JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, October 30, 2005

14 in the house, so pumpkin, pork, lamb - but no oven!

Last week Johanna "the passionate cook" posted a recipe for roast squash bites with pumpkin seed pesto, and I thought it sounded good to eat. She published a photo of beautifully presented canapes of the sort I can never get right. So I simplified it, threw it on a plate, and three people asked for the recipe. With apologies and thanks to Johanna, this is what I did:

Pumpkin and pesto

Peel and chunk one butternut squash, put in a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and roast in a hot oven until cooked through. Meanwhile, dry roast 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, and put in the food processor. Add an equal quantity by volume (by eye) of finely grated parmesan, and 4 tablespoons of oil. Blitz.

When the pumpkin is done and slightly cooled, put it in a single layer on a plate, and arrange the pesto over it in little dollops so that each chunk has some pesto on it. Spear a few of them with cocktail sticks and hand round.

Johanna specifies pumpkin oil, which I couldn't get in my local Waitrose, so I used something called Cool Oil, made by The Groovy Food Company, which my local Waitrose does stock and which I bought in a fit of keenness last year, because it's made with flax oil, hemp oil, evening primrose oil, and pumpkin seed oil, so it's rich in Omega 3, 6, 9. The trouble is, it doesn't taste very nice, and my search is for food which is good for us, and particularly healthy heart food, and which - most importantly - tastes good. But it was good in this dish, and it doesn't stain - Johanna says that pure pumpkin seed oil stains yellow. My nicest jumper got stained last weekend with saffron which I can't wash out ... on the other hand, it was delicious!

My oven still isn't working, so everything has to be cooked on a small hob (two rings, one big, one small) - tricky when we are so many. On the other hand, a great opportunity to cook new things. I got out the Moro cookbook - although I've read it, I haven't followed many recipes from scratch. This lamb (simplified) is a great one-pot dinner full of lots of flavours. I'm going back to the amounts for six, although I tripled this last night, and almost all of it got eaten.

Slow-cooked lamb with artichokes and mint

Slow cook an onion in olive oil until it's soft. Add 1.5kg neck of lamb cut into chunks. Brown the meat. Then stir in a little flour to thicken the sauce. At the same time add some garlic (3-4 peeled cloves), and some thyme (if it's from the supermarket, then chop it; if it's tougher and from the garden, then put in a small branch which you can retrieve later). Also some bay leaves, if you have them. Add 200ml dry sherry, let it bubble and cook for a couple of minutes, then barely cover the meat with water. Simmer gently with the lid half off until the meat is tender. After 1-1 1/2 hrs, add small new potatoes. When these are almost cooked, add a couple of jars of drained artichoke hearts to warm through, and a bunch of chopped mint.

Porridge for breakfast. Then we all had to build up an appetite for lunch, so ... Lucius carried on planing wood for a new ceiling he is making for our dining room; Lettice (15) went to county hockey training; Horatio (17) and Alfred (13) played on the PS2 (although in fairness they played football after lunch); Catrin fed her lovely new baby Cecily (7 weeks); and the rest of us went to the farmers' market in town.

Meanwhile, simmering in my biggest saucepan were two joints of pork in milk. I'm not sure whether we were following the recipe in Moro or the very similar one in the blue River Cafe book. Whichever, it was great, although the sauce didn't caramelise in quite the way described. This is what we did:

Pork in milk

Menna took the skin and most of the fat off two roasting joints of pork. Meanwhile, I bashed up some salt, mixed colour peppercorns and chopped thyme. This we rubbed into the meat and tied it up again. I browned these in oil, then covered the meat with milk. Neither of the recipes specified what sort of milk we should use, so I used what I had, which was semi-skimmed. I now think full fat would have worked better. I lobbed in a stick of cinnamon, some bay leaves, and a little lemon zest. This we simmered for 1 1/2hrs. We served it with mustardy mash and a courgette salad.

Lettice said there should have been peas as well. Catrin said she had cooked a chicken using the same method from a Jamie Oliver recipe. Either way, it was delicious, and there was nothing left, even though in the end we were only 11 for lunch, not 14.

Then we had homemade membrillo made by Bruce and Menna from the quinces in their garden with manchengo, a dry Spanish cheese, and wonderful rosemary and potato bread from the farmers' market. No need for supper.

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