Tag Archives: spices

Slow Lamb 2

Let’s take slow lamb over to the other side of the Mediterranean. This isn’t quite perfected, but it’s jolly good nonetheless. Line a roasting tin with a piece of foil large enough to wrap up over and seal, and into it place the following:

  • 1kg lamb neck fillet, chopped up into one inch lengths, try and get this into a single layer
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • a whole head of garlic, peeled and bashed up a bit, but no need to separate
  • 1 tbsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 6 whole dried chillies
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp of sea salt (sea salt crystals are quite large, so much less if you’re using table salt)
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • a cinnamon stick broken into 2 or 3 pieces

Pack the head of garlic in with the lamb, tuck in the cinnamon sticks, and just sprinkle everything else over the top evenly. Wrap up foil, and crimp, so it’s properly sealed.

Three hours in the oven at 150°C should do. Serve with couscous.

Despite the relatively heavy use of spices, it’s mild and aromatic, rather than viciously hot, as the whole spices seem to preserve more aroma. If you need to use ground spices, then halve the quantities. You could also add a pinch of ground spices if you want to add kick. Don’t bully your guests with too much chilli, instead, just serve with harissa on the side.

(Serves six.)


Korma Chameleon

A quintessentially English dish, which comes from some hastily scribbled notes made in the mid nineties. Make this with skinless chicken breasts, or pork fillets. You could also use some diced lamb leg. If you’re doing a vegetable version, some hacked up butternut squash and broccoli would be good.

This isn’t a quick fix meal, as you need to make the marinade, do the marinating, and then bake the results, but, with a bit of planning this can be really handy, as you can make the marinade in advance, marinate during the day when you’re at work, and then simply bung it in the oven in the evening.

I liquidise the marinade by shoving the hand blender into the saucepan, which is a lot less washing up than transferring everything to the food processor. If that doesn’t appeal, then just make sure you chop everything finely.

You’ll need:

  • 25g butter (or ghee, or vegetable oil, but not olive oil as it would taste really, really wrong here)
  • 200mL natural (“Greek”) yoghurt – the important thing here is that it needs to be live
  • 150mL cream, either cow or coconut (vary the ratio of yoghurt to cream depending on your tastes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, more if you fancy
  • enough chilli to add excitement (maybe a level teaspoon chilli flakes, one small vicious chilli, or a couple of larger mild ones)
  • 1 large onion
  • 50g ground almonds (or cashews or both)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
  • a bunch of coriander (both leaves and stalks)
    …oh, and…
  • 500g meat with the fat removed, and chopped up into 1 inch pieces, or about 500g of vegetables

Using a small saucepan, fry the (peeled, chopped) onion in the butter for about 10 minutes. You’re looking for a deep golden colour, so don’t be timid. Don’t be so bold you burn them.

Add the (peeled, sliced) garlic and chilli, frying until the garlic is translucent. Add the turmeric, ginger and cardamom. Fry for another half a minute, then add the coriander stalks, and almonds. Turn off the heat and add the cream and yoghurt. It will smell quite disgusting, but don’t lose heart, it just needs to cook.

You could refrigerate or freeze this mixture. Or even make it in bulk.

Place meat/veg and the sauce in an oven proof dish, and cover with enough marinade to coat everything, but not drown it. Any leftover marinade can go in the freezer for another time. Marinate for one, preferably two, hours at room temperature or all day in the fridge.

Assuming you’re using chicken, about 30 minutes in the oven at 180ºC should do. Veg might need a little longer to soften up, and I think lamb would benefit from longer at a lower temperature. Anyway, check periodically after 20 minutes just to make sure.

Once it’s done, stir in as much of the chopped up coriander leaves as you feel necessary, and maybe garnish with some toasted almonds, and a squirt of lemon juice. Rice or naan.

And cold, cold beer, of course.

You could also thread the pieces of meat onto skewers and barbecue them instead.

As I said, quite an English dish. For some proper kormas, and many other wonderful things, take a look at 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, which is an intelligent and accessible overview of Indian cuisine. (The second edition apparently corrects some of the woeful typos in the first.)

