Tropical Harissa Lamb “Tagine”

This is another one of my variations on a theme. You will need some good quality Harissa paste, preferably made in North Africa and not Wigan. Harissa pastes vary from warm to volcanic, so you need to source one that matches your tastebuds.

You will need for two people:

Stage 1

About 400g of lamb, strangely here lamb is not easy to get hold of, so I am using lamb leg chops, trimmed and de-boned.

Cut the lamb up into bite size pieces and add it to a Pyrex bowl. Take a level-ish tablespoon of Harissa paste add it the bowl and mix, making sure that the lamb is covered. Cover the bowl with cling film and put this in the fridge. If you do this at lunchtime for an evening meal the marinade will have had enough time to work. I am about to do this now.

Stage 2

1 ripe mango

1 honey dew melon

1 orange

1 lemon

A finely chopped red onion.

Some olive oil.

2 cloves of garlic finely diced.

A two-inch piece of ginger cut into matchsticks.

50g of uncooked pistachio kernels

50g of flaked almonds

50g of dried apricots, cut in half.

50 grams of sultanas

3 carrots peeled and chopped into “coins”.

A tin of finest quality chopped tomatoes.

A glass of red wine

500g of lamb stock

Maybe a little cornflour

A casserole with a well-fitting lid

A pot of Greek yoghurt

Some cucumber

Some mint

Some Sicilian lemon juice.

A pinch of salt

A sprinkle of paprika

A mug of three grain rice.


Take the lamb out of the fridge. Put a large pan on your newly fitted induction hob, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, turn up the welly to about 11/15. Remember this hob is a lot more powerful than you think! When the oil starts to swirl add the lamb and brown slightly, taking care not to burn the harissa. If it looks like it is too hot, put your finger on the darned slider control and drop the heat to 8/15. When the lamb is browned add it to the casserole. Pour the glass of wine into the pan and de-glaze it. Add the wine to the casserole making sure that you get all the lovely harissa in too. If there is any left in the Pyrex dish add this to the casserole.

Peel the mango and chop it into thumb sliced slices, add these to the casserole,

Cut the honey dew melon in half. Wrap one half in cling film and put it in the fridge. Cut the other half into three lengthwise pieces. De-seed the pieces and extract cubes of melon off the skin. The cubes should be about an inch in size. Don’t stress if they aren’t all the same size. Add these to the casserole.

Add to the casserole the onion, the garlic, the ginger, the pistachios, almonds, apricots, sultanas, the carrots and the chopped tomatoes.

Put the kettle on to make the lamb stock.

Peel “skin grafts” off the orange and the lemon, about 1mm deep. Slice these into match sticks about half an inch long. These will give a lovely zesty aroma and taste to the “Tagine”. Add these to the pot.

Make up 500ml of lamb stock and use some of the boiled water to rinse out the tomato can, add the tomato juices to the casserole.

Stir the contents of the casserole. Now add the lamb stock until the contents are covered such that there is about 1cm of liquid above them. During the cooking the apricots and the sultanas will absorb some of the juices. You may need to top up with boiling water as you go.

Put the oven on at 180 Celsius. Close the casserole off with a lid and bring to the boil in the oven at 180. The moment it is bubbling, turn the heat down to 150 Celsius and cook for at least one and a half hours. The longer the better. Check the casserole every half hour and give it a stir. If needed add a drop of boiling water.

Now finely chop some cucumber into 1 cm by 2mm by 4mm mini chunks. You will need about a quarter of a medium size cucumber. Finely chop some mint until you have about a tablespoon of it. Put the cucumber and mint into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add about 150ml of Greek yoghurt. Stir well. If you think it needs it add the lemon juice to taste. I personally like the combo of lemon yoghurt and a hint of salt. When you are good to go sprinkle some paprika decoratively on the surface of the yoghurt mix.

Put the kettle back on and boil some water.

Do your last casserole check and then cook your three grain rice according to the instructions.

Just before nose down elbows up, get the casserole out of the oven and check its consistency. If it is a little too runny add some cornflour in water. A teaspoon of flour to a tablespoon of water, is about right. Stir this into the casserole and return to the oven for about 5 mins. If not, don’t do this…

Go to the CD player put on some North African music at dining volume levels.

Now serve the rice and tagine in as artistic a manner as you can manage and offer the yoghurt as a cooling side. {This is important if you have used volcanic harissa.}


Oh yeah, watch out for the mangoes and apricots they retain the heat of the sauce and can burn the tongue….

