Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Feast

Wow, what a ridiculously busy couple of weeks! This post is a little overdue mostly because of my non existence apart from working and sleeping. My exciting new post as Catering Manager at the macrobert arts centre started a little prematurely but unfortunately I was still working full time in my current job. All in all I have been eating, drinking and sleeping all things macrobert lately (which is no bad thing) but I did manage to squeeze in a big family feast for Mother Hen's birthday.

Family gatherings are few and far between nowadays with everybody scattered far and wide. My sister Katie is due to go back to Sydney next week and with Dad in the middle of National Compost Week (don't ask!!) it seemed the only time for us all to get together in Stirling. The newest (and probably youngest at a mere 23) big thing in comedy Kevin Bridges was playing at the macrobert for 3 nights and I used my charming ways with the box office staff to secure us all tickets for a laughter filled night. Even though we were all excited about the show the main topic of conversation was 'What will we eat for dinner?!'.

This feast was in planning for weeks, months maybe, considering that the shoulder of lamb had been hibernating in my freezer since the beginning of Spring. It was a 'one day' piece of lamb: 'one day I will pour in a bottle of red and stud it with garlic', 'one day I will marinade it with spicy yogurt' etc etc. But since the said lamb was a present from Mother Hen it seemed entirely appropriate to bring it to the table for this occasion. I don't often get the chance to cook for people outside of work, particularly a 3 course feast so I might have gone a little overboard. We are definitely a starter family - anything delicious, picky and can be accompanied with a chilled glass of vino is the star of the show. Most of us have been known to order 2 starters instead of a main in restaurants, which invariably confuses the waiting staff. The best starters are meze, try everything, share everything and debate everything - perfect! So the menu was born - Middle Eastern meze, Spiced Slow Roast Lamb and an Orange and Lemon birthday cake.

I had 2 willing helpers on the day although nap time and Channel 4 Racing might have hampered their handiness to some extent. That said they crystallised rose petals for the cake, peeled a million broad beans and made some excellent flat breads.

The starter meze consisted of Spiced Broad Bean Fritters, Lamb Koftas, Babagonush, Humous, Mint Yogurt and Flat Breads... told you I went a little overboard! Both the fritters and koftas were Jamie Oliver recipes and by lord they were delicious. The fritters were so easy to make (apart from the aforementioned broad bean peeling) and were bursting with beautiful summery flavour. Even spiked with a little spice my chilli-phobic Pa adored them. Crunchy and crispy on the outside, and soft and fresh on the inside. I would make them again and again as long as somebody else peeled the blooming beans. The koftas were an adapted recipe, Jamie has them in flatbreads sprinkled with pistachios but as I wanted picky finger food I decided to add the pistachios into the lamb mixture. Lamb, sultanas and pistachios - is there a better food combination?! Not for me anyway. These koftas would be perfect as a main with cous cous, roasted peppers and salad, and would cook perfectly on the barbie too. Oh but remember to soak your skewers in water first, I didn't and there was a bit of a flame issue.

Lamb Koftas

250g minced lamb
1 heaped tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 level tablespoon ground chilli
1/2 level tablespoon ground cumin
2 level tablespoons sumac (if you can't find it use lemon zest instead, but there are great suppliers on the web, try
The Asian Cookshop)
a good handful of sultanas
a good handful of shelled pistachios

Place the lamb in a large mixing bowl with the chilli, sumac, cumin and thyme leaves. Roughly chop the pistachios and add them, plus the sultanas, to the mixture. Combine all the ingredients together, get your hands in!

Split the mixture into 8 equal balls and get yourself 8 (soaked!) skewers. With damp hands, push and shape the meat around and along each skewer. Press little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go - this will give it a better texture when cooked. Grill the kebabs on a hot griddle pan until golden and cooked through.

Spiced Broad Bean Fritters with Minted Yogurt 

1kg fresh broad beans, in their pods (about 300g podded weight) or 500g defrosted broad beans, skinned
6 sprigs of fresh coriander
a small bunch of fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 a fresh chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
1 litre vegetable oil
1 tablespoons natural yogurt

Boil any larger white-skinned broad beans for 30 seconds, then drain. When cool, pinch their skins off. Now whiz the coriander and half the mint in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper, then add the spices, chilli, broad beans and lemon zest and whiz until finely chopped. Sprinkle in the flour and pulse for a few seconds. I know this seems a very small amount of flour but believe me it holds everything together perfectly - adding more would only make the mixture too dry.

Pour the vegetable oil into a large saucepan until it's 5 to 7cm deep. Heat the oil. To check whether it's hot enough for frying drop a small piece of bread into the pan, if it turns golden its ready.

Cover a plate with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Scoop up a small amount of the broad bean mixture and either use your hands or two spoons to shape it into little rounds, then put them on the plate. When they are all done, carefully lower one of them into the hot oil with a slotted spoon and fry until they are a golden, dark green colour. When you have the hang of it fry the rest in small batches.

For the lemon minted yogurt, squeeze half the lemon juice into the yogurt. Pick and chop the rest of your mint leaves and stir them in, season to taste.

As for the lamb.... well it was lovely. I used the Moroccan Lamb recipe from the wonderful food for friends yeah but also added Ras el Hanout which is an amazingly fragrant middle eastern spice blend that includes actual rose petals. I cooked it for nearly 5 hours at 140c so it fell away at the bone and hardly needed the extra additions of the left over babagonush, mint yogurt and hummous. There was discussions of it being served with cous cous studded with pomegranate seeds but I decided to be kind to my tattie loving man and served it with roasted new potatoes and cumin roasted squash.


  1. Anonymous10:14:00 pm

    Sounds delicious Emma, even though we have just been out for a meal I am feeling hungry!

  2. Thanks Natalie! Now honestly, raspberry jam, mint sauce and lamb - and it was delicious?! Looks great but I might need some more convincing! Though reading the rest of your blog I shouldn't hold you in any doubt... x