Monday, April 27, 2009

Evolution April - Hunt Family Moussaka

This month Laura has taken the project further - which she has termed foovolution‏ which is rather fab!!

"I wanted to continue the meat theme for April (sorry veggies...although this is easily converted by using veggie mince into an awesome veg friendly dish) as I have only been non-veggie for a year or so and I'm still rediscovering the wonders of meat! The minced meat from the previous sparked my memories of spiced meat full of cinnamon and nutmeg stuffed into pittas with salad that my mum used to give us for tea as kids, and actually prompted me into asking her to cook this recipe for my birthday meal a fortnight ago. In the spirit of foodvolution I hope you can see where I'm going on this - although lots of the ingredients are new, the methods of using minced meat and some of the original staples (oregano, aubergine and tomato) as well as layering are still there.

Moussaka is such a homely dish for me: full of lovely smells and tastes - it just makes me feel like I'm 10 again! And although it's quite labour intensive and time consuming in parts, it's the kind of dinner you would make every week if you could just because it tastes so wonderful!

Unfortunately, I can't take the credit for this: it goes to 3 women: my mum, Delia Smith (who she took her original recipe from) and Tessa Kiros (whose book 'Falling Cloudberries' inspired a few additions by me). Mum reckons hers always tastes so good because she doesn't bother with the measurements - and just goes on taste. But, for those of you who don't trust your palate, here's the recipe!

450g minced lamb
2 medium sized aubergines
6-8 medium sized peeled potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions peeled and chopped small
2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh mint, 1 heaped tablespoon chopped parsley, oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 rounded tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
125ml red wine
salt and freshly milled black pepper

for the topping:
100g ricotta
275ml whole milk
25g plain flour
25g butter
1 bay leaf
1 medium egg yolk
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Slice the aubergines and place them in a colander and sprinkle them with salt.
Put a bowl on top of them and weigh it down with something heavy (i use cook books) then put another plate underneath to catch the juices.
Leave them like this for 1 hour.
Shortly before the end of this time preheat the grill / oven to its highest setting.
When the hour is up squeeze out any of the excess juice from the aubergines with your hands.
Now, you have a choice: you can oven roast them with about a tablespoon of the olive oil over them, grill them or shallow fry. Whichever way you do it, you need to be able to squash them with a fork and have a kind of pureed aubergine consistency. If they're papery to touch then they probably need a bit more oil and a bit longer in the oven .I grill mine for colour and then oven roast them for consistency. This can take an hour.
In the meantime, peel and boil some potatoes whole.
Also, heat the remaining olive oil in your largest frying pan and fry the onions, garlic, minced lamb and tomato puree gently for about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat up high add the minced lamb and brown it for a few minutes turning it and keeping it on the move.
Cook the whole lot stirring all the time for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients with a good sprinkling of salt (Maldon if you have it). Cook all this for about 20 mins, seasoning to taste.
Next make the topping by placing the milk, flour, butter and bay leaf in a saucepan. Delia reckons you can heat all together until everything comes up to simmering point and the sauce becomes smooth and glossy. I reckon you need to add a little more milk as the sauce becomes thick. Remember, you will add ricotta and egg so it will thicken again later.
Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook gently for 5 minutes.
Taste and season discarding the bay leaf remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool a little before whisking in the Ricotta and egg yolk.
Give it a good whisk to blend everything thoroughly.
Finally layer the ovenproof dish - 1/2 the roasted aubergines 1st, then the potatoes. Follow this with the meat mixture and top it off with the remaining aubergines.
Pour the topping (optional: over sprinkle the surface with the Parmesan).
Bake on the centre shelf of the oven at about 180-200 degrees for 40 - 50 minutes by which time the top will be golden brown.


I always have mine with a nice green salad, dressed simply in extra virgin olive oil and maybe a bit of balsamic. Hunks of bread make a good accompaniment too, helping to soak up the juices left on the plate. "

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Dunwich beach

This photo was taken while we had a break in the sunshine on Dunwich beach. We had been cycling along the east coast from Lincoln to Ipswich, finishing off the English section of the North Sea Cycle route. From Lincoln we rolled through the cauliflower and daffodil fields - I'd never seen cauli harvesting before, and then from Boston round to King's Lynn along The Wash. Then up through Sandringham park to the coast at Holme-next-the-Sea and along to Sherringham. Then down to Lowestoft and on to the delights of Southwold in the sunshine, reaching our final destination after 268 miles! Oh and it took 6days!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pitcher plants in Tallahassee

These are the first pitcher plants I found on a recent jaunt to Tallahassee - there were lots of them too - may be 6 species of pitchers and then at least 2 of sundews. Magnificent!! Corpisolve has more details.
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