The Spice Must Flow…

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

― Frank Herbert, Dune


No not that kind of spice, this kind:

The first part of my “replenish the spice” Amazon order arrived today, it contains a kilo of Bulgarian ground coriander and two 250g packs of Hungarian paprika, one smoked, one not. They come in lovely little bags that can be used later for other things. I have a kilo of ground cumin on the way. This is all to replensish similar quantities bought last June. So I get through about half a kilo of paprika a year, smoked and unsmoked.

Buying spices in large quantities and storing them in Kilner jars is an economic way to go.

Out here in the wild west it is not culturally all that mixed, so finding big bags of spice is hard, hence Amazon. One of the benfits of the UK was the multi-ethnicity, which means widely varying types of food can be found easily, not so here.

I would in particular reccomend the Hungarian paprika, it is vivid in colour and subtle of flavour.

Looks like some paprikash is in the pipeline…I can’t wait to open up those bags and inhale….but I will have to finish off my older stocks first.

Exotic Tropical Pig in a Pot

This dish, currently in the oven, stems from my exposure to Cape Malay cooking in Zambia as a child. This cuisine was imported by the various South Africans working on the smelters and mines. There was always more fruit than vegetables. In the garden we had six banana trees, two guavas, one avocado and half a dozen papaya trees. We would trade the avocados for mangoes. Because of the French overseas territories, we can get tropical fruit here.

Fruit is an underrated “savoury” cooking ingredient.

The idea behind this one pot recipe is chuck it all in a casserole and let it cook on a slow heat for at least 90 mins. It doesn’t matter over much which fruit you use, but you must have a good-sized mango. This is because the juices from the mango tenderise the pork as it cooks.

For two people you will need:

1 good sized mango.

A small papaya.

{Today I am using a small pineapple instead. Pretty much any melon can be substituted for the papaya. Have a play and see what works best for you.}

Any fruit from: nectarines, plums, apricots, peaches, apples, grapes.

Citrus makes this a bit weird so avoid them.

Today I am using a gala apple and six sliced dried apricots. {Sultanas also work well.}

A word of warning this dish helps you keep it regular.

One onion

Two cloves of garlic

A 2 inch piece of fresh root ginger

About 100ml of Thai Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

{Healthy Boy was the one I used in the UK; Blue Dragon is also good}

About 300-400g of Pork Filet Mignon cut into 2.5cm pieces and cleaned of any fat.

200g of coconut cream {You add this to taste, not everyone is a fan of coconut, but it does finish this nicely}

A heavy casserole with lid.

I have a bashed about Le Creuset casserole that has acquired something of a patina. It works a treat.


Chop the onion into twelve wedges separate the wedges into slices and add to the casserole. Finely dice the garlic, add to the casserole. Peel and chop the ginger into pieces consistent with your liking of getting a “hit” of ginger. The wife likes fair sized lumps. It is up to you. A good ginger hit clears the nasal passages. Add to the casserole. Add the pork and pour on the chilli dipping sauce, stir. The casserole should now be about half full. You are aiming for a 50:50 mix.

Peel the mango. I try to do this in one peel as something of a Zen and the Art of Peeling Mangoes theme. Try not to drop the slippery blighter on the floor. Cut into thumb sized chunks. Add to the pot.

Prepare chunks of pineapple / papaya / melon add these to the pot.

Chop the apple into chunks, skin on, add to pot.

Add the sliced dried apricots.

Fill the casserole up to near the top with freshly boiled water. Don’t overdo it or the casserole will boil over and muck up your brand-new oven!

Set the oven to 180 Celsius chuck in the casserole, lid on, and bring it to the boil, about 15-20 mins. Turn the heat down to 150 and cook so that the total time in the oven is greater than 90mins.

Every half an hour or so, get the casserole out and give it a stir. The emanations may make you start to salivate, which is a good thing. Can you hear that rumble?

When it is getting near time cook some Basmati rice. If you look carefully you can buy 5kg bags of this which are way, way cheaper than the buy per half kilo method.

Just after you have put the rice on, take the pot out. Add half the coconut crème, stir and taste.

If you are feeling all Kid Creole and the Coconuts (I’m a wonderful thing baby) add the rest. If not, no worries.

Make a nice mound of rice in a ring like a volcano and using a ladle add the Exotic Tropical Pig in a Pot, make sure there is enough juice.

You are good to go.

A word of warning the mango chunks will be hot in temperature so watch out. The pork should be juicy and soft and tender.

