Lamb Ciste

Lamb CisteTucking into some boiled mutton last week simply gave me more of a taste for lamb and made me determined to try this traditional Irish recipe for Easter.

A lamb ciste* (pronounced with a hard C) is the biggest festival of meat I’ve seen in a long time and I think we all know I am pure carnivore these days. You layer lamb chops and lamb kidneys with lamb mince and then top it all with a topping of suet pastry and put your hands over the eyes of any passing vegetarians just in case.

I have never heard of the dish before stumbling across it on a random online search for slow cooked dishes and I have no idea if it’s actually that traditional or Irish, but I can tell you that it’s utterly brilliant in every single way.

I used shoulder chops, made the mince rich with a gravy using stock from the boiled mutton and then baked it all in the oven to give that perfect chewy lightness that only suet can give pastry. I served it as Easter lunch and it was fantastic and very easy to make in advance.

Lamb Ciste (serves 6)

  • 8 lamb shoulder or saddle chops
  • 750g lamb mince
  • 3 lamb’s kidneys (optional)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 150g celeriac or 3 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced (if not fodmapping)
  • 150g swede, diced (turnip for our Scottish and Norn Iron chums)
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200ml lamb stock
  • 3 anchovies
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 450g plain flour
  • 250g suet (not the ‘veggie’ stuff)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 250ml milk

I made the meat part of this the night before and the suet pastry just before serving as it works best freshly made. It made for a really easy and impressive Sunday lunch which required little effort beyond opening a bottle of something fizzy while it cooked.

Season the lamb chops well and seal in a hot frying pan for about 3 minutes each side. Rest in the dish you intend to serve the ciste in.

Seal the lamb mince in the same frying pan you used for the chops. You might need to do it in two batches to stop it from boiling in its own fat instead of sizzling.

Once it’s about halfway cooked, drain the fat off and then put all the lamb mince together in the same pan and scatter in the tablespoons of plain flour, the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce. Add the lamb stock and allow the mince to thicken into the gravy. Season well.

Tip it all into a bowl and pour the reserved fat back into the frying pan and soften the diced vegetables in it for about 15 minutes. Add the lamb to them all and mix well. Take off the heat

Core the white part out of the kidneys and cut each one into 4 pieces and stir through the lamb mince mix. Spread the mince mix over the top of the lamb chops and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight if needed.

Allow the meat to come back to room temperature next day and allow the oven to heat to 180C. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl along with the salt and pepper, mustard and suet and baking powder. Add the milk half at a time and bring the dough together until it just comes together cleanly.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 3/4 inch thick and big enough to roughly cover the dish you are using. Drape over the dish and pull any overhanging bits off and patch them onto any gaps. Brush it all with a bit of milk.

Bake for 45 minutes and then turn the heat to 200C for ten minutes to give the top a golden sheen. Serve immediately. Your lamb chops should still be slightly pink if they are quite thick but the mince and kidneys will be smooth and rich.

I served mine with roast potatoes and parsnips but honestly I think some peas or kale would be more apt as it’s a very rich dish. We had generous lunch portions and I had three decent goes at leftovers too. I might have finally reached my lamb limit (for this week at least) but my mince love is back in action for sure!

This post was inspired by #livepeasant for Simply Beef and Lamb. *And I’m told by the fantastic Wholesome Ireland that ciste in Irish means ‘treasure chest’ which fits this dish beautifully!

 Irish Lamb Ciste

boiled mutton

Boiled Mutton

boiled muttonAlright, technically it’s lamb, but boiled lamb probably sounds even less appealing to you. But don’t be misled, there was a reason this dish was a Victorian classic.

You take a piece of lamb (or mutton) and essentially poach it slowly with herbs and vegetables and you end up with beautiful moist meat that falls away from the bone and a deep meaty broth that makes the perfect basis for soup.

I had bought a half shoulder of lamb and was planning to essentially roast it in some way in the slow cooker, but then I happened across this piece on rejuvenating boiled mutton by Bee Wilson and felt inspired to try it for myself instead.

