Lamb burger with goats cheese and tomato relish

Being a big fan of hamburgers but often being disappointed about what’s on offer in London, even in the upmarket burger joints, I decided to give it a shot myself. The result was very nice and also quite light which for me is a nice contrast to bellybusting burgers.

Enjoy with a tempranillo or similar medium bodied red wine.

General stuff:
Two heads of little gem lettuce
Two tomatoes
One red onion
200 g of goats cheese

For the tomato relish:
(this makes about half a liter finished relish so have some jars around to store it)

800 g tomatoes
1 onion, finely sliced
200 ml red wine vinegar
200 g sugar
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red chili, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and freshly grounded black pepper
30 g capers in vinegar, rinsed in water and finely chopped
30 g baby gherkins, finely chopped
Olive oil for frying

How to make it:
Start by putting the tomatoes in a pot with warm water to later get their skin off.
Fry the garlic, onion and chilli in some oil in a big pot until soft. Skin the tomatoes, chop them finely and then add them to the pot. Mix welll with the onions.
Add the vinegar and sugar. Season a bit with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. When the relish is the consistency of jam add the capers, gherkins and coriander. Cook for a few more minutes but be careful not to reduce it too much. Check seasoning. Let cool.

For the burgers:
500 g minced lamb
6 or so leaves of basil, torn into small pieces
A tablespoon of capers, finely chopped
Half an onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

How to make it:
Mix the mince with onions, capers, basil, pepper and a pinch of salt. Make four patties.
Put flour on a plate and mix with a bit of pepper and salt. Put the patties in the flour mixture to coat on each side.
Heat some butter and olive oil in a big frying pan. Turn on the oven at approx 200 C on Grill to toast the ciabatta buns.
Fry the patties approx 4.5 minutes on each side in the frying pan.
While the burgers are frying prepare some lettuce, slice the tomatoes and the red onion.
When the burgers are fried, take a piece of ciabatta, spread with the goats cheese, then assemble with tomato, onion, lettuce and the lamb burger, add a sprinkle of pepper if desired.
Assemble on plate with some more lettuce, onion, tomato and tomato relish.

Mains, Soup

French onion soup

This is an excellent soup and very easy and quick to make. Enjoy it with a dry white wine with some acidity to counter the sweet savory flavor of the onions.

4 portions

500 g onion
2 – 3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp white flour
1 liter of water
2 cubes of chicken stock
100 ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 pinch of dried thyme
White pepper

White bread
Grated cheddar cheese
Some parmesan

Half the onions and then cut them into thin slices. Fry in a big pot with the butter until they are translucent and golden. Add the flour and stir.
Dissolve the stock into water and add to the pot with the herbs and spices. Boil for 15 minutes on medium heat. Add the wine and boil for another few minutes.

Cut some white bread into cubes and then fry in a little olive oil to create croutons. Let them dry in a piece of paper. You can add some herbs to the croutons if you want.

Pour up the soup into bowls, add croutons and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Add a bit of parmesan on top of the cheddar cheese. Put the bowls (make sure that they are ovenproof!) into the oven, about 250C, for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and a bit brown over the top of the soup.

Mains, Pasta


This is my mothers recipe for lasagna.

For the basics:
A packet of lasagna sheets
Olive oil
Mature cheddar

For the sauce:
2 medium sized onions
2 cloves of garlic
400g beef mince
400g can of chopped tomatoes
4 or so vine tomatoes
Mushrooms, sliced
Splash of red wine
One cube of beef stock
Chili flakes
Fresh basil

For the bechamel sauce:
2 table spoons of butter
4 table spoons of plain flour
About 600ml milk

How to make it:
Chop the onions and garlic. Fry them gently until translucent in a frying pan. Transfer to a big pot. Fry the mince and then transfer to the same pot. At the same time as frying the mince put the tomatoes in boiling water and then remove their skin. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot together with the can of chopped tomatoes. Add the splash of wine, a pinch of chili flakes, the beef stock and the oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Let it all boil for 20 – 30 minutes until reduced and a good reduced consistency. 5 minutes before ready to use add 10 fresh basil leaves or so (chopped up) and the mushrooms.

