Lamb, mint and haloumi sausage rolls

Sausage rolls 4It is hard to believe that almost nine months have passed since I discovered I was pregnant, yet here I am counting down the days until I welcome my first child to the world. Despite the pregnancy symptoms and constant fatigue, time really has flown by surprisingly quickly.

Part of the reason for that is that I did over commit myself during my pregnancy (first timer mistake). Before I found out I was pregnant, I had applied for an online postgrad university course which I was accepted into and decided to start the first unit in my second trimester. So during my second and most of my third trimester, not only was I working full time while pregnant, I was also studying at home. To say I found it difficult (writing reports all day at work then coming home to uni reading and writing assignments) would be an understatement. But I have finished my first unit (with pretty good grades on all my assessments) and have finally slowed down to prepare for my new life as a mum (besides all the appointments that seem to fill up the week).

Part of my preparation has included filling up the freezer with lots of ready cooked (or ready to be cooked) meals. I think winter is a great time to be in the later stages of pregnancy. Besides not melting in the Australian heat, it is quite mild but also a great time for soups, casseroles and oven baked foods that freeze really well. Some of the recipes I have made have been some old favourites, but I have also tried some new ones so there will be a few new posts to follow with those recipes.

But first here is the recipe for some very tasty sausage rolls that were made for me for my baby shower. They were so good I begged the recipe off my friends and made a batch for last night’s dinner (with half the batch going into the freezer and the rest as leftovers for today). I would have liked trying to freeze half of the batch before cooking, then defrosting and cooking later, however as I was using lamb mince that had already been frozen, I couldn’t do this. I may try this another time and will update the post then.

If you don’t like mint, this isn’t the recipe for you, but mint is one of my favourite herbs and I really like the combination of flavours in this recipe, something a little bit different from your usual sausage roll. However you could try replacing the mint and mint jelly with another herb and chutney or jelly. That is the great thing about recipes, you can experiment and adapt to your own taste.

Click here for the recipe

My cookbook library and The Hairy Dieter’s Lamb Tagine

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I own quite a few cookbooks and continue to buy more (I can’t resist a good cookbook on sale). However, when you have more than a few cookbooks, it can be difficult remembering where certain recipes you wanted to try are, and therefore get the most out of your books.

So I recently signed up to the website Eat Your Books to give it a try. Eat Your Books is a website that indexes cookbooks and allows you to create a catalogue (your bookshelf) of the books you have and then search them through an on-line database. It doesn’t actually give you the recipe, you need to go to your book for that, but it does give you the ingredients in the recipe.

So far I have added 149 books to my ‘bookshelf’, with a few books that I couldn’t enter (they were quite old ones) and I haven’t finished adding them all yet. I’ve found so far that only half of my books have been indexed, but I do have quite a few older and Australian books, so that may account for it. Most of my newer books were already indexed. The site allows you to “member index” one book at a time, so I have started adding one of my books already. The site also catalogues magazines, blogs and other on-line recipes.

This got me thinking about making better use of (and even rediscovering) my books. As a result, I have decided  to cook at least one recipe from one of my books every one to two weeks, and try to work my way through all my books (this will take a while to get through).  I also am not going to buy a new cookbook until I have cooked something from at least five books that I already own.

When I decided this, I had The Hairy Dieters book in my bag, so I have started with that book. I know I’ve cooked a dish from their book before, but this is a new ‘challenge’ and I have to start somewhere.

The slow cooking makes the lamb lovely and tender, and the chickpeas develop an almost creamy texture. The spices added just the right amount (for me at least) of heat. Definitely a dish I will be cooking again.

Book recipe number: 1

Number of cookbooks owned: 149+ (still counting)

Lamb Tagine

Click here for the recipe

Dukkah crusted lamb cutlets with couscous and ratatouille

This is one of those dishes that has developed over time and is now one of my weeknight favourites. I remember trying the lamb with dukkah for the first time after buying some dukkah in Margaret River several years ago and wanting to find other ways of using it rather than just as something to dip your bread into. Though I love eating it like that too – cut up some crusty bread or Turkish bread, dip a piece of bread into a small  bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then into some dukkah…yum. The couscous and ratatouille were added later after I met Jerome and he asked me to cook couscous. The couscous needed something with some liquid to go with it, so I decided to try a ratatouille. Like usual, I looked up a few recipes then proceeded to go off and make my own version. My ratatouille is quite fresh and light, and only needs around 25 minutes total cooking time, making it good for a weeknight meal and one of my favourites.

Click here for the recipe

Take a break from the takeaway – Lamb burgers

As I’ve said before, even though I enjoy cooking, sometimes I struggle with the motivation to cook every night. A few months back, I was giving in to the temptation to have the night off cooking and buy something on the way home a few times too often. Then I started feeling run down and put on some weight. For the first time ever, I recorded a slightly high cholesterol level. No surprise, the change in what I was eating impacted on my health. It was a reminder to me of the importance of cooking and eating good food at home and the need to keep takeaway as an occasional treat rather than a regular option. For added motivation, I watched Super Size Me and read Fast Food Nation. I certainly lost my appetite for certain foods after that!

It’s not about denial or going cold turkey and not eating my favourite foods. Rather, for me at least, it’s about balance, making better choices and using some replacement ingredients when cooking. When I get the urge for fries/chips now (potatoes are one of my real weaknesses), I’ll microwave a potato instead and have it with a tiny bit of light sour cream.  When I make my creamy pesto pasta, I use light evaporated skim milk (with a bit of cornflour to thicken it) instead of full fat cream. I still get the flavours and satisfied feeling of the original dishes, but (to my knowledge at least), the changes make it lighter and better for me. And I still let myself have a treat now and then. Just not everyday.

These lamb ‘burgers’ are one of my favourite week-night dinners and an alternative to many people’s favourite fast food, the burger. Couscous is used in place of breadcrumbs and/or eggs in the burger, instead of a bun you wrap it up in a flatbread, and instead of cheese and mayo there is a tzatziki style dressing made with low fat yoghurt. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything when I eat these.

Take a break from the takeaway burgers

click here for the recipe

Warm lamb salad with lentils and salsa verde

Even though I enjoy cooking, sometimes after a busy day at work, it can be too easy or tempting to succumb to picking up takeaway on the way home. Especially as I have so many great restaurants (Indian, Italian, Japanese and many more) within five minutes of my house. Alternately, I fall back on a few tried and tested favourite recipes, which if cooked too often will no longer be favourites. So finding new quick and easy recipes that I can add to my repertoire and save the takeaway for an occasional treat is something I am actively trying to do.

The other day I was looking through a new cooking magazine and I came across a warm beef and salsa verde salad that sparked my interest. It looked like a great spring dinner, but although I liked the look of it and the idea, I didn’t feel like beef so I went with lamb instead. Then because I was cooking with lamb, I thought mint would be a great addition to the salsa verde rather than just the parsley they used. And how about some basil as well given I’m adding tomatoes to the salad, and some lemon to freshen it up? Next thing you know the recipe below was created and the result delivered was just what I was after. A quick (all up around 30 minutes), light and tasty dinner perfect, in my opinion, for a spring night in Perth. Next time I might try cooking the lamb on the bbq instead of the stove.

It’s nice when cooking ‘experiments’ work out. And as I’d never used anchovies or capers in any of my cooking before, this really was an experiment for me. Don’t be scared of the anchovies, they don’t make the dish taste of fish. The leftovers were great for lunch the next day, the flavours had intensified and I thought it was delicious.

Quick lamb salad with salsa verde and lentils click here for the recipe