I’ve been having terrible trouble finding a way to make chicken stock taste like anything on the fodmap diet, but recently cracked it by using celeriac instead of celery and am now into broths again in a big way.

Adding it along with carrot, parsnip, fresh thyme, bay leaves, green peppercorns and the tail end of a bottle of vermouth, I popped the well seasoned half shoulder into my 6.5 litre slow cooker and cooked it on high for 8-9 hours.

I lifted it out and rested it for 15 minutes and the meat just slipped off the bone, pulling apart beautifully. I let the broth cool and strained half of it off as stock for a gravy and blitzed the other half up as a soup out of the sheer novelty of being able to eat soup again for once.

Boiled Mutton (serves 3-4)

  • half shoulder of lamb, well seasoned
  • 1/4 celeriac, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 onion (if not on fodmap)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 big sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon green peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 anchovies
  • 100ml vermouth
  • 1 litre cold water

There is barely any recipe here if you’re looking for something to make as a Sunday lunch that requires absolutely no effort or washing up but looks like you went out of your way to slave over a hot stove. I can’t decide if Mrs Beeton would approve of such inherent laziness or consider me a massive let down to womanhood…

Prep the veg and put it and the herbs on the bottom of the slow cooker crock and set the lamb on top of it. Add the vermouth and the cold water so the lamb is completely covered.

Cook on high for 8-9 hours. To make up for my laziness, I got my timings cock-eyed and ended up having to set my alarm for 6am to get up and rescue the lamb before it turned woolly in texture.

Rest for 15 minutes and then simply pull the meat away from the bone with a fork and serve with a quick relish made from capers, diced cucumber and fresh mint tossed in a little white wine vinegar, sugar and salt and left to sit for 30 minutes before being lightly squished with a potato masher.

I then served half the lamb with this and some roasted tomatoes and the other half as a shepherd’s pie using some of the lamb broth to make a gravy. All that and soup from one piece of meat? Not a bad night’s sleep really!

*This is another entry for the recent #livepeasant campaign for Simply Beef and Lamb, but all content is my own.

Slow cooker Carapulcra

Slow Cooker Carapulcra

Slow cooker Carapulcra

You might have seen the #livepeasant hashtag on Twitter recently celebrating the traditional cooking of the world using British beef or lamb and wondered if it was only British dishes involved.

I really hope it isn’t after the nice people at Simply Beef and Lamb asked me to take part and I immediately started plotting this Peruvian inspired beef and potato stew in the slow cooker instead.

Usually made using traditional South American freeze dried potatoes to thicken the gravy and a mixture of pork and beef, I decided to try a new idea I’ve had for thickening slow cooker gravies using regular potatoes recently instead.

These chuña blanco are one of the first examples of using cold temperatures to preserve foods and harnessed the sub zero climate of the high Andes to create dried potatoes that last for years. I can buy them in Brixton and the flavour is not unlike potato jerky.

It goes well with the other main flavours of this stew which is peanuts and chilli. Peruvians use a mix called aji which is as varied as hot sauces are but always contains garlic, chilli peppers and coriander. The most popular kind in carapulcra is aji amarillo but I was fresh out of that I’m afraid so I’ve insulted a load of Peruvians and adapted the recipe to what I had instead.

I created a thick rich gravy by grating one of the potatoes into the stew and allowing it to break down along with the peanut butter in the sauce and create a rich velvety gravy full of flavour and spice.

Inauthentic my version might be but it was simple, warming and so tasty everyone wanted seconds. What more could you want from peasant food?

Slow Cooker Carapulcra (serves 4)

  • 500g braising steak (mine was blade steak)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 300ml red wine (or dark beer)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 generous teaspoon Bovril
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 750g potatoes, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh coriander to serve
  • roasted peanuts to serve

If you can the night before, put the braising steak in a bowl along with the onions and garlic and the powdered spices and mix well. Leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.

