yesSome people like to plan ahead way before a special occasion, putting together shopping and to-do lists to help make the big day, and the days leading up to it, flow as seamlessly as possible. The rest of us “do” life a little more impulsively, seeking out a delicious idea only the day before, then come up with a one-stop-one-pot plan to make it actually happen. For anyone craving a feast this weekend, and who hasn’t yet got a plan of action in place, fear not: I’ve got you covered.
Spicy yogurt-crusted lamb with black-eyed beans
The scotch bonnets bring a tropical fruitiness to this marinade, but they can be eye-wateringly hot, so leave them out if you prefer; the marinade will still be well spiced as it is. If you can’t find black-eyed beans, swap them for tinned black beans. Serve with flatbreads or rotis, if you like.
Prep 35 minutes
Marinade 3 hrs+
Cook 4 hoursr 30 min
serves 6-8as a main course
For the marinade
1½ tbsp allspice berriesfinely crushed in a mortar
1½ tsp cumin seedsfinely crushed in a mortar
1½ tsp coriander seedsfinely crushed in a mortar
1½ tsp paprika
1½ tsp black peppercornsfinely crushed in a mortar
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp soft light brown sugar
50g gingerpeeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garliccloves separated, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onionpeeled and roughly chopped (180g)
80g Greek-style yogurt
salt and black pepper
for the lamb
2kg bone-in lamb shouldertrimmed of excess fat
2 tbsp sunflower oil
600g plum tomatoeshalf
2 medium onionspeeled and quartered (300g)
5 garlic clovespeeled
2 tbsp tomato paste
40ml cider vinegar
1-2 scotch bonnet chilliespierced all over with a knife (optional)
2 cinnamon sticks
500ml chicken stock
600ml full-fat coconut milk
3 x 400g tins black-eyed beans, drained and washed (720g net)
for the sauce
300g plum tomatoes (about 2 or 3), halved, desired and finely chopped
1 medium red onionpeeled and finely chopped (150g)
60g corianderleaves and soft stems, roughly chopped
1½ tbsp lime juice
Put all the ingredients for the marinade bar the yoghurt in a food processor with a tablespoon and a half of salt and blitz to a paste. Add the yogurt and blitz again for 20 seconds, until smooth. Put the lamb in a large bowl, pour in the marinade and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least three hours, and preferably overnight (if you do the latter, take the lamb out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking, to bring it back up to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Put the oil in a large, 28cm-wide, cast-iron saucepan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add half the tomatoes, onions and garlic and char, stirring, for three to five minutes, until nicely colored and starting to soften. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the other half of the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
Return the first batch of tomatoes, onion and garlic to the pan, then stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, scotch bonnets (if using), cinnamon, stock and quarter-teaspoon of salt. Add the lamb and all of its marinade, bring up to a simmer, then cover the pan and transfer to the oven to roast for two and a half hours.
Take off the lid and gently lift out the lamb on to a platter. Stir the coconut milk and beans into the pot, top with the lamb and return to the oven uncovered for a further 45-60 minutes, or until nicely browned and crusted. The lamb should by now be very tender. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a medium bowl, mix the tomato, onion, coriander, lime juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, then set aside.
To serve, carefully lift the lamb on to a board, then use a ladle to skim off and discard any excess fat from the liquid in the pan. Pour the bean mixture through a colander set over a bowl to catch the gravy, then transfer the bean mixture to a platter with a lip. Pour over half of the gravy, then top with the lamb and a few spoonfuls of the salsa, and serve with the remaining salsa and the extra gravy on the side.
Caramelised fennel and grape tart tatin with saffron and olives
This tart straddles the line between sweet and savory. I like to serve it as a starter or for lunch, with a zingy green salad and some good-quality tinned sardines.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
serves 4 ace to starter
1 tbsp plain flour
1 x 320g sheet all-butter puff pastry
2 large fennel bulbs (550g)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp demerara sugar
80g fridge-cold unsalted buttercut into 1cm cubes
¼ tsp saffronsteeped in 1 tbsp boiling water for at least five minutes
salt and black pepperplus ⅛ tsp flaked sea salt
70g seedless red or green grapes
45g pitted green or black kalamata olivesroughly chopped
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7, and line a large oven tray with baking paper. Dust a clean work surface with the flour. Gently roll out the pastry until you can easily cut out a 28cm circle, then trim and keep any excess for another use. Transfer the pastry circle to the lined tray and chill until needed.
Trim 1cm off the top of the fennel stalks, and save any fronds to garnish the tart later. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice the rest of the stalks until you get to the bulb, then set the sliced stalks aside. Cut both bulbs in half lengthways, then cut each half into six (or four if the fennel is on the small side) roughly 3cm-wide wedges.
Put a tablespoon of oil in a medium, 26cm, ovenproof saute pan set over a medium-high heat, then lay in the fennel wedges cut side down, sear for two minutes, then turn on to the other cut side and repeat until golden. Sprinkle over a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then transfer to a plate.
Rinse and wipe the pan dry, then return it to a medium-low heat. Add the sugar, butter, the saffron and its soaking water, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and stir to combine. Gently heat for three minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to bubble and caramelise, then add the grapes and fennel tops. Take the pan off the heat, arrange the fennel wedges on top with one of the cut sides exposed and scatter over the olives.
Lay the cold pastry on top of the pan and gently tuck in the edges so the filling is completely covered. Using a small, sharp knife, make a small cross on the top to allow the steam to escape, then bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and deeply golden. Remove and leave to rest and cool for five minutes.
Put a 30cm-wide plate on the pan, making sure that there aren’t any gaps. Then with one hand on the plate and another on the cool pan handle (use a tea towel if it’s still hot), invert the pan to flip the tart on to the plate. Sprinkle the reserved fennel fronds on top, together with the flaked sea salt, and serve hot.
Roast cabbage with lemony peas and feta
This is a great side for any roast, but it’s also delicious by itself. Use fresh peas, if and when you can get them; for a vegan alternative, replace the feta with olives or capers – their briny flavor works very well here.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 min
serves 4-6 ace side
1 medium savoy cabbage (500g), cut into 6 wedges with the core left in
4 garlic clovespeeled and cut in half lengthways
150ml chicken or vegetable stock
75ml olive oil
salt and black pepper
80g frozen peasdefrosted
80g frozen edamame or broad beansdefrosted
30g basil leavesroughly chopped
4 spring onionstrimmed and cut into thin rounds (50g)
100g fetaroughly crumbled
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Snugly arrange the cabbage wedges cut side down in a 20cm x 30cm baking dish and nestle the halved garlic cloves in between. Pour over the stock and three tablespoons of oil, sprinkle over three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then roast for 15 minutes, until nicely browned in places. Gently turn the wedges on to the other cut side and cook for another 15 minutes, until browned on the other side: you want them nicely softened with charred bits on top. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the pea sauce. Top and tail the lemon and use a small, sharp knife to remove the skin and pith. Cut between the membranes to release the individual segments, then cut each segment into four. Put these in a medium bowl, then squeeze over any juices from the membranes and discard.
Just before serving, so the peas don’t lose their color, stir in the remaining two tablespoons of oil, the peas, edamame, basil, spring onions, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Spoon the pea sauce on to the cabbage wedges, top with half the crumbled feta and serve with the rest of the feta in a bowl alongside.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism