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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
’!

Carina’s Version of “Polpette al Sugo”

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This is my very own quick version of a sort of “Polpette al Sugo” – the original we often have when back in Italy – nothing can beat those wonderful fresh Italian tomatoes and their addictive (at least for us) “ mozzarella di buffalo

Prep time 20 mins cooking time 45 mins Serves 4

1 lb. lean beef, minced 2 x (or Chicken, if you prefer)
1 x cup fresh white breadcrumbs
2 x garlic cloves, crushed
3 x Tbsp Parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper, to your taste
1x egg, slightly beaten
150 g x mozzarella cheese (cut into appr. 16 small cubes)
1x Tbsp vegetable oil
1 x large onion, finely chopped
400 g x fresh tomatoes, skin removed and squashed with your hands
1 x pack of spaghetti

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1.. Take a bowl; add beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, half the parsley, salt and pepper and the egg, mix well.
2.. Take one of the previously cut cheese cubes and 1 large tsp of beef mixture and cover the cube with this.
3.. Take large pan, heat oil, add prepared meat balls and brown on all sides on medium heat.

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4.. Add chopped onion, cook for 3-5 mins, and then add all the tomatoes with their juice. Simmer, cover with lid and cook for another 30 minutes.

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5.. Uncover pan and continue cooking for another 10 mins, so that sauce will reduce and slightly thickens.

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6.. While all this is going on, boil your spaghetti following packet instructions; but keep ‘tasting and testing’ – don’t overcook pasta.
7.. When done, drain and put into a slightly warmed big bowl.

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8.. Serve with the Meat Balls, sprinkled with the remaining parsley, from a separate bowl.

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NOTES:
With this I often just serve a nice crisp green salad or a tomato salad, which JS loves very much.

Also occasionally I add a couple of teaspoons of Curry powder to the meat mixture – it always depends who is coming and joins us for a meal. It really is purely a question of individual taste.

Of course you can also use tinned chopped tomatoes if you really have to.

Buon Appetito – Guten Appetit
Carina

‘TUSCAN CHICKEN WITH CAPERS’ or memories of Le Celle!

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Once again, Easter came and went. Life here has turned very quickly back to its normal hectic happening, and with that for me the question “what to cook for the family and what to post on my Blog” became a sort of minor issue.

Instead of going to sleep at night I lay awake thinking what to shop, cook etc. etc. I wanted to go away for a little while from my Indian dishes – like going international; to places where we had been in the past and where we sampled the local food.

So, Chicken jumped into my mind (I love chicken, cooked any which way!) So, one quick look into my freezer and having found a pack of Drumsticks I then opened my fridge and found a freshly opened bottle of Capers. And with that my memory jumped back just a few years ago when Jo and I once again were staying in Florence, this beautiful city. During that holiday friends took us in their car out into the Tuscan country site past the little town of Cortona to the beautiful Convent de Le Celle, which is a 13th-century Franciscan Convent located in Le Celle, just outside Cortona. A visit never to be forgotten – so beautiful and peaceful.
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On the way back we then briefly stopped in Cortona for a light lunch and when I saw this dish, Chicken with Capers, I simply had to try it. I love Capers and use it quite often in my cooking, especially with fish, eggs, etc. And also I had just seen the courtyard walls at Le Celle covered with Capparis spinosa, the caper bush but unfortunately for me the fruit was not matured enough to be picked.
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Now back home here in Kerala I now like to cook this dish whenever I am able to find a jar of capers.
So, not to leave you too long in suspense, here is my re-creation of this delicious dish, which I named simply:

‘TUSCAN CHICKEN WITH CAPERS’ or memories of Le Celle!
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For 2 people you will need:

4 chicken drumsticks (or more, if you are hungry)
1 large Onion, finely minced in your Mixy
Some salt and black pepper
Minced parsley, a very generous amount, app. ½ cup or so
2-3 Tbsp. of well-rinsed capers (whole)
Chicken broth, app. 1 ½ cup
3 Tbsp. of white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Some extra parsley for decoration.
How to cook:
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Heat your Wok with ½ the oil over medium heat, add the minced onions with a sprinkling of salt, and cook until soft. Stir once in a while.
When cooked transfer onions to a plate. Add remaining oil to Wok and turn up heat slightly.
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Now add your Chicken drumsticks (I like to rub them lightly with a mixture of salt and black pepper) and gently fry those all around until they are nicely golden. Remove and also keep on a plate.

