slow cooked lamb ragu with lemon, oregano & feta gremolata

This month’s #letslunch theme of your favourite stew was both easy and hard.

Easy...because selecting my favourite stew was a no slow cooked lamb ragu. It’s my go-to dish when I want something heartwarming and comforting, full of flavour and the lamb just falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Perfect tossed through some freshly cooked pappardelle or served with quinoa, rice or barley.  It’s my base recipe that I easily create into new dishes.

Why was it hard? 

Well its summer over here in Sydney and it can get over 35C at my place.... and as I don't have air conditioning cooking with gas kicks up the heat to well over 40C.... turning my kitchen and lounge room into a sauna.....but hey I've got to stick with it ....aah what we do for the love of eating and writing about food!.

So if it's winter at your place.....this is perfect....but if your 'melting' like it for a few months time!

slow cooked lamb ragu with lemon, oregano & feta gremolata

Serves 8
Prep 20 min
Cook 3 hrs 50 min
2kg lamb shoulder (with the lamb shank included....if your not confident with a knife get your butcher to remove this for you.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 1cm pieces
1 red capsicum (red pepper), roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
500ml organic beef stock
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes 
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup kalamatta olives
1 1/2 cups quinoa

lemon, oregano & feta gremolata
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves 
1/4 cup oregano leaves
1 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
1 small lemon, zested and juiced
100g sheep milk feta, crumbled

  • Preheat oven to 170C (150C fan forced). Heat oil in a large flameproof cast iron casserole dish over medium high heat.  Cook lamb shoulder and shank for 2-3 minutes each side until well browned. Remove and set aside. 
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot and capsicum to pan. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally or until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes.Stir in stock to deglaze the pan, getting all those yummy bits from the base of the pan. 
  • Return lamb shoulder and shank. Add cherry tomatoes, oregano and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling simmer. Cover the surface with baking paper then cover with lid. Cook in preheated oven for 3 hours or until lamb is tender and almost falling off the bone. 
  • Remove baking paper and discard. Stir through olives. Return to oven. Cook, uncovered, for a further 30 minutes.   
  • Place quinoa into a saucepan. Add 3 cups water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Set aside for 5 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile make gremolata by placing parsley and garlic into food processor . Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, stir through lemon zest, and olive oil and feta.  
  • Remove casserole from oven and skim off excess fat.  Carefully transfer lamb from pan onto a large chopping board. Using 2 forks, roughly shred lamb, discarding bones and any fat.  Return lamb back to pan, stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with gremolata and serve with quinoa. 

Here's my little twists (of course omit the gremolata!)

French style
Use 2 carrots and 1 stick celery. Omit  capsicum and use whole peeled eschallots instead of onion. Add 200g small whole (halved if large) Swiss brown mushrooms. Omit oregano and add 2 bay leaves and some fresh thyme sprigs with the rosemary. Omit beef stock and use 1 cup chicken stock  and add 1 cup white wine.   Instead of gremolata make a lemon persillade by Increase parsley to 1 1/4 cups, omitting oregano and feta and use 2 cloves garlic.Serve with paris mash (aka mashed potatoes made with cream and lots of butter!)

Hearty Irish
Increase to 2 carrots and add 1 large celery stalk, chopped. Omit cherry tomatoes and use 1 litre chicken stock instead of beef stock and add 1/2 cup pearl barley.  Omit olives  and add chopped desiree (red) potatoes in the last 40 minutes.  Stir in some chopped spinach leaves, just before serving.

Moroccan adventure
Add 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 cinnamon stick and good pinch saffron.   Ad some chopped preserved lemon, 1 cup Turkish dried apricots or prunes or pitted dates in with some green olives (instead of the kalamatta) and just garnish with coriander (cilantro) and serve with some greek yoghurt and couscous.

Mexican spiced
Omit the fresh herbs. Add 2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon sweet paprika in with the onion. Instead of cherry tomatoes use 1 x 700ml bottle tomato passata and add 2 roughly chopped chipotle chillies in adobo sauce and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce. Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano in with the tomatoes. Instead of olives add a can drained rinsed kidney beans . Garnish with coriander ( cilantro) and  freshly cooked corn kernels. Serve with sour cream, lime wedges and rice or chargrilled tortillas.

Brazilian feijoada
Omit the capsicum. Add 2 chopped long green chillies, 2 chopped chorizo sausages and 100g chopped speck with the onions.  Instead of cherry tomatoes use 1 x 700ml bottle of tomato passata. Omit rosemary and oregano and add 2 bay leaves and half bunch chopped coriander (cilantro). Omit the olives and add a can drained, rinsed black beans. Finish with some fresh lime juice and garnish with segmented oranges and extra coriander leaves (cilantro). 

