Tag Archives: mint

Slow roasted lamb shoulder served with warm lentil, pumpkin and feta salad with mint and orange dressing

Phew! You probably need a rest after reading the ridiculously long title for this recipe, but you really need to know the whole story because it’s the combination of flavours that makes this dish so delicious.

I’ve had a lovely long weekend spent cooking in my Mum’s kitchen. It’s been a bit of a working bee around here, with deck repairs and house painting going on all over the place. My assigned role was as scullery maid, keeping everyone fed, watered and in clean clothing (well, I did one or two loads of laundry).

I served this slightly unconventional version of the classic Sunday roast to a hungry crowd last night and it was very well received.

The seed idea for this dish, which I’ve made once before, started with the combination of unctuous slow-cooked lamb and lentils. I like a bit of tang with legumes, so I mentally wandered on and thought it might be fun to dress the lentils in a version of mint sauce, the classic accompaniment for roast lamb.

The end result is a winter-warmer that still has loads of fresh flavour thanks to the orange and mint.

The lentils I used were beautiful black lentils grown in South Australia. They were lovely and plump and held their shape perfectly after cooking. French-style Puy lentils would be a good equivalent.

To make

for the lamb:
1.5–2kg lamb shoulder, bones in
4ish cloves garlic, whole
3ish sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

for the lentils:
1.5 cups dried lentils
1 small brown onion
2 centimetre-wide strips orange peel
4ish mint leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

for the dressing:
2–3 tablespoons chopped mint
juice of 1 large orange
white wine vinegar (quantity equivalent to the orange juice)
1–2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

the rest:
1.5 cups pumpkin, in 1.5cm cubes
200g feta cheese, also in 1.5cm cubes

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.

2. Place the garlic cloves and rosemary in the bottom of a roasting tin. Season the lamb and place it on top of the garlic and rosemary, skin side up. Cover loosely with aluminium foil and place in the hot oven. After 15 minutes turn the heat down to 150°C. Roast for 4–5 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.

3. Do other things for a few hours.

4. Peel and cube the pumpkin then roast on a tray for around an hour (if it’s at 150°C with the lamb) or until it is cooked through and a little coloured.

5. As you’re putting the pumpkin in the oven take the lamb out and drain off the liquid that has collected in the bottom of the pan. Cover the lamb again and return it to the oven. Allow the liquid to sit for 10 minutes or so and then skim the fat off of the top. You should be left with lovely clear juices. Reduce these in a small saucepan until you have just a few tablespoons of lovely lamb essence.

6. In a large-ish saucepan boil 2ish litres of water (I’m so precise!). Meanwhile peel the onion and chop it in half, prepare the strips of orange zest and the mint leaves. Add these to the boiling water along with the lentils. Cook until the lentils are tender but are still holding their shape. Drain then pour back into the saucepan. Stir the olive oil and a pinch of salt through the hot lentils (remember the feta will be very salty so go easy at this stage).

7. To prepare the salad dressing, mix the finely grated orange zest with the orange juice, white wine vinegar and most of the chopped mint.

8. Mix the lentils, pumpkin and the dressing.

9. Prepare the lamb meat by pulling it apart into chunks. It should just fall off the bone.

10. Assembly! At the last moment mix the feta into the rest of the salad and then pour the lot onto a large serving dish that has a bit of a lip (there will be juices to contain). Add the lamb meat and then pour the reduced juices over the meat. Garnish with a final flourish of chopped mint.

11. Devour and collect the praises that will be heaped at your feet by admiring fans (particularly if they are ravenous after a hard day of house painting!)

J

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simple pasta with white zucchini and cherry tomatoes

We eat simple pasta dishes like this all the time in Italy. In fact this recipe almost counts as complicated because it has two main ingredients in the ‘sauce’!

