Tag Archives: food

Easter Monday Lamb Jalfrezi

I know we’re past Easter but did this on Easter Monday holiday.

imageDisclaimer: this is not an authentic Indian recipe. It’s ‘Anglo-Indian’ cooking that my parents’ generation tried and slowly perfected after emigrating to an England devoid of Asian spices and foods back then. Anglo-Indian (mixed European-Indian) immigrants to the UK not only had to learn to cook dishes like this for the first time in some cases but also how to cook at all. In India many had Indian servants who cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed for them as did my parents. I even had an ‘Aya’ or child nurse who looked after me while mum and dad were working when I was a baby. Enough with the history. To the food.

Lamb Jalfrezi became an occasional Easter Monday tradition in our home to use up the left overs from the Easter Sunday leg of Lamb roast without putting it into sandwiches. If you Google ‘jalfrezi’ it will describe a dish remotely related to this one but with the integrity and principles of Indian cooking intact.

So to the dish.

It’s made of 3 parts: a rice bed, a Dhal or curried lentil side and fried dry lamb meat with crispy bits on top.

Getting the rice on

imageFor special meals, we still cook rice the traditional Indian way. Takes longer but is heaps more satisfying. We always use Basmati, the prince of all rices. Fill an average tea mug almost to the brim with rice grains and that should provide enough for 4 people. If you like very generous portions, add a quarter mug more but make sure you eat it within two days as it goes off real quick.

Pour the rice into a DEEP cooking pot – seriously it must be imagedeep. You need to wash the rice. Fill the container half way with cold water and with your hands swirl the grains around. The water will start to cloud as you lift off the starch. Drain and repeat two or three times until the water is clear when you swirl the rice. Drain one last time and then fill the container so it’s two thirds water to rice. Bring to the boil and simmer. Watch over it! If you leave rice unattended during this process it may quickly turn to stodge. Test the rice by lifting a few grains out every so often. They need to be al dente: not hard in any way but almost chewy. If soft and squidgy…you’ve ruined it. Turn the heat off immediately and drain the boiling water. Rinse the boiled rice ever so quickly by pouring in cold water to stop further cooking and then drain. Find a wide shallow dish and spread the rice out in it. Leave it open and uncovered at room temperature to dry offby natural evaporation. Don’t be tempted to cover it. You should then have beautiful white, fluffy rice ready for re-heating when the meal is done.


imageLike the rice, the red lentils that will become Dahl need a good wash first. Again a mug and a half of lentils in a container, swirl and rinse 2 – 3 times in cold water and leave soaking in clean luke warm water until needed. Pour about 2-3 table spoons of vegetable oil into a cooking pot and heat. Add half a sliced onion and cook until transluscent but don’t let it brown. Add 1 large crushed garlic clove, a quartered medium size tomato and a quarter teaspoon of Haldi (Turmeric). Don’t put too much Haldi in or it will imageoverpower all else. Watch over this as if you burn the Haldi it will turn bitter and you will have to start again. The key is to SMELL the dish. When the Haldi first goes in it has a raw pungent smell. As it cooks the smell mellows as the onions start to brown. At this point add the lentils and water to two thirds full plus some ginger. Just take a root, slice it thickly, put 2-3 slices in, skin on and just pull them out later. Add 2 beef OXO cubes (vegetable will do but as this is acompanying lamb…). Bring to the boil and then lower to just below stirring occasionally. Froth will appear on the surface which you can skim if it bugs you but you have already washed the lentils so there is no need. The red lentils will turn yellowy greeny when cooked and will start to absorb the water. It should then take on a loose porridge consistency and be quite rough and rugged. Now the dahl is done – in 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it be.

Fried Potatoes.

imageIf any of your roast potatoes made it through to left overs (never a possibilty in our house as dad made THE most awesome roasties I’ve ever tasted) they would play an awesome part at this point. If you have any then cut them into bite sized cubes. Even if you only have 1 or 2 left over do it any way. Find another 2 med-large sized raw potatoes and cut them into bite sized cubes. Fry them. However you want to do it – deep or shallow -but get them golden brown. Don’t add the left over roasties with them. Once the raw ones are done, lift them out of the oil and dry on kitchen paper then fry the roasties. You will taste the difference between the raw and the roasted and I know for sure which people will go for the most.