If you aren’t used to using a slow cooker, let me give you some good news. You don’t need to seal meat or pre cook onions before using them. That dates back to the oldest versions and I find that generally browning the meat beforehand over cooks it and leads to that strange woolly texture you get in slow cooker stews.

This method means you can prep stuff the night before and put it all in the slow cooker crock next day without faffing. Even chilled meat isn’t a problem temperature wise, but don’t chill it in the crock as that can damage the crock and slow cooking down.

This recipe prepares nicely the night before. Simply warm the red wine in a pan and melt the peanut butter and Bovril into it to make a thick paste and set aside or use immediately.

Peel all the potatoes and cut all about 150g of them into 3-4cm chunks. Grate the remaining amount. Put them into the slow cooker crock along with the marinaded meat and the red wine mix.

Add the non ground spices, season well with salt and pepper and add the hot sauce. If you like a bit of extra kick you could add a chilli pepper too. I’m a fan of the frozen chilli paste for the slow cooker actually.

Check the liquid levels. It should be about two thirds the depth of the meat and potatoes. Add another 100ml of water if not. Slow cookers need less liquid that oven cooked stews as they don’t allow water to evaporate so don’t add too much or things will be flavourless.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook the whole thing on low for 8-9 hours. The grated potato will collapse into the liquid and make a thick gravy and the spices will fill it with flavour.

I served mine just as it was (I forgot the coriander for serving) with some roasted peanuts on top. African shops and sections of supermarkets often sell peanuts roasted without being salted and they are perfect here for a little crunch.

I loved this stew and would make it again. It’ll easily adapt to the oven if you prefer, using extra beef stock and I think it’ll be really popular with kids if you adapt the chilli to their palates or even (whisper) leave it out…


devilled sardines

1950s Devilled Sardines and Tomato Charlotte

devilled sardinesAs the entire world is now aware, I’ve got some food issues that make me feel very unwell at times. At home this is usually treated by undoing my top button and drinking cup after cup of peppermint tea.

But that doesn’t work in public so well and I rely on a variety of indigestion remedies so when Rennie got in touch with me about doing a blogger promotion I thought they knew about my habit of keeping boxes of them in each handbag and were going to give me a year’s supply!

Turns out they wanted to celebrate 70 years of soothing upset stomaches by cooking food from each of those decades and would I care to do something 50s based? Luckily the 50s pre-date garlic coming to the UK so I was in on this one.

Rummaging in my cookbook collection I found two pamphlets from the Ministry of Food from the post war rationing era and since rationing of butter and meat didn’t end until between 1952 and 1954 decided they might inspire.

I wanted to make a main meal so was delighted when two dishes caught my eye: devilled sardines and a tomato charlotte. I’ve only really heard of devilled things in relation to kidneys and they’ve never really appealed so this was my moment to branch out.

Fresh (or tinned) sardines were basted in a mix of sugar, mustard and vinegar and poached lightly while the tomato charlotte used stale bread and fresh tomatoes to make an easy economical side dish. The theory was great but would the food be as awful as people always say about the 50s?

Tomato Charlotte (serves 2)

  • 4 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
  • 2 slices stale bread, cubed
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 15g cold butter, cubed

I’ve given this recipe first as it can do its thing while you get the sardines ready. Slice the tomatoes about the thickness of a pound coin and drizzle with the olive oil (which isn’t at all 50s as you could only buy it in the chemists then) and season well with salt, pepper and the dried herbs. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

Grease an ovenproof dish and layer with some sliced tomatoes. Put a layer of cubed stale bread on top. Add another layer of tomatoes. Repeat until the dish is full. Pour any liquid from the tomatoes over it all.

Mix the breadcrumbs (mine were panko but I suspect a 50s housewife made her own) with the cold butter and pile on top of the dish til the top layer of tomatoes are hidden. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 180℃ oven.

