Nothing beats a family lunch, especially with the crazy ones! I have a little heart shaped sign hanging from the back door that says "As far as anyone knows we are a normal family." This is incredibly apt for both Kyle and I. Normal? what does normal actually mean? We were recently up in Scotland reminiscing about Kyle's mom's cooking. She is a legendary cook. Kyle is half Scottish. The majority of his cousins live in Fife and we love going to visit them. Our holidays with them revolve around food and drink. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. This afternoon we were sitting around the table talking about meals we have had and meals we are looking forward to having. Some of the cousins are down in London and came to join us for a lazy Sunday lunch along with "Wee Buster."
I decided to push the boat out, really have some fun with a Sunday roast. Needless to say I have been in the kitchen since 08:00 this morning. We had some beautiful English lamb in the freezer from a farm in Hampshire. My sister and I went halv-ies on a lamb. This little South African is never scared of a bargain. Out came the leg and the shoulder. The only way to cook lamb is low and slow. Which I proceeded to do for 7 hours.
To start with I made "The Real Meal Revolution" Nutty Crackers with tuna dip, mint and pea tip and olives. Along with the lamb I made a pickled cabbage salad, a sweet potato and basil hash, a green salad and a minted yoghurt dip. As the "piece de resistance" I made my mother-in law to be, Anita's avocado cheesecake. Avocado cheesecake you ask? Yes, avocado cheesecake. The first time I heard of it I can guarantee my reaction was the same as yours. I tell you, you have to try it. It's creamy, silky smooth, not too sweet and very moreish.
Family lunches are the best. It doesn't matter where you are and which family members you are with, family time is good time. Don't take your families for granted and if you want to spoil them try the recipes below.
As always let us know what you think and what your twists on these are and how they turn out.
Slow Roast Pulled Leg and Shoulder of Lamb - Feeds approximately 8 people with leftovers
3.5 kg Lamb shoulder or leg, bone in (ours came from Westlands Farm Shop in Hampshire)
1 Head of garlic
2 tsp Cumin seeds
3 tsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Smoked paprika
1.5 tsp Fennel seeds
1 Large pinch of saffron
Fresh rosemary finely chopped, about half a handful
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp Dried rose petals (available from most Waitrose)
200 gr Ghee or unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
Turn the oven onto it's highest heat setting. Using a sharp knife, score the fat of the lamb. Stab holes all over the lamb about 2cm deep. Peel and squash the garlic. stuff the garlic into the holes that you have made in the meat. Set the lamb into a roasting tray and set aside.
On a medium heat gently warm the spices in a dry pan until aromatic. In a pestle and mortar grind the warmed spices, salt, pepper and rose petals together until fine. Add the finely chopped rosemary and lemon zest and muddle. Add the butter to the spices and mix until well combined. Rub the flavoured ghee all over the lamb and massage into the scores you have made in the fat. In the bottom of the roasting pan squeeze the juice of 1 lemon and throw the lemon halves into the tray. Add the vinegar to the roasting tray. Cover the tray with tin foil, shiny side down, Tightly close the foil around the edges.
Place the tray in the oven and turn the heat down to 130 degrees Celsius, 270 Farenheit, gas mark 1-ish (very moderate heat). Roast at this low heat for 6-7 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Remove from the oven, rest for 10 minutes, pull off the bone, shred and mix with the juices in the pan. Serve with your choice of sides and a mint yoghurt dressing -finely chopped mint with natural yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
Anita's Avocado Cheesecake
4 medium sized, ripe, fleshy avocados
100 ml Lemon juice
1 Tin condensed milk
100 gr Full fat cream cheese, I use Philadelphia
4 leaves of gelatin or vegetarian alternative
2 Packs of ginger snap biscuits, crushed. Not the traditional version but I like the tang of the ginger, you can use any biscuit you like
100 ml Melted, unsalted butter
Mix the melted butter and crushed biscuits together and press into the bottom of your pie dish.