Crispy Bits.

imageThe crispy bits are falvoursome garnish and you need to cook them before you tackle the lamb. They will add flavour to the finished meal but will also flavour the fried lamb that will be cooked last. Take a wok and cover the base with oil. You need to be generous because imagethis same oil will also fry the lamb. Heat the oil and when sizzling add some thinly sliced strips of ginger and two chopped garlic cloves. Fry until golden brown then lift out and rest on kitchen paper. Leave the oil on the heat. Once the garlic and ginger are done, slice half an onion and fry in the same oil until darkly golden brown. Lift out and dry on kitchen paper. Leave uncovered to cool and harden but leave the oil in the wok and still on the heat.

The Lamb.

imageSo to the lamb. Cut the left over slices of lamb into cubes or bit sized pieces. Turn into the sizzling ginger, garlic and onion infused oil. At this stage those who like their food spicy hot can add sliced green chillies. I don’t as I can’t do hot spicy food – ironic seeing I was born in India. Jalfrezi is traditionally a green chilli dish. Add what you want at this stage but on your head be it. The rule in our family in judging chilli heat from the outside was that the smaller and more compact the chilli is the sharper its bite. A good rule in life for all people who dare to mess with smaller (shorter in mys case) spicy things. Thinly slice the chillies and add, seeds and all.

This is a fairly quick fry but not a flash fry. Let the meat absorb the flavours in the oil and keep watch over it. Lift out pieces that look like they might burn and drain on kitchen paper. Drain all the meat on kitchen paper.

Jalfrezi is essentially a dry dish that some will add stuff to to make a sauce. There’s no real need for that as the Dahl is there to provide the liquidity. Anglo-Indian friends of ours who shared this meal would also add Tamarind Water (go Google) to add to this meal. It’s a spicy hot-sweet-sour liquid served at the table in a pouring cup that diners add sporadically to the dish. I don’t do the Tamarind Water but my recommendation as an accompaniment is a teaspoon of Lime Pickle on the side of your plate – my favourite pickle with most Indian meals.


Norwegian Smooth

imageI love cheese. It’s a permanent feature in my fridge in some form, whether as a block, pre-sliced or in foil wrapped triangles. I love cheese.

Open my fridge any day of the week and you will normally find a medium-mature cheddar in some form or possibly something Swiss but things have changed. My new best cheesy friend is Norwegian Jarlsberg and if you haven’t tried it maybe I can persuade you.

imageI had tried this sweet and nutty cheese before and it always struck me as a poor relation to Swiss Emmental or Gruyère. That was until I had a short stay in Norway’s capital, Oslo, last year. Over there, Jarlsberg is a part of daily life and can be present at breakfast, lunch and tea.

imageIn the UK, we consume £7million worth of this cheese that never makes it into our pre-selected supermarket Christmas variety boxes. It accounts for 80% of Norway’s dairy exports and is the most imported cheese into the United States where there is a huge appetite for its holey, creamy nuttiness. Jarlsberg has been around since the 1850s but saw a renaissance after 1956 under a closely guarded and secret recipe known only to the few and elite Norwegian producers. Wherever it is produced in Norway, Jarlsberg must meet a universal quality control standard before reaching the consumer. There is also a whole science and art involved in the creation of the trademark holes in the cheese, which you can read about here.

imageTwo key kitchen tools you will be guaranteed to find in very many Scandinavian homes and restaurants are a wooden butter spreader and a miniature metal cheese slicer. Cheese has always been at the heart of Nordic homes and due to the climate they have always been of the hardy, chunky kind far from the soft, spreadable cheeses of France, Italy and Southern Europe. Yet unlike our British way of consuming hard cheeses such as our beloved Cheddars, the Scandinavians are not into carving up chunks of cheese with their meals, hence the miniature slicers. Slim and delicate is better and is the secret to enjoying the delicate, light flavour of Jarlsberg. In Norwegian restaurants, you may see fine slivers of Jarlsberg appear as salad garnishes and with grilled meats.

imageLike Emmental. Jarlsberg, for me, tastes so much better at room temperature than straight from the fridge. Once a little heat permeates the block, the consistency becomes softer, more elastic and almost like a hard butter. Perfect for skimming with your mini Nordic slicer (if you know where to find one) and topping Rye seeded sourdough bread. It’s also a perfect melting cheese under the grill on toast when as with Emmental and Gruyère, the sweet and nutty flavour deepens and intensifies as it melts in your mouth.


