Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Surprisingly Successful

Today I cooked one of the best things I've done for ages and I'm so proud of it! We had 500g of cubed lamb in the freezer, which I defrosted overnight before realising I had no idea what I was going to do with it. This casserole-type dish took hardly any time to put together, and looked after itself in the oven while we took the boys out into the garden to play. I served it with some of my homemade bread and, honestly, I could hardly believe how much we all enjoyed it. Clean plates all round, with considerable jostling for seconds.

Spiced Lamb with Butter Beans

1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
few sprigs thyme
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
500g cubed lamb
500ml lamb stock
2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed

Heat some olive oil in a large casserole and fry the onion and celery until softened. Add the thyme leaves and spices, stirring well. Brown the lamb and season with black pepper, before pouring in the lamb stock. Add water if you need to, to just barely cover everything with liquid. Bring to the boil, then transfer the pan to the oven. Cover the pan and cook for 1 hour at 180°c, then stir in the beans. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°c and cook, uncovered this time, for a further 45 minutes.

I always like a pudding of some sort to round off a meal. Most evenings we have fruit, either a mixed plate to share or something special like a pineapple. Last Thursday we got a coconut in the organic box, which provided a couple of nights' worth of post-prandial nibbling. Our other 'everyday' pudding option is to raid the tins in the kitchen for cake or biscuits of one sort or another, whatever I've been baking recently. Tonight we cut into the bara brith I made on Sunday. This is a lovely cake to have around the house; one of those fruity cakes that is just right with a cup of tea and very simple to make. I made this one because I had some tea left in the pot after a friend had been over on Friday, it was a tad stewed but perfect to soak the fruit for this cake. I actually ended up leaving the fruit soaking for two days, as I forgot about it on Saturday, but it was none the worse for that. If you don't have 'leftover' tea, just make a fresh mug and use that. Use whatever mixture of dried fruit you like. I keep bags of 'mixed dried fruit with peel' in my baking cupboard, so I tend to use some of that.

Bara Brith Hawdd

You can, if you like, add some orange or lemon zest to this very basic recipe.

300ml tea
250g dried fruit (see above)
250g self-raising flour
125g sugar
1 egg

Soak the fruit in the hot  tea until it is cold (and see above). Stir the finely chopped zest into the fruit-and-tea mixture, then beat the flour, sugar and egg. Turn the batter uinto a greased and floured 1lb loaf tin. Bake at 160°c for 50 minutes.  Cover with foil durig cooking if it is browning too much. Cool the cake in the tin. For the best result, wrap the cake in foil when it has cooled and leave it in an airtight tin for a couple of days before eating it, spread with salted butter in the true Welsh way...

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