How to make the bechamel sauce:
Gently melt the butter in a saucepan. When butter is melted add the flour. Take the saucepan of the heat and start whisking. When flour is dissolved return to the heat (medium) and add the milk. Keep whisking all the time until the sauce is the right consistency (a bit like wallpaper glue).

Grate the cheddar and parmesan. You need about 600 ml. Around two parts cheddar and one part parmesan.

Assembling the lasagna:
Get an ovenproof dish and put some bechamel sauce in the bottom of it. Sprinkle some cheese over the sauce then put the first layer of lasagna sheets. Put a layer of the ragu sauce on top of the lasagna sheets then bechamel sauce on top of that and then sprinkle with cheese then lasagna sheets again. Repeat this until you get to the top. You should end up with lasagna sheets on top and then put the rest of bechamel sauce and cheese on the top.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta al forno

This was an excellent soul food dish. The sauce is like a traditional Italian ragù (aka bolognese), which is so much better than the northern European version of ragù. Like lasagna this really benefits from a night in the fridge (intensifies the flavors a bit) so be sure to make enough to last for lunch the day after.

What you need:
500 g penne
125 g mozarella, in small pieces
150 ml parmesan cheese, grated

For the ragù:
300 g mince meat
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 pieces of celery, thinly sliced
2 carrots, in small pieces
500 g crushed tomatoes
200 ml red wine
10 basil leafs
50 ml olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
1 pinch of sugar

For the béchamelsauce:
1.5 desert spoon of butter
1.5 desert spoon of flour
300 ml milk
3 pinches of salt
About 1 pinch of white pepper
About 1 pinch of nutmeg

How it’s done:

Heat the oil for the mince in a big pot. Add the mince, celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Separate the mince a bit with a fork.
Add the tomatoes, wine, basil, salt and sugar and boil under a lid for about 30 minutes.

Melt the butter for the béchamelsauce in a pot on low heat. Add the flour and mix properly. Add the milk gradually and whisk all the time. Boil the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes and whisk occasionally. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg according to your taste.

Turn on the oven, 225 C.

Boil the pasta according to the packet. I would recommend al dente.

Coat an ovenproof pot with butter. Add half the pasta and then put half of the ragù and béchamelsauce on top. Add 1/3 of the parmesan cheese and all the mozarella.
Put the rest of the pasta on top and then put the rest of the ragù and béchamelsauce on top of that as well as the remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Mains, Pasta

Walnut and parsley pesto

From the same article about walnuts as the walnut soda bread recipe below.

Walnut and parsley pesto
Pesto is, of course, perfect with pasta, but I also serve this one as a sauce-cum-relish with grilled lamb chops or steak. Serves four.100g walnuts 1 fat garlic clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped100g hard, mature goat’s cheese (or Parmesan), grated50g flat-leaf parsley leavesAbout 150ml good olive oil (or extra-virgin rapeseed oil)Juice of ½ lemonSea salt and freshly ground black pepperPut the walnuts and garlic into a food processor and process until finely chopped – but still with some granular texture. Add the cheese and process again briefly. Add the parsley and blitz again to chop the leaves, then begin trickling in the oil, while the processor runs. Stop when you have a sloppy purée. Taste, season as necessary with lemon juice, salt and pepper. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the pesto with a large pestle and mortar, crushing the ingredients together in the same order.Store in the fridge – if you completely cover the surface of the pesto with oil so all air is excluded, it should keep for a couple of weeks.


Lambstew with beans, olives and tomatoes

This is very easy to make. Had it with cheddar mash and then with cous cous for lunch the day after. Definitely a red wine dish. I had it with a nice Gigondas but Italian reds like Primitivo will work great as well (and cheaper than Gigondas).
This is an autumn/winter dish.

Recipe makes two big portions and two lunch size portions.