In a food processor blend the avocado flesh, lemon juice, condensed milk and cream cheese until smooth. Follow the instructions on your pack of gelatin - invariably soak the leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out and add to a pan on a low heat. Melt the gelatin but do not boil it. Remove the melted gelatin from the heat and slowly add to the avocado mixture in the blender with the blade on the lowest setting. You don't want to beat it too hard as you then get a strange consistency.
Pour the avocado mixture into the pre-made biscuit base. Smooth the top and put into the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
Before serving beat some double cream until firm, not butter. Put in a piping bag and pipe into any decoration that you would like. Slice up fresh strawberries or any fruit of your choice and decorate your cheesecake. Serve and enjoy!
It’s a tough job having to taste wine for a living but hey! Someone has to do it I guess. It’s not often that I get to actually go somewhere for a Master Class with a true master and to go to the Wine Makers Club in Farringdon was truly special. One of my suppliers (Red Squirrel) invited me to an Austrian evening with two young and brilliant wine makers that grew up next door to one another.
I have a growing passion and love for Austrian wines. From such a small country that one usually associated with what I like to call the ‘Old, Old World’ they are producing some excellent traditional grape variety wines with a few of your usual suspects too. These two gents are young, fun, funky and adventurous when it comes to life and in taking over their family vineyards.
The evening was a show case of two producers Dwald and Holzer; both make a range of Gruner Veltliner, Resiling, Zweigelt and even these stunning orange wines that are all the trend at the moment.
Eschenhof Holzer – Arnold took over the family vineyard at the tender ages of 22; with his brother they are the 4th generation to tend to the 13-hectare family farm. Bursting with traditional grape varieties, single vineyard bottlings and their sexy, trendy labels no wonder they are making a storm in the Austrian wine trade.
Altweingarten Gruner Veltliner 2015 – Made from old vines in a single vineyard; this could be my favourite Gruner of the movement, with each vintage out doing the last. I was introduced to it about a year ago after saying to the guys at RSW I really wanted one for the wine list and this is what they found! Beautifully crisp and clean, full of Jasmine & Honeysuckle blossoms, white pepper with a few lemons and limes too. Aromatic yet elegant, its length goes on for ages and works wonderfully in the sun or with a winter cheese fondue!
The Orange ‘Roter Veltliner’ 2013 – Roter Veltliner being a VERY local grape with small plantings in Wagram, this is a very unique and special wine. The grapes are hand-picked with a precision like nothing else and then left to the wild yeasts and some skin contact (about 3 week’s worth!) produces this wonderfully intense, rich wine that in the mouth is surprisingly dry and floral. With Christmas spice, lemon grass & toasty butter. The pairings could go on for ever but my go to would be an Asian spiced roast pork belly.
Diwald – Second generation wine maker whose family has been a pioneer of organic wine in Austria since the 80’s. He makes small-scale but classic, clean cut Gruners & Rieslings and does as little as possible in the cellar, showing immense patience and a limitless passion for wine.
Gruner Veltliner ‘Goldberg’ 2014 – Wild ferment, long lees contact & stainless steel it is a mix between ripe fruits and herbs, darker than the Holzer GV with piles of white pepper, rosemary, and a mouth feel like white chocolate. Martin says that the Goldberg is hard to beat on a cold year!
Riesling ‘Fuchsentanz’ 2014 – Fuchsentaz means ‘fox dance’ which relates to the local foxes saying goodnight to the hazy sun’s rays. This is a sexy, organic Riesling which has been handpicked from two sites and gone through wild ferment in stainless steel, producing this slightly off dry wine, a decent amount of minerality, full of ripe peach, oranges, grape fruits and baskets of spring blossoms. A sexy, voluptuous wine that would be perfect just on its own!
So there we have 4 very different wines from a small region showcasing what can be produced with different approaches. I love both of these winemakers each for different reasons! All available from Red Squirrel (www.redsquirrelwine.com) along with some other ‘out of the box’ wines which are truly scrumptious. We would love to know you thoughts or even if you have come across any of these wines in the past!!!
All my love,
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain