26 February 2012

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Red Wine

I started a new job this week so in my determination to be organised I cleaned out the freezer. Lurking in the back were some lamb shanks I'd forgotten about. Lamb Shanks are one of my favourite cuts of lamb - they have such a lovely earthy flavour, and cooked well - slowly, on a low heat for a few hours, they'll be tender and delicate and loaded with the flavours you cook them with.

In my case I love pairing lamb with rosemary, it's one of those flavour combinations that just works. I also popped in some garlic, a good dollop of red wine and some beef stock. Simple comforting flavours and a hearty rich sauce that works well with garlicky mashed potatoes or like me, serve it with a baked pumpkin.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced finely
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped finely, or 200 grams canned tomatoes
  • 4 medium lamb shanks
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 100 mls red wine
  • 500 mls beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Sprinkle the lamb shanks with flour and brown in 1 tablespoon olive oil over a medium heat until browned all over. Set aside.
  2. Tip off most of the oil from the pan. To the remaining oil add the minced garlic and onions and fry over a medium low heat until onions are soft (about 3 minutes). Add in the tomatoes and red wine and cook for 5 minutes until it resembles a sauce. Add thyme, rosemary and beef stock, season with some salt and pepper.
  3. Add in beef stock and carrots.
  4. Put lamb shanks into an oven dish, cover, pour sauce over the top and bake at 160 degree celsius (300 degrees fahrenheit) for 2 and a half hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove lamb shanks from pan, and thicken sauce with cornflour and water mixture.

14 February 2012

Bacon and Egg Pie

I grew up in a house of 8, so spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing dinner wasn't a luxury mum had (apart from desserts, love love love her desserts, and preserving - amazing what you can preserve), so dinner fare was pretty basic. We never ever turned our nose up at this traditional New Zealand favourite - it's simple to make, filling and tastes divine. We used to pop a wedge of it on a plate, smother with 'Watties Tomato Sauce' (tomato ketchup for you american folk), and pile the plate high with salad. We also had it many times cold for picnics. Every time I make (and eat) a bacon and egg pie, it brings back so many wonderful, nostalgic memories of family times.

Hubby too, is a big fan of bacon and egg pies, and because he's adamantly against Valentines Day, I couldn't resist making him a pie in a heart shape cake tin just for today :)

The recipe below is my basic recipe (don't say I didn't warn you, it is seriously basic), but I often add extras like cheese, spring onions, potatoes and peas, so experiment with the flavours you like.

Basic NZ Bacon and Egg Pie
  • 300 grams good quality bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 large free range eggs
  • 400 grams puff pastry
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  1. Grease a deep dish pie tin well with butter. Roll out two thirds of the pastry and line the pie tin
  2. Spread half the bacon on top of the pastry,
  3. Break the eggs into the pie on top of the bacon and break the yolks, gently swirling the yolk and white together. Season with salt and pepper and top with remaining bacon.
  4. Roll out the remaining pastry and place on top of the pie, crimp the edges of the pastry together.
  5. Brush the beaten egg mixture over the top, cut a couple of holes in the lid of the pastry and bake at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 40 to 50 minutes until cooked through and golden on top.
  6. Serve with a decent dollop of tomato sauce and a green salad

13 February 2012

Vanilla Caramels with Sea Salt

It's school holidays which means lots of time in the kitchen with the little chefs. Yesterday we whipped up a batch of my favourite caramels - the recipe contains sea salt so I thought it would be fun (and pretty) to pop some on top. These would make fabulous gifts, wrapped individually in wax paper and popped into a decorative box.

When you're making the caramel you can use a candy thermometer if you've got one - I don't, so I just use the 'softball' method - which means popping a drop of the mixture into very cold water and the caramel is ready when you can roll the drop into a soft ball.

Vanilla Caramels with Sea Salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Bring butter, cream, vanilla essence, vanilla bean and salt to a boil in a pan, set aside to cool
  2. Line a 20cm baking tin with baking paper and butter the paper
  3. Boil sugar, syrup and water in a large heavy bottom pan until sugar is dissolved, don't stir at this stage, just swirl mixture until sugar dissolves. Cook until a light caramel colour
  4. Remove pod from the cream mixture and carefully stir into to the caramel mixture, it will splatter and is scalding hot, so be very careful (this is one job the little chefs didn't get to do)
  5. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the mixture is at soft ball stage - this can take anything from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, so I start testing the caramel at 15 minutes. It's trial and error, if it's too soft the mixture won't set properly (but you can pop it back into the pan and try again), if it's too hard, it will still taste fabulous, it will just be less chewy than intended
  6. Once ready pour the caramel into the baking tin, sprinkle with sea salt and leave until completely cold, cut into 2cm squares

10 February 2012

Chicken with Thai Basil and Chillies

One of my favourite Thai dishes is Gai Pad Kra-Pao - chicken stir fried with thai basil and chillies. I love the aniseedy sweet taste of thai basil, it's deep rich colour, and nose wrinkling fragrance. The traditional Gai Pad Kra-Pao is quite simply flavoured with lashings of fish sauce, buckets of garlic and a good wallop of chili.

In my house, fish sauce is something that is met with an upturned nose and an adamant refusal to eat whatever it is I'm cooking (and that's just hubby - I haven't tried the little chefs on it yet), so I relent in this dish and use oyster sauce and soy sauce for the saltiness instead. I also like to add a decent dollop of minced ginger, because it really enhances the other flavours in the dish, and I throw in a handful of chopped spring onions. What results is something vaguely resembling the original dish, and full of the flavours we love. Just as a note, I add the chillies last after I've already dished out the little chefs meals.

You can use Thai holy basil for this, but I prefer Thai Sweet Basil, it has rich green leaves on purple stems. For those in Doha, you can find it in Megamart - they receive their Asian vegetables on a Thursday afternoon so Friday morning is a great time to buy it.

There is no substitute for Thai Basil, so if you can't find it, save this recipe for another day. If you have Thai Basil left over, take it off the stems lay it on tissue paper or kitchen towel, roll it up, pop into a plastic bag and freeze to use in thai curries.

Chicken with Thai Basil and Chillies

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3cm piece of ginger, minced
  • 500 grams minced chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 cup lightly packed thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 red capsicum finely chopped
  • 2 thai chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (use more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

  1. Put the oil, garlic and ginger in a wok and heat over a high heat. When the garlic and ginger are sizzling add the chicken and stir until cooked.
  2. Add the spring onions and capsicum and fry for a few minutes more.
  3. Combine the sauces and sugar and add to the pan, stirring to coat, add in the chopped chillies and thai basil and cook for a minute until the basil is wilted. 
  4. Taste. Add more chillies and sugar if required.
  5. Serve over steamed rice.