Haggis, Neeps & Tatties – my recipe.

{This post was drafted before my current 7-day Cabbage Soup Diet Journal}

It’s January 25th on Wednesday this week and north of the English border, our Scottish cousins will temporarily stop bleating on about independence to warm the homely hearths on this cold, deep Winter’s night, cracking open the finest Malt Whiskeys  and then settle down to a hearty plate of ‘Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’.   Then, once repleat, they’ll toast all things that can wear a Kilt and how the Scots invented the Earth and all upon it… and pick up bleating about the English again.

January 25th is ‘Burns Night’.  It is not, as I once thought, a commemoration of the night Scottish people pounce on foolish stray Englishmen and Bar-b-que them over a bonfire, but a celebration of the life of Robert Burns, Scotland’s greatest poet and one of their most famous sons. Never heard of any of his works?  Bet you have.  You sing one of his ‘chunes’ every year on 31st December – ‘Auld Lang Syne’, thought to have been penned by the bard in 1788.   Did you know that after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus, there are more statues around the world of this Scot than any other (non-religious) person?  Some other interesting facts you may not know about Rabbie:- the Soviet Union was the first country ever to honour  him on a postage stamp in 1956, he was the first person to appear on commemorative bottles of Coca Cola in 2009 and US President Abraham Lincoln is said by some to have been inspired by his works during the American Civil War and his fight to abolish slavery. It’s that old ‘freedom’ thing from the English again isn’t it?

Anyway, this post is not about Robert Burns or Scottish independence.  It’s about food and specifically ‘Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’.  Have you ever had it?   I love it.  A friend of mine first made it for me  when I went to visit her in Edinburgh.  “Haggis?   Eeeeeeew!  Sheep guts and animal gooey bits in a slimy bag?  NO WAY!”.   There are worse reactions I have had to the thought of eating certain foods, but it’s been a very long time since I visited France and experienced that sort of trauma.   Nowadays, ‘Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’ can be on the menu on any given Sunday any time of the year in the Penwald household.  Haggis is after all available in the major supermarkets year round.  Before I share with you my recipe, let me demystify this perilous sounding dish for you. I most recently cooked this for a couple of Welsh friends on New Year’s Day. The look on their faces when I told them what they were eating is pretty much the universal reaction most non-Scots have to the thought of the dish.  Haggis is made of the organs of sheep or lamb mixed with oatmeal, suet, herbs and seasoning.  Traditionally, this is all ground and mixed up and then sewn up into a bag made of animal stomach lining ready for boiling.   Still with me?  OK, you can still get traditional Haggis in skin bags but with the rise of Vegetarianism and in part to make the dish more palatable to the squeamish, you can get vegetarian Haggis sealed in plastic bags.  On New Years Day I served up both options just in case.  The food went down well…and stayed down, which was a bonus. ‘Neeps’ is Scottish for Turnip, although I have since discovered that some Scots don’t know the difference between Turnips and Swede and it is Swede that is used in most recipes I’ve come across.  Finally ‘Tatties’ are your good old mashed potatoes.

This is a Turnip ^

 This is a Swede ^

This is also a Swede ^

So to my take on the recipe.  For a meal for 4 people, you will need…

  • Potatoes for mashing.  Quantities will depend on how big an appetite you think your guests might have, but trust me…make enough for 2nd helpings. I find Maris Pipers the best mashers around.
  • 1 half of a medium-sized Swede.
  • Several Turnips (4-5)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots
  • 1 supermarket-bought Haggis, ready to boil
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Cream, butter and a glug of Scottish Malt Whiskey (optional)

At this point, traditional Scots reading this will be wailing and gnashing their teeth (which incidentally was the real inspiration behind the invention of the Bagpipe) but I did say this was my take on the dish, which I have cooked many times now.

Prepping is very easy to do.  First, look at the time your Haggis needs to boil.  It can take 45 mins to an hour.  These days you can microwave your Haggis in a few minutes but I prefer the traditional boil.   If boiling, wrap the Haggis bag in kitchen foil as this will seal in the heat and prevent the bag from bursting.  Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.  Ensure it is piping hot when you serve and make sure the pan does not boil dry. Fill the pan to around half way up the Haggis with water.