This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club. If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch or post a comment below!

 For more slow cooked recipe favourites from the #letslunch blogger crew click on the links below. I'll continue to update them as they come in.

Cheryl’s Sayur Lodeh (Malay Vegetable Stew) at Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Betty-Ann‘s Salmon Sinigang (Tamarind Stew with Vegetables) at Asian in America
Demetra‘s Coconut-Shrimp Soup at Sweet Savant
Linda‘s Chinese Soy-Braised Pork & Peanut Stew at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Chicken & Fennel Casserole at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Margaret‘s Beef & Venison Stew at Tea and Scones
Mel‘s Lamb & Harissa Stew at The Cook’s Notebook
Rashda‘s Morocco-inspired Meatball Stew at Hot Curries & Cold Beer

barbecued spiced pomegranate rabbit - december 2014 #letslunch post

Down here in Australia, December is summer and sunshine, with many of Aussies spending their time by the beach, the pool or the air conditioning!

However all of my teenage and university Christmas holidays were spent working on our farm in the north west of NSW.
Sometimes it was a family affair, sometimes it was just my dad and me.

When it was just the two us, dad created a little rule that of we had to 'live off the land’ shop bought meat or poultry allowed.  I only agreed if I was allowed whatever vegetables, spices, herbs and condiments I desired....well at least what I could buy from the general store.

Although our farm is a sheep property, as with many farms in Australia, it also abounded with wild kangaroo, boar and rabbit....though never came across a bush turkey!

Being an inquisitive foodie eating game is heaven and I used dad's rule as a license to experiment, exploring a new cuisine or flavour combination to create something new with our bounty.  

Dad relished my inventions and though his culinary skills were not as varied mine, he loved trying new things....he'd often joke that anything I created would be leaps above his curried kangaroo stew or goulash

But it wasn’t always me hogging the kitchen....Dad would also don the apron, and on those hot December evenings it would often involve him cooking up a storm on the open woodfired brick barbecue he'd built.

Barbecued rabbit was a traditional staple for Dad.  I'd watch him cook it on a wire rack over slow burning logs, regularly turning it to keep the moisture evenly within the meat or sometimes throwing a little of his beer on it or placing some of the local grasses into the fire give it a herbaceous note.

I miss Dad’s fired delights......I haven’t had barbecued rabbit for a’s been 10 years and 10 days since I said my eternal goodbye. So this little recipe is a tribute to our tradition of ‘living off the land’ in December.....and my ever continual desire to create something new.

barbecued spiced pomegranate rabbit
serves 4
2 x 1kg rabbits, cut into 6 pieces
1 pomegranate
Spinach salad, to serve

2 cups (500ml)  pomegranate juice
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  1. To make marinade, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Measure out 1 1/3 cups of the marinade and set aside. Add rabbit to  remaining marinade, in the bowl, to  coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile transfer reserved marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until reduced by half. Transfer the glaze to a heatproof jug and set aside to cool. 
  3. Roll the pomegranate a little on the bench (this helps loosen the seeds). Cut pomegranate in half, then turn seed side down and hold over a bowl. Tap the skin with a large cook spoon  or wooden spoon to release the seeds. Discard skin.
  4. Remove rabbit from marinade and allow to come back to room temperature. 
  5. Heat a barbecue, or chargrill pan, to medium heat.  Brush rabbit with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the small legs for 6 – 8 minutes each side and larger legs and saddle pieces for 10 – 15 minutes, turning regularly and occasionally brushing with marinade.Transfer to a large tray, loosely cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Arrange the rabbit on a serving plate, drizzle over some of the pomegranate glaze and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve with remaining glaze and a spinach salad.
This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch or post a comment below!

 For more non-traditional festive recipes from the #letslunch blogger crew click on the links below. I'll continue to update them as they come in.

Lisa @ Monday Morning Cooking Club's Duck Confit

Mel @ the cook's notebook Christmas sausage rolls

easy baked lemon & berry cheesecakes

I've always loved baked cheesecake but often don't make it as I feel it takes soooo long to make.

However I've discovered a quick and easy way to make this delicious treat........with the help of your trusty food processor, or blender, and a muffin pan you too can create these.