Maternal Gingerbread

Courtesy of Mother Dearest, origins lost in the mists of time. The recipe I’ve been given is mainly by volume. I’ve faithfully measured out the quantities using metric cups (250mL) but weighing the results just to make sure. To remove any doubt the teaspoon is also metric; five millilitres.

  • ½ cup caster sugar (100g)
  • ½ cup black treacle (160g)
  • ½ cup butter (110g – you don’t need to wrestle butter into a cup measure!)
  • 1 level teasp bicarb soda dissolved in a small quantity of hot water
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1½ cups plain flour (180g)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 level tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp of ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp of ground cinnamon
  • a solitary clove, crushed
  • ½ cup milk soured with ½ tsp vinegar

Arteries ready?

  1. Melt the sugar, butter and treacle in large saucepan. Stir gently until sugar dissolved but do not boil.
  2. Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add dissolved soda and stir. Yes, it will get very frisky at this point. That’s why I said a large mixing bowl.
  4. Allow to cool for around half an hour.
  5. Mix in the beaten egg, and the salt and spices.
  6. Add flour alternately with the milk. Make sure each consignment of milk is stirred in well before adding next addition of flour or unappetising lumps will ensue. It should be a sort of thick claggy pouring consistency.
  7. Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin. It will probably go less than a quarter of the way up the side but you will need the other three.
  8. Bake in moderate oven (180ºC, or about 160ºC in a fan-forced) for about fifty minutes. Cover with paper or foil if it begins to brown too early. A metal skewer will come out clean if it’s done.

Suitable for freezing although it keeps well – the bacteria aren’t game to go near all that sugar. Wrap in foil and keep somewhere dark. It’s good served either hot or cold, and even better with some cream.

Chorizo and Chickpea Soup

Yeah, yeah, tins and packets, but an ideal mid week supper for the braindead. It’s about an hour of elapsed time, but only five minutes’ actual work.

The herbs and spices in this one should be subtle.

  • 400g chopped up onions, celery, carrots, whatever (a 400g bag of the pre-prepped stuff from Waitrose is ideal)
  • 400g tinned toms (plus equal amount hot water)
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained
  • 50g diced or thinly sliced chorizo (or loads more if you fancy)
  • a clove or two
  • a pinch of
    • dried oregano
    • ground cumin
    • paprika

Gently fry the chorizo to render the fat. Expect this to take about ten minutes.

Add the soffritto, and a pinch of salt. Continue to fry, until soft, stirring from time to time. Again, another ten minutes.

Add the toms, an equal amount of hot water, the chickpeas and the herbs/spices. If you’ve got a bottle of wine on the go, then add a splash.

Adjust seasoning, and simmer for about half an hour. The starch from the chickpeas will thicken it, so you may need more water.


I my old age I have become reconciled to Christmas and am partial to pudding and mince pies, at least of the homemade variety. This particular concoction is of the right consistency to either fill mince pies or form the basis of a pudding. I initially used Microsoft Excel to do a side-by-side comparison of St Delia, Blessed Eliza, and the hysterical Empire Pudding, converting everything to metric and the same quantities to try and identify the quintessential components and ratios. In the end, old fashioned trial and error worked better.

You’ll need:

  • 500g in total of sultanas, raisins, currants, peel (nothing wrong with buying a pre-mixed bag)
  • 300g of apples (that’s probably three small or two large ones, aiming to end up with 200g grated apple)
  • 100g suet
  • two lemons: zest and juice
  • 125g muscovado sugar
  • 125mL booze (dark spiced rum, e.g. Sailor Jerry)
  • 25g almonds (flaked and bashed)
  • a solitary clove, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp nutmeg
  • 1tsp ground ginger

Day One. Mix the dried fruit, peel and nuts with the booze, cover with cling wrap and leave over night. I think you should use dark spiced rum for this, although some people say brandy, and some whiskey. Also, pour yourself a very small glass of rum, and when nobody is looking, down it and go, “Arrrr!!!” to commune with your Inner Pirate. If you’re feeling fancy, slip half a vanilla pod under the rum.

