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Gratin with just a little ‘kick’

Our version of ‘Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin

Maybe one of you dear Reader Friends has been to an English Public School? You have? Oh, then of course you will NOT recognise this particular version of the (in-) famous school “Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin”, since I have tried to give it a little bit of Carina’s flavouring.

And since my family and I always liked this home-made Gratin I now like to share this recipe with you in the hope that you might as well.
It goes well with chicken and meat but is also just lovely by itself, the amount of grated cheese and red chilli flakes added will have to be to your personal liking (but do not amiss all together, since this dish needs a little ‘kick’).

So without further ado here is my version for you hopefully to prepare for your family as either a side dish or a main meal.

For just 2 people I suggest:

1 x small broccoli, broken into smallish florets
1 x small cauliflower, broken into smallish florets
¼ x cup of natural plain thick yoghurt
½ x of grated sharp cheddar cheese
A sprinkling of dry red chilli flake, depending on your heat tolerance
1 ½ x tsp wholegrain mustard
2 x Tbsp or so of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

In lightly salted boiling water cook broccoli and cauliflower for maybe 8 minutes or until they are just tender. Do not over-cook the vegetables!

Drain well and transfer to a lightly buttered flameproof dish.

In a bowl mix together yoghurt, red chilli flakes (if used), mustard and grated cheese, and of course also with salt and pepper. When this is done spoon over your vegetables.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and grill under a pre-heated grill until golden brown.

Serve hot with maybe a chunk of French bread.

That’s it – all done – Guten Appetit.
Namaskaram
Carina

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Leg of Lamb

– Part of our memories of England, Tuscany and now India –

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The dish I served at one of my first dinner parties I gave way back in England to introduce JS to some of my friends was, at his request “English Leg of Lamb with all the trimmings” and he still keeps talking about it. He absolutely loved it and I could have made this for him quite easily once a week then.
When later we went to Florence, this beautiful city, I happen to mention to some of our Italian friends the “English Leg of Lamb……” story and guess what! Yes – right, one day at a beautiful Lunch in the Tuscan Countryside they served “Tuscan Leg of Lamb with a spread of beautifully oven roasted vegetables” from their garden – both JS and I thought we had gone to heaven.

But with all this incredible deliciousness maybe secretly a few of Indian spices were missing? So, it happened that when we returned home to South India we managed to get a nice piece of Lamb from one of our meat suppliers in town and set about making for a change an “Indian Leg of Lamb….

All this happened nearly 14 years ago and over time all three variations merged somewhat and we came up with our own Lamb dish.

We managed to get this piece of meat, just around 1 kg, from our new Hypermarket and …… forgot about it for some time in our freezer, until the other day when I had some sort of clear-out.

So in order not to keep on talking about all this, here is what we did earlier this week. But be warned, the “heat” is on (to suit our own taste), but of course, as always, you can turn it down a bit – not too much, though!!

For 2 people I used:

1 x Leg of Lamb, just around 1 kg
6 x green chillies (1 x cut into very thin rings, the rest cut in half)
3 x Onions, peeled and cut into quarters
6 x Carrots, peeled and cut into little chunks (see photos)
6 x Tomatoes, skin removed and cut into quarters
6 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into halves
1 x whole garlic bulb
8 – 10 x garlic cloves, peeled
Some slices of fresh ginger
1 ½ x tsp of Fennel seeds
1 ½ x tsp of Cumin powder
2 x Tbsp Chilli powder
1 ½ Tbsp Garam Masala powder
Salt and black pepper, to your taste
Some Bay leafs
1 whole bunch of fresh Coriander, washed, roots removed
1 x small bunch of fresh Mint, washed, roots removed
1 x handful of olives (from a jar)
1 x Tbsp good Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 2 x Tbsp of Malt Vinegar (check for your taste)
1 – 2 x cups of Water (mixed with the 2 vinegars)

How to prepare your Leg of Lamb:

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On a large baking sheet (big enough to hold the whole leg) put the following: chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, some salt and black pepper; mix this well, take your Leg of Lamb and just lay it on top of all your above spices and cover the whole leg well from all sides.

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Then, with a sharp knife, cut as many gashes into the meat as you like, (I cut 10) and stuff each one with a whole peeled garlic pod (remember, our garlic is small and so I use more here in India then I would back in Europe). I also cut 4 more gashes which I stuffed each with a sliver of fresh ginger. Cover lightly with a clean cloth and keep aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

How to prepare the “bed” for the Leg of Lamb:

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Take a baking pan (as in the photograph) – line the base loosely with a number of bay leaves, add all the green chillies, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, the garlic bulb, olives.

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Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables and then lay your Leg of Lamb on top of all this.