Enjoy 😊


Juicy and Aromatic Nut Roast

I was a practising vegan of the evangelical and strict kind for nine years during the 1990s and way before it was hip. This is a variant of my vegan nut loaf recipe suitable for vegetarians, the type that eat eggs. Back then the availability of good vegan and veggie food was sparse, and it motivated me to try recipes from all over the world. Being a trained chemist cookery is just a scale up of kinds. I even contemplated opening a vegetarian restaurant.

Back then there was a tacit assumption that blokes, especially big hairy ones like me, were not vegan. Whenever I went to the vegan shoe shop in Brighton, the salespeople would turn to my then girlfriend first. The usually female staff were often surprised that the non-leather goods were for me.

Todays nut roast is motivated by the big pile of walnuts upstairs, they are the harvest from Autumn, and we have about ten kilos. We didn’t harvest the year before because I had bust my hip.

The amounts here are more than enough for two people.

For this you will need:

About 200g of mixed shelled nuts.

I am using 100g walnuts, 70g cashews and 30g pistachio kernels.

4 slices of wholemeal toast blitzed into breadcrumbs.

A finely chopped onion, I prefer red onions for this, they are sweeter.

A couple of cloves of garlic, finely diced.

One small courgette cut into “thick” one-inch long matchsticks.

One large carrot peeled and coarsely grated. {This is the secret ingredient}

Two heaped tablespoons of double concentrate tomato puree.

A glass of red wine.

A whole lemon from which you slice about half of the rind in “skin grafts” about 1mm thick and 2cm by 1 cm in dimension.

These are then chopped into fine matchsticks.

Some Olive Oil

Several heaped teaspoons of Herbes de Provence.


Freshly ground black pepper.

Two eggs whisked. I am using Breizh’on egg, eggs.

{This name is a little joke because it is the name of the Breton Language in Breton too. Needless to say they have not got many air miles to them.}

A loaf tin.

Some cooking paper to line the tin.


Blitz the nuts so that there remains a mixture of textures. Add these to a large mixing bowl. Add about two thirds of your breadcrumbs. You are holding the rest back because you may need to judge the texture of the roast to be, by eye.

Place a good slurp of olive oil in a frying pan and bring it up to just above medium heat.

When it reaches this temperature add the onion and cook until it softens.

Now add the garlic, the courgette and the lemon.

Add the Herbes de Provence, stir well.

There should be enough oil so that you can see the herbs soaking it up, a bit.

Keep cooking until the courgette starts to soften and lose some of its whiteness. It should still be slightly firm.

Add all the contents of the frying pan to the nuts and breadcrumbs.  Mix well.

The mixture should look too dry by eye.

Add salt and pepper and the tomato puree.

It should be difficult to spread the tomato puree.

Showing masterful resistance take the glass of wine {without sipping any} and add it to the mixture.

It should mix in well and be reasonably easy to spread and flatten the top with a spatula.

Add the grated carrot and mix in.

Add the whipped eggs and mix well.

The texture should be firm and not too wet. If is too wet adjust by adding the extra breadcrumbs. If it looks a little too dry put a few more drops of wine in.

Spread the mixture out in a loaf tin, to the depth of about 6 cm. If you have mixture left, get another loaf tin and repeat.

Leave the mixture to stand covered in cling film for at least one hour.

When you are getting peckish, peel some spuds for roasties, clean some green beans, stick the oven on at 180 Celsius and chuck the roasties in first. They take about 80 mins.

Cook the roast in the lower part of the oven for around 40 mins. Testing it with a sharp knife from time to time.

Knock up some veggie gravy with butter, stock and flour, leave to simmer. If you want to you can add a dash of soy sauce, to taste. Cook the beans.

When the loaf is ready get it out of the oven, and let it stand for 5-10 mins before doing the inversion of death onto a chopping board. If it comes out in one piece you are a superhero in the making.

This loaf is ultra-filling. Go easy on the number of slices for service. You can always come back for seconds…


Vulcan Jerky-Turkey with Mango, Rice and Corn.

I once had a Bangalore Phall in a restaurant in Gravesend which had me hiccupping for at least a half an hour, I reckon that the Jamaicans can give the Indian sub-continent a run for their money on the arse-burner Richter scale. For this recipe you will need some Dunn’s River Jerk Seasoning. Careful what you wish for….

It is primed with Scotch Bonnet chillies. Please do not get any of it on your fingers and then touch any intimate areas either of yourself or your partner! Wash your hands before pissing. You have been warned! And, if you are prone to what is known in the trade as ring-sting purchase some Aloe infused toilet paper. Exceed the recommended pharmaceutical dosage at your own peril. Correct heat should induce a mild sweat and a slight nose run, more than this and you are either a masochist or a macho dickhead.

