Sunday, 19 January 2014

Roast Leg of Lamb

This weekend, the eldest has been very excited to welcome a guest for a sleepover. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take my leg of lamb out of the freezer, and entertained visions of leaving it all day in the slow cooker, maybe with some sliced onions, a little wine and some redcurrent jelly. No hassle at all. It turned out to be yet another case of my eyes being bigger than... erm... my slow cooker, and I couldn't be bothered to find a saw, so I roasted it in the traditional way.

It's been a lovely afternoon. The eldest and her guest have been keeping each other amused, and the middle stayed in the kitchen to keep me company whilst I cooked. He somewhat spoiled my solitude by watching "The Amazing World of Gumball" on the iPad, at a volume setting louder than my radio, but I wandered over to him every so often to give him a cuddle and a kiss, which more than made up for it.

I admit, I put the lamb back into the oven for another 15 minutes after taking a photo - I prefer lamb to be served pink, but I thought it might be a step too strange for the children. There is plenty left to go into a shepherd's pie next week. I cheated on my gravy and added the scrapings from the tin to a packet of Colman's lamb and mint gravy.



  • 1 leg of lamb, approx. 2.25kg
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary, tender stems only
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 glass of white wine
Serves 8-10

Mustard Roast Potatoes
Carrot and Swede Mash
  • 1/2 swede, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 25g butter
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • Salt and pepper to season



  • Using a sharp knife, make several cuts, 2-3cm deep, into the flesh of the lamb. Into each cut, push a sliver of garlic and a few rosemary leaves
  • Place the grated lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil into a bowl and add generous amounts of salt and pepper. Mix and massage all over the lamb joint
Push slivers of garlic and rosemary into the cuts, and rub the lamb with the lemon/oil mix
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees fan and add the lamb. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the lamb from the oven, leaving the door open to cool the oven to 170 degrees fan. Pour a glass of white wine over the lamb, and return to the oven
  • Roast the lamb at 170 degrees fan for 70 minutes (guideline for pink lamb is 15 minutes per 500g after the initial sizzle)
  • Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave for minimum 30 minutes to rest

Roast leg of lamb

  • To make the mustard roast potatoes, peel the potatoes and cut into 2-3 pieces per potato
  • Place in a pan and pour over boiling water. Boil vigorously for 7-8 minutes
  • Tip the potatoes into a colander or sieve and shake vigorously, to rough up the surfaces
  • Return the potatoes to the pan, add the mustard powder, goose fat, salt and pepper. Mix well with a spoon, until all the potatoes are coated in the oil
  • Place in a single layer in a roasting tin, and roast at 190 degrees fan for 40-45 minutes, turning once. If you don't have two ovens, roast the potatoes whilst the lamb is resting - it will still be warm as long as it is covered (you can throw a tea towel over the foil for good measure)

  • To make the carrot and swede mash, place the carrot and swede pieces in a pan and pour over boiling water
  • Boil vigorously for 20-25 minutes until soft
  • Drain the vegetables and return to the pan
  • Using a masher, mash and mix the swede and carrots. Add the butter and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Mash again, adding more butter and milk if you require, to achieve the desired consistency

Roast lamb dinner with mustard roast potatoes,
swede and carrot mash and broccoli

Roast lamb dinner with mustard roast potatoes,
swede and carrot mash and broccoli

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup (玉米雞湯)

I'm a bit wary of eating in westernised Chinese restaurants, because it isn't really the sort of food that Chinese people eat at home, there isn't much on the menu that excites me, and I worry that I might be being judged by the staff for not being Chinese enough (I know they've got far more interesting things to think about, but still - if you've heard Chinese people talking about you, assuming that you can't understand them, it stays with you for rather a long time). I still recall a Christmas meal in Frodsham in 1995, where my colleagues were all looking at me interestedly, asking me to show them how to eat egg-fried rice off a plate with chopsticks (you don't).

However, there are certain things on the western Chinese menu that make my mouth water when I see them being carried past my table - salt and chilli ribs, sesame prawns on toast and the smell of a sizzling platter. Also, banana fritters!

We went to the Wah Lei Chinese association Christmas party, which was at The Slow Boat in Chester recently. It was the "all you can eat" banquet menu, which featured many of the usuals (sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken), as well as some less common (the curries and chilli dishes were very tasty). I was pleased to see the eldest tucking into salt and pepper chicken wings with gusto, and the middle hoovering up a whole bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup.

On New Year's Eve, we had a family meal of roast chicken and most of the leftovers from Christmas - roasties, sprouts, red cabbage and carrots, along with a lovely Christmas pudding, mince pies and as much brandy cream as people could manage. I was left with two chicken carcasses which were just too good not to do anything with, and remembered how much the middle child had enjoyed his chicken and sweetcorn soup.

I've used a slow cooker to make the chicken stock overnight, but if you're short of time, just use pre-made chicken stock and chopped, cooked chicken meat. Watch the seasoning though, and don't add any additional salt before tasting.



  • Carcasses of two roast chickens
  • 1 onion
  • 1300ml water, or enough to cover the stock ingredients
  • 2 slices of raw ginger, peeled
  • 400ml can of creamed corn
  • 400ml can of sweetcorn
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and ground white pepper to season
  • 5 heaped tsp cornflour to thicken (adjust this amount according to the amount of water/stock used)
  • A few drops of sesame oil
Serves 8-10



  • To make the stock, put the chicken carcasses into a slow cooker. Add the slices of ginger, then peel the onion (removing the roots), chop it into half lengthways and add it to the pot.
  • Cover the stock ingredients with water and cook on low overnight
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the onion and ginger, then remove as much of the chicken meat and bones as possible to a large bowl. Pour the stock through a sieve into a large saucepan
  • Using your hands, separate as much chicken meat from the bones as possible, then chop or shred the meat finely
  • Bring the stock to a rolling boil, then add the creamed corn and sweetcorn. Bring back to the boil and add the chicken meat. Stir well and reduce the heat to a moderate boil
  • Mix 5 heaped tsp cornflour with 50-70ml water, until you have a smooth mixture. Add this to the stock and bring it back to a moderate boil, stirring occasionally. If the soup is not as thick as you would like, add more cornflour/water mixture, a teaspoon of cornflour at a time
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle boil and stir with a ladle. Slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup, stirring continuously. When the egg has all been added, taste the soup, and add salt and ground white pepper to season.
  • Remove from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup (玉米雞湯)