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Lamb Biryani

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This horrible weather just makes me want to stay at home and eat comfort food! Last night I had a real hankering for Indian food with it’s rich comforting flavours. Luckily I had some organic lamb leg steaks in the fridge, and half an enormous cauliflower. I was struck with a great idea – lamb biryani using cauliflower instead of rice. I also threw a bit of kale in there for some extra greenery, fibre and nutrients. I also happened to have half a can of coconut milk left over from something else, so in that went too! The resulting dish was exactly what I was after! Tasty, satisfying, easy and pretty quick.

Lamb Biryani (serves 2)
Ingredients:
2 lamb leg steaks, trimmed of excess fat and cut into cubes
1/2 large cauliflower, finely chopped
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1″ piece ginger, finely chopped
6-8 large kale leaves, tough stems removed and leaves chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 can coconut milk
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
Sea salt

Melt the coconut oil in a large pan and once really hot, add the lamb and sear. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.
Add the onion to the remaining fat in the pan. Sauté until soft.
Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry until fragrant.
Add the vegetables, lamb and spices and salt to taste and stir well so that everything is mixed and coated with spice.
Add the coconut milk.
Cover and simmer for 10-15 mins until the cauliflower is well cooked, but not mushy.
Remove the lid, break the cauliflower up with a spoon so that it resembles rice grains.
If there is quite a lot of liquid in the pan, turn the heat up and reduce until the dish is fairly dry.
Just before serving, stir in chopped coriander/ cilantro leaves.

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Moroccan Beef Stew

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I’m back! Did you miss me?
I know it’s been forever since I last posted, but with good reason…I’ve spent the last 3 months working on cruise ships performing and teaching belly dance. It was a fantastic experience! I met some amazing people and saw some amazing places and generally had a great time. It was weird though to rely on someone else cooking for me every meal every day! It was pretty straightforward sticking to a Paleo/Primal diet (although you never really know if there are some nasty hidden ingredients), but on the whole I did well and I lost weight too! I think I’m probably the first person in history to lose weight on a cruise ship! It’s quite terrifying to watch how much and what people eat when allowed free reign of the buffet!

I was at a friend’s house for dinner the other night. He made the most delicious lamb and prune stew with – kind of Moroccan spiced. I had some beef in my fridge and decided I would try to recreate it at home the next day so that Mr (not entirely) Grain Free could try it (he wasn’t with me on Friday night).
The result was delicious, although I think the flavour of lamb suits the spices better, so I would urge you to make it with diced lamb leg if you can get it. If you’re not a lamb fan, do not worry, it is still delicious with beef.

Moroccan Beef/Lamb Stew (serves 3-4)

500g stewing steak/ leg of lamb, cubed
1 cup prunes (pitted)
1 red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp red chilli, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
Sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180C
Put all ingredients except the coriander leaves in a large lidded casserole dish – no need to brown the onions or meat first (honestly it makes no difference and just makes extra work).
Give it a good stir so that the liquid and spices coat everything.
Cook in the oven for around an hour and a half. Check after an hour to make sure the liquid hasn’t all cooked away. You can always add a little more chicken stock if it is already looking a bit dry.
Just before serving, stir in the chopped coriander leaves.
I served my stew with cauliflower ‘cous cous’ (made the same way as cauliflower ‘rice’)

A French Oldie (but a goodie!)

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For years I dissed (do people still use that word?) French food. I was vegetarian and generally speaking, French cooking is not! Boy was I missing out on some great dishes! I also was not a big fan of casseroles while I was veggie – there is no real joy (for me) in eating a load of mushy veg that have been cooked so long that they no longer resemble their former selves. When there is meat involved, it’s a different story! To cut a long story short, I have been making all sorts of casseroles and crock pot dishes recently. One of my favourites is Boeuf Bourgignon. It really is the epitome of winter warming food. I served mine with some steamed broccoli and salsify mash (I only recently became aware of the existence of salsify, but I’m definitely a convert!). I made mine in the oven but you could easily make this in a crock pot (and I have done when I’ve been more organised).

