This is probably where most of my friends just don’t ‘get’ me. I had a day off, (Saturday the 1st of November to be exact), and what did I do? I cooked, of course. I cooked because I had a store cupboard and pantry full of ingredients, because I was hungry (step away from your work for a few hours- if you’re a chef and always tasting instead of eating, and suddenly the hunger pangs set-in in a big way), and mostly, because I love to cook. Full stop. I don’t always want to cook, but usually I do. My legs, more to the point, don’t always want to stand.
Anyway, I had pumpkin, I had kale, I had beetroot, rack of lamb, some crab apple and chilli jelly I had recently made, potatoes, cream, and lots of other things, but those were the things I chose to cook with. We were going to have a nice meal, and I started cooking it at 2pm…so we would eat early, for a change….it was 10 pm when we sat down to eat!! Yeah I know, a chorus of ‘Poor David’, but he’s smarter than that. David knows it’s going to be worth the wait when I go on one of my ‘bender cooking modes’.
The first two ingredients listed were the ones I was really having fun with. I knew I was going to be making pumpkin, cheesecake streudel muffins soon, so the muffin notion was in my head. (And just for the minutes, that turned out to be a pumpkin cake for my birthday, but not to worry.) I love kale, and I love pumpkin. I got this notion that it would be nice to put the two together in another way than just mashing and combining, so I took to doing the trendy thing and massaging the kale with Second Nature Organic Rapseed Oil, and making it into a ‘kale cup’ to hold a pumpkin puree. I used the top of the kale leaves in some of the muffin tins and broken pieces of patchwork kale leaves in others. The first worked, the 2nd definitely didn’t, and if I were to do this again, and I will because it looks fabulous, I would layer them more abundantly. When cooked, the kale becomes delightfully light, just like the kale crisps one can purchase now….but I wanted structure too, to hold a filling. I, so far, have resisted looking for too long at Uncle/Auntie Google to see if someone else has thought up this idea. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!! I just want it to be my idea. Here is how I did it:
To hold it in place, I treated it like pastry, and blind-baked the kale as such, and just like pastry…I removed the beans and baked it just a little bit more to make sure there would be structure, but I didn’t want my kale cups to go black now, did I? So I let them bake to about this stage:As far as texture was concerned these little jewels were perfect. The edges literally melted in our mouths, the base was slightly chewy and the flavour was bang on. I made a pumpkin filling, by steaming pieces of japanese pumpkinthen mashed them with a generous knob of butter,and added some grated parmesan, finely chopped chilli, ground Nori, grated garlic, chopped scallions and some raspberry red wine vinegar. Season that with sea salt and black pepper and give it a good stir. By this stage I was getting completely carried away with the colour scheme (Autumn rocks, really for colour, doesn’t it?). I had steamed the previously mentioned fresh beetroot, peeled it and sliced it into matchstick pieces…then combined it with apples sliced similarly, chopped scallions, fresh dill, chopped walnuts and then I stirred some of my buttermilk ranch dressing into that to combine (Sorry, no recipe for that…you’ll just have to buy it!)I heated the pumpkin mixture in the oven to get the cheese to melt nicely , and then placed it in the kale cup. This is really a meal in itself at this stage, and if one were to stop, this is where they’d be…so Vegetarians, pull up a chair now. Carnivores…...bear with!!
You may remember I mentioned rack of lamb, which was supplied locally by Dick Dooley. I planted some slivers of garlic and leaves of rosemary in the racks and scored the fat. Don’t take the fat off. (Regular plea of mine, but especially with lamb.) I then rubbed ground cumin all over the meat and left it all to sit for 20-30 minutes while I made the wicked potatoes that we used to have on the menu in Danette’s Feast every night. (We weren’t allowed to take them off in the winter months or people went mad…that and the Chocolate Truffle Cake with pecan praline and passion fruit coulis). I digress. Basically layered potatoes, onions ,garlic, sea salt, black pepper and fresh cream. I only made a small dish of these because we didn’t really need potatoes at all, but they do marry well with the lamb! They went into the oven and I started making the sauce for the lamb. I used to have a few of these fruity/oil and wine-based sauces on the menu too. People found them refreshing and light. I find they allow the flavour of the meat to soar without masking, and they don’t leave one feeling bloated either. Also, I used to make large batches of plum cheese in the autumn and found it handy-out to be able to melt them down into a sauce at any given time of the year…the flavour of the plums always improving with time. On this occasion, I heated a few tablespoons of rapeseed oil, and when hot , added chopped garlic, chopped rosemary ,chopped thyme, and a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin. I cooked that for a few seconds, then added a few Tablespoons of the crab apple and chilli jelly and about 150 mls of Rioja wine, ok, maybe it was 200. Place over a low heat, let simmer and reduce . Just before serving, because I know I’ll forget, add some finely shredded fresh mint to the sauce.
Next, I seaoned the lamb with salt and pepper…a good bit of sea salt flakes on the fat of the lamb, and seared it off in the pan before placing in a preheated 200 C oven for 10 minutes or until warmed through. (We like our meat rare in this house ;-).After searing the meat, I used the oil and bits in the pan to caramelise some shallots, and whole cloves of garlic (in for a penny….). Keep stirring or tossing the above until they are golden in colour. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar into the pan and scrape all the bits off. Deglaze with first some red-wine vinegar, then balsamic then a couple tablespoons of water. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes until cooked. Remove the lid and allow the juices to concentrate into a divine, sticky, sweet and sour goo.
Meat rested, carved, all the above ingredients on a plate….kind of like Christmas in Autumn, no?