You will need for two people:

A jar of Dunn’s River Jerk Seasoning {Note there is variance in burn between jars}

Two ~ 200g lumps of Turkey breast.

Two good size ripe mangoes, semi firm, not over ripe.

A mug of Basmati rice.

A small can of sweetcorn.

Some lemon juice, preferably Sicilian.

Some cane sugar.

Some Aluminium foil.

Set the oven to 180 Celsius.

Take some Aluminium foil, enough to make a watertight parcel around the lump of turkey, be generous. The idea is to wrap the turkey up in a parcel and conserve all the cooking juices in that parcel. Take one sheet of foil and place the turkey lump in the middle. Open the jar of joy and spread one level teaspoon of seasoning on each side of the turkey lump. Go heaped at your own peril. Roll the turkey in the aluminium parcel, flatten the ends over and place in a baking tray. Repeat.

Pop the aluminium wrapped Jerky-Turkey in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Put the kettle on and boil some water for the rice.

Open the can of sweetcorn, put it in a colander and rinse.

Get two serving plates ready.

Now peel the mangoes. They can be as slippery as a bar of soap in a shower. Once peeled slice them into long big chunks and place decoratively on the serving plates, remembering you need space for the turkey and the rice.

Douse the mangoes with lemon juice until you have a pool of excess juice on the plate. This will offset the jerk and also heighten it. It makes the rice groovier. Now sprinkle some cane sugar over the mangoes a couple of teaspoons for each plate.

Put a sospan {I am Welsh} on and add some boiling water. When it is boiling add the Basmati and corn. Boil the rice for ~12 mins. Drain and rest.

Open the oven get out the jerk parcel of warmth.

Using a slotted spoon make a mound of rice and corn on each plate.

Then gingerly open a jerk parcel, so as not to spill the juices. They are precious! Transfer the turkey. Then pour the juices from the foil over it. It should smell pretty damn good.


Call the wife by pressing the bell. Service!

Oui, chef.

Wash your hands before sitting down!


Spicy and Aromatic Beef Goulash

*This was written when I was still using crutches to get about after my accident.

Ach man, it is good to be back in the kitchen. One of the idiosyncrasies here is that beef is cheaper than chicken, and nice beef at that. So, risking another attack of gout we are having Goulash tonight. To do this well you need time for it to stew, besides you can enjoy the cooking smells.

For two people you will need:

~ 400g of uncooked beef, I am using rump steak.

Four fair sized shallots

Two cloves of garlic

One can of good chopped tomatoes; note the emphasis.

A large red pepper

A beef bouillon pod. Check the taste, salt levels vary between different countries. If salty only use half.

3 heaped teaspoons of paprika

1 heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika, the smokier the better

1/3 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Five cloves

Worcestershire Sauce.

Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Some rice and Greek yogurt to go with.


First coarsely chop the shallots and set to one side, finely chop the garlic, set to one side. Chop and remove the seeds from the pepper, chunky is good.  Now cut the beef into one-inch cubes, removing any skanky bits. On the chopping board add salt and pepper to the beef, massage in. Sprinkle some Worcestershire Sauce and massage well. Now wipe your hands otherwise your crutches will smell.

Prepare a spice plate, with all the spices on it. This will be the basis of your roux; it has all the spices and the cloves on it.

Get a heavy casserole pot and set to one side.

In a heavy non-stick frying pan add a good old slurp of olive oil. Heat and fry off the beef until it is sealed. Don’t overdo this or it will chew like shoes. Transfer the beef to the casserole. Then continue heating to boil off any water from the beef in the oil. When the oil is clear, reduce the heat and add the shallots. Turn down the heat to about two thirds. Cook the onions in the oil until they are just translucent, now add the garlic. Fry the garlic for one minute only, otherwise it burns, nasty.

Add your spice plate and stir it into the oil, make sure that it mixes well with the oil to form a nice bubbling paste. Fry the spices for one minute and a bit. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and make a spice / chopped tomato roux. Pour half a can of boiling water into the empty tomato can and swirl it around to collect the juices.  Add this to the heavy non-stick pan and bring the sauce to the boil stirring as you go. Add the full / half stock pod, stir.  Reach over and have a sip of wine, from the counter behind you.