Day Two. Zest the lemons, and put the zest, juice, sugar and suet in a saucepan on a low heat, until the suet melts and you get a sloshy goop. Do not try and boil, melt or caramelise: fat, water and sugar on a high temperature is lethal. Add the spices. Don’t bother peeling the apples, just wash, grate coarsely and add. Now all you need do is stir this into the rest, and combine well. If you’re going to store and “mature” it then you’ll need sterilised jars etc. – I’ve only ever “matured” it for about four weeks. Otherwise, if you’re going to use it immediately, cover at let it at least sit overnight.

Day Three. Ready for action. Mince pie recipe in the following post. To transform into pudding, add one egg, 25g SR flour, and 25g breadcrumbs per 225g of finished mincemeat. The mix needs to be sloppy, so you may need to loosen it up with a splash of Guinness. (Same procedure works on the author.)

About the suet. I’ve only ever used Atora dried suet. If you can get the Real Thing from your butcher, then good luck. Melting the suet and then mixing it in means everything gets a light coating, which helps preserve things.

Adult Hot Chocolate

Something to occupy the time if you’re plagued by biphasic sleep and don’t fancy being an author.

The trick here is knowing how much chilli to use, if in doubt, less is more, as it’s only there to add a certain zing to the proceedings. The dried chillis in my cupboard at the moment are medium sized, but very mild.

  1. In a small saucepan, heat 200mL milk (full cream is better than semi skimmed in this case) per person, plus 4 cardamom pods, a quarter of a cinnamon stick and a small dried chilli or a pinch chilli flakes.
  2. When the milk is shuddering, almost at the boil, turn off the heat, stir, and leave to stand.
  3. Meanwhile, break up 80g of dark chocolate per person, and place in a glass jug atop a pan of simmering water, and allow to melt.
  4. When the chocolate has almost melted (after about five minutes) turn the heat back on under the milk, but don’t let it boil.
  5. Once the chocolate has melted, turn the heat up underneath. Pour a splash of the hot milk in, less than the volume of chocolate, and stir until it blends in. The chocolate will become very thick.
  6. Keep adding the milk, in increasing amounts, stirring all the time, until you’ve added about half of it. You’ll need to pour it through a sieve to catch the spices.
  7. You can add the final half in one go, but keep stirring. The water underneath may have come to the boil by this point, but don’t worry. Once it’s all blended, turn the heat off, and serve in warmed cups.

Lamb Curry

There was some rather good lamb in the supermarket today, so it had to be Curry.

I used

  • 400g lamb leg, trimmed and chopped into cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp minced chilli from the jar (wasn’t quite enough for my tastes)
  • 50mL Greek yoghurt (and another 50mL for later)
  • a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a large onion
  • a fistful of coriander leaves
  • and a supporting cast of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, and cloves

I do it like this:

  1. Put the cubed lamb in a bowl with the chilli, crushed garlic, a grind of pepper and salt, and the yoghurt. Mix well, and let this sit for at least an hour, or maybe an afternoon. If you’re doing it overnight, maybe in the fridge.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion into wedges – no need to get fancy – and gently fry it in a large pan, with a couple of tablespoons of oil, six cloves, and half a cinnamon stick, broken into two.

    Around about twenty minutes ought to do the trick, which is just enough time to have a beer.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, grind up about a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and the seeds from six cardamom pods until vaguely powdery. Yes, you can get fancy and use some kind of mechanical grinder, but the effort you spend cleaning that bit of machinery afterwards will put your labours with the mortar and pestle to shame.
  4. Back at the pan, fish out the cloves and cinnamon – doesn’t matter if a few bits get left behind – and then turn the heat up high. Add the cumin and cardamom, and stir madly for about half a minute.
  5. Just before the spices start to burn, add the lamb. (You may want to have your extractor fan going at this juncture, or have a window open.) Keep stirring furiously, for about a minute, until the lamb is cooked on the outside.
  6. Turn the heat right down, and hurl in the tomatoes.

