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Lamb Bolognese

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Yesterday was my first time cooking with lamb. I decided to start small and go with ground lamb. I figured I could do a number of things with easy and versatile meat product. I thought about making meatloaf, meatballs, or a pasta sauce. Pasta always wins out for me. Always.

I started off making this more Italian, but the spices I continued to reach for made it more Middle Eastern. Maybe some Indian influence? Not really sure, but it sure did turn out amazing! By the looks of the ingredients this is obviously not a traditional bolognese sauce. But aside from the spices, it’s almost the same. I added in my own spices (as mentioned previously), and I subbed in the half-and-half for the whole milk you usually add.

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Lamb Bolognese

  •  1 small onion, minced
  • olive oil and butter (approx 1 tbsp each)
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp of paprika (or less, but I like the smokiness that it brings to meat)
  • 1-2 tsp of chili powder (depending on your tastes)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp various dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme, sage, or rosemary
  • 1 can tomato sauce (14 oz ones)
  • 1 tbsp of raw sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbsp of molasses
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of half-and-half (depending on your sauce preference, more is less thick and creamy, I used 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Start off my heating a heavy bottomed pot (about 3 quarts). I recommend a cast iron, those typically work the best with sauces. Take out your meat from the fridge and allow to rest. This takes the chill out of the meat and ensures even cooking (I read that just this morning, and lucky that I had done it completely unaware of its benefits).

Add the oil and butter when the pot is nice and hot.

Add in the onions and allow to brown. Do not add in the salt at this stage. After five minutes or so (the onions should be nice and golden), add in the lamb with the spices. Coat everything in the butter-oil mixture. Make sure the meat gets a chance to brown; stir it infrequently, and break apart into smaller chunks. After about 10 minutes add the herbs and tomato sauce. Stir in the sugar and allow to melt in.

Add the molasses and the half and half.

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Simmer on medium-low for twenty minutes. Stir about every 8 minutes or so, just to ensure the meat is getting evenly coated in the tomato sauce. Taste at this point and determine if you need more salt, more pepper, or maybe even more sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

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Take off the heat when the sauce has thickened and is nice and fragrant. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Top with pasta of your choosing. I would recommend small shells, rotini, or any other twisted pasta to catch the sauce in.

When serving sprinkle more parmesan cheese.

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So Christmas is in a week and I’m in the spirit of baking, cooking, searing, and soaking everything I possibly can as long as it’s got Christmas somewhere in it.

I had my Christmas Part with friend last Friday and it was a blast. I opted for a lot of finger foods, and my friend offered some lovely chili which I ate gluttonously the next morning before work. I have been pottering away at my Nigella cookbooks and a few stars of the show (Christmas Spiced Nuts and Pistachio Fudge) will make another appearance as I head out to family parties and give some Hostess gifts.

First, I got a hold of some fresh cranberries, and what better way than to make my Cranberry Bakewell Tart (courtesy Nigella). I have to say that the recipe was a slight challenge as I added too much water to the dough, however, it came out perfectly, and deliciously.

Next to that I had my lovely spiced peaches to go to friends and family, and spiced Christmas nuts.

Cranbery Bakewell Tart

For the pastry
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 stick plus 1 tbsp cold butter
1 egg, beaten
1-3 tbsp iced water
pinch salt

Put the flour, almonds and confectioners sugar into a food processor and pulse together. Add the diced butter and process again until the mixture looks like oatmeal.

Beat together the egg, salt and ice water and tip down the funnel of the food processor as it is running, to bind the pastry. Form the pastry into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge.

For the filling
1 stick plus 1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
zest and juice of 1 clementine
1 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 cup cranberry jam*
8 oz royal icing

Preheat the oven to 400.
Melt the butter and leave it to cool slightly. Beat together the sugar, eggs and zest, then add in the melted butter, stir in the ground almonds. Roll out the disc of pastry to fit in a 10 inch deep fluted tart pan with a removable base, and prick the base with a fork. Spread the jam onto the pastry and pour over the almond mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes, leave to cool completely on a wire rack. once cooled make the royal icing using the juice from the clementine, work over the top of the tart and decorate with almonds, nonpareils, cranberries, etc.

Cranberry Jam* 

This cranberry jam is the easiest recipe ever, and the one which is well worth it.

Take 4 cups of fresh cranberries to 1 3/4 cups sugar and about 1/4 cup of water and dissolve sugar in water. After this is done, and it will take a while, you raise the heat to make the mixture boil, about 10-12 minutes.

DONE! Let cool before adding to tart above.

Spiced Christmas Nuts
4 cups of assorted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts).
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 tablespoons of celery salt
kosher salt to taste
In a large skillet add nuts and heat for 3 minutes. Add oil and spices, leaving the salt out, and mix for another 7 minutes or so, making sure everything is glossed with the spices.
Pitch out onto a plate or aluminum tin and season with salt to taste.

shown: almonds, cashew, walnuts, and pecans

perfect for gifting!

Lastly, my spiced peaches for my boyfriend’s mother will be the tie in to the post. It’s really awesome, in my opinion, to give the gift of food and deliciousness. It’s not that it’s hard to find gifts for her, and in fact I’ve already done that, but it’s fun to get people stuff throughout the December time without them expecting it, and even if they do (because they know me so well) it’s nice to give all month long!

Sealed and Stored

Spiced Peaches
These are wonderfully perfect. You can eat them hot or room temperature, as long as they’re stored in a sterile jar and sealed they can keep for 6 months and if not sealed about 5 days in the fridge.
2 14-oz cans of peach halves in syrup
an inch of ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper corns
3 cloves
2 small cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Add peaches with syrup into a pot or deep pan. Let warm through about 2 minutes, add Vinegar, ginger root, cloves, black pepper  corns and cinnamon sticks. Let come to boil (about 5 minutes) and take off heat. Serve or store in sterile jars.