Transfer the sauce to the beef in the casserole, stir. Clean up any splashing on the casserole with a bit of kitchen towel. Put the casserole in the oven and cook at 150 degrees for at least one and a half hours, stirring every half an hour-ish. About half an hour before eating take the chopped pepper and add it to the casserole, stir well. If you put the pepper in too early, it will be slimy. Crunchy, al dente, is better.

Make sure you taste the casserole and adjust if needed.

About fifteen minutes before dinner start the rice prep and take the yoghurt out of the fridge…

Ginger, Chilli and Pork Stir Fry

And then it is time to do one of the things which I love the most; prepare a marinade for a stir fry; to allow the meat to soak and to bathe for hours before cooking

I am not given to using recipes, so there is always a fine balance between brilliance and disaster.

For this marinade, you will need the following:

A few sticks of Nag Chompa incense,
Some J.S.Bach, preferably by The English Concert on the original instruments led by Trevor Pinnock,
A glass or two of dry Sauvignon Blanc.

A good sized lump of ginger ~ 2″ long and 1″ in diameter
Three or four cloves of Garlic, according to mood,
Some diced pork
Half a bottle of sweet Chilli dipping source (blue dragon is the best)
Some Sicilian Lemon Juice
Some dark soy sauce
Some Amontillado sherry
A little sugar,
Some Salt
And a very small amount of tomato puree.

First gather your ingredients at the chopping board. Then light the incense; put on the Bach so that you can hear it in the kitchen; pour yourself a glass of wine. Then pause for a few moments to enjoy the smell and the music.

Then pick up the ginger, give it a quick sniff and feel its knotty being in your hands. Start to peel it and wait for that unguent cleanliness to escape and fill the room; with care and patience peel off its skin enjoying all the texture. Then place it on the chopping board and with a very good cook’s knife cut it into sections; as the knife goes down marvel at the grainy resistance and the sound of chopping, hear the squirt of juice into the air. Then cross cut until you have fine fingers of ginger. Place these into a Pyrex bowl; pause to smell the scent in the air and now on your fingers.

Next undress the bashful garlic and when you have the naked cloves on the board, cut them in sections and cross cut. Add these to the ginger. Smell again the air and the now changed scent on your hands…

Next take the pork and clean it of any gristly bits, chop it into bits so that it is all of the same size, feel the stringy texture of the meat in contrast to the crispness of before. Add this to the bowl.

Next pour on half a bottle of sweet chilli dipping sauce. Taste it….

Add a dash of soy sauce and of lemon juice; remember the smell of fresh Sicilian lemons on a summer’s day at Erice. Go with “it” for a while. Then add some of the sherry, making sure that you have a swig direct from the bottle; there is something of Bacchus in this.

Yes, it does need some sugar, to balance the lemon, so add it.

Next add the tomato puree, be careful here, not too much or it will be ruined. Stir it in and taste…

Perhaps a little more soy. Then add some salt taste it again.

Stir it.

Taste it again; the sherry has now started to mix the ginger and the garlic, at this stage, it still tastes a little harsh, but one knows that in a hour or so, it will have harmonised. And, adjustments can me made as one goes along.

Pause to listen to the music and sip your wine.

Now stir it all together, it should be quite thick and “gloopy”. It should make a satisfying noise as you raise it up from the bowl and drop it back.

If you have a blog, go and write something for about half an hour.

Next taste the mixture,…..

Uhmmm, something is missing.!.I know, it must be Galangal, add a teaspoon or two of chopped Galangal, stir..

Yes that is it.

Check the vegetables and the egg noodles in the fridge.

Then, in about two hours time, take your wok, the one you have had for 17 years now and place it on the stove. Sort the vegetables according to cooking time, (carrots take longest). Cut some spring onions saving the green bits for garnish. (A must).

When things are arranged according to cooking times add some vegetable oil and sesame oil to the wok and heat until the oil swirls and the middle eastern aroma of roasted sesame fills the room.

Take out the chopsticks and place them in their placings on the table.

Then chuck the contents of the marinade bowl into the wok, stirring like a Dervish. When the pork has sealed and started to brown, only very slightly, add the first of the vegetables; as they start to soften, check the liquid content and the heat.

If it is too hot add a splash of wine from your glass.

Add the rest of the vegetables.

Then as it nears completion add the egg noodles and a little hot water; check the chilli balance, if not “pokey” enough add some more sauce.

Serve and dress with the green bits of the spring onions and enjoy; especially that FIRST bite of ginger as it hits the palate and the nose; feel the chilli and sense the garlic; and, let the pork melt soft and expressive in the mouth.

Yum.. It is a shame there are two hours to go… 🙂