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And now here is something we learned in Tuscany, cover the meat with all your fresh mint and coriander. This not only gives your meat a subtle flavour but also protects it from coming in direct contact with the foil.

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Mix your 2 vinegars with the water and pour all around the meat and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (you can of course also use vegetable oil) directly over the meat.

Now cover the whole lot loosely with foil and put it in the pre-heated oven for some time.

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Some time’ I say here, because it all varies from meat to meat and from oven to oven – never the 2 are the same!! So start of as usual, but keep checking after 1 ½ hours.

I checked this time after 2 hours but the meat was not quite ready, so back in it went again for another 20 minutes, checked, done! The smell was enticing – the meat came nearly off the bone.

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I let it rest, with cover on, for 15 minutes and then we were able to sit down for our Lunch.

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N.B. We also like to add some (frozen) green peas, but unfortunately I had non in the freezer this time.

Re the spices, of course you can tone this down a bit, but remember, this is not a traditional ‘European Leg of Lamb’.

Since I do not eat much rice, but enjoy lots of vegetables, I will include more carrots, onions and tomatoes next time.

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So, that’s it! Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

Courgette Fritters With Fiery Onion Jam

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In 2013, Jo and I took our two girls for a one month vacation to beautiful Madrid. Ostensibly this was meant to be a little “educational trip” for Bianca to look at fashion (she is now a qualified Fashion Designer) and for Andrea to look at Architecture; she too has since qualified and is working as well.

One of the Studios/Salons Bianca and I visited was to this very beautiful Store of “Adolfo Domínguez“ (for more details look at my blog entry of 23.06.2013 – Fashion for comfort & love!). After our “work” we always made our way to the top floor where, to put it simply, we felt a bit like inside the world of “The Devil Wears Prada”. Sometimes it seemed to us, that every woman there nibbling on a lettuce leaf and/or having their glass of delicious wine, had walked straight out of pages of VOGUE. In retrospect I would have liked to eat (and photograph!) my way through Chef’s small but very delicious looking menu.

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(Pic. Above: Inside the top-floor Cafeteria at “Adolfo Domínguez” – a little heaven amidst the noise and hectic of Madrid.)

But one item from his blackboard I really loved and in the end he very kindly shared the recipe with me.

I have altered it a little bit – in order to suit our own pallet giving it a little bit more ‘kick’ especially re the spices -.

This is lovely for Snacky food served on a bed of beautifully crisp green salad with the Onion Jam as an accompaniment and when made smaller and a bit thicker also as cocktail party food.

So, why not give those little Fritters a try – maybe you too end up liking them as we do in my own little family.

Little Courgette Fritters with fiery onion jam

Recuerdos de Madrid – Memories of Madrid

Right at the beginning a little word of advice, when you make the onion jam, make double or even treble the amount you want for your fritters, this thick chutney like jam is so Moorish, it keeps well in your fridge up to a week – you also might want to have it with your favourite cheese!!!

I used the following:

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Appr. 1 lb courgettes (yellow or green), top and tailed, coarsely grated and kept aside in a bowl
A small chunk of hard cheese (either freshly! grated Parmesan or Cheddar), kept aside

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2 eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
App. 4 Tbsp of Besan (yellow) flour also known as garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour (or plain)
Salt and pepper (you will need a bit more salt here than usual)
¾ Tbsp of Kashmiri Chilli powder
½ tsp of fennel powder
½ tsp of cumin powder
Small bunch of Spring onions (use the green part only!)
Vegetable Oil for frying
1 very clean cheese clothes
A few sheets of kitchen paper towel

To make the onion jam I used the following:

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4 large onion, thinly sliced
½ Tbsp Oil
3 green chillies
5 small garlic pods
1 Tbsp (maximum) soft brown sugar
½ tsp of dry red chilli flakes
Heat oil in a wide pan, add your onions and the garlic, stir and on low heat and cook this for the next 20 minutes, approx.. or until onions are very soft.

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When done let this cool down quickly and transfer to your Blender with the chillies, sugar and the chilli flakes and “blitz” until everything is very smooth.
Return to the pan and once again on very low flame cook for an additional 10 minutes. Done! And ready to be used with the fritters.

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Tip the grated Courgettes onto the cheesecloth and wring out as much of the liquid, which will have appeared, and move to a large mixing bowl. Now add the eggs, cheese, flour and all the spices and the spring onion greens and mix well. Check seasoning.

Take your pan, add just enough oil to cover the pan and heat on medium flame. When hot add dollops of your fritter mixture with a big spoon carefully into the oil, flatten the fritters slightly and gently fry for 3-4 minutes on either side. A word of warning: do not take your eyes off them for a second – they can turn dark very quickly (see my own disastrous first attempt: delicious but near cinder top and bottom!!)

