Sunday, April 02, 2006

Arctic Summer Lunch for 4

How ironic, that my cooking of Nigella's INDIAN-SUMMER DINNER coincided with the first truly cold day of the year. With a maximum of 18C, bitingly cold Melbournian winds and patchy rain, I was freezing! But on the upside, I got to wear my new red duffel coat from Dangerfield when I went to Rendinas to buy our meat.

317. Pea and Lettuce Soup
318. Lamb with Chick Peas
319. Couscous Salad
320. Turkish Delight Figs
321. Pistachio Crescents

And what a beautiful piece of meat it was. In the recipe for her lamb with chick peas, Nigella specifies "lamb noisette", which you slice into individual rounds and arrange atop the chick peas. Lamb noisette is not a cut of meat commonly found in Australia. The last time I was supposed to use lamb noisette was for the Cinnamon-hot rack of lamb, and there I substituted rack of lamb. In this case, though, I thought I should have a go at finding some actual noisette. According to a random butchery website, noisette is a "rolled saddle of lamb, wrapped in a thin layer of fat".

The fab butchers at Rendinas didn't know what noisette was, but were happy to improvise. Sadly, they were out of loin to make a noisette roll, so they got a lamb leg for me, tunnelboned it, and gave me a spiffy cloth-netting thing in which to cook the lamb. This was to prevent it from unfurling during cooking. How wonderfully helpful of them!


Just before I start to describe the cooking process, let me just say - I only had 5 hours sleep the previous night, so I was kinda walking around the kitchen in a goofy daze, creating a huge disorganised mess as I went. So forgive me if this post follows the same pattern.

To start, I boiled my pre-soaked chick peas in water, to which I'd added an onion, and some garlic cloves. I then marinated the lamb in a mixture of chilli, garlic, and a finely chopped red onion.

The next stage was to make the pistachio crescents, because I wanted them to be out of the oven before the lamb went in. (Because I was cooking a lamb leg, and not noisettes, I figured that I'd just have to cook it for as long as a normal roast - about 1 hour for that amount of meat). The pistachio crescents are just like those fabulous almond shortbread biscuits that my mum's Greek friend makes, which are delightfully crumbly and blanketed in icing sugar. To make the pistachio crescents, you beat butter with a wooden spoon until very very soft, and then add sifted icing sugar, flour and ground pistachios (which I ground in the processor). Then you shape them into crescent moons, and bake for about 25 minutes. You're supposed to get 12 out of the mixture, but I could only manage 8.


So, I baked the cookies...

baked crescents

And once they came out, I turned up the heat and put the lamb in. Placing the stocking on the lamb was a 2-woman job - one to hold the stocking open, one to put the meat into said stocking.

stocking'd lamb

It was during all that baking time that I got on with the side dishes. The pea and lettuce soup contains oil, peas, spring onions, peas (duh), iceberg lettuce and stock, cooked until soft, then puréed in a blender. It's meant to be served chilled, so I just stashed it in the fridge.

Next was the couscous salad - soak couscous in boiling water, add olive oil and vinegar, and then stir through finely chopped cucumber, tomato, red onion and parsley.

It's advisable to prepare the figs before you eat the main course, because this gives them time to cool to room temperature before youe at them. To make them, you make a syrup out of sugar, water, rosewater and orange flower water, and pour the hot syrup over the figs.

From here, all I had to do was finish off the chickpeas and slice the lamb. Once they're cooked and drained, you turn the chickpeas in oil and dried chilli pepper until oil-slicked and warmed through. At the end, you stir in some blanched, peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes.

cooked stringed lamb

And finally (after what seemed like an age for me), lunch was ready.


chick peas on plate

couscous salad

lamb on chickpeas

pea & lettuce soup

Dad really loved the pea and lettuce soup, which surprised me, as he is not usually a fan of cold soups. The rest of the meal was lovely as well - the flavours and textures of all the different dishes meld very well together to create a satisfying but not too heavy lunch.

And onto dessert...

Mum has, in recent times, become a huge fan of figs (especially the baked figs of the Fast Food chapter), and she was very excited to try these ones. And they were very, very nice.

crescents and figs

But even better were these amazing pistachio crescents! They were light, crumbly and full of pistachio-flavour. These were, without a doubt, the highlight of the meal. And definitely a recipe worthy of frequent repeats.

on plate

Mum: You only made 8?!?!?!


domesticgoddess said...

Yum, how wonderful. Who cares about the weather, I think this menu would go down well in any climate!
I'm also loving the close-ups, keep 'em coming! And the pistachio crescents are something we'd love, so they are duly noted for future meals. :)

Ange said...

Pistachio crescents sound fantastic!

redhead said...

I have recently started reading your blog, and I love your writing and your pics!

As it gets colder in Australia, I hope you do apple butterscotch tart - it really is lovely.