Food Glorious Food


What is it with us and FOOD? I watch the cooking channels and, I have to ask myself, is all that fart-arsing around really necessary? Why have we elevated food to such worship status? As contestants on cooking shows sob about how food is their passion and this is their dream, I have to wonder how, in the grand scheme of things, feeding people has become so fucking complicated. Chefs seem to be more concerned with presenting food in novel ways and combining weird and wonderful ingredients than producing a really good meal. Drips and blobs of jus (heaven help us if we call it gravy) and sprinklings of microgreens result in dinner plates resembling Jackson Pollock creations, and that just doesn’t appeal to me. Not anymore.

My increasing dissatisfaction with the over complication of food has prompted me to start compiling some of the recipes collected over the years for meals that I have prepared for family and friends. It is interesting how people seek out the food of their childhood, the food that reminds them of home and the places where they were raised. My mother was never one of the greatest cooks but some of my favourite meals are those that I remember her preparing for us. Perhaps we associate that with love.

For some time now Kiera and Alex, who both really enjoy cooking, have been asking me to send them recipes and I’ve decided to share them through my blog. The food I like to cook and eat is mostly easy peasy, simple and quick-to-prepare. However, hopefully these requisites  won’t preclude healthy, tasty and fresh food.

When I lived in Durban I shopped nearly every day, but now that I’m miles away from the nearest grocery store, I realise just how much food and money we wasted that way. So, I’ve learnt to stock my pantry and freezer with the basics and shop weekly for the fresh stuff, trying to eat as seasonally as possible. It does help to have my own vegetable garden.

If there is anything I know for sure (and really it’s not that profound) always shop with a LIST (boys don’t like that I know but Alex you can put the list on your phone and no one will notice) and never shop on an empty stomach!

So this is my first FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD post and it is in response to Alex’s text message this morning which read: “Hi. I have to go to the shops today. Do you have a recipe for an easy to do stew? I’ve been eating oven baked chicken breasts and I’m kind of over it now.” (!)

The recipes should all serve 4.

Edna’s Shortcut Lamb Hot Pot

  • Cooking time: 2 hours
  • Oven: 160°C
  • 700g lamb chops (Edna only ever used loin chops, expensive I know for a casserole so look for what is best for your budget and remove excess fat)
  • Oil for cooking
  • 2 x 400g tins lamb & vegetable soup (Heinz does a very nice one called Big Soup). Sometimes it is called Scotch broth
  • 3 large / 4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 cup butternut chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • Knob of butter

Arrange an overlapping layer of potatoes on the base of a casserole dish and top with the sliced onions. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb chops until brown. Place on top of the potato and onion slices and add the butternut chunks. Pour the 2 tins of soup over the chops and butternut and season. Arrange another layer of potatoes on top and pour over about half a soup tin of water. Dot the potatoes with butter, cover and cook for 1½ hours at 160°C. Remove the lid, check the liquid and add more water if necessary. Cook for another ½ hour with the lid off, until the potatoes go crispy on top.

NOTE: If you can’t find any tins of Scotch broth / lamb & veg soup, then add ½ a cup of 4-in-1 Soup Mix, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup of chopped veggies (carrots / beans) and 2 cups chicken stock instead.

 Leek and Lamb Casserole

This recipe comes from a cookbook called Casserole Cooking by Myra Street, which I bought from Marks and Sparks for £2.59 when Peter and I were living in Canterbury in 1981. I definitely would have used the cheapest cut of lamb on the market if I cooked this dish while we were in the UK since we were living very much on the bones of our arses at the time!

