Monthly Mystery Munchies: My Big Fat Greek Lamb Kleftiko

Lamb Kleftiko 11It’s the fifth installment of my and Ann’s Monthly Mystery Munchies and this month we went Greek. When scouring the internet and cookbooks for ideas, I settled on lamb kleftiko. Why? I freaking love a good roast! Also, the story behind it is so amusing and that endeared me. ‘Kleftiko’ means ‘stolen’ in Greek. Back in the day, bandits would thieve cattle and cook the meat, sealed in a pit oven and covered with sand, to prevent their opponents from seeing the fire. They would leave the meat buried in the ground all day and return to a slow-cooked meal at night. Genius. I’m not an advocate for theft but I like the initiative these dudes showed. (Please buy your meat with actual money!)

The dish is encased in layers of tin foil and/or parchment paper (unless you happen to have a pit oven). Here’s where it gets even yummier: it’s marinated overnight in garlic, fresh herbs and lemon juice. Then, when you’re ready to cook it, it’s surrounded by veggies, topped with thickly sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with seasoning and drizzled with olive oil. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Think of it as your one-stop roast pot. Remove the meat from the fridge an hour before you’re ready to roast, cook it on low for 4-5 hours depending on how you like it, and when you take it out of the oven, you have everything you need. Beautiful, succulent, falling-off-the-bone lamb, and potatoes, onions and carrots that have been absorbing all the tasty lamb and herb juices. No missioning with extra veggies. Carve it, dish it and you’re good to go. Amen. Let’s do this, but before we go ahead, make sure you mosey on over to Grubbs n Critters for my BBF (Best Blogging Friend) Ann’s take on this month’s theme.

Monthly Mystery Munchies: My Big Fat Greek Lamb Kleftiko

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: Prep: 10 minutes. Marinade overnight. Cooking time 4-5 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Supplies:

Lamb Kleftiko 11.8-2kg leg of lamb
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed from stalk
1 sprig lemon thyme, leaves removed from stalk
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 garlic cloves, crushed and halved
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 potatoes, peeled and halved
4 carrots, sliced lengthways
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
Freshly cracked black pepper & salt

Lamb Kleftiko 21. Crush and halve the garlic cloves. Put all the herbs in a bowl, add the garlic and olive oil and stir well.

Lamb Kleftiko 3

 

 

 

2. Make incisions in the lamb, 2-3 in a vertical row and repeat across the meat. (Don’t cut all the way through to the bottom.) Stuff the holes with the garlic and herb mixture. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice with black pepper and salt and pour over the lamb, rubbing it in with your hands, and rubbing the underside of the meat too.

Lamb Kleftiko 53. Put the meat in a sealable bag and refrigerate overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.

 

 

 

Lamb Kleftiko 74. Remove lamb from the fridge and let it rest for an hour before you cook it. Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F). