Friday, 19 July 2013

moroccan lamb stew with ras el hanout

today i want to bring a simple recipe to you. it's the sort of thing we have very often in our home - it's tasty, it's easy, it's healthy and it's inexpensive. literally this is the sort of thing i like to make in a morning, leave in the slow cooker and come back to after work.

i actually have quite a few variations of things i make in our slow cooker - it's such a handy thing for a busy household. i recommend getting one to all our friends (and most of our family already have one!). ours is a beautiful red one by morphy richards which we had from our wedding list. it works perfectly.

trying to think of summery things to do in the slow cooker isn't always simple - i tend to associate stews and soups with the colder months. but there's only so many salads i can eat before i need to have something more substantial and filling. so curries, chillies, moroccan stews, risottos, lentil dals are all perfect when it's warm out, and very very tasty indeed...

it goes perfectly with a side of cooked broccoli, and topped with feta, barberries, dukkah and maybe a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil, if you're feeling very European...

if you don't recognise some of the ingredients here, just go on to Google and do a little search. i've got really into middle eastern ingredients and foods since mum bought me 'jerusalem' by yotam ottolenghi. the flavours are so delicious and new to me, and i can purchase most things at my local international food store... (if not Sainsbury's!)

moroccan lamb stew with ras el hanout
serves 4-5

750ml chicken stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 Tbsp ras el hanout
4 lamb chops
2 onions (white/red), sliced
black pepper
2 celery stalks, chopped into chunks
2 carrots, chopped into chunks
1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup green lentils
1 red pepper, chopped into long slices
dukkah, feta, fresh mint, barberries & spring onion, to serve

1. add the chicken stock, chopped tomatoes, chopped garlic, preserved lemon and ras el hanout in your slow cooker, mix with a wooden spoon and turn it on to max heat.

2. put a frying pan on a high heat and once hot, brown off the lamb chops on both sides. then add these to the slow cooker. saute the onions on a gentle heat in the frying pan, and once soft, add these to the slow cooker also.

4. add the celery, carrots, aubergine, lentils and peppers to the slow cooker, and leave to cook for the day or overnight. taste it after 8 hours and add any more seasoning you require. 

5. serve it sprinkled with barberries, dukkah, fresh mint, chopped spring onion and chunks of feta.

cook's notes:
 - trade in any of the veg for whatever you fancy, but be sure to chop it up in big chunks.
 - great served with homemade flatbread or wholemeal pitta.
 - use good quality stock - i say this all the time, but otherwise you end up with processed, flavoured salt, rather than anything beneficial for you. the Sainsbury's sachets are my favourite (see my borscht recipe!)
 - this only gets better with time, so make it ahead, freeze it or pop it in the fridge for the next day - DEE-licious.
 - Vegan/Vegetarian? you could totally make this without meat, simply leave it out, and add in an extra cup full of lentils.

meanwhile, have you seen how our herbs are growing this year? my city garden isn't doing too bad! so nice to have our own fresh mint on our salad and stews this season...

thanks for reading! hope you're all out enjoying the sunshine.

currently listening to: my songs know what you did in the dark by fall out boy (the new album is awesome! great driving tunes.)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

norwegian food, fjords and fun

a couple of weekends ago, my mum and i went to Bergen in Norway for the weekend. we've done a girly weekend trip around the time of my birthday for the past 7 years, and it's sort of a tradition... but Norway was new to us.

and my goodness was it beautiful!

the weather was reasonable, about 17c with a few light showers (waterproof required - apparently it rains 300 days of the year!), but it was perfect weather for shopping and eating, which is what mum and i do best on our trips together.

the views around Bergen are beautiful - it's surrounded by fjords and the water is just gorgeous. the architecture is also very stunning - old and classic - it reminded us of Paris in it's chicness and design, but on a much smaller level (it's a very small city indeed).

we stayed at the Comfort Hotel, which was very comfortable, with a very good buffet breakfast - i do LOVE a good buffet breakfast. i especially love looking at what other people choose too - a little nosy yes, but i only want to work out what the local people eat and how they eat it, so then i can copy!

in Norway everyone seems to eat wholewheat bread everywhere. the white loaf at breakfast was untouched. and there are organic bakeries all over the city. boiled eggs and crispbread are also popular, along with the typically Scandinavian pickled herring, and Gjetost cheese (delicious, like caramel)

the markets by the waterfront are intriguing to look through. it's a real tourist spot, and is where the cruise ships unload their passengers so it's really busy (there's always at least one cruise ship in the harbour), but you can get some reasonable seasonal berries there, and LOTS of seafood!

we managed to get WiFi in our hotel and look on TripAdvisor for places to eat for a reasonable price. one with great ratings was Cafe Aura...

we had a delicious vegetarian lasagne with salad, followed by a raw chocolate brownie and a cappucino, yum!

you can pick up tasty cake and filter coffee at a few different places across the city. try the Napoleonskake, my favourite, or a warm cinnamon roll for an authentic taste of Norway! 

once you've eaten so much tasty food, make your way up Mount Floyen, either by foot or funicular, and enjoy the view! definitely worth the trek... the cafe at the top is pretty good too.

other places worth a visit: 
  • Cafe Opera - delicious roast on a Sunday, and tasty prawn salad, awesome fresh strawberries and good coffee and perfect service.
  • Godt Brod - delicious fresh bread and a particularly tasty hazelnut macaroon, perfect for a stop after a long mornings walk
  • Fish Market - this is THE tourist destination in Bergen, but it is very expensive indeed to eat here. if you're a little strapped for cash, like we were, get a couple of hot fish pancakes for 20kroner each, and get a whole fresh crab for 80kroner. if you're not strapped for cash and you want to be extra touristy, definitely get a mixed seafood platter.
  • Fretex - not food related, but definitely check out this awesome second hand goods store - there's two in the city, and it's worth visiting both.
  • Walking around the city - it's a tiny city, so explore! the streets are cobbled though so wear good shoes, and thankfully there are very few cars around so it's pretty safe.

so, that's my trip to Bergen! i hope that inspires you to look at going to Norway at some point, definitely worth putting on your to-do list.

thanks for reading...

currently listening to: the way you look tonight by frank sinatra - such a classic it made it onto our wedding playlist as the song i danced with my dad to... cute right?