    If you hurl them in with the unnecessary esprit and élan with which I hurled them tonight, you will get tomato on your jeans. Consider this possibility.
  7. Now, just let the whole thing simmer, very gently, for about an hour.
  8. Five minutes before the end, stir in the rest of the yoghurt, and the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve with basmati rice. You could reserve some of the coriander, plus a lemon wedge or two, for a garnish, if you’re that way inclined.


The breakfast of champions and the supper of the downtrodden. Gadget Boy could never stand the smell: “Urk! You’re making those eggs!”

Supper for one, but just multiply the quantities.

  • three eggs
  • a small tomato, chopped and deseeded; don’t worry about skinning it!
  • half a small onion
  • one clove garlic
  • quarter teaspoon cumin seeds, ground or whole
  • quarter teaspoon turmeric
  • quarter teaspoon chilli (depending on how potent you like it: I’m only using half a dozen dried chilli flakes)
  • chopped coriander leaves (I freeze mine)
  • salt, pepper

Finely dice the onion and fry in a small amount of oil and butter, no need to drown it, until soft. Add a pinch of salt. While that’s happening chop the garlic finely.


Move the onion to the edges and add the chilli and cumin, and fry for a minute.


Add the garlic and fry for another minute. At this point, beat the eggs lightly, and add about a tablespoon of milk.

Add the turmeric and stir for a few moments, and then add the tomato, and fry for a minute.

Now add the eggs and coriander, and leave for a slow count of five.


Then stir gently, and gradually, after a couple of minutes, the mixture will come together.


And then you can serve, with a grind of pepper to taste.

As with any member of the scrambled egg family, they will carry on cooking, so you can serve when they’re still a bit gooey. Mine just went on a section of baguette, as that was what happened to be handy.



When it’s still fairly runny, put it into flatbread, roll up, and crisp under a preheated grill.

Lots more ingredients, e.g. courgettes, peppers, etc, but cook it like a frittata.

Vegetable Curry


A staple from the student days.

You will need chopped onions and similar volumes of chopped up carrots, sliced courgettes, and maybe some mangetout, baby corn, etc.

In a large pot, fry the veg in a small amount of oil, with a sprinking of salt, until the onions are soft and translucent, and the courgettes and carrots are showing a bit of colour. Whilst that’s happening, get some hot stock ready: enough liquid to cover the veg. Decant the fried veg into a large bowl, and reduce the heat, so you can build up the spice paste without burning it.

Into the pot in this order…

  1. some more oil; not too much
  2. put as much chilli as you dare and some cloves, fry for about a minute
  3. add as much chopped up garlic as you like, fry for another minute, stirring
  4. ground cumin, turmeric, ground cinnamon, stirring – the powdered spices will soak up the oil, and everything will form into a sticky paste – make sure this doesn’t burn, so only fry for about thirty seconds
  5. then add the stock, and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan

Now, some drained tinned chickpeas, and some tinned chopped tomatoes, with about half the juices strained off. Return the veg to the pot as well.

Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat immediately to a minimum and allow to simmer quietly for about half an hour.

Serve with couscous.


I didn’t mention any quantities above, as it will vary according to personal taste. Today’s effort, however, was produced with:

  • two medium onions
  • one large carrot
  • four tiny courgettes
  • a pint of vegetable stock (Marigold Boullion)
  • a teaspoon of chilli
  • six cloves
  • four fat cloves of garlic
  • a teaspoon of cumin
  • half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a 450g tin of chickpeas
  • a 450g tin of chopped toms

Essential Ingredients

You can vary this to taste, but the essential ingredients are the spice paste and the chickpeas.



  • make up the spice paste in advance, and marinate some chopped up lamb in it overnight, taking care that the meat gets vigorously fried on the outside, but then gently simmered
  • similar thing with roughly cubed aubergine (no need for overnight marination, just a couple of hours)
  • use double the amount of stock, and then blitz the whole lot darned lot with a hand-held blender to make soup