Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsI almost didn’t post this recipe, hence the lack of photos, in progress or otherwise! I’ve been making these Sensational Meatballs and Lentils for about 8 years (since 2006 according to my notes) and it was Jake who suggested that I share the recipe here on the blog when I made it the other day. It came about the usual way – picking up a few bits on the way home from work and seeing what was in the cupboards to supplement the ingredients – a bit like Ready Steady Cook! The resultant deeply flavoured, lemony Meatballs and Lentils were so delicious that I wrote up the recipe in my notebook.

This is one of those dishes that wraps you up in a warm blanket and gives you a hug; so comforting on these dark, chilly evenings. The seasonings of smoked paprika, rosemary and cumin seeds give the dish so much depth and flavour and the lemon juice and zest perk it all up.  It’s very quick to prepare, especially if you buy pre-made (raw) meatballs which can be a godsend if you are strapped for time.  Red lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook very quickly, usually between 15 – 20 minutes and the lemon juice is the perfect complement to them. Stirring in spinach or chard leaves at the end gives it a vegetal boost with the added bonus of not having to prepare a separate side dish. You could also use frozen spinach. adding it a few minutes earlier so that it has a chance to thaw in the pot. Don’t add salt until the end otherwise the lentils stay hard.  This is quick, one pot cooking at it’s best.

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsYou start by rolling the meatballs, then sauté the onions, then the meatballs with the seasonings; stir in the stock, lentils, lemon juice and tomatoes and let the whole lot simmer away while you get the rice on and prepare the spinach which gets stirred in a couple of minutes before the end. That’s it!! I urge you to give the Meatballs and Lentils  a try – the dish is absolutely sensational!

I’m taking these to share with all the Fiesta Friday #46  revellers, so generously hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Today our co hosts are  Margy @La Petite Casserole and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. – do drop by and say hello to them!

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

  • Servings: 4 generous portions
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g lean mince beef
  • 1 tsp of salt and a good grinding of the pepper mill
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • A good splash of Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole, dry roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 rounded tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 200g dry red split lentils
  • 1 rounded tsp of chicken stock powder stirred into 500 ml of hot water/500ml homemade stock
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 couple of bay leaves
  • 300 – 400 g fresh spinach or chard

To serve

  • Cooked rice
  • Dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Season the minced beef with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and with a light hand, mix well to combine. Wet your hands and roll into walnut sized balls and set aside. If you are in a hurry you can substitute ready made (raw) meatballs but get the premium ones as the cheaper ones have more fat and sometimes, gristle.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until soft and a little coloured.
  3. Stir in the rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic and lemon zest, then add the meatballs and sauté until lightly brown on all sides – about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice, the lentils, the stock, the tomatoes (break up the tomatoes if you are using whole tinned ones) and bay leaves. Let this simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be too thick.
  5. While it’s simmering away, wash the spinach/chard and remove the central rib if thick and fibrous. Save them in the freezer, for the stock pot. Chop the leaves and set aside. Get the rice on.
  6. After 20 minutes, check that the lentils are cooked through and also check the seasoning. Adjust to taste – this is the time to add salt; I also like to add more cumin seeds.
  7. Stir in the spinach/chard leaves and cover the pot to allow the leaves to wilt in the heat.
  8. Serve hot with rice an a dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's TableA Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson is a cookbook which took my cooking and palate to another level in the mid ’90’s. A grown up’s cookbook and later voted The Most Useful Cookbook’ in 2005, chef and writer, Simon Hopkinson makes absolutely no compromises when it comes to technique or quality of ingredients and is very no-nonsense in his classic approach to cooking which is unpretentious and full of flavour. He has headed the kitchens at Hilaire (where I was fortunate enough to have dined when he was cooking) and then Bibendum; has written a food column for the Independent and also made some wonderful TV programmes; some of which are still available on the 4OD catch up service if you are in the UK. It was he who introduced me to cooking a roast chicken at a very high temperature for the first 15 minutes to tighten skin and start rendering the fat, before lowering it for the rest of the roasting time. It was also he who introduced me to the the flavour sensation that is anchovy, rosemary, garlic stuffed into slits made into a leg of lamb – that first mouthful was unforgettable – the anchovy had broken down and mellowed into an intense savouriness while the garlic and rosemary had perfumed the lamb. I rarely cook a leg of lamb any other way.

