A Quarter Lamb Bunny

the plain kitchen

Today’s post is the final one in my 365 day culinary challenge.

Here goes…

I know I have said it to you all before- but thank you. Thank you for encouraging me, for reading these ridiculous posts, and for cooking the meals and for responding to me. I have loved chatting to everyone, I’ve loved meeting new people, and reconnecting with old friends, and I have really enjoyed the fact that some of these recipes are in fact now being cooked by people on a regular basis. That, for me, is the best thing ever. I have always said that having people stay with us, and cooking for them, is one of my favourite things ever. I love the preparation, the ritual, the organisation, and, most important of all, the sitting down and eating and drinking. The chatting, the laughing, the being silly and making, most of the time, complete fools of ourselves, is a good way to spend a weekend. Friends, food, and just being together: I really don’t think I could spend a weekend in a better place. When you are with those you love, you find that once you’ve left them, or they’ve left you, you’re utterly, ridiculously exhausted. Exhausted from all the talk, the laughing, the everything. But you know what else happens after you see your friends? You’re energised. You come away feeling happy, and smiling, and, even though you are literally crawling into bed with tiredness, you feel ready to take on the world with the energy and positivity you’ve gained from being with them.

And this is what I have taken away from The Plain Kitchen. It has exhausted me, it has drained me of the ability to speak at times, but it has also inspired me and imbued me with a new found creativity and excitement which I haven’t felt in a long time. Parameters, and constraints are a good thing: I am not very disciplined, and as I said to a friend recently- this discipline has been good for me. I can only recommend this manner of work to anybody who may be in a similar situation to me: I was entering a year of memories, many of which were not that positive. As I have said before- when you reach the age of the age your parent was when they died, a lot of stuff goes through your head. It just does. It’s normal. And, at 42, I wanted to focus on the positive, and I wanted to celebrate. I think I have done that, a little.

And so I end the year with one of my best things in the world. Today’s post, for Bunny Chow (or, a quarter Lamb Bunny, to be precise) represents so much. I am South African; I am African. My country of birth, and the country I lived in for 23 years is in my blood, and in my life, and it will never leave me; it will soar through my veins, its music will take me over, my tears will fall at the most unexpected of times, and I will only really feel alive under the African sun. I am, though, also British. I am wildly, fiercely, defensively British. This is my country, my home, my love. It is the country that has welcomed me for the last 19 years, it has loved me, and it has enveloped me into its tightly knit heart- it has seen me change from awkward twentysomething, to a grown-up (or so I thought) thirty something, to now (really grown-up; I think) forty-something: and I am in love with this island, and I never want to be parted from it. We are what we make of ourselves; we are where we have been; and the world is a good place. We all have to hold this in our hearts; we all have to remember this; for else we will implode.

Back to today’s final little lovely recipe. Bunny Chow, ladies and gentlemen, is a South African take-away favourite. The basic premise is always the same: a quarter or half loaf of (shop bought, generally cheap) white bread, the inside hollowed out, the cavity filled with curry or a stew of sorts, and served with the hollowed-out chunk of bread on the side. No cutlery, no nothing- and usually served in newspaper or a chip-type greaseproof packet (note I have used the South African word ‘packet’ here- not bag- which confused the hell out of me when I arrived on these shores). You eat with your hands, and you wipe your hands wherever you can find a place to wipe them: your jeans, a paper towel, the dog: wherever. One of my favourite bunny chows, ever, was one that we used to eat at about 3 or 4 in the morning, heading home after a night out, and bought from a very dodgy roadside van just outside Pietermaritzburg. It was a Spicy Chicken Giblet Bunny Chow: and yes, that’s just what was in it. Blow-your-head-off-chilli-giblets. In a loaf of bread. God, we loved them! Giblets were very common things to eat in South Africa, and when I came to live in England, I couldn’t believe that every chicken I bought was devoid of the giblets- why, oh why, would one do such a thing? They are the most wonderful things to cook, and to eat- but no British chook had its giblets, and they still don’t.

The Bunny Chow therefore has a fond place in my memory as part of these late night spiced visits- it may be due to the state I was in at the time, but memories are strong things, and, like love, they override common sense at times.

