Friday, 26 October 2007

I love Summer

You know summer is around the corner when the air is warm, slightly heavy and smells like freshly cut grass. I love summer. But when the weather gets warmer, I feel less inclined to cook anything fussy. Less time in the kitchen means more time to enjoy the balmy outdoors.

The other evening, I made a quick curry and to work the Asian theme further, I made coriander-garlic naan, and mango pudding for dessert too. The curry, to my dismay, tasted more like satay you would get at the Chinese stand at an international food court but the naan was good. The dessert was based on an idea I took (and embellished) from those firmly set mango puds you order after you have had your fill of delicious steamed dim sums at your local yum cha restaurant.

Although mangoes are not at the height of their season (Kensingtons were retailing at $5 each), the pudding worked well with frozen mango cheeks. Topped with snowy-white coconut granita, a squeeze of lime juice and fine chiffonade of mint, this dessert in my opinion, is the epitome of summer in a glass!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Spring into Lunch!

Spring has sprung, as they say and I celebrated the first weekend of the season with a plump and juicy leg of roasted lamb. I purchased the perfect joint with the truest intention of roasting it and inviting some friends over for dinner that evening but true to form (and to the tradition of getting distracted), I ended up going out to town with a girlfriend and the leg of lamb was left to get acquainted with the rest of my fridge’s occupants for a few hours.

The leg was butterflied with the shank still attached so it looked like an intact leg when rolled and bound. You can save a buck by buying a leg of lamb and butterfly-ing it yourself but why bother when someone else can do it for you. By removing the bone, the leg cooks quicker, more evenly and with the added bonus of the increased surface area of flesh, you can marinate the meat effectively and in less time! I wish I had paid a little more attention to the weight of the joint I bought but my guess is, it was around 1.5 kilograms (excluding the bone) which was more than adequate for a party of 6 with leftovers for a lamb sandwich or two with homemade tzatziki the next day.

To prepare the meat for cooking, I made little incisions on the inside of the leg and inserted slivers of dark olives into these slits. Anchovies would have been nice too if I had some as the unctuous and salty nature of these little fish go so well with meats like lamb and veal. Anyway, I gave the meat a good rub with a heavy slosh of extra virgin olive oil and a lavish seasoning of cracked black pepper, smoky paprika, garlic, oregano and lemon zest before rolling and firmly tying it with kitchen twine. At this point, you could seal the meat in a very hot pan to brown the fat a little and finish off the cooking in a very hot oven (around 200 C) for 35-40 minutes. Alternatively, you could let it sit for a few hours in the fridge allowing the flavours of the herbs and spices to mingle and develop before proceeding with the cooking while you attend to your social life - as I did.

Preparing a meal of roast meat and vegetables for your family and/or friends need not be a production. With mindful planning, the entire feast can be prepared in less than an hour. Trust me, I know because I timed myself and I didn't break a sweat while cooking. Whilst the meat was in the oven, I prepared my side dishes: sauteed kipler potatoes with duck fat, flaky sea salt and chives, stringless green beans with a herby, buttery rye crumb topping, and lemon-garlic yellow zucchini, all of which were cooked simply and more importantly, quickly to capture their bright colours which reflect the splendour of spring!