Boeuf Bourgignon (serves 3-4)
Ingredients:

200g bacon lardons
500g beef stewing steak in bite sized chunks
3 carrots, cut into chunks
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
250g mushrooms, quartered
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp mustard powder
4 anchovy fillets (yes, you read correctly! Just trust me on this!)
1 cup red wine
Sea salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 150C
On the stovetop, fry lardons until the fat starts to release. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they start to soften.
Add the beef chunks and stir frequently to sear the meat on all sides.
Add carrots and mushrooms, then add all other ingredients and stir well.
Transfer to a casserole dish (or crock pot).
Cook in the oven for 2-3 hours (checking after 2 hours that there is still some liquid and adding a little water or wine if there is not).
If making in the crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours.

Salsify Mash (serves 2)
Ingredients:

6 Salsify roots, cleaned, peeled and chopped
Large knob of butter
1 tbsp double/heavy cream (optional)
Sea salt and pepper.

Boil or steam the salsify until it is really tender (around 20 mins).
Mash and add butter and cream.
Season with salt and pepper.
Who needs potatoes?

An Italian favourite

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All this snow just makes me want to stay at home in the warm and eat comfort food! Unfortunately it means I have been indulging in more treats than I should. I was slightly alarmed when I stepped on the scales this morning! So I have decided to do Diane Sanfilippo’s 21 Day Sugar Detox starting properly next Monday, but unofficially from tomorrow (I have an important birthday to go to on Saturday night, so not drinking then won’t be an option).

Last Saturday night I was really hankering after something warming and oozing cheese. Sorry any of you who are strict Paleo or lactose intolerant – this one’s not for you! Actually it was more a case of having 2 aubergines in the fridge and some buffalo mozzarella. Melanzana alla Parmigiana seemed like a great way to use up those ingredients. I lived in Italy years ago and while I was there, it became one of my favourite dishes (especially as I was vegetarian at the time). Now that I’ve gone back to my former carnivorous ways, it works for me as a fantastic accompaniment to some sort of simple meat dish. I served it with Rosemary Roast Chicken Legs (recipe to follow another day).

Melanzana alla Parmigiana (aka Eggplant Parmesan): serves 4 as a side dish
Ingredients:

2 aubergines/eggplants, sliced lengthwise
1 onion, finely chopped
Several glugs of EVOO
2 cloves garlic
1 & half cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 ball buffalo mozzarella, sliced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
sea salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 180C.
Heat a glug of EVOO in a frying pan and cook the aubergine slices until tender. You will have to do this in batches, so keep adding oil when necessary. Set aside on a plate and season with a little salt.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a pan with another glug of EVOO and cook for a few minutes until tender.
Add the chopped tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for around 10 minutes on a low heat.
Put a ladle-full of tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and spread so it covers the bottom of the dish. Layer the aubergine over the sauce and sprinkle a third of the Parmesan cheese over it. Repeat two to three times until you run out of ingredients, finishing up with Parmesan. Place the sliced mozzarella on top as the very last layer.
Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 45 mins at 180C or until the cheese has turned golden and the whole dish is bubbling nicely.
Serve as a main dish for vegetarians, or as a side dish with a nice piece of meat for carnivorous types!

Sticks to your ribs!

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All this freezing weather makes me want to curl up in front of a roaring fire with a mug or bowl of steaming soup! This easy-to-make soup is seriously satisfying and definitely feels like comfort food on a cold winter’s day.

Smokey Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup (serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 butternut squashes, quartered and deseeded
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 big glug EVOO
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp smoked paprika
500ml fresh chicken stock/ broth
6 rashers smoked bacon

Place squash on a lightly oiled baking tray and roast in oven at 180C for around 45 mins.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the EVOO in a large saucepan until tender.
When the squash is done, add to your onion and garlic along with the chicken stock. Blend (either in a blender or with a stick blender in the pan) into a thick purée.
Put the bacon in the oven or under the grill/ broiler for around 10 mins – make sure it is well-cooked but not burnt.
Add the coconut milk to the squash purée. Stir in the smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper.
When the bacon is done, cut into small pieces (I snipped it with scissors) directly into the soup.
Let the soup simmer (but don’t let it boil) for 5 minutes or longer if you can wait, to let the flavours infuse.
Serve with a little extra smoked paprika sprinkled on top.