10 years later, I am watching Jamie Oliver roast a leg of lamb directly on the oven rack with a roasting tin full of potatoes underneath to catch all the fat and juices. Both he and Nigella Lawson send my kitchen OCD tendencies completely into overdrive – they are both so MESSY but perhaps I would be too if I had a brigade of assistants to wipe down every jar, utensil, surface and handle I touch. I digress. I was very taken with the idea of the potatoes roasting under the lamb, cooking in the lamb fat and absorbing all the lamby juices but there was absolutely no way that I was going to put myself through cleaning the oven afterwards.

One Sunday, few weeks later and in a hurry, I bought some lamb and potatoes, thinking I would do my usual but got home to find that I had bought a boned and rolled shoulder of lamb. I thought of Jamie Oliver’s roasting method and remembered that I had a wire rack which had feet – it could sit in a roasting tin, a few inches above the base.  So I improvised on my “usual” by making a paste out of the anchovy/rosemary/garlic trinity and added a spoonful of mustard. I unrolled the lamb and smeared it with the paste, re-rolled it using the stretchy butchers string that it came rolled in and set it on that wire rack, over a few peeled potatoes, to roast. Best. Meal. Ever.

Intensely savoury and juicy meat; potatoes which were crisp on the bottom and full of the flavours of lamb – eaten alongside some plain green beans and washed down with a glass or two of a smooth red – it really was sublime. It is not a dish I make often though – this really is a treat to have once in a while, after a long brisk walk or perhaps for a special occasion when dietary concerns can be put aside…

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Roasted and ready to rest

This time round I included thyme leaves and a little harissa too – it was wonderful. Of course, you can leave out the harissa if you wish or substitute chill flakes and paprika but please do try it with the anchovy – the heat of the oven changes the flavour completely with no fishy taste, just a lot of big savoury flavour. And do remove the lamb from the fridge for at least an hour beforehand, to get the meat up to room temperature. It will cook more evenly this way.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Today, Elaine the inspirational blogger behind Foodbod and I are once again co-hosting Fiesta Friday #36 which is held by the generous, creative and wonderful Angie @ The Novice Gardener. Do take a look at Angie’s latest post – I mean, who else can take a draft post and some left over mole and come up with this mouthwatering dish for Crepas di Mole? You can also see who has been featured from last week’s birthday-centric submissions. And, on to my co-host,  Elaine – she makes the most delicious looking and sounding food all of which is dairy, wheat and meat free. Take a look at  The foodbod range where you can order some of her flavour packed dips and goodness bars if you are lucky enough to live locally to her.

Click on the Fiesta Friday badge below to join the party – you can submit a post (please be sure to include the link and a mention in your post to Angie  FF#36 post – it’s only polite and also ensures that you can be considered for a feature next week!)  or just take a look at others are up to!  If you are new to blogging, Fiesta Friday is a great way to gain exposure and make new friends too.

If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please do take a minute to read the guidelines.

fiesta-friday-badge-button-click-to-join1

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 medium floury potatoes
  • 750-900g boned and rolled shoulder of lamb
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

For the paste

  • 2 stems of rosemary leaves
  • 1 good Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 anchovies (in oil)
  • 1 tbsp of the anchovy oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp Djion mustard
  • ½ – 1 tsp Harissa paste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Peel and halve the potatoes lengthwise. Toss in a little olive oil and salt and place in a roasting tin, cut side up.
  3. Pop in the oven to start roasting while you get on with the lamb.
  4. Unroll the lamb, fat side down. Save the stretchy butchers string, unless you have kitchen string that you can use.
  5. Blitz the paste ingredients together – it should be quite thick. Add a little more oil if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning – it shouldn’t need salt as there is plenty in the anchovy.
  6. Smear the paste on the meat, getting into all the cracks and crevices. Roll up the lamb (fat on the outside) and secure with the stretchy butchers string. Push in any paste which escapes and coat the ends of the lamb with it too.
  7. Take the tin out of the oven and turn the potatoes over so that the cut sides are face down. Bunch them up (in one layer) so that you can place the rack so that it will cover as many of them as possible.
  8. Lay the lamb on the rack, anoint the fat with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Any potatoes which are not directly under the lamb should have a tiny bit of olive oil drizzled over them too. As the lamb roasts, the fat and the lamb juices will run down onto the potatoes and infuse them with a huge amount of flavour.
  9. Roast for 1 – 1 ¼ hours then remove the lamb and set aside loosely covered with foil, to rest for at least 20 minutes. Keep the potatoes warm under some foil while you get on with any other vegetables – I love green beans with this.
  10. Remove the string and carve into juicy slices – the thickness is up to you – I prefer ½ cm thick slices – not too thin and not too thick either. The paste will have formed a sublime sauce of sorts, inside the lamb which will ooze out as you carve – make sure that everyone gets a little!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.