saffron

Cauliflower with saffron, raisins and pinenuts

cauliflowerpinenutssaffron

As a family we have given up TV for Lent. This is very hard but has resulted in us being slightly more productive in the evenings and doing wholesome family things like playing board games.

I have also become a vegetarian for Lent. This is not really a trial for me but it may be hard for my husband. I do the lion’s share of the cooking and so he is now forced to eat less meat too. I’ve suggested that he cooks up a load of sausages on a Monday and eats all my vegetarian creations with ‘a sausage on the side’.

My 8 year old daughter, who is already a vegetarian, and who wanted to take things one step further, has renounced her bed for Lent and is currently sleeping on the floor!

I’m not sure what all this says about a family who are not even religious. Perhaps it shows that we like a challenge. Or maybe it’s a sign of guilt and a cathartic need for self punishment!

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been experimenting more with vegetables. I had been hoping to bring you an exciting Ottolenghi recipe from his vegetarian bible ‘Plenty’, but the one I tried this week irritatingly didn’t work even though I followed the steps with precision.

So instead here’s a very nice recipe from a comical (and not very good) book – Gregg Wallace’s ‘veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’. It remains on my book shelf only because it’s signed by the man himself who wishes me ‘Good Kitchen Times’.

veg

This isn’t even his own recipe but one nicked from the ‘Moro cookbook’.

‘Cauli from the Sam Clarks’

Serves 2 as a main course (with leftovers for lunch)

  • 1 small cauliflower broken into tiny florets
  • 50 strands of saffron (life is too short to count saffron strands so I estimate that this is a good pinch)
  • 75g of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 5 tablespoons of pinenuts, lightly toasted (this is a lot so use less if you wish – pinenuts are very expensive)
  • Salt and white pepper to season

Pour 4 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron in a bowl.

In another bowl soak the raisins in warm water (with the water just covering the raisins).

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for 1 minute. Drain and rinse the florets in cold water, then drain again.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove them from the pan leaving a little oil behind.

Turn the heat in the frying pan up to hot and add the cauliflower. Fry until there is some colour on the florets (about 3 minutes). Then add the onion, saffron water, pine nuts.

Drain the raisins and add those too. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the water has evaporated and season well with white pepper and salt.

Best served warm (rather than piping hot) which seems to enhance the flavours).

Any leftovers taste fantastic mixed with a little cous cous and eaten cold for lunch.

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Lamb and apricot tagine with couscous

Nigel Slater tagine without nigel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with tagines. First I tried Lindsay Bareham’s lamb and apricot tagine. It looked beautiful and was quick to cook but tasted a bit insipid which was bizarre considering all the ingredients involved. I then tried a Nigel Slater recipe with the same name and I knew I’d found a winner. His version was slow cooked and absolutely packed with flavour.

Nigel Slater is a brilliant food writer but in my view he should never have been put on television. Is it just me who wants to drag him to the hairdressers? He’s also a little bit creepy. Like Nigel this dish is not a looker but don’t let that put you off because it tastes amazing.

It’s a bit tricky to source but don’t be tempted to miss out the preserved lemon – it cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and really lifts the whole dish.

Nigel Slater’s lamb and apricot tagine

Serves 4 generously

  • 1kg lamb shoulder, diced (to roughly 3 cm square) with as much fat trimmed off as possible
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika (I couldn’t find this and so I used cayenne pepper instead)
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 60g sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g apricots (I used just 250g because this is the size of the bag and this was plenty, I also roughly halved them)
  • A preserved lemon (I used ¼ of a jar of preserved lemon paste which they sell in the ingredients section of Tesco)
  • A large handful of coriander leaves
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • Some oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a bowl toss the diced lamb in half the ground spices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least four hours, although overnight is best.

Set your oven to 160oC fan.

First brown the lamb in batches in a frying pan with a little oil until it is nicely browned on all sides and set aside.

Then, in a heavy-based casserole dish with a lid, cook the onion, garlic and the remaining ground spices in a little oil over a medium heat until soft and slightly coloured.

Add the sultanas, honey, saffron, stock, tomatoes, apricots and meat to the pan. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours.

If using a preserved lemon, cut it in half and discard the interior pulp. Finely chop the skin and stir in to the tagine. Alternatively, add the preserved lemon paste and give it a good stir.

I found that after 2 ½ hours the sauce was beautifully thick and did not need reducing. If yours does look a little thin then Nigel suggests removing the meat with a draining spoon and boiling the sauce over a high heat until it thickens up, before returning the meat to the pan.

Just before serving add the coriander and mint.

Serve on a bed of couscous (see below). It is also nice with rice.

Couscous

For 2-4

  • 200g couscous
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 450ml of hot chicken stock
  • The juice of half a lemon

Make up the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and the juice of half a lemon, then the couscous in a stream. Give it a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave for 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Before serving fluff up the couscous with a fork.