Here a little recipe is for you: I have used a shoulder of lamb, and I cooked it for a long time… you must use cheap, white bread. I, of course, as pictured, used a brilliant large white gluten free loaf from Bath Bakery, because that’s what I can have! But, the rest of you: tuck in to the supermarket stuff. Now, the thing is, with our mixed culture and influences in South Africa; Bunny Chow has its roots in our Indian cooking. However, as I write, I am overtaken by the most African of flavours; we are a country of mixtures: and none more so in our cooking.

As I write this recipe, I am listening to my beloved Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Shaka Zulu, if you’re interested is the album: not a popular one, but my favourite). If anything were to reduce me to tears, this is it. Listen to them, feel the crazy mix of culinary influence Africa has to offer you, make this recipe, and feel a little of Africa inside you.

Serves 2, very generously

Ingredients:

1 loaf of white, unsliced bread

For the curry:

I small shoulder of lamb, about 500g meat in total cut from the bone

2 tbsp ghee, or, if you don’t have, a combination of salted butter and vegetable oil

2 white onions, sliced thinly

3 cloves garlic, microplaned

1 knob ginger, about 5 cm in length, peeled and microplaned

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp fenugreek

1 tsp mustard seeds, ground to a powder

1 fat chilli, seeds retained, chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1 star anise

2 cardamom pods, pods discarded and seeds crushed

1 tbsp stock powder: Marigold, or lamb stock, whatever you have to hand

1 tin plum tomatoes

1 tsp caster sugar

Maldon salt and pepper

Fresh coriander and parsley to serve and stir through the curry at the end

Method:

Make the curry, if you can, the day before. It will be very good if you cook it for 4-5 hours on the day of eating; of course it will. But- it will be fantastic cooked for those hours, and then kept, and reheated for a few hours the next day. I have to say, it will not be good with two hours of cooking: I am being honest with you here, just don’t do it. Good old fashioned stew, or curry, with a cheaper cut of meat, needs time. Don’t do the meat a disservice.

So, going on this rather draconian advice of mine, please sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil or ghee, or whatever you’re using, AND the shoulder meat, for 5 minutes. Do this on a medium high heat, but carefully. Add the spices, and stir about for a few minutes. Turn the heat up, and begin to brown the meat further- for only a few minutes, but to ensure those gorgeous flavours permeate the meat. Keep stirring for about another 5-10 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar and the salt and pepper. Now, you need to simmer this for a long time: 4 hours is good, or, as I said previously, make it earlier, and then reheat when you are ready to eat. Ensure you remove the star anise from the curry before serving.

Pour into the halved loaves, and serve with the extra bread on the side.

Almond Chicken Curry

The Plain Kitchen Curry

I was after something slightly creamy yet fresh with this- of course, I know there are lots of variations of curries using almond paste, particularly with chicken. I made my own version completely here- and I apologise in advance if you have the real-deal recipe that you use, and if mine bears no resemblance to yours! It is, however, so delicious and it is super quick too. I used about 1/2 a cup of confetti coriander (finer, younger coriander- the flavour is milder, I find). However, just substitute with normal coriander- and of course, should you prefer a stronger flavour, just add more- and if you don’t fancy the strong dhania flavour, add less.

Serves 2, generously

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, skinned and deboned and cut into small pieces

1 white onion, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and microplaned

Piece of ginger, about 2cm in length, peeled and microplaned

2 tbsp groundnut oil

Good knob butter

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Pinch white pepper

1 heaped tbsp. curry powder (you can use your own spice mix if you fancy it: I was in a hurry, so used curry powder)

1 courgette, topped and tailed and grated

1 romero red pepper, sliced nto rings

100g ground almonds

½ cup fresh coriander

250ml full fat greek yoghurt

1 tsp Maldon salt

good grinding black pepper

Method

Using a hand held blender or similar appliance, whizz up the almonds and coriander leaves with about 2-3 tbs water until you have a smooth, fragrant pale green paste. You may need a dash or two more water- a slightly runny paste is what you are after, not too watery. Set this aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a non stick frying pan, or casserole dish until just frothing. Add the ginger, garlic and onion and saute for 8 minutes. Add the curry powder and chopped chicken, and brown the chicken well- this should take 4-5 minutes or so. Add the chilli and seasoning, along with the courgettes and red peppers, and continue to stir over a medium to high heat until the chicken is completely cooked through. Finally stir through the whizzed up almonds and coriander and the yoghurt. Taste for seasoning: you will be surprised at how much salt this dish needs.

