Uzbek Samsa/Sambusa

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samsaa 06/04/2018

These Uzbek/Central Asian flaky shells are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The meat filling is nicely textured, juicy and flavorful. Make sure to make the full batch – these puppies have a tendency to magically vanish in the blink of an eye.

The dough in this sambusa recipe is very traditional: one part flour, half-part water and salt. The dough will be stiff and hard to knead, and that’s exactly how you want it to be. Modern recipes add an egg or two to make kneading easier. The resulting dough is more supple and easier to work with, but the sambusa lose their crispness and this is one of the best things about them.

Traditionally Uzbek meat sambusa is made with lamb meat and tail fat. A lot of tail fat. And a lot of onions. This fat and onions, which release water during baking, is what makes sambusa juicy and moist. While it tastes amazingly delicious, it’s very greasy. My sambusa recipe is a leaner variant made with lamb leg or shoulder. Shoulder works the best as it has the right lamb to fat ratio and is a very flavourful cut. Removing the fat does not make it taste any worse.

Meat for sambusa must be finely diced with a knife. It takes some effort, but this is very important. If you grind the meat you will get a dumpling, you don’t want that. Diced meat gives sambusa its peculiar texture and juiciness as diced meat retains water better than ground meat. Add finely chopped onions, salt and spice to the meat and the filling is ready. Cumin is one of the traditional spices added to sambusa, as well as black pepper. I am not a big fan of cumin, so I use black pepper and coriander instead for flavour. If you prefer, you can substitute coriander for cumin.

Makes 16

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 400g plain flour
  • 200g water
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 3Tbsp vegetable or olive oil

For the meat filling:

  • 2lbs beef chuck diced into about 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2large onions finely chopped
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2tsp salt

For the egg wash:

  • 2egg yolks
  • 2tsp milk

sam samm

sams samsa

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the dough by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and let the flour hydrate for 5 minutes or longer, then knead for 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least half an hour.
  2. Prepare the meat filling by combining the meat, the onions and the seasonings.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. Pour 3 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil and spread out evenly across the entire surface. Roll the dough into a tight log, making sure there are no air pockets. Slice the log into about 16 1 ¼ inch cylinders. Flatten each cylinder with the palm of your hand then roll out to a 5 inch circle.
  4. Put about 3 – 3 ½ ounces of meat filling in the centre of each circle. Seal and place on a large baking sheet seam side down.
  5. Whisk egg yolks and milk until well mixed. Using a pastry brush paint the sambusas with a light, even coat of egg wash.
  6. Bake on the top rack of the oven preheated to 220C for 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet around once after 15 minutes. For softer crust, bake at 210C for 30 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
  8. Refrigerated leftover sambusa can be re-heated for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 200C.
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Moussaka

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moussaka 18/05/2017

A good moussaka is a joy to behold with cinnamon spiced lamb mingling with aubergines and a delicious creamy sauce. It is something I’ve always wanted to make but never have until my friends and I decided to have a Greek night. Perfect chance. I don’t know why I’ve not made one before. It’s extremely comforting and flavourful and well worth the effort.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Aubergine:

  • 2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Filling:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 500 g lamb mince
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp plain flour
  • 400g tinned plum tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cup chicken or lamb broth/stock, or water + 1 stock cube
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp allspice (optional)
  • Lemon zest and juice (optional)

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Topping:
  • ⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs

moussakassmoussakas

Method:

Aubergine:

  1. Sprinkle the aubergines with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then brush off excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C. Lay the aubergine onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

Filling:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add the flour and herbs and stir. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly. Add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then whisk the eggs in.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Place half the filling in the bottom of a baking dish then half of the aubergine in a layer on top. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and aubergine.
  3. Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Lamb Kleftico

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Screenshot_2017-04-16-21-36-14-1[1] 17/04/2017

Amazingly tender, pull apart lamb is slow roasted together with potatoes and onion that absorb all the wonderful marinade and meat juices as they cook.

Ingredients:

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. roughly chopped oregano
  • 1 tbsp. roughly choppedrosemary
  • zest 1lemon and juice of 2
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp.olive oil
  • 400ml chicken or lamb stock
  • 2kg leg of lamb
  • 1kg Desiree potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 or 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 5 bay leaves

Method:

