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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

rosti

Champ Rosti

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…

 

 

cabbage rolls Ocado

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

cabbage rolls Ocado Here at North/South Food, we are such black pudding fans, it’s one of our biggest  and best used tags, but we’ve completely neglected its close cousin, the white pudding. Made from oats, onions and pork fat, it has a lot of the flavour of black pudding but without the fear factor some people feel toward blood.

It’s a very traditionally Irish dish, but not really eaten in England and I have to admit I’d forgotten about it a bit until a friend mentioned their love of it recently, so when I saw it in the Ocado Irish shop, I knew I had to get some. Usually served fried in slices as part of a breakfast, I needed to perk it up for dinner.

Most people associate cabbage with Irish food (mainly alongside boiled bacon) and if I’m honest, I’ve never met a cabbage I didn’t love so it was a logical conclusion to use the heavily spiced white pudding to stuff cabbage leaves for a simple meal that promises to impress. I teamed with a beurre blanc and some Vichy carrots for added (and accidental) green, white and gold on the plate.

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (serves 4)

Preparation time about 25 minutes

Cooking time about 30 minutes

  • 1 cabbage (I used sweetheart, but Savoy works a treat)
  • 300g white pudding
  • 2 spring onions
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoons pul biber or red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace

Vichy Carrots (serves 4)

  • 500g carrots
  • 500ml sparkling water (I doubt you’ll find Vichy handy sadly)
  • 1 dessertspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 50g butter
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional) or parsley to serve

Beurre Blanc (makes 250ml but keeps well)

  • 50g shallots or spring onions, finely chopped
  • 15g fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 50ml white wine or vermouth
  • 25ml white wine vinegar
  • 25ml double cream
  • 125g butter at room temperature
  • salt and pepper

This might sound like a complicated meal but it really isn’t. I made it while half distracted and apart from accidentally buying dill for the beurre blanc instead of tarragon, it worked perfectly.

Boil a kettle of water and pour about two thirds into a large saucepan and the rest into a shallow bowl. Put the porcini mushrooms into the shallow bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Keep the pan of water at a rolling boil and carefully peel the leaves of your cabbage off one at a time. Remove the central rib and split the leaves in two if using the pointed sweetheart cabbage.  Blanch each leaf individually for about a minute and use a slotted spoon to fish them out again. I lay mine on a clean tea towel.

Call that slotted spoon back into action and scoop your porcini out and finely chop them. Add to a mixing bowl, along with the spring onions which you have also chopped as finely as possible. Crumble the white pudding in, adding the extra seasoning and mash it all together with your hands.

Lay a cabbage leaf out at a time and put a heaped dessertspoon of white pudding on it close to the base. Roll the base of the leaf over the filling once and then fold the sides in as well to make a parcel. Keep rolling the leaf until the filling is completely covered. Repeat until all the filling and cabbage leaves are used. I got about twelve from mine. Steam the leaves for about 30 minutes.

raw cabbage leaves

While they are steaming, cook the carrots. Peel them and cut into batons (or if you have baby ones, peel and leave whole) and put in a saucepan. Just cover with the sparkling water and add the salt. You want to season them quite heavily to mimic the salinity of Vichy water (but without the sulphurousness.) Don’t forget the sugar. Boil them rapidly on a high heat without moving the carrots around as you want the water to evaporate leaving a glaze on them. Mine took about 15 minutes to become tender. I then added the butter and cooked them for another 6-7 minutes on a medium heat. Add the caraway seeds at this point to soften them or they are unpleasantly crunchy.

Carrots under control, turn your attention to the beurre blanc. In a dry pan, soften the shallots (I only had spring onions so used the whites) for a minute or two. Add half the tarragon, wine and about half the vinegar and reduce down for about 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.

Add the cream and bring to the boil. As soon as it hits boiling point, start adding the butter, whisking vigorously until it comes together. Take it off the heat and blitz it all with a hand blender until foamy and add the remaining vinegar and chopped tarragon.

Serve the cabbage leaves with the beurre blanc and the carrots on the side and enjoy the praise for a meal that’s full of flavour but with very little hassle to make. I kept the main course a little lighter so you could enjoy the cream of potato soup and the coffee Baileys marshmallow pie in style too. Perfect to give cabbage a new lease of life for the doubters!