In the meantime, peel and wash your potatoes and chop them into quarters or smaller so they will mash easily.  Add salt to taste.  When soft enough, drain and mash adding butter, pepper and I like to add a dash or three of single cream.

While the Haggis and the potatoes provide the savoury flavour – and here’s a tip: The Haggis can be quite salty so don’t overdo it on the salt in the potatoes as they provide a nice counter-balance to the Haggis.  The other root vegetables provide the sweet flavour.  This is where me and the Scots part company.  They use Swede only but I find the mixture of the Swedes with Turnip and Carrot more interesting, tasty and colourful. Peel, wash and cut them all to the same size chunks so they all soften at the same rate. Add sugar, at least a couple of tea spoons full to the boil. This will serve to enhance and bring out the natural sugars in the veg.  Boil until soft and tender and mash away.   You can add some butter, cream or Creme Fraiche at this point plus some grated Nutmeg.

Finally prepare your gravy.   A basic onion or meat gravy used as the base.  Save some of the discarded water from the boiled root veg to mix into tyhe gravy keeping all the goodness. Then add some cream or Creme Fraiche, some grated Nutmeg, seasoning and that glug of Malt Whiskey.

All you need to do now is time everything so it is all hot and ready to serve by the time the Haggis is done and then sit down and enjoy a meal that is warm, hearty and as ancient as the Scottish hills.

Bon appetite!

(Oh bugger…memories of France again.  Really did not need that.)




You calling me fat, Doc? You cow. (Cabbage Soup Diet: Ground Zero)

Well I never said it to her in so many words, but that’s what I was thinking (language and terminology modified for the sake of not losing friends via this post).  I’m not averse to Doctors so long as they have their own Tardis I can nip in and out of while they are typing in-jokes to their fellow GP’s on my medical records like “just had a fat little git waste my time complaining of all sorts when all he really needs is a good slapping, a work out and a diet”.  OK, she wasn’t so harsh and I kind of like her. She’s been trying to look after my best interests ever since I was carted off to Hospital in an ambulance twice in the last 24 months with heart problems (including a collapse at work).  On my most recent check-up, she kind of hinted at my weight again….well, actually when I foolishly asked her ‘do I look fat, Doc?’ I saw her eyes scan my belly, the tightness of my T-shirt before putting her glasses back on and returning to her computer screen typing (I think) a sentence that had the word ‘delusional’ in it and muttering at me to get on the weighing scale under the examination bed.   “What does it read?”, she asked. I might be imagining at this point but I was convinced that she was by then on Twitter posting up something with the hash tag ‘#thingsdoctorsshouldneverwishtoinflictontheirpatientsbutsecretlydo’ . “80 Kilos”, I replied.  I’m still not sure what a kilo is to be honest.  “You were 77 last time”.  “What should I be?”, I said thinking the 3 kilo drift was not all that bad.  “75…for your height”.  I swear as I got off the scales I could see another Twitter post going up with the hash tag ‘#howtowindupshortarses’.

So look, at the end of the day….she challenged me. It’s taken two weeks or so of festering on the experience but today my battle with the bulge has come.   I’m taking on….THE CABBAGE SOUP DIET!!!!    Yes!   That great fix-all!   Lose up to 10lbs in one week!    OK…ok….stop. I have done this before. I have done the week completely and it works.

MEDICAL WARNING:   My doctors are not, repeat NOT happy with me doing it.  Another doctor at the same GP Practice told me that when research scientists experimented with mice on diets which alter your metabolic rate, such as this one does, half of them died (and not the unhealthy ones).

I’m a stubborn bugger but not completely senseless. I know a 7 day crash diet is no cure-all and I know that weight can be regained just as quickly.  I also know that when I’ve tried this before, it’s most usefulness has been as a kick-start into a new way of life after seeing results quickly.  My health is going to need a good, balanced diet, exercise, mental stimulation and incentive to make a difference in me…for me.

So today is Ground Zero.   The soup is made and I have just blended it down to a smooth creamy cup-a-soup texture.  It will not be all I eat over the next 7 days but it will form the basis.   More on the soup recipe and diet plan tomorrow as I keep a 7 day journal, but I intend to go through with this.

The real key to the success or not of what I do now is not in 7 days time. It will be in 7 months time whether my life and habits have changed for the better as a result of these next 7 days.  I am fully aware of that and am not looking for these 7 days to be the end of the story.

Just the beginning.