Add extra chilli at the end as a garnish, if you like a hotter curry, and of course, toasted almond flakes would work wonderfully if you have them to hand.

 

Artichoke, Anchovy & Caper Bake

The Plain Kitchen Gluten Free Artichoke bake

Really excited that this recipe appears in the September issue of BBC Good Food Magazine, as part of their Food Stories feature: a little glimpse of it is here:

Justine wall BBC Good Food

In the search for easy meals to make Andy while we have been away, this one seemed most fitting, particularly for him: I combined some of his favourite ingredients, and it turned out so well. It is rich, and umami-filled, yet also has that wonderful sharpness the capers and artichoke bring to the dish. Serve with polenta, which I will post a recipe for tomorrow, or with crusty bread (if you are a lucky wheat consuming person): this is perfection. Please add an extra tin too of artichokes if you fancy it: the sauce here is sufficient for another few artichokes.

Serves 2, generously

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp olive oil

Small knob butter

4 anchovies (salted ones, from a jar, which you have rinsed)

60g capers

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

1 tin artichokes, drained

¼ cup parsley, chopped

¼ cup basil, chopped

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup parmesan, grated

Method

In an oven proof casserole dish or frying pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, anchovies and chilli, and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tinned tomatoes, and turn the heat up till it is bubbling. Allow to bubble, ensuring it doesn’t stick, for 10 minutes. Add the capers, sugar, salt and pepper and bubble for a further 25 minutes: this does seem a while, but you need the sauce to reduce somewhat.

Remove from the heat. Stir through the fresh herbs. Halve the artichokes, and nestle these in the sauce. Top with the cheese and pine nuts, and bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven, until golden brown and bubbling on top.

Asparagus & Salmon Quiche with a Cheddar Crust

The Plain Kitchen Salmon asparagus quiche

I have already posted a recipe for quiche- a chorizo and feta one, which aired on BBC Wiltshire as part of their Taste of Wiltshire feature a few months ago. This one uses the same crust- which works so well- and has a far lighter, fresher Summer flavour to it.

Please don’t be fooled into buying processed ready to eat pastry or pizza bases: a savoury gluten free pastry such as this one is so very easy to make. Remember though to use a proper quiche tin for this: unlike a tart tin, quiche tins are deeper, so that they can hold the filling well. I use a 15 cm quiche tin, which serves 4. Of course, if you are using a large quiche tin, one that serves 8, simply double the recipe. Of course, the triple baking is necessary: first, baking the pastry blind, then removing the parchment layer and beans and giving it another quick burst in the oven to crisp up the base, and finally, a bake with the filling. It sounds like it is difficult and may take a while: it really doesn’t.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

Ingredients:

For the crust:

60g rice flour (I use Dove’s)

60g Plain gluten free flour (I use Dove’s)

85g butter, chilled, cut into cubes

45g cheddar cheese grated

½ tsp table salt

Good grinding black pepper

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

2 tbsp cold water

For the filling:

125g cooked salmon (I steam mine in a little tin foil parcel in the oven- or you can poach yours, steam it on the stove top: whatever is easiest)

About 10 asparagus spears, tailed, and then chopped into 2cm long pieces

2 eggs

200ml double cream

Pinch salt

Good grinding black pepper

Small handful fresh dill, finely chopped

Extra fresh dill, to serve

Method:

To make the crust, simply rub the butter and cheese into the dry ingredients as you would for scones: it may take a little while, but it’s worth it. Add the water once you have mixed the butter and cheese in well, and bring together in a bowl using your hands to make a dough. Line your quiche tin with the dough- I break the dough up into pieces, dot it about the tin, and then I press it all together. Unlike gluten based doughs, if you roll this dough out, it tends to break up. Also, unlike gluten based doughs, not a lot of shrinkage occurs, so you don’t need to make the dough overlap your edges at all- push it in snugly, and flatten it well- and will keep its shape when baked. Once the tin is lined well with the dough, and you have pressed it in well, place a paper disc at the bottom of the dough and line with baking beans or rice- whatever you generally use.