 

 

pineapple sorbet

Pineapple Sorbet

pineapple sorbet Aside from friends and family, I think the thing I miss the most about Northern Ireland is its selection of ice lollies. Considering its such a chilly corner of the world, we love our frozen treats. Ice cream has its merits, but there’s something about ice lollies that we especially enjoy.

These lollies held a massive lure when I was a kid popping to the local shop with my pocket money. Sometimes you went for quantity over quality and got handfuls of those Mr Freeze freezepops in the long plastic containers, making sure there was at least one Blue Raspberry flavour per batch. A freezepop fest didn’t count unless you dyed your tongue an unnatural shade.

But more often, it was all about branded lollies on wooden sticks. I’m old enough to remember when they embossed jokes onto the sticks and this was worth the potential to set your teeth on edge with the wood. Walls offered us Mini Milks and Funny Feet, but I didn’t like either much. Lyons had the iconic Fab and the Mivvi, but they were cinema lollies not hot day ones. I adored Irish company HB‘s Fat Frogs which were apple flavoured and had a soft spot for a shark shaped one that was sharp and citrus flavoured and a blackcurrant Dracula lolly too, but my love lay (and still does) with Norn Irish classics from Dale Farm.

Leaning over the freezer trying to choose between a Rocky Rasper (raspberry, but not blue), the sugar free but lovely lemon-lime Supa Cool, a smooth vanilla Mr Frostie (in lieu of the toy lolly maker of the same name) or the crocodile branded Choc Pop was tricky. I never wanted a Joker with its orange outer and ice cream middle and I hated orangey Quenchers too.

My first choice was always the Pear Picking Porky, the undisputed classic ice lolly of all time. Not, as my Slovakian surrogate sister once asked, pig flavoured, but made of that artificial pear flavouring that is nothing like the fruit, these lollies the spot every time. I’ve even eaten them walking up Botanic Avenue on Boxing Day. The only problem with them is that they are so popular they sell out easily, meaning one needs a back up plan.

For me this comes in the shape of a Polly Pineapple. So when I found myself far from Belfast in the middle of a heatwave and craving frozen salvation, I knew I could muster a pineapple lolly in London rather than a pear one. Surely it would be pretty simple?

And it was, coming in with a whopping three ingredients. The tricky bit came when I could not for the life of me get the lollies out of the cheapo moulds I bought in the pound shop in one piece. The sticks slid out, there was swearing and then in a fit of frustration, I scooped the slightly slushy sorbet out with a spoon and refroze it in a Tupperware. Success…

Pineapple Sorbet (makes about 500ml)

  • 1 whole fresh pineapple or 425g tin of pineapple chunks
  • 100g sugar
  • 75ml water

I like tinned pineapple (blame my Mallory Towers habit as a kid) so that’s what I used but if you can get a super sweet and ripe fresh pineapple, it’d be perfect. Sniff the base of it, discreetly if in store, and if it smells strongly of pineapple, it is perfect. Peel it, remove the core and chop it up making sure you keep any juice.

If using the tinned, tip it, juice and all into a large bowl. Using a hand blender, blitz the pineapple of either kind and its juice together until smooth and lump free. It should like those nectar style juices you get that contain pulp. Set aside and chill.

Make a simple sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pan and heating together until it forms a thick syrupy texture without changing colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down. You will have slightly more here than you probably need for the recipe but it keeps well in the fridge and is perfect for sweetening iced tea in hot weather.

Add about 50ml of the cooled sugar syrup to the pineapple pulp and stir. Pour into a Tupperware container and put the lid on. Put in the freezer and chill for 4 hours. Either give it a stir once an hour with a fork to break up the ice crystals and keep it smooth or leave it alone for 3 hours and then blitz it again with the handblender and freeze for another hour.

Take it out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you want to eat it. It will be smooth in texture and almost like a really really good Slush Puppie. In fact, you could add a tiny bit of dark rum and drink it as a frozen cocktail through a wide straw if you liked. It tasted enough of a Polly Pineapple to quench my craving, but better enough to be worth the effort. Plus it gave me a chance to get the fake parrot and pineapple ice bucket out…

 

pineapple cream

Pineapple Creams

pineapple cream I am obsessed with Northern Irish traybakes and home baking. I’m obviously having some kind of childhood regression, homesickness or strong desire to bring such delicacies to a wider primarily English audience.  Basically it makes sad that there are people have never eaten a fifteen or a top hat until now.