Add onion puree, parsley and the capers to Wok, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. After this add broth and vinegar (check, you might want to use a bit more or less of vinegar – depending on your personal taste), followed by the chicken drumsticks and their juices.
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Gently stir, cover, keep heat on low and simmer until cooked to your liking.
Creamy mashed potatoes and some slightly steamed vegetables taste particularly good with this.
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Guten Appetit, my friends,
Carina

Valentine – Memories of Torcello

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                                                          Love is indescribable and unconditional.
I could tell you a thousand things that it is not,
but not one that it is.
– Duke Ellington

2V ….is for VALENTINE!
Right now the Internet is crowded with advertisements to buy this, that and the other for your loved one on the occasion of Valentine Day. Buy, buy, buy is the bombardment onto your brain, conscience and purse. So a small fortune will be spend on highly overprized flowers, mainly deep red roses, chocolates, champagne etc. etc.

Not in this house thou, take me for example – I loathe deep red roses (call it bad memories), don’t particular care for chocolates and champagne…….! hmm, now that is a totally different matter, but sadly this we cannot get here easily (so we will have to wait for another trip to Le Paris!).
JS today surprised me with two things: he wants to take me out for Dinner and a bit of dancing on Valentine’s Eve and he also wanted me to cook for him one of his favourite Pasta dishes for Lunch taking him (and me!) down a very beautiful memory lane.

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Venice lovers know of this beautiful little island just off the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. For JS and I there has and never will be a time we visited Venice when we would not take the boat and motor away from the main frenzy of tourists from all over the world in order to enjoy nearly a whole day in the far more peaceful surroundings of this beautiful little island – Torcello!

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On the odd occasion we not only had our customary lazy lunch there but even spent a night in the famous LOCANDA CIPRIANI. Heaven – sheer Heaven!

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The Locanda and the Island deserve their own story, but another time, for now just enjoy the recipe given here and maybe you too have your own memory of this place; do let me know. So, at my very own Valentine’s request I give you today

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Memories of Torcello
(i.e. Spaghetti, Prawns in a creamy caper-white-wine sauce)
For 2 servings I used today:

½ lb spaghetti
½ lb of cleaned/deveined prawns
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp capers in their brine
1 big handful of Spring onions (greens and all), chopped, app. 2 cups
1 Tbsp crushed dry red pepper flakes (adjust to your personal taste)
1 large lemon, zest and the juice of…
½ cup of dry white wine (adjust to your personal taste)
¼ cup of heavy cream
Salt to taste

Preparation:
Boil your Spaghetti in a large pot of salted water until just ‘al dente’.
Wash prawns, pat dry and add some salt, mix.
Heat ½ of your olive oil in a wide pot (I used my Wok), add prawns and cook only for 2-3 minutes maximum i.e. until they turn just a bit pink. Lift out of the oil and keep aside.
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Now add the rest of the oil and all the spring onions for another 2-3 minutes, keep stirring all the time. Add the capers and the chilli flakes and cook these for app. another minute. Add lemon zest and juice and white wine and simmer for another 2 minutes or so.
Take ¾ – 1 cup of the cooking water from the boiling spaghetti, add this to the pan together with the cream. Simmer very gently for another couple of minutes.
When Spaghettis are cooked remove from their water with a tong and move them straight into the sauce.
Gently mix all this together. Garnish with a few more red chilli flakes, green Spring onions and prawns and serve with a big smile to your loved one.
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Mangia Bene – Enjoy our memories.
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PS: For a more in-depth story re. Valentine’s Day, please read JS own story on his personal blog http://www.manningtreearchive.com : “The Roots and Wings of Valentine

PPS: Sadly I lost most of my pictures in a computer crash, hence I used other sources.

Milano – and a Christmas Concert with José Carreras

The first time I visited Milan, the metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, was when I was in my early 20th – for a photoshoot for AGFA ! Followed by an invitation to join some friends I had met there for Christmas that year. Of course I went, I always loved to see “how the other side lived (i.e. celebrated) “. This was also the first time I sampled their famous traditional Christmas cake Panettone

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Panettone, traditional Christmas cake.

When I left Milan I carried with me, for an ‘Italian Dinner Party’ back home, an additional suitcase filled with all the ‘goodies’ I was introduced to, which I purchased in that gourmet haven called Peck in Via Spadari . But more about this in another blog.

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But, not only was I introduced to Peck and the cuisine of Milano but even more importantly to the world-famous opera house La Scala

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where I saw (also for the first time) Le Nozze di Figaro
Over the following years we were fortunate enough to see many famous opera houses and concert halls, but sadly we were never able to see José Carreras on stage – timing was always wrong.

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Carreras in Andrea Chénier, La Scala, 1985 (Wikipedia)

Above Christmas Concert 2000 Milano (with Orchestra Sinfonica Dell’ Emilia Romagna “Arturo Toscanini”) took place at the Basilica Di S. Ambrogio

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(Pic. Source: milanofree.it)

For that reason I have chosen him today as my Milan video – hoping very much he will give you as much pleasure as he constantly gives us.

Carina
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Das erste mal als ich nach Mailand , in die Metropole in Italiens noerdlicher Region von Lombardy, kam war ich ungefaehr mitte zwanzig – fuer Photoaufnahmen fuer AGFA. Dem folgte eine Weihnachts Einladung von einigen Freunden die ich dort kennengelernt hatte. Natuerlich flog ich rueber, ich mochte es immer sehr zu sehen wie andere lebten und feierten. Dies war auch das erste mal, dass ich den beruehmten traditionellen Weihnachtskuchen ‘Panettone’ probierte.

Als ich Mailand verliess trug ich einen zusaetzlichen Koffer, fuer eine ‘Italienische Dinner Party’ die ich dann zuhause gab, mit all’ den leckeren Schleckereien die ich hier kennen gelernt hatte. Alles kaufte ich in dem Gourmet Himmel PECK in Via Spadari. Aber mehr ueber dies in einem anderen Blog.
Aber ich wurde nicht nur mit Peck und deren Koestlichkeiten bekannt gemacht aber viel wichtiger mit dem weltberuehmten Opernhaus La Scala, wo ich (ebenfalls zum ersten mal) Le Nozze di Figaro/Die Hochzeit des Figaro erlebte.

In den folgenden Jahren hatten wir das Glueck viele beruehmte Opernhaeuser und Konzerthallen zu besuchen, aber leider konnten wir nie Jose Carreras auf der Buehne erleben – irgendwie hatte es nie geklappt.

Und das ist der Grund warum ich ihn heute als mein Mailand video gewaehlt habe – und hoffentlich wird er Euch auch so viel Freude bereiten wie uns immer.
(Dies ist meine eigene “freie” Uebersetzung).

Risotto Primavera alla Cipriani

-Cipriani’s Spring Risotto-

With many of you starting to send out posts about the first signs of spring, which I sadly cannot do since I live in a tropical climate, I like to take you with me instead on a short journey ‘down memory lane’ to the beautiful city of Venice.

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One of the domes of the Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Many many years ago a number of our international friends and I had a very noisy, and I confess, slightly boozy, but, oh so enjoyable Lunch at the world famous Harry’s Bar in Venice.

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…..preparing our Bellinis

In fact it was one of those wonderful impromptu get-togethers one really cannot organise – they just happen!! And certainly nobody wants them to end quickly.

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(Andrea outside Harry’s Bar)

The original plan that day was for all of us to meet at “Harry’s”, have refreshments and take Cipriani’s own boat out to the Island of Torcello to their beautiful and romantic Locanda – one of those wonderful little honeymoon locations , where we all were going to have lunch. But, one way or the other, we never made it to Torcello that day but remained in Venice until closing time! I of course now cannot, by the best will in the world, remember what each and everyone had ordered that day, except I do remember, that I had “Risotto primavera” (Spring Risotto) making use of many of the vegetables grown near the Locanda on Torcello. This dish was created and recommended to me by Arrigo Cipriani himself – so how could I refuse? It was a dish so divine, that I never, with all my travels around the world, have forgotten the smell and taste of this exceptional Risotto. He very kindly gave me permission to use this recipe in my own blog or book. And before I forget let me tell you – this dish is really very easy to prepare, so do not be put off by the length of the ingredients list. I hope that you enjoy this risotto as much as I did then and in fact once again only two days ago when I tried to recreate this for my post here.

For: 6
For the spring vegetables you need:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
250 g of shiitake mushrooms; thinly sliced (I used button mushrooms)
3 small artichokes, thinly sliced (were not available)
1 tsp onion, finely chopped
4 small zucchini, diced (I used green ones)
12 asparagus spears cut into short lengths
1 large slice of red capsicum, cut into pieces
1 small leek, white part only, cut into short lengths
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Risotto you need:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
150 g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
1.5 l chicken stock
40 g butter
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Salt and pepper

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To prepare the vegetables: heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then remove it from the pan and discard. Add the artichokes and cook for 8-10 minutes, then add the onion and cook for a further 2 minutes. Finally, add the Zucchinis (courgettes), asparagus, red pepper and leek, increase the heat to high and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

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To prepare the Risotto: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Stirring the rice, lower the heat, add about 120 ml of the stock and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Gradually add more stock as each addition is absorbed. After about 15 minutes, when the risotto is half-cooked, add the vegetables and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the rice is tender and creamy. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a softer risotto stir in a few more tablespoons of stock.
Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

And the next time Jo and I are in Venice, maybe we find the time to once again enjoy Cipriani’s splendid hospitality.

Ciao Carina