent bird.  And although the evenings are gradually getting longer and lighter, there is still a definite nip in the air, driving us back indoors for pints, blankets and comfort food.  And there’s no better comfort food than a roast chicken.  Although it is delicious served simply, I’ve also been enjoying different takes on the traditional roast chicken this winter.  Just a few little twists by adding a bit of spice or sweetness, perfect for this time of year.  My Moorish (moreish?) paprika roast chicken with apricots is just the ticket for in-between days.  Or why not try a different beast altogether and roast a pheasant. I know game can seem daunting, all dark meat and heady smells, but it couldn’t be simpler to prepare, particularly if served as a one pot marvel. 
 
These wonderful photos are the result of another collaboration with the brilliantly clever photographer, Faith Mason.  Have a look at her website for more gorgeous shots and check back here in a few weeks for some upcoming Easter treats. 
 
DSC_6753
 
  DSC_6911

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pot Roast Pheasant with Fennel and Chorizo
Serves 2-3

You will need:
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced chunkily
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 pheasant
150g chorizo, sliced
100ml sweet and dark sherry, preferably Pedro Ximenez

 

500ml fresh chicken stock, from the chiller cabinet
1 tin butter beans or cannellini beans
a few sprigs of thyme
crusty bread, to serve, optional

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.  Add a little oil to a frying pan and cook the onions and fennel slices until softened and beginning to go golden.  Add the garlic slices and continue to fry until just soft.  Remove and place in a large casserole dish or pot.  

2. Add another splash of oil to your frying pan and heat until really hot.  Season the pheasant and brown on all sides, this should take no more than 5 mins.  Nestle the pheasant in the casserole dish, sitting on top of the fennel and onion. 

3. Fry off the chorizo slices until browned and crispy.  Add these to the casserole dish as well.  Deglaze the frying pan by pouring in the sherry, simmering for about 5-7 mins, stirring and scraping the pan as you go until slightly reduced and sweet-smelling. 

4. Meanwhile, add the stock to the casserole dish and bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the reduced sherry, beans and thyme sprigs.  Cover and place in the oven for 1 hr 30 mins until the birds are cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy.  Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and mopping, if you like.

DSC_6963

Paprika Roast Chicken with Red Pepper, Olive and Apricot Couscous
Serves 4

You will need:
200g dried apricots
75g butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful parsley, optional
1 whole chicken, approx 1.5kg
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 lemons, juice and zest
300g couscous
100g green olives
3 long red peppers, cut into chunks
Rocket, to serve, optional  

Method:
1.  Preheat the oven to 190C.  Finely chop about 75g of the apricots and mash into the butter along with the garlic, 1 tsp paprika, seasoning and, if you like, some roughly chopped parsley.  Loosen the skin covering the chicken breasts and generously dot the butter underneath, smoothing down as you go. 

2. Place the rest of the butter into the cavity of the chicken, along with the juiced out lemon halves.  Scatter most of the apricots, half of the olives and all of the red pepper chunks into a large roasting tin. Mix together 1 tbsp of oil with the lemon zest, juice, 1 tsp paprika and some seasoning.  Use half to toss through the vegetables and the remainder to rub or brush this liberally all over the chicken.  Sit the bird in the roasting tray, tucking in as many stray bits of vegetable and fruit underneath as possible. Roast in the oven for approx 1 hr 20 mins, until cooked through and tender.

3.   Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the couscous according to packet instructions.  I like to tip it into a large bowl, pour over boiling water, covering by at about 2 cm.  Tightly cover with cling then leave for about 10 mins.  The water should have been absorbed and the couscous soft.  Fork the remaining oil through the couscous along with some seasoning.  

4. Once the chicken is cooked, place on a chopping board to rest.  Tip the fruit and veg into the couscous along with the rest of the olives and apricots, as well as a little of the juices from the roasting tin.  Fork through to distribute then season to taste- adding a little more oil or lemon juice if necessary.  Serve with the chicken and a rocket salad.

DSC_6991