  1. Crush together the garlic cloves and 1 tsp salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the herbs, lemon zest, cinnamon and some black pepper then stir through the olive oil. Using a sharp knife, create lots of holes all over the lamb, and rub in the paste, pushing it deep into the holes. Transfer the lamb to a large food bag, pour in the lemon juice and marinate overnight.
  2. The next day, take the lamb out of the fridge 2 hours before you want to cook it. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Lay 2 long pieces of baking parchment on top of 2 long pieces of foil – one widthways, the other lengthways to form a cross. Pop the potatoes in the centre of the parchment and toss with the remaining oil and some seasoning. Bring up the sides of the foil, then pour the marinade from the lamb over the potatoes and throw in the bay leaves. Pour the stock into the pan. Set the lamb on top of the potatoes and scrunch the foil together tightly to completely enclose the lamb. Lift into a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 4½ hrs until very tender.
  3. Remove tin from the oven and increase the temperature to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Unwrap the parcel and scrunch the foil and parchment under the rim of the tin, baste the lamb with the juices and return to the oven for a further 20 mins until browned. Remove the lamb from the tin, wrap in foil and rest.
  4. Drain most of the stock and juices from the pan. Set aside. Turn the potatoes over and return to the oven for 30 minutes to brown then season with salt. Serve the juices, meat and potatoes with a fresh salad.

Lamb & Coconut Kofta Curry

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screenshot_2016-09-29-19-56-54-11 30/09/2016

A fragrant lamb kofta curry recipe that won’t need hours on the stove. Make it as mild or spicy as you like by adjusting the amount of chillies in the recipe. Sadly, my lack of photography and presentation skills does not do this justice but the taste is beautifully fragrant, aromatic and deep.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • A few sprigs fresh mint, finel chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 3cm fresh ginger, grated
  • 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 400g lamb mince

For the curry sauce:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsps natural coconut yogurt
  • Fresh coriander, to serve
  • Lime wedges to serve

Method:

  1. Toast the fennel seeds and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Grind in a pestle and mortar then add to a bowl with all the other meatball ingredients. Mix all the meatball ingredients together with your hands. Season and roll into balls then chill until needed.
  2. In a little oil, fry the onion, fresh ginger, garlic, garam masala and ground turmeric for 5 minutes. Stir in the tin of tomatoes and a splash of water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir through the natural coconut yogurt and serve with coriander, lime wedges, steamed rice and extra yogurt.

 

Lighter Lamb Kofta Curry

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Screenshot_2016-05-25-20-52-16-1[1] 25/05/2016

Lamb is one of my absolute favourite meats. It is so full of flavour! It can be slow cooked for hours on end or flash fried in seconds. It is a very versatile meat and very underused in my opinion. It can be bought in many forms that lend themselves to particular types of cooking like many other meats however, lamb does have a tendency to be fatty (which is partly where the amazing flavour comes from). An alternative version of a classic recipe with the calories, salt and fat slashed. Still rich in flavour, this creamy lamb curry is big on fibre, vitamin C, iron and folate  – what’s not to love?

How I made it healthier: To cut down on the fat and saturated fat, I swapped half the mince for lentils – which also increased the 5-a-day. I reduced the amount of salt but boosted the flavour with a variety of spices and other flavourings. I used rapeseed oil for frying (only a small amount) and only half a can of coconut milk with water for added liquid to reduce the fat content.

I have a little confession though; in this particular recipe, I didn’t have any fresh coriander or any herbs in the house for that matter so I used a teaspoon of mint sauce from a jar in the kofta mix and it actually tasted amazing!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 270g packet puy lentils
  • 250g lamb mince (20% Fat)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp medium or hot chilli powder
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2½ cm/1in piece ginger, grated
  • 3 tbsp chopped coriander

For the sauce:

  • 2 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3-4cm/1 ¼-1 ½ in piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp medium to hot chilli powder
  • 8 dried curry leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, halved
  • 1 plump green chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes (about 200g/7oz), roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 200ml reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander, plus extra to serve
  • garam masala, for sprinkling

Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment. Tip two-thirds of the lentils into a medium bowl and mash them (the mashed lentils will help bind, the whole ones will add texture). Mix in the whole lentils, lamb, the spices, onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt, taking care not to overwork the mixture.
  2. Using slightly damp hands, shape into 18-20 meatballs. Lay the meatballs on the prepared tray, cover with cling film and chill while you prepare the sauce. Can be chilled overnight to develop extra flavour, if you like.      Screenshot_2016-05-25-20-06-00-1[1]
  3. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a non-stick frying or sauté pan, and fry the onion and cumin seeds over a medium heat for 6-8 mins until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Raise the heat slightly to start to brown the onion and stir in the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves, stir-frying for a few mins. As the onion browns, stir in the cinnamon stick, green chilli, tomatoes and purée, briefly stirring to soften the tomatoes. Pour in 100ml of the coconut milk, scraping the bottom of the pan to gather up any brown sticky bits, and let it bubble briefly and thicken. Pour in 250ml water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for 15-20 mins to thicken very slightly – but keep checking so it doesn’t reduce too much (add a splash of water if needed). Season with pepper.
  4. While the sauce simmers, uncover the meatballs and cook in the oven for 20 mins until cooked through and starting to brown on top – there is no need to turn them. Remove and pat down with kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat.
  5. Stir the remaining coconut milk into the sauce over a low heat then add the chopped coriander. Sit the meatballs in the sauce and cook for 5 mins on a very gentle simmer to warm through and blend the flavours, then remove the cinnamon stick.
  6. Tip the meatballs into a serving dish or divide between bowls, sprinkle over a little garam masala and the coriander, and serve with rice and/or flatbreads/naans/paratha.

