Easy and cheap leftover lamb and lentil ragu

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Today Bert had a play and a picnic lunch with Fearne, one of his nursery gang and his general partner in crime/ muse. When she picked up a green frisbee that he wanted to wear like a hat he threw a wooden toy at her head. He sobbed, refusing to say sorry, even though she was kissing his hand and offering him the frisbee back. Half an hour later he was wrestling her to the floor and trying to opportunistically convert the situation into a kiss.

In the car he cheerfully claimed that it was ‘nice seeing Fearne.’

That’s the hidden dynamic of most romantic relationships for you, right there.

Serves 4-6 generously

200g leftover roast lamb

75g dried red lentils

200g roast veg – either frozen and ready to cook, or leftover

1 can of tomatoes

1/2 can of water

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely grated zest of half a small lemon (so a G&T later!)

A spring of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (for me this is a balance between how small I can be arsed to chop it and the knowledge that if it’s visible, the whole meal will be rejected).

Chop the lamb fairly small and add it to a casserole dish with the lentils, roast veg, tomatoes and water. Don’t season it yet. Bring it to a boil then put the dish in a slow oven (gas mark 1-2) for around four hours.

When you’re nearly ready to serve it, bring it to the hob while you cook some pasta, mushing the veg into the sauce, adding the lemon zest and rosemary and checking the seasoning and liquid. (It may not need any salt if the lamb and veg were already seasoned, it may need a little more water or to reduce further.)  I did it with the grated zest of a whole lemon and it was too citrussy, so I’d not go too large on the zest.

Serve with pasta and grated parmesan cheese.

Slow-cooked lamb ragu

Here’s Bert in his autumn knitwear, no doubt thinking about dinosaurs. At the moment I have to dance like a dinosaur every night before bed. ‘Are you a dinosaur rex? Then dance!’ I don’t feel that I’m allowed to answer, ‘no. No, I’m not.’

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Serves 4-6 (or 2 with leftovers for a pasta bake)

Splash of olive oil

2 carrots, grated

1 leek, sliced

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano or finely chopped leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or finely chopped leaves

Finely grated zest half a lemon

1 tin plum tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

Salt and pepper

500g of a lamb leg, ideally whole with bone in; if not, diced

Pasta and parmesan to serve

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2 (140-150).

Fry the carrots, leek and garlic gently in the olive oil till they soften. Add the herbs, puree and lemon zest then nestle the lamb in the middle and tip over the tinned tomatoes. Season, bring to a fast simmer/ slow boil and cover with a lid. Put in the oven and slow cook for 4-6 hours, by which time the lamb should fall apart and the veg should have dissolved into the tomatoes. Pull the meat off the bone with a fork and stir into the sauce. If it’s slightly watery you might want to reduce it a little on the hob before serving.

Stir the sauce through hot pasta and add grated parmesan at the table. Bert had red pepper batons on the side, I had buttered, wilted spinach.

Bert’s latest thing when I serve him dinner is to push it away complaining that it’s ‘too nice’. This wasn’t too nice. I’m so confused – should I be pleased or offended?

Anyway, we’re going to have a pasta bake with the leftovers stirred into pasta and topped with bechemal sauce and then mozzeralla, and baked in the oven for 30 minutes. It’s really no wonder I need to be on the 5|2 diet – it’s Friday and I’m already thinking about Monday’s dinner.

Afterwards we had warm, homemade chocolate (and beetroot) brownies and cream, with chocolate oozing out into pools on the plate and the beetroot undetectable, just giving a bit of extra richness and depth. They were definitely not ‘too nice’ to eat.

Rum-marinated steaks

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Here’s Bert, seemingly caught in the act of playing tiddly winks with a knife. And in other bad parenting news he’s been watching Dinosaur Train on Netflix with the dedication with which the rest of us are getting through Stranger Things. It’s basically Breaking Bad for todders.

Oh, and eating rum marinated meat.

Enough marinade to serve 4-6

80ml white rum or vodka

60ml olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Loads and loads of grated black pepper – grate till it seems like a lot then grate some more

Teaspoon of sea salt (or a sprinkling of table salt)

Minute beef steaks or lamb steaks

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and add the meat. Cover and marinate for at least three hours at room temperature or for a day or two in the fridge.

Remove from the marinade, oil a hot pan and cook the minute steaks for a minute or so on each side (lamb steaks or thicker steaks will take from 6 to 8 minutes depending on how thick they are).

I then cut Bert’s into smaller pieces and threaded it onto a skewer – a beef lollipop marinated in rum and threaded onto a sharp stick, what could possibly go wrong here?

As I carried it in, he said ‘wow’. Cheers Bert!

We had ours with home made oven chips and roast squash, red onion and green leaf salad. Bert had chips and still-frozen peas.

Yoghurt marinated lamb kebabs

lambkebab

Served 3

500g lamb steaks, cut into chunks

1 red pepper, cut into chunks

2 red onions or large shallots, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed with 1 clove of garlic and salt to taste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

Mix the yoghurt with the spices and marinate the lamb in it for about an hour. With a yoghurt marinade, you don’t want to marinate too long or the lamb gets tough. (I think the marinade is originally a Nigel Slater recipe.) Thread onto skewers with the veg and cook on a high heat – in a hot pan or under a hot grill – for 10-15 minutes. In a very tradition division of labour, Bert’s dad barbequed them while I made some flat breads and Bert moved water from one container to another.

We had it ours with salad. Bert looked at a salad leaf with the kind of horrified morbid curiosity most of us reserve for a road accident. Have I read somewhere that babies are programmed to avoid greens in case they’re poisonous? Bert is in no danger of being poisoned by greens.

Fragrant lamb tagine

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Bert’s dad described this and the nectarine and almond cake as my ‘most competent meal’ in a while. Make of that what you will.

Served 2.5 though could happily have served 3.5

Glug olive oil

1 red onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

500g diced lamb

3-4 carrots, chopped into chunks

1 courgette, chopped into chunks

1 tin chopped tomatoes and half the empty tin of boiled water

1 low salt stock cube

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 dessert spoon honey

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch saffron

1/2 stick of cinnamon

Handful of dried apricots (the soft, dark brown ones), chopped

In a perfect world, you’d brown the veg and meat separately and in batches, but I don’t think it makes enough difference to the taste to be worth it, and means the whole prep here takes about 10 minutes. More time to hide remote controls and phones, and fish computer mice and batteries out of the dishwasher.

Brown the onion, garlic and lamb in the oil and then add the rest of the veg. Stir through the spices, apricots, tinned tomatoes, stock cube and water, tomato puree and honey, and season. Bring to a fast simmer then cook in a slow oven for 2-3 hours. (Mine was in the bottom of the Aga for 3 hours.) We had ours with buttered couscous and a dollop of yoghurt. Bert was initially suspicious and then chinned it. He did not eat any courgette.

Kofta meatballs and yoghurt dip

kofta

Served 2.5

For the meatballs:

500g minced lamb

1-2 teaspoons of sumac or the grated zest of half a lemon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 a small packet of pistachios, crushed (I blitzed them in the Nutribullet)

For the yoghurt dip:

1/3 of a cucumber, grated

4 dessert spoons plain yoghurt

1/2 garlic clove, crushed

Dash each of red wine vinegar and olive oil – say 1/3 to half a dessert spoon

Salt and pepper

Combine all the meatball ingredients and form into small balls. I think ‘walnut sized’ is the standard measurement but mine tend to be a bit bigger than that. I got 21 meatballs from this mixture. Pop on a baking sheet at 180 degrees (or the middle of the Aga roasting oven) for about 20 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients to make the dip while your baby explores the garden with Daddy and a spaniel that has Woody Allen’s manic neurosis but not his wit. Kiss the baby through the window a couple of times and the meatballs should be done.

We had ours with rice and salad – it would be great with flatbreads but for some reason flatbreads are on Bert’s (very short) black list. Not that Bert ate the salad of course, but it’s good to show him a leaf every now and then.

Aromatic slow roast lamb feast with tomatoey broad beans, crushed new potatoes and orange berries for dessert

lamb feast

Today Daddy was home after a week away and Bert’s big brother and sister came to see him. He celebrated by not taking an afternoon nap.

Serves 4.5

For the lamb

I shoulder of lamb

1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1/2 a teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of zaa’tar

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Good glug or two of sunflower oil or a similar light oil

For the tomatoey broad beans

About 250g broad beans (I had a third of a bag of frozen ones)

About 1/2 a tin of tomatoes

Leaves from 2 springs of rosemary, finely chopped

Good handful of parmesan

For the crushed new potatoes

About 500g new potatoes

Really good glug or two of olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the orange berries

One punnet of strawberries

One punnet of raspberries

Zest of half an orange, finely grated

Juice of half an orange

Get the meat to room temperature then combine the spices and garlic with enough oil to make a thin paste. Rub the aromatic oil all over the meat, top and bottom, and then pop it in a roasting tray in a hot oven (about 220 degrees) for 20 minutes, before transferring to a cool oven for about seven hours. I used the simmering oven of the Aga, which I think is the equivalent of 120 degrees.

Meanwhile, your baby can laugh like a drain at a bouncing ball, at a dog jumping for a bouncing ball, at a dog looking like it’s nodding if you bounce a ball next to it, at a dog chewing a bouncy ball, at a dog not wanting to stop chewing a bouncy ball… the seven hours will fly by. At the end of its cooking time the lamb will just fall off the bone. Its tenderness is great for those of us with no molars, but to be honest no-one complained.

Simmer the broad beans till cooked through – about five minutes. Then add to the tomatoes with the rosemary and a little bit of olive oil. You could add a couple of chopped anchovies at this point, but I live with anchovy deniers. Simmer slowly for ten minutes or so then stir the grated parmesan through.

Cook the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in salted water till tender then roughly mash with the olive oil and season. The oil is acting like the butter in normal mash here, so don’t be stingey with it.

Grate the zest over the berries and then squeeze the orange juice over. This is so simple but absolutely delicious.

We had our main course with roast carrots and salad. Bert ate loads. His little pot belly really isn’t so little at the moment.