You need:
500 g of minced lamb
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1,5 – 2 red chili
2 red peppers
Olive oil
1 piece of meat stock
300-400 ml of water
200 ml of cooked beans
100 ml black olives
About 8 normal sized tomatoes
About 6 mushrooms
1 pot of parsley
Salt and pepper

How it’s made:
Chop the onion, garlic, chili and peppers.
Fry the meat with some olive oil until properly fried. Add onion,
garlic, chili and peppers and fry for another minute or so. Add stock and
water and let cook for 30 minutes.
Add beans, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms and parsley after about 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Mains, Pasta

Tagliatelle di Pollo

This is one of my favorite recipes.
Enough for four portions.

Ingredients for Tagliatelle di Pollo:
400g tagliatelle
250g chicken breast
300g leaf spinach
Half an onion
150g goats cheese
400ml cream
3 cloves of garlic
Fresh parsley
Fresh chive
Olive oil

Preparing the Tagliatelle di Pollo:
Slice the chicken in thin slices. Chop the onion, herbs and garlic finely. Fry the garlic gently in some olive oil. Add the chicken and let it fry.
Add the cream, herbs and goats cheese (in small pieces). Let this cook until the cheese is melted. Lower the heat.
Put on water for the tagliatelle.
In another pan, roast the pine nuts. Put in a bowl for use later.
Fry the onion with some olive oil in the same pan. Add the spinach leafs and fry this.
Put the cooked pasta in the sauce and let this cook together a bit.
Put the spinach on a plate, add some roasted pine nuts, add the tagliatelle on top of this. Add some more pine nuts, a string of extra virgin olive oil, some black pepper and maybe some basil.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta sauce with pancetta and mushrooms

This is my freestyle version of an “Tomato and anchovy pasta sauce” recipe found here.

This will be enough sauce for three big portions or four medium sized ones.

You need:
500ml roast tomato sauce
1 onion
25-50g of anchovies in oil
70-100g of pancetta (italian bacon)
50ml of Creme Fraiche
Some mushrooms

How its made:
Heat some olive oil in a big pan, chop the onion finely. Choose how many anchovies you want, I took about half a 50g tin. Chop the anchovies finely. Fry the onion gently until its soft and nice but not colored. Add the anchovies. Cook for something like 10 minutes and stir.
While the anchovies and onion is cooking – Take another pan and put in a small amount of olive oil. Fry the pancetta in this pan. They fry very fast so don’t leave them too long. The goal is to get a nice brown color. Use some kitchen tweezers to turn them. Put them on kitchen paper so they get dry and crispy.
Chop the mushrooms into quite fine pieces and fry them in the same pan as the pancetta just left. Leave the oil from the pancetta in there. When the mushrooms are nice and brown reduce the heat.
Stir in the roast tomato sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Put in the mushrooms and the creme fraiche. Bring back to a simmer and add the pancetta (break it into smaller pieces). Taste and season with salt and freshly grounded black pepper (be careful not to salt too much, the anchovies and pancetta will have added some salt already).

Directly put it on top of freshly cooked pasta, trickle with extra virgin olive oil, put some black pepper on and add a few fresh basil leaves.

Mains, Pasta

Roast Sieved Tomatoes

Found this recipe in Guardian Weekend. It was quite easy to make and it was a great base for a pasta sauce. Only problem is that you need to buy and carry home a lot of tomatoes. 😉
Two kilos of tomatoes fill up two oven trays so if you want to do more than 1 litre you need more trays.
Don’t worry if the sauce looks to watery, it is easy to reduce in the pan.

Roast sieved tomatoes Here’s the basic procedure, but do vary the amounts of garlic and herbs to suit your own taste. Makes about a litre.At least 2kg ripe, full-flavoured tomatoes – use different varieties and a mixture of sizes, all cut in half2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped2 tbsp olive oilSalt and freshly ground black pepperA few sprigs fresh thyme and marjoram (optional, but preferable)Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Arrange the tomato halves – tightly packed but not on top of each other – in an ovenproof dish. Mix the garlic with the oil and trickle evenly over the tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and throw in the herbs, if using.Roast for 45-60 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft, pulpy and slightly charred. Rub the mixture through a fine sieve, discard the skins and seeds, and that’s it – your sauce is ready to use.
From this article.