Devilled Sardines (serves 2)

  • 8 fresh sardines, filleted or 2 tins in spring water
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 75ml water

I am lucky enough to have a fishmonger so I asked for my sardines to be filleted, but if you can only get whole cleaned ones, make sure to scrape the scales off, brush inside and out with the devilled mix and simply cook for 5 minutes longer.

Don’t panic at the amount of mustard specified here. It isn’t a typo honestly. Mix the dry ingredients with the vinegar to make a paste and brush it over the flesh side of the sardine fillets and roll them starting at the tail end.

Place each fillet in a saute pan which has a lid and brush the skin with any remaining mixture. Add the water to the pan and put the lid on and cook for 5-6 minutes on a medium heat.

If using tinned sardines, brush each side with the devilling mixture and grill for 2-3 minutes until the fish is hot and slightly crisping round the edges.

Serve the sardines with the tomato charlotte and some boiled potatoes. Mine were tossed with crushed capers, butter and a bit of lemon juice which is a bit edgier than the average 50s dinner table probably but nothing they hadn’t heard of at least.

Then I got stuck in and hoped for the best. And needn’t have worried because both dishes were absolutely delicious. The sardines had much more going on than just mustard and the charlotte turned some fairly meh tomatoes into something so good I ate enough for two people.

Ironically despite pigging out, I didn’t need any of my packets of Rennie at all…

vintage fish cookbook*This post has been supported by Rennie, but all thoughts are my own.


Champ Rosti


*Warning: this recipe may contain surprise cheese…

It was Pancake Day this week and with my usual organisational skills when I went to make pancakes for dinner on Tuesday, I had run out of eggs. And I don’t want to know how to make pancake batter without eggs thank you very much.

I thought what other flat foodstuff I could make for dinner and my mind went to rosti. Basically a pancake made almost entirely of potato, it’s quite the favourite of mine for that and its relative ease to make. Its Irish cousin boxty defeats me every time. Which might explain why I’m single on Valentine’s Day as apparently its your boxty making skills men are after. Who knew?

No such challenges with rosti (unlike me bothering to find the umlaut on my keyboard it would seem.) I decided to make one large rosti and to fodmap it, replace the onion with the greens of spring onion which gives it a champ flavour.

I also stealthily slipped some sliced mozzarella on top of the first layer of potato before adding a second layer and baking it all in the oven so I ended up with a gooey cheesy filling for a fantastic easy one pot brunch or dinner.

When I say serves 2, you of course know I ate the lot myself but in two sittings which totally counts.

Champ Rosti (serves 2)

  • 700g potatoes, grated
  • 3 spring onions (greens only if fodmap friendly)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • salt and pepper

The knack to a good rosti is potato starch to stick the strands of spud together and the best way I’ve found is to peel your potatoes (I used these Elfe ones I’ve been getting in Lidl which are fantastic) and boil them whole for exactly eight minutes.

Drain and allow to cool enough to be able to handle the potato and then grate on the coarsest side of the grater. You will have the correct amount of potato starch needed with the minimum of fuss. It should be sticky rather than gluey.

Put the grated potato in a bowl. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the potatoes. Season it all well and mix the spring onions through well. I have in the past also added thinly shredded cabbage here too.

Melt half the butter in the base of an ovenproof pan or skillet until it starts to foam. I actually used some brown butter I had left from another batch of these cookies which is why my rosti is so toasty brown.

Press half the potato mix into the pan without packing it down too tightly. Put the sliced mozzarella on top of it all and then press the other half of the potato on top of that. Press it all down quite firmly with a fish slice or spatula. Dot the remaining butter on top it all and put the pan in a preheated 200℃ oven for 20 minutes.

I went to clean the bathroom while mine was cooking but you may prefer to kill time other ways. Either way you’ll have a gorgeous golden rosti with crisp edges and a delicious cheesy centre and the only other effort being whether to top it with an egg or not. Any spare lemon and sugar from thwarted pancake making is not recommended though…