>> Sunday, 25 July 2010
In our family, like many families, food is a huge part of our culture and cooking is something passed from generation to generation. Of course, it's not always a smooth transition. Grandma still tells mum off in the kitchen, shouting "No, you're doing it wrong, leave it, I'll show you!" So entering a cooking competition for us is something that requires a certain amount of bravery. Will it go to plan, or will it all end up in a big fight?
A nightmarishly early start for a Sunday was made all better when we were greeted with the smiling faces of Annie Mole and the Cookery School staff. While we were still bleary eyed and grumbling "Coffee!", they were already busy in the kitchen, serving up tasty little pastries.
Soon after, we picked up our shopping bags and headed towards the farmers market, almost all of us forgoing the paper maps Annie had printed us for us and preferring iPhones. Oh, internet people... While I was on lamb shank duty at The Ginger Pig, mum was on the hunt for our vegetables. I wouldn't be surprised if half of London heard her "How much for aubergines?!" scream from the farmers market.
That's a fake smile. She's still upset over the aubergines.
Equipped with our lamb shanks and vegetables, we dutifully joined the Waitrose opening queue along with other NomNomNommers. A rather surreal moment queuing up for a supermarket to open. Double checking we had everything, we headed back to the Cookery School. Along the way, we stopped at the Turkish restaurant Ozer for a last minute pomegranate sauce addition, as we were not too happy with the one we had bought previously. They were kind enough to give us a bottle of the stuff they use. Thanks Ozer!
Back at the Cookery School, we donned our aprons and had two and a half hours of cooking time. To us though, that all seemed to go like a blur.
*cue photo montage*
You chop, I'll peel.
This is serious business.
Grate grate grate. Oh wait, that's a different team.
It's all in the final touches.
"Yay! We made it!"
Yep, we had just about done it on time and miraculously, not a /single/ fight.
What followed next was truly a sight to behold. We set up a buffet with all the food everyone had cooked.
And everyone seemed to like our food, which was excellent!
Braised lamb shanks? What braised lamb shanks?
We tried to choose a menu that felt seasonal, played to our expertise of Mediterranean cuisine, would be simple to make at home and where the ingredients can come from sustainable sources where possible.
Which sort of brings us onto this. It's very likely that sadly, you weren't there to taste the food. So, we tried to come up with the next best thing. Below are the recipes for the three dishes we served at NomNomNom. Give them a go and see if you like them. They're simple, easy to cook and hopefully, very very tasty!
Without further ado...
Starter: Kisir (Spicy Tabouleh)
1 cup fine cracked wheat
1 finely chopped onion
1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste
1 large tomato, grated or finely chopped
1/2 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped and sprinkled on top, to taste
2 tablespoons of pomegranate sauce
(If you can't find pomegranate sauce, replace with juice of half lemon mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey /or/ 1 teaspoon of brown sugar)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
a handful of walnuts, chopped
Pour the cracked wheat into a bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of hot water on top. Add a grated tomato into the bowl. Add the pomegranate sauce, or the lemon mixture. Add a pinch of salt. Mix and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare and chop all the other ingredients as described.
After 15 minutes, give the wheat a stir. Taste the mixture, the wheat should have softened and shouldn't have any hard bits. Add the tomato paste and mix again.
Add the chopped ingredients, all together, to the wheat. Add the olive oil. Mix softly. You have Kisir!
If desired, add more salt, pomegranate sauce and lemon to your taste. Serve with lettuce.
If you have any problems, call my mum. She'll be happy to tell you: "No. You're doing it wrong, leave it, I'll show you."
Main: Braised Lamb Shanks with Plums & "Sultan's Delight"
4 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 onion, chopped finely
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
8 plums, fresh, dried, or a mix
2 large aubergines
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup whole milk
100g mild/medium cheddar, grated
(You can cook this in a pressure cooker, you can cook it in a normal pan over the hob or you can have it in the oven for around 2 hours.)
Heat a pan with sunflower oil. When the oil is hot, sear the lamb shanks. When browned, add the chopped onions. Stir constantly. As the onions turn yellow, add the tomato paste and keep stirring. After a minute or so, add the plums. We used a combination of dried and fresh plums to achieve a fuller, slightly sweet/sour flavour. If in a pressure cooker, add 1/2 cup of water. If in a normal pan or oven, add 1 cup of water, and cook over a low heat.
At NomNomNom, we cooked in a pressure cooker for about 15 minutes and finished that off in the oven at 200C for about another 15 minutes.
Heat a griddle pan or oven as grill as you can. Make 3 to 4 incisions in the aubergines with a knife. Cook aubergines while turning them intermittently, until all sides are cooked. You can tell this by sticking a fork into it. The fork should go in with no effort, as if it's becoming mash. Do not worry if the outside becomes burnt, this actually improves the flavour.
Once cooked, take the aubergines off the heat and place them in a plastic bag. This helps them separate from their peel. Once cool to touch, peel the aubergines. Using a fork, mash the vegetable to a smooth-ish consistency. Put aside the mash for now.
Melt the butter in a pan. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly. Keep stirring and cooking until the flour becomes 'cooked', you should be able to tell this by a colour change (from white to yellow - not brown) and a change in smell. Once cooked, add the milk and stir constantly. The consistency should change to creamy. Add the aubergines and stir. Finally, add the cheese and let it melt in the mixture by stirring. It's ready.
You can layer this dish by making a base with Sultan's Delight and placing a lamb shank, along with a few plums on top. Finish off with spooning some of the sauce from the meat on top. Om nom nom.
If you have any problems, call my son. He'll be happy to tell you: "No. You're doing it wrong, let me show you."
Dessert: Roasted Pears with Clotted Cream
4 pears, any kind but preferably firm ones
8 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tablespoon brandy
16 sour cherries, fresh if you can find them or dry
1 tub clotted cream
1 roasting bag
Peel the pears with a peeler but leave the stalks intact. Using a knife, or a corer, core the pears so that the pips and pulp inside are gone. Try to leave as much of the fruit as you can. Rub the pears with the lemon juice so they don't brown.
Mix the sugar, brandy, the cherries and 1/2 cup of water. Place the mixture into a roasting bag, followed by the pears. Seal the bag and give it a gentle turn so that the pears soak some of the mixture. Put on a tray, pierce a few holes on the top of the bag and place into a preheated oven of 180C. Cook for 20-25 minutes.
Once cooked, bring out of the oven and let cool inside the bag. When ready to serve, take out each pear and place onto a plate, spooning the syrup on top and accompany it with the cherries. Serve with clotted cream.
If you have any problems, call us. We'll be happy to tell you: "No. You're doing it wrong, let me show you." Well, we did say 'Like Mother, Like Son'…
That's about it. We both had a great time at NomNomNom and once again would like to thank Annie and the awesome staff of the Cookery School. Without these guys, NomNomNom wouldn't happen.
So, what can you do now?
Well, for one, you can enter the charity raffle to help Action Against Hunger. There are crazy good prices and it's all for a good cause. Wa-hey!
And if you get another second after that, you could, well...
Most of the photos by the awesome TikiChris.
Vote for Like Mother, Like Son Here