Bake with the beans for 20 minutes in a preheated oven, then remove the parchment and beans, and bake uncovered for a further 8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool while you make the filling.

Mix the eggs, seasoning, dill and cream in a jug- beat lightly with a fork.

Flake the cooked salmon into a bowl, add the chopped asparagus and the egg mixture. Set aside.

Once the pastry base is ready after its second baking, pour the mixture into the tin, and bake again for 20 minutes, until lightly golden on top.

Remember, it is essential to allow the quiche to rest before serving: the custard will set further and create an easy to slice quiche. Sprinkle with fresh dill, and you’re ready to go.

 

Baby Leaf and Ricotta Flan

The Plain Kitchen

This is a mash up of a quiche, a flan and a pie- well, at least that’s what I thought when I made it. I fancied a rather more substantial crust to my usual cheddar quiche crust- and one that was herbed, one that would complement a spinach type of filling, with cream cheese and ricotta: I could picture it in my head: and it turned out well- the crust is substantial- but, if you fancy it thinner, I would simply divide it between two smaller quiche tins and double up the filling quantities if you wanted to. I used a 20cm tart tin- so, not as deep as a quiche- hence it being more flan like, if that makes sense! The baby leaves in question here were chard, spinach and pea shoots: If you wanted just chard, or spinach, that would be perfect. Somehow I don’t think it would work with just pea shoots- I don’t think they have enough bulk and substance to them. Remember, 150g seems like a lot of leaves- but they reduce and wilt down to a small squeezed handful. And yes, you must do the squeezing after wilting- the filling will be too watery if you don’t.

Serve warm or at room temperature. It’s not great cold!

Serves 6

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients:

For the base:

70g gram flour

105g gluten free self raising flour

20g ricotta cheese

50g cheddar chese, grated

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch table salt

85 butter

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Good grinding black pepper

½ an egg: ie, beat an egg, and only use ½ of the beaten egg- the other half will go into the filling

1-2 tbsp water

For the filling:

The other half of that beaten egg

150g chard, spinach and pea shoots or similar, chopped

180g full fat cream cheese

50g ricotta cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

½ white onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

25g parmesan, grated

50g melted butter

½ tsp Pimenton

½ tsp maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

For the top:

Handful pine nuts

A little extra microplaned parmesan

Method

Start on the pastry first. Mix all of the ingredienss together, except for the water and egg, in abowl- rub the butter, cheese and ricotta into the mix as you would for scones, until you have a fine mix. Add 1 tbsp water and half the beaten egg, and pull together to form a dough. If you think it needs a little more water, add it now. Line your tart or flan tin in a patchwork fashion- again, because we are dealing with gluten free flour, there is no need to rest or chill it, rather work with it when it is warm. Really make sure that the whole bottonm and sides are evenly covered in the dough, and flatten it all out. Line the bottom with a round of baking parchment, fill with baking beads and bake blind for 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven, remove the beads and parchment and bake again for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and wait to cool completely.

To make the filling, wilt the leaves: all I do is pop the chopped leaves into a nonstick frying pan on a medium heat and stir very gently and quickly, never letting the leaves catch, but allowing them to wilt. Once they have wilted, remove from the heat and pop the leaves into a bowl- you will squeeze the water out later when they’re cool enough to handle.

 

Soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil- about 10 minutes on a medium heat is what you need. Mix with the ricotta, melted butter, beaten egg, parmesan, pimenton, seasoning and the cream cheese. The leaves should be cool enough to handle by now. Squeeze any excess water from them- you may just be left with a large dark handful of leaves! Stir these through the cheese mixture, well, to distribute the leaves evenly. Pour into the tart shell, top with pine nuts and microplaned parmesan, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.