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Remove and keep on the sheets of kitchen paper to lose some of the oil (do not cover). If you make a large batch, keep them on a baking sheet inside your oven on very low heat to keep warm.

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When you finished making all your fritters, bring them to your table with the beautiful jam in a separate bowl and enjoy!!

Carina

Notes: You can of course also use half/half (yellow/green) courgettes.
The amount of chillies used is suited for our own pallet; tone it down if you want, but……you do want ‘the kick
’!

Tomato Soup Gold

When I was still a tiny Tot and barely able to walk, so my mother used to tell me and her story was confirmed by my doting paternal Grandfather, I, out of the blue, developed this irritating habit of closing my eyes firmly shut, swinging my arms (flapping ungainly most likely) and “dancing” around our living room bumping into furniture, knocking down things. When my mother slightly concerned tried to stop me for fear that I may hurt myself or ‘hurt’ some of our precious items in the room, all she ended up with was a little daughter who brutally was forced to exit her imaginary world of ‘make believe’ and come back into the grown-up world with a bump – into reality!

Ever since my mother and some of our friends took me to see Tchaikovsky’s wonderful ballet “The Nutcracker” around Christmas time, this little girl here had only one giant wish, she wanted Fairy Godmother to come to our house and turn her into a Ballerina by the sheer wave of her magic stick. But she did not want a place in the Corps de Ballet, oh no, she wanted only the top job – Prima Ballerina. But in time she had to learn the hard fact that this job was not going to be hers – ever!

But my love for classical music, opera and the ballet stayed with me all through my life.

Years and years later in ‘my previous life’, when back in London on 2 months leave; I was introduced to ‘Glyndebourne’ by some dear dear friends of ours. To be frank, up to then I had no knowledge of this yet another wonderful British Institution. Glyndebourne is a country house, thought to be about six hundred years old, and located near Lewes in East Sussex, England.  Many Glyndebourne attendees come from London by train and wearing evening dress. Glyndebourne is regarded as part of the London/English summer season. Performances start in the afternoon, enabling Londoners to leave town after lunch, and finish in time for them to catch the last train back. A long interval allows opera-goers the opportunity to have their meal on the extensive lawns or in one of the restaurants – but then, and maybe even today, most opted for “picnic on the lawn”. We went by car from Kent where we stayed with Neil and Mary for a few days. The car was laden with an array of splendid picnic items and enough delicious food and drinks for an army – or so it seemed to me at the time.

The Lawns at Glyndeboiurne

To this day I will never forget Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and even now, if I close my eyes I can transport myself back in time and to that magical day. We were blessed with one of those rare beautiful English summers’ days – warm enough to sit out on the lawns during the extra long interval in front of this beautiful Country House and yet cool enough as not to feel uncomfortable in one’s evening dress attire in the middle of the day.

The Organ Room at Glyndebourne

One other fond memory I have of this particular day – Mary’s soup! Not just any old soup oh no, this was her secret family recipe which she consistently had refused to share with anybody else, until I came into her life. And now, decades later, I like to share it with you, dear friends – another little treasure from my memory box!

This is such a quick and easy recipe which you can make for any surprise visit of family or friends, as long as you always have a few basics in your store cupboard. While your visitors enjoy their drinks you whisk this up in your kitchen in no time. But to bring out the mixture of flavour this soup should preferably be served very chilled.

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Mary’s Tomato Soup Gold

1 big tin of peeled tomatoes, juice and all (or fresh ones with skin removed)

1 large Onion

5-10 peeled garlic cloves

Some (not too many, or colour of coup will change towards green) parsley leafs

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of black pepper

Tomato Soup

Now put all the above into your mixer and pulse until it is liquid.

Add 3 (or more or less depending on your own taste) large spoons of mayonnaise, and blend it into your tomato mixture.

Now add 2 tsp of curry powder (or more or less) to this and blend in well.

Transfer to a large pretty (glass looks nice) bowl and add 1 tsp (or more or less) of hot Tabasco sauce, mix very well (this is actually the “little secret” people never guess.)  This soup is supposed to have “a kick!” And just before serving this truly delicious soup plop some ice cubes, in which you have previously frozen some parsley leaves, into the soup.

Serve with some extra garlicky toasted bread cubes on the side.

This soup is actually quite filling, so watch out, if you want to serve this as a first course at a summer’s lunch party.

And if you happen to like this, do say a quiet “thank you” to my late friend Mary.

Carina

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Photos: Glyndebourne courtesy of Wikipedia

Soup by ManningtreeArchive