However having introduced several friends and readers to these entry level traybakes and got them hooked on the sugary delights of Norn Irish cuisine, I’ve been leafing through some prized local cookbooks to look for more niche items to feed to them.

Often these books are collected by a local church, parish or community organisation like the WI and while it’s tempting to giggle at the old fashioned recipes involving tinned fruit juice or glace cherries, these pamphlets and books have grown ever more fascinating to me as I’ve been working on Recipes from Brixton Village. Both capture a certain place and community in its time and introduce you to people’s lives through food, conversation and friendliness.

Books like this are a snaphot in time, a glance at history, fashions and people’s celebrations. They tell you as much as family albums and concentrate on home cooking rather than restaurant trends. They welcome you into their community and wider family and they appeal me to much more than the TV tie in cookbooks of recent years, leaving you feeling like you know something about the person who made the food as well as the dish itself.

I think people will enjoy dipping into Recipes from Brixton Village and feeling like they are getting to know the traders through the recipes and Kaylene Alder’s illustrations as much as I enjoy flipping through The Belfast Cook Book by Margaret Bates and seeing the environment my extended family were raised and lived in. I’ve learned things about my Protestant background in Belfast and mid Ulster from the church and WI books I’ve collected recently that I never noticed as a child (mainly that the traybake is a distinctly Prod way of eating…) Food is a very effective way to communicate no matter where you come from.

A recipe that just leapt out at me on this traybake inspired cookbook meandering was the now somewhat unfashionable pineapple cream. A small pastry tart case filled with crushed pineapple and whipped cream before being topped with pineapple water icing, these were a real favourite of me and my granny when I was wee. Trips into Lurgan town centre on market day weren’t complete without two of these in their little foil cases from one of the fantastic (and sorely missed) home bakeries every Northern Irish town centre had in those days.

Shelves at places like O’Hara’s, McErleans, Jeffers or Kennedy’s groaned with baps, farls, pan loaves,  gravy rings and sweet buns, biscuits and tarts. You couldn’t miss the pineapple creams with their vivid yellow toppings and we brought two home in a white paper bag to be eaten with a cuppa at the kitchen table. Strangely I don’t remember eating them with anyone’s else except her and I’ve certainly never heard of anyone making them at home, so it seemed time to try both.

Pineapple Creams (makes one 9″ tart or 12 small tarts)

  • 400g shortcrust pastry (not sweetened)
  • 2 x 425g cans pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple, juiced reserved
  • 400ml double cream
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 100ml boiling pineapple juice
  • pinch of yellow food powder or liquid colouring

I have to admit that I used shopbought pastry for this pineapple cream tart because my homemade stuff shrinks like wool on a boil wash and while I’m trying to work out what I’m doing wrong, I rolled out some commercial shortcrust instead. If you are more pastry proficient than me, this Dan Lepard recipe for pastry is a good basis.

Line a 9″ tart tin or a 12 whole small tart or bun tray and chill the pastry for about 30 minutes before blind baking for 25 minutes on 200°C. Remove the lining and baking beans after this and bake naked for another 5-7 minutes to give a golden finish. Allow the pastry to cool completely.

Drain the pineapple chunks and reserve the juice. These pineapple creams always used crushed pineapple with its soft almost sticky texture but this is much harder to get these days than it used to be. Del Monte sell it or you can simply crush your chunks with a potato masher. Drain off any excess juice after this and layer the pineapple into the tart tin.

Whip the cream and spread it over the pineapple evenly. Smooth the top down as much as possible with a spatula or a palette knife.

Pour the reserved pineapple juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil, adding the food colouring now if using the liquid version. Tip the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the pinch of yellow food powder if using. Pour the hot pineapple juice into a measuring jug and add about 25mls at a time, whisking well. 100ml will give you a loose but not pourable texture, but you might want a drop or two more if it is too stiff to spread. It should be a soft yellow colour rather than looking like the background of a smiley face.

Use a spoon to pour the icing over the cream. It should be thick enough to obscure the cream completely. Allow the icing to set for at least 1 hour before serving. The pineapple will begin to leech its juice after a few hours and the pastry will become sticky and a little difficult to cut in a large tart. No one will notice when they are eating it but don’t make it too far in advance. Serve with tea and a certain amount of nostalgia.

pineapple_cream_in_bakery-01

PS: Recipes from Brixton Village is available from May 22nd. Free P&P at the Kitchen Press website on orders!