Being little individual cakes they're the perfect size for a work morning tea, to take to a friends place, for a picnic or even pop in the kids lunchbox....though for me it's the perfect sneaky afternoon treat....the only hard part is stopping at one!

easy baked lemon & berry cheesecakes
Makes 12

12 butternut snap cookie biscuits*
125g sour cream
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
2 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
375g cream cheese, softened, cut into cubes
Fresh blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries, to garnish
Icing sugar, to garnish

  • Preheat oven to 160°C or 140°C fan-forced. Line each hole of a 12-hole ½ cup (125ml) muffin pan with paper cases. Place a biscuit into the base of each paper case, pressing down slightly.
  • Place sour cream, sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice and eggs into food processor bowl, or blender jug and secure lid.  Process for 10 - 15 seconds until just combined.    Add cream cheese to food processor bowl and secure lid. Process for 15 seconds or until mixture is smooth and combined. (if your doing this in blender you may need to do this in two batches, adding half the cream cheese at a time).
  • Pour cream cheese mixture into cases. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set. Turn off the oven. Leave the cheesecakes in the oven with the door ajar for about 1 hour to cool slightly. 
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until well chilled. Remove and discard the paper cases. Transfer the cheesecakes to a serving plate. Top with berries and dust with icing sugar. Serve.

*for my non-Australian readers you can use any plain round sweet biscuit  just make sure it fits into the base of your muffin pan. 

A few delicious twists:

lime & passionfruit : Use lime rind in place of lemon and passionfruit pulp instead of lemon juice.

choc orange: Use choc ripple biscuits instead of butternut snap. Use orange rind and juice instead of lemon. Before baking place 2 teaspoons choc chips on top of the biscuits then pour over cheesecake mixture.

cherry & vanilla: Omit lemon zest and juice, add 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste with the eggs. Before baking top the cream cheese mixture with a few pitted fresh or frozen cherries.
lamb, dukkah, kale and fetta scrolls....alfresco treats for Lets Lunch July 2014

Alfresco or 'picnic' food needs to be portable, delicious warm, or at room temperature, and suitable to eat with your hands or on paper plates.Something that fits the bill is a pastry....but there are so many combinations....where to start???

Looking around the kitchen for inspiration I found my 'muses'.... that jar of my pistachio and hazelnut dukkah, a box of filo pastry and the lamb shoulder mum brought back from our farm. With a little more hunting and some Middle Eastern insights I created this flavourful filo scroll.

Now all I need is the perfect outdoor spot to sit and enjoy the delights!

Ukrainian Vegetarian Borscht.... a pot full of vegetables! Let’s Lunch August 2013

When the Let's Lunch team posted their topic for this month 'Eat your Vegetables' in celebration of the launch of Joe Yonan's new book I was not sure where to start then Sydney's winter weather suddenly turned cold and what better than create a soup close to my heart.

When I was a young girl winter always meant a big pot of borscht would be it at home or my Baba's place... and it still instills a comfort that no other soup can replace.

Borscht may be a staple national dish in Ukraine every region and every home has their own 'special' recipe. Some are full of beetroot, others more carrots and cabbage, some have lots of tomatoes and only a little beetroot, some add pork, beef brisket, smoked pork sausage or speck, some add beans and others add barley.....though my Baba would always keep beetroot the hero.

A few little tips my Baba taught me were to initially cook the beets separately, then chop them and toss them in vinegar to keep their colour and add a little more vinegar just at the end which gives the soup a little tart zing that lifts the soup to a whole new level.

My baba would make her everyday borscht with her homemade pork rib stock that had been simmering for hours....however in keeping with the Let's Lunch theme, and in the name of speed, this creation is 'purely' vegetarian.

Baba....I hope I did your recipe proud xx

sticky ginger beer chicken wings....a TV food favourite.

I have to admit I am not a TV sports junkie, but Mr G is and  January and February are big months with the mountains of cricket, the Australian Open, the English and European football and the NFL  Super Bowl enjoying many meals at the coffee table.

Though one thing I do know is when your sitting down in front of the TV cheering on your sports heroes it's a knife and fork free zone....finger food only.

There are a number of things I cook  it was hard to know what to choose
be it one of my delectable handmade dips; chorizo, red onion and chilli pizza; homemade fennel and pork sausage rolls, Four cheese pastry bites..... but then I realized the one thing I always do is chicken wings.

I love chicken wings they are so culinarily flexible.... you can pan fry them, bbq them, deep fry them, roast them, stir fry them, smoke them,  coat them in a spice rub, marinate them for hours, make them Chinese style, Southwest style, Thai style, Moroccan spiced, take them to Rio, eat them hot, warm or even cold.

One of my favourite chicken wing creations is slow cooking them in a sweet sauce until their sticky and unctuous and one my most requested, and loved, is Sticky Ginger Beer Chicken.