  • Cooking time: 2¼ hours
  • Oven: 160°C
  •  700g lamb chops (the recipe calls for middle or best end neck of lamb, which I think is what we would call rib chops in SA)
  • 50g flour
  • 1 x tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 x tbsp cooking oil
  • 3 leeks, coarsely sliced
  • 410g tin tomatoes
  • 300ml water / chicken stock (please don’t use cheap stock which has MSG in it)
  • 1 x tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 x teaspoons mixed herbs

Toss the lamb in seasoned flour, until lightly coated. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan and fry the lamb on all sides to brown. Place in a casserole dish. Add another tbsp of oil in the pan and fry the leeks gently for 2 minutes and place in the casserole with the drained tomatoes, keeping the juice. Add another tbsp of oil, if necessary, to the pan and add the remaining flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in water or stock, juice from tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and seasoning. Bring to the boil, stirring. Pour over the lamb. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.

This is nice served with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

This picture shows popular cuts of lamb and their typical uses: basic lamb cuts. I always choose the leanest chops (usually loin or rib) because I don’t like lamb fat in a casserole and can’t be bothered spending time trimming the fat off. I suppose neck slices or lamb cubes would also work in the above recipes.

Hearty Beef Soup

Cooking time: at least 1½ hours on the hob

  •  4 x medium sized beef shin pieces (choose fresh not frozen and cut the sinew surrounding the meat to stop the meat from curling up)
  • 2 x tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 x 410g tin tomatoes
  • Garlic, chilli and chopped fresh herbs to taste
  • 1½ litres beef stock (organic if possible and definitely no MSG please)
  • 250ml /1 cup 4-in-1 soup mix (dried peas, barley, lentils and groats)
  • Salt & pepper

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot and brown the shin pieces. Remove and keep to one side, on a plate. Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and gently soften the onion, carrots and celery. Add the garlic, chilli and fresh herbs and then add the tomatoes. Put the beef back in the pan (with any juices on the plate), and stir it all around. Add the beef stock and soup mix and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook on the stovetop for at least 1½ hours, add water if necessary. When the meat is falling off the bone, it’s ready. Take out the shin, remove the bones and any fat or gristle, cut the meat up and add to the soup. Taste and season accordingly.

Serve with crispy bread smeared with butter – yes, butter.

NOTE: Instead of the 4-in-1 Soup Mix you can add 2 x tins of beans (any beans will do, just rinse and drain them first). Don’t add Soup Mix and beans together though because the soup will become too claggy.

And finally I’m including the following recipe for Kiera since she is heading into summer and is always on the lookout for something that can be taken to work for lunch. It is adapted from a cookbook written by Antony Worrall Thompson called “the diabetes WEIGHT LOSS DIET” which I bought when Peter discovered he had diabetes, not that he ever read it mind you!

Bean and Salad Wrap

  •  1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin[1]
  • 1 tsp ground coriander[2]
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes[3]
  • 1 x 410g tin beans, drained and rinsed
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 4 tortillas / wraps, warmed
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Shredded crispy lettuce
  • Full cream Greek yoghurt[4]

Heat oil in a frying pan and cook spring onions, garlic and chilli for 2 minutes over a medium heat. Add the spices and cook for a further minute then add the tomatoes and beans. Simmer until you have a thick sauce. Stir in the fresh coriander. Lay the tortillas / wraps out on the counter and spread with a thin layer of yoghurt. Add some bean mixture and top with avocado and lettuce. Roll the tortillas / wraps up, tucking in the ends. Slice diagonally in half and eat warm or leave them to cool then wrap in grease-proof paper for transporting.

[1] Growing up in Durban I always knew cumin by its Indian name “jeera”

[2] The same with coriander, which I still call “dhania” – I believe it’s known as cilantro in America.

[3] Tinned chopped tomatoes are more expensive than tinned whole tomatoes. A trick I learned from Jamie Oliver is to simply stick a sharp knife into a tin of whole tomatoes (of course it should be opened first), jiggle it around to chop up the tomatoes and there you have it, tinned chopped tomatoes and no mess involved.

[4] Quite a few years ago I decided that if I was going to eat yoghurt, it had to be full cream Greek, none of this low fat, artificially sweetened nonsense for me. I am delighted to report that Tim Noakes now advocates the same. AWT would have us eat 0% fat yoghurt – GROSS!

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