“Green Rice” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

When I first bought this book and brought it back home in September, my husband Tim was skeptical. “Another cookbook?” he asked, reasonably, motioning at the more than 100 cookbooks I have on our bookshelves. “Really? I assume it’s for the blog, then?”

I explained that actually, no, it wasn’t for the blog. At least it wasn’t at that point. I just bought it mostly because I wanted to support the work of The Hubb Community Kitchen, which was opened after the horrific Grenfell Fire tragedy as a kitchen for displaced people to use. Proceeds from the cookbook are used to help fund the kitchen, and they’ve already been able to refurbish the space and to be open for seven days a week (up from two days a week before the cookbook), so it worked. There are, to be sure, some recipes in here that I can find elsewhere in my cookbook collection. But that’s not the point.

Green Rice was the first thing I cooked out of this book when I first bought it. The author of the recipe is from Iraq, and she writes it’s a version of a traditional dish from there, making this the first time I’ve ever cooked from an Iraqi recipe. It was delicious.

I’ve since made it subsequent times, and it’s been a hit every time. I made it again when Andrew was home from university over Christmas, and he loved it too. It does require a bit of forward planning, because the lamb has to simmer for an hour before you get on with the rest of the recipe, but it is easy. Most surprising of all, even though it’s got a fair amount of dill in it, even Tim, who hates dill with a passion, liked it. When I expressed surprise, he said there were enough other flavours in it that you didn’t notice the dill as much.

Just writing about it again is making my mouth water for it. Highly recommended.

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“Green Rice” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

The important thing to bear in mind if you want to make this recipe is the word SLOW in the title. The lamb shoulder needs to sit in the marinade overnight and then roast in the oven for 6 1/2 hours before it’s ready to eat. So you need to be very much on top of things to make this, and plan ahead. For that reason, it’s perfect for a Sunday lunch.

I know the picture above doesn’t look that appetizing. I suspect that Ottolenghi had the same problem since there’s no picture of this dish in the cookbook either. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. It also made the whole house smell amazing, which made us all hungry.

If you do decide to make this, though, my top tip is to fill the roasting tin with carrots and other vegetables. I filled mine up with the required amount– though I didn’t add celeriac because I forgot to get it– and they ended up completely “carmelised” (Read: Burned) and inedible. So the next time I make it, I’ll add more vegetables and also be more assiduous in basting both the veg and the lamb while it roasts.

Was it easy? It was, actually. The only slight problem I came across is that I didn’t have fenugreek seeds in my spice cabinet, and when I went to source them in the usual spots the only fenugreek I could find was ground. So I subbed that in, but I don’t know if that made a difference. It still was quite delicious.

The cookbook includes a shorthand guide for all the recipes: S for “Short on Time”, I for “10 Ingredients or Less”, M for “Make Ahead”, P for “Pantry” and L for “Lazy” and E for “Easier than you Think.” This one was labelled I-M-L-E, and I would definitely agree with all of those, especially, “Easier than you Think.”

If you’d like to make this yourself, Ottolenghi included the recipe in his 2018 Easter recipe roundup for the Guardian. Click through here to see it.

“Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Mint and Cumin” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

“Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt” from Dinner: Changing the Game”

In the past, people have noted that they can tell how much we love a cookbook by how early and often we post recipes. While that’s often true, that is not the case this month.

Even though it’s already the 13th of the month and this is the first review I’ve posted, I’ve already cooked at least eight dinners out of this book. I know it’s not the end of the month yet so I can’t give my final verdict, but I can say that it’s been a very tasty month so far. The reason why I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked is only because life (work, children, etc.) has gotten in the way. It happens.

We made these meatballs for Sunday night dinner (See how far behind I am? And when I say Sunday dinner, it wasn’t even this past Sunday!) and they were delightful. They were tasty but straightforward to make. They had an air of Ottolenghi about them– in the best possible way– but didn’t seem as much faff as many of his recipes.

Tim made Jamie’s chapatis to go with, which enabled the teenager to make multiple wraps with the meatballs and sauce, while enabling me to mop up the herby yogurt sauce.

Delicious. 10/10 would eat again. And happily.

