Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lamb with Butternut Squash, Garlic and things.

Veg Box!

Ok, so the veg box arrived from River Ford this afternoon - excellent as ever, amongst other things it contained wet garlic and butternut squash.

One thing lead to another and since it's a reasonably hot spring evening and barbeques were very much in evidence, quick as you like we nipped up to Morrisons (beggers can't be choosers) to get the biggest available lamb steaks on offer and some other things.

So, the butternut squash gets cut into chips and covered in smoked paprica from mmm newcastle which I do recommend. The carrots get covered in cumin. These get in the baking tray with a little oil (there may also have been ras al hanout, there usually is) and stuck in an oven at 220 degrees turned down to 170 straight away to soften and cook for an hour or so while I get the lamb sorted. Most of what I do with lamb comes one way or another from Nigel Slater's very excellent book: Appetite.


  • Slice up the wet garlic. Wet garlic looks like a big spring onion, and is the foody find of the day.
  • Chop up two or three anchovies. 
  • Finely slice two or three twigs of rosemary.
  • Sea salt and some smashed up pepper corns. Probably not too much salt as the anchovies will do that.
Smash all of that together in a pestle and mortar as best you can, then pour on some olive oil and squeeze quite a bit of lemon in there too.

Smear this all over your lamb steaks and leave them for as long as you can. In my case this was about ten minutes, but you know, this should really be measured in hours.


Get a griddle pan good and hot. A barbeque would be the ideal, but I don't have a garden. Once it's proper hot, chuck the lamb steaks on there with any marinade that's stuck to them. Any marinade that's left can be poured onto the butternut squash. The anchovies will more or less dissolve and add a saltyness to everything: this is good, but go canny on any additional salt.

Start warming up some plates. If you have steak knives they should be deployed now.

Three minutes on one side, pressed down, then a minute or so held with any fat against the pan, then onto its other side: squeeze any remaining lemon and pour any remaining marinade over it then three or four minutes on that side.

Put it on the Plate!

The lamb could use a couple of minutes to rest after its ordeal, so when you slice it it's pink but not bleeding. Sort out the butternut squash and carrots while the lamb is resting: get it all on a plate, and do not for one moment consider taking a photograph for a blog post. Do not worry about mixing tense or third/first person. Eat. Yes. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Discovering Biscuits

Recently I've been on a bit of a biscuit making kick. It started with the cookies I blogged about not so long ago and has grown from there. All this baking is like rediscovering my childhood, I was always making cupcakes, crispy cakes or pie pastry with my mum and granny. There's something very satisfying about knowing that from such simple ingredients you can make almost anything, usually in far greater quantities than you intended. Those ingredients stretch a long way.

If you care about all your biscuits being the same, uniform in shape and size, then you'll need to get one of those shape cutters, I don't even own scales, so I'm not about to start caring what shape they come out of the oven in. These are now officially Paul's favourite biscuits, the best thing about them is they can be as chocolatey as you like. I've already made a variation on this recipe involving chocolate chilli buttons and intend to make them with orange zest in the next few weeks to create a sort of chocolate orange biscuit.

Okay, so how did I make these?

You will need two sets of dough, chocolate and vanilla.

The Vanilla Dough
175g plain flour - 1 and 1/2 cups (for those of us without scales)
75g icing sugar - 2/3 a cup
125g butter - do it by eye, most packets are 250g so roughly 1/2 of that
vanilla pod seeds, or a little bit of vanilla extract

The Chocolate Dough
150g plain flour - 1 and 1/3 cups

25g cocoa powder - 1/4 a cup
125g butter - roughly 1/2 of a packet
And just to offset the bitterness of the cocoa powder (but not too much) a tablespoon or so of icing sugar, you be the judge.

Get the block of butter out of the fridge, divide in half. Cut each half into cubes, this will make it so much easier to handle later. Now go and have a cup of tea.
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, grease and line an oven tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

By this point the butter will be soft enough for your needs. Take all your vanilla dough ingredients and put them in a bowl, then rub together until the mixture becomes a dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and put it to one side.

In the same bowl (no point in adding to the washing up) put together all of your chocolate dough ingredients and as before rub together until it becomes a dough.

Now you've got two doughs, yay. Roll each dough out into a square that's about 1cm thick (your baby finger is probably 1cm thick) and press one dough on top of the other, brush with a little water to make sure it sticks. Cut that in half and press one half on top of the other, you'll now have four layers of dough, stripy.

The striped part of the dough will be the top of your biscuit so cut it up accordingly, making each biscuit roughly bigger than the size of a domino. Place your dough on the baking tray and put them in the oven for 25 minutes. All ovens are different so keep an eye on them, you're looking for the vanilla dough to go slightly golden, the texture of the biscuits should not be too soft or they'll just fall apart but be careful you don't cook them for too long.

While they're cooking you might consider melting some dark chocolate and white chocolate to drizzle over them once they exit the oven. This is optional and I will warn you the texture of melted white chocolate is not what you expect it to be, but it will set back to normal once left to stand on the biscuits.

This tends to make enough biscuits to fill a large tin, they'll probably last you a month (less if children are involved).

This recipe is roughly based on Chocolate harlequin biscuits, having mutated through use to reflect my wants and needs.