Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fennel Sausages with Lemony Potatoes & Bay Leaves

It has been a busy weekend - the book signing on Saturday, the Bristol Half on Sunday followed by a lovely post half lunch at friends and then my birthday (for which Mark cooked a delicious...no, I mean really really delicious roast beef). On top of this of course there have been the normal kids activities - a rugby match against Taunton School and a football match plus rugby, football and swimming training. Not wanting to go too overboard singing my husband's praises, he dealt with all the kids stuff this weekend brilliantly...except the washing of the kit of course (claims he doesn't know how to work the washing machine).

For my birthday the kids gave me Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes, a beautifully illustrated book packed with tasty dishes, many of which you can actually cook quickly and easily. I'd say my knowledge of Mediterranean cooking is pretty good, but this book has definitely got some delicious ideas, even if some of the recipes contain ingredients that you wouldn't normally find down the local supermarket or deli. What's more, the majority of them are healthy, wholesome and low fat. As I was a bit fed up with couscous, rice and pasta having spent the past week carbo-loading, I was yearning for some delicious potatoes, so last night we had the Fennel Sausages braised with Lemony Potatoes and Bay Leaves out of Rick's book (or rather our local butcher's Cumberland sausages to which I added a tablespoon of fennel seeds) . It was dead quick and easy and truly delicious. We ate it with a scrumptious lollo rosso salad in a mustardy dressing made with cider vinegar and pumpkin seed oil and it made the perfect accompaniment. I think it would also be good if you replaced the sausages with a nice pork chop or a piece of chicken. This is my rather bastardised version of Rick Stein's recipe:

  • 500g nice quality meaty sausages - Rick Stein's recipe uses fennel sausages, but I've no idea where you'd get them in Bristol, so I added:
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves (2 if the sausages are garlicky), finely sliced
  • 750g waxy potatoes - they must be waxy ones or the dish won't work - I used pink firs, which I just washed and didn't bother peeling and cut into long halves or quarters depending on their size
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Brown the sausages gently in 1 tbsp of the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or roasting dish. Set aside.
  3. Gently saute the onion, garlic and fennel seeds in another tbsp of the oil until they are soft and then add the potatoes, the sausages, the bay leaves, the lemon zest and 1/2 the juice, 2 tbsp of the parsley, a good pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Pour on the rest of the oil and add some water - about 120ml or to about 1 inch depth. Cover tightly (I covered it with tin foil as I used a roasting dish) and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.
  5. Add the rest of the parsley and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over before serving.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Signing -Go Faster Food

Book Signing -Go Faster Food

Come and say hello to me at Borders, Queen's Road, Bristol on Saturday 5th September, 11.30 - 12.30, especially if you're about to run the Bristol Half - I'll be offering advice on nutrition and recipes for training and signing copies of my book.

Here's the link to the Borders site http://bristol.borders.co.uk/events/bristol/6/

Looking forward to meeting you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Griddled lamb cutlets with chickpea and sweet potato pilau

Griddled lamb cutlets with chickpea and sweet potato pilau

We're getting to the end of the kids Summer holidays and stocks are getting pretty low. I've been delaying a big food shop in favour of much more interesting activities like long runs, bike rides with the kids or trips to buy new school shoes (?!) and so last night was most definitely a "scratch" meal....but sometimes they are the best. Within 10 minutes, a most delicious aroma had filled the house and supper was ready - not only a tasty and speedy meal, but a perfect low G.I., high carbohydrate dish for my preparation for the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday.

I had some fresh chicken stock and so decided on a risotto to accompany some lamb cutlets which had reached their best before date - it was only when I started to saute an onion as the first stage of the risotto that I discovered I had run out of risotto rice. When you're running sometimes you have to be flexible and change your goals when things don't go to plan - this can happen in just the same way with cooking and a quick change of plan was needed - it had to be a pilau with basmati rice. I threw in a sweet potato, some chopped celery, a spoon of madras paste, some crushed cardamom seeds and a tin of chickpeas. I added the rice to this mixture, mixed it all up and then covered it with the hot stock. Ten minutes later the pilau was ready - finished off with some finely chopped green chilli and a big handful of fresh coriander, a healthy, energy-giving and tasty meal for five had been prepared in a blip....and subsequently demolished in about the same amount of time!

Ingredients - serves 5

  • 10 lamb cutlets ( I seasoned mine with herbes de provence and a little moroccan spice mix)
  • 350-375 g good quality basmati rice (about two big handfuls per person)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 scant tablespoon madras paste (I use Pataks)
  • the seeds of 3-4 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • chicken stock
  • large handful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • 1 large green chilli, finely sliced into rings
  • yoghurt sauce - mix a pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, pinch of chilli powder, pinch of coriander or ras-el-hanout spice mix into about 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  1. Prepare the lamb cutlets - coat them in whatever herbs and spices you have decided to use and heat up the griddle.
  2. Gently saute the onion and celery in the oil and then add the sweet potato after a couple of minutes. I use a large, deep frying pan with a lid - this sort of thing is perfect for a pilau. Add the madras paste, the cardamom seeds and the chickpeas and then stir it all around for a minute or so.
  3. Add the rice and stir so that all the ingredients are well mixed up.
  4. Add enough hot stock to cover the rice by about 1/2 cm. When the stock comes to the boil again, turn down the heat to very gently and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Basmati rice cooks really quickly so check to see if the rice is cooked after about 8 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile griddle the lamb cutlets. A good trick is to leave them on the griddle without turning until the fat goes really crisp, then turn them and finish them off on the other side.
  6. When the pilau is cooked, add the fresh coriander and the slices of chilli and serve with the cutlets and the yoghurt sauce.
  7. I found half a bag of watercress in the fridge which I livened up with a mustardy dressing - this went really well with the lamb and pilau.