If you’d like to try this yourself, Google Books has indexed “Dinner: Changing the Game” so you can find the recipe by clicking through this link.

“Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt” from Dinner: Changing the Game”

“Lamb, Saffron, Dried Lime and Cumin Spiced rice” from “Sirocco”

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Tom: Oooo. Yum! This is kind of like a biryani.

Kirstin: It is, isn’t it? I forgot to take a picture of this with all the bits and bobs. Apologies as it looked so very pretty.

Tom: The lamb is very juicy!

Kirstin: Ah yes. That will be the two hours of cooking beforehand which I didn’t realise until quite late. Oooops!

Tom: This is really great. I could really see this at a party too.

Kirstin: I could tell you were going to like this as you kept coming into the kitchen to see how things were going. And you’ve been hovering next to the oven for the last 20 minutes.

Tom: So Miles, you like paella. This is a bit like it. Do you like it?

Miles: I really like this! The lamb is yum!

Ella: I really like this too! It tastes delicious!

Kirstin: Another winner. And very good for parties, provided you you take the two hours into consideration beforehand. And so pretty too!

“Lamb, Saffron, Dried Lime and Cumin Spiced rice” from “Sirocco”

“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Anna: Well this was perfect for a freezing cold Sunday night in January. Proper comfort food. Pretty easy, though I was a bit suspicious of the additional step required of mixing the cooked potato with the lamb and then popping back in the oven for half an hour or so. But it was really worth it. The potato lid goes crunchy. Parts of the lamb and potato go sticky and caramelised. Which elevates the whole thing. I didn’t entirely follow the recipe to the letter however. Nigel left out a key ingredient. What goes better with lamb and the sweetness of sweet potato then salty feta? You think Nigel would have worked that one out himself! So I recommend you try this recipe. With my secret ingredient.

“Lamb Stuffed Sweet Potato” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Broad Bean Puree with Feta Relish and Cumin Flatbread” and “Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika” from “A Change of Appetite”

CBAMLambKebabsMaureen: Let me tell you, this dinner truly was a labour of love.

Tim: What do you mean?

Maureen: Well, first I had to pod the broad beans. Then, after I cooked them, I had to take the skin off. Diana Henry even says, “It’s a bit of a pain at first, but quite soothing when you get into a rhythm.” Respectfully, I disagree. It’s just a pain. I never found it soothing.

Nicholas (10): I like the pita.

Tim: I’m not so sure about the pita. I think we have other recipes for flatbread that were better.

Maureen: I’m with you on that. These are fine, but we’ve made better. The fact that it took yeast and needed a few hours for it to rise was a real minus.

Andrew: The kebabs are good.

Maureen: I agree. They’re nice. I also like the feta relish– that’s delicious. This other stuff [pause to look up the name] the Georgian adzhika is also good.

Tim: Did that take long to make?

Maureen: Nope. That was a quick whizz in the food processor.

Tim: So what do you think?

Maureen: I would make again everything but the pita and the broad beans. The pita is just OK and I lost the will to live making the broad beans.

Tim: Agreed.

“Broad Bean Puree with Feta Relish and Cumin Flatbread” and “Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika” from “A Change of Appetite”

“Lamb Kofta Tagine”, “Golden Couscous” and “Butterscotch Apple Pudding” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”

Louis: Aunty Woffy meatballs! Louis eat meatballs with Aunty Woffy!

Kate: I’m flattered to be associated with meatballs.

Anna: Kofta actually. But he knows meatballs, so that’s what I’ve told him they are. I’ll be interested to see if he eats them.

Peter: This is nice.

Anna: How many meatballs would you like Louis?

Louis: Two.

Anna: How much couscous?

Louis: No. No couscous.

Kate: Well I like it. In fact I’ll have a few more meatballs.

Anna: The pudding is a bit of a failure I’m afraid.

Peter: It tastes fine.

Anna: But there’s no sponge to speak of. It’s a sweet soggy mess. I think the cooking apples gave off too much moisture. It’s similar to Bill Granger’s banana butterscotch pudding recipe but doesn’t work as well. Oh well.

“Lamb Kofta Tagine”, “Golden Couscous” and “Butterscotch Apple Pudding” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”