Screenshot_2016-05-25-20-50-16-1[1]

Lamb Saag

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Screenshot_2016-05-08-21-53-57-1[1] 08/05/2016

This is a proper tasty curry. It’s probably not the most authentic given the baking in the oven and the thickening of the sauce with cornflour but it is damn delicious and the oven spell tenderises the meat beautifully.

Lamb leg is an excellent choice for curry as it contains enough fat, which when slowly cooked becomes deliciously tender without being too unhealthy or gristly like some other cuts.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 5kg lamb leg, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 Tbsps ghee, butter or vegetable oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped,
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cardamon pods, split
  • 2 cinnamon sticks or cassia bark
  • 7 cloves garlic, grated
  • A knob of ginger, grated
  • 2 fresh green chillies, deseeded for a milder flavour and split lengthways
  • Cornflour roux (optional)
  • 250g baby spinach
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place half of the garam masala, chilli powder and turmeric in a large bowl with a generous amount of salt and pepper and stir in the lamb chunks to coat. Set aside.
  2. Heat the butter or oil in a large oven proof casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir regularly for about 10 minutes until meltingly soft and coloured.
  3. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic and ginger, increase the heat a little and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the remaining ground spices and the green chillies. Increase the heat to maximum and tip in the marinated meat, scraping in any spice left in the bowl. Fry and stir constantly. Pour in 500ml water, stirring as you add. Bring the liquid to the boil before covering and placing the curry in the oven pre-heated to 180C for 1-1 ½ hours until the lamb is meltingly tender.
  4. Add a little cornflour roux (2 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water) to the curry if a thicker consistency is desired. The curry will be quite thin at this point. Put the casserole dish on the hob and thicken the curry. Add the spinach and the curry is ready as soon as the spinach has wilted.

Screenshot_2016-05-08-21-56-03-1[1]

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

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Screenshot_2016-04-30-18-04-05-1[1] 02/05/2016

I was bought a traditional clay tagine pot for my birthday last year and have been meaning to use it for ages. I think I used it once as a decorative serving dish for some fruit but apart from that, it has been sat in the corner gathering dust. It wasn’t until a friend came round and pointed out how much she loved tagine that we decided to do a tagine night with a couple of mates. It was a roaring success and the stew was delicious! I will definitely be using it more often.

You don’t need a tagine pot to make a tagine. The funnel lid is a traditional shape that helps the air circulate in a particular way while cooking but you will get very similar results in a casserole dish too.

There is no right and wrong when it comes to tagine recipes either. Just put what you like into it. I’m sure I’ll have North African grandmothers rolling in their graves at that comment as I bet they have sworn by, top secret recipes for the perfect tagine but in my humble opinion, if you like something, stick it in. Feel free to experiment with spices, meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and herbs. The slow and low cook in the oven will transform whatever you decide on into a luscious, comforting meal.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil and a knob of butter
  • 1kg lamb leg, deboned and diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tsp each of ground cumin, garam masala
  • 1 tsp each of ground coriander, ground cinnamon, turmeric
  • ½ tsp allspice,
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100g prunes
  • 50g pistachios or almonds, shelled
  • Fresh coriander, mint, parsley
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Cous cous, flatbreads and tzatziki to serve

Method:

  1. Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in a large cast iron pan. When hot, add the lamb in batches and seal on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and gently sweat for 5 minutes without browning.
  2. Add the dry spices and harissa paste to the onions and allow the oil to warm the spices and release their flavours. Return the meat and resting juices to the pan and stir well. Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, bring to the boil then add the hot stock. Keep stirring until returned to the boil then place in the pan or a tagine if you have one into the oven for 2 hours or until the lamb is really tender. 5 minutes before serving, stir in the prunes and nuts and chopped herbs and remove from the oven.
  4. Serve with any grain, bread and dip you like. I went for the classic herby lemon cous cous with my infamous garlic flatbreads and tzatziki dip.