Like most very simple dishes this works thanks to a little bit of precision in the cooking, so the order of adding ingredients does matter. If you can get your hands on some white zucchini this is a perfect way to use them. Alternatively asparagus is amazing in this kind of pasta dish.

to make

Serves 6

500g short pasta
2 cups white zucchini, halved lengthways and diced
1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
pecorino cheese, grated
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Get the pasta cooking in salted boiling water.

Put a frying pan on a medium–high heat. Add olive oil and the garlic cloves. When the garlic is just sizzling add the zucchini and sauté until they are just softening and have a little colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue cooking until they are warmed and just beginning to soften. Season to taste, but remember that the pecorino cheese is quite salty.

Drain the pasta and add half to a large serving bowl. Add half of the zucchini mix, half of the mint and a good grating of pecorino. Add the remaining pasta, sauce, mint and some more pecorino and then stir everything well. (Adding everything in two layers helps to distribute the sauce and cheese evenly.)

Serve, preferably at a table set with daffodils:

J

pavlova: by popular demand

I love Pavlova. It’s probably my favourite dessert and is one of those things that turns a few simple ingredients into something magical.

Despite the few ingredients, there are about as many Pavlova recipes out there as there are philosophies for living. In fact they cover a similar spectrum: those which place beauty over substance; those which favour total indulgence in the form of chocolate, caramel or coffee flavourings; those which attempt to strip out all of the fat by removing or replacing the cream; or those show-off recipes involving complicated rolling or stacking.

The recipe my Mum gave me many years ago is in a different category. This Pavlova is beautiful, but in a rustic kind of a way. It’s luxurious, but uses just as much sugar as needed (more sugar will mean less collapse, but who cares about a bit of collapsing, right?) Best of all it is incredibly simple, but it has to be done right. The basic recipe is scribbled into my diary and travels with me everywhere.

For those who haven’t done a Pavlova before I thought I’d expand on that a little.

But first, a word about eggs. This dessert is fundamentally all about eggs. Use lovely free-range eggs from happy chickens as the basis of your Pavlova and it will be a treat to make and to eat. Don’t skimp on the ingredients, it’s not worth it. Lecture over.

You can scale this recipe up as you like, although I tend to keep to multiples of three egg whites so the measurements are simple. The Pav I did for these photos (for my birthday!) had nine egg whites to serve 10 hungry people, but we had a little left over.  Beyond that I’m not offering any serving advice because it really depends on how indulgent you want to be.

to make

6 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 cup fine white sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon corn flour

freshly whipped cream and fruit to decorate.

The pavlova base needs to be cooked at least 4 hours before you intend to eat it to allow for the slow cooling time. You also need to consider your oven schedule as this will monopolise the oven for several hours.

Pre-heat oven to 150°C and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper ready for the mixture. Wait until the oven is hot before you start beating the eggs.

Beat the egg whites until they are white and foamy (see the photo below left). Add the sugar a little at a time, beating constantly until the mix is firm and very shiny. Add the vinegar and cornflour and beat for another 15 seconds or so (photo below right).

Transfer the mix to the tray, all piled up. Smooth the mix out to a round disk around 7cm high.

Put in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is just starting to colour. While the Pavlova is baking it should rise a little. Try not to open the door of the oven too much and don’t touch the tray.

After 1 hour turn the oven off but leave the Pavlova in the oven to cool. This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of making a Pavlova. The very slow cooling time finishes the cooking process and prevents collapse on an apocalyptic scale.

That said, don’t get too attached to your amazing, solid, statuesque Pavlova. As it cools there will be some collapse on the top and sides as the crunchy outer meringue settles on the soft and chewy inner part. This is normal, don’t panic.

After the oven is completely cool take the Pavlova out, but try and decorate it just before serving.

To serve, take full advantage of the crater left after the top has collapsed by filling it with whipped cream (I never add sugar to the cream). Then top the Pavlova with plenty of fresh fruit. My favourite is mixed berries with a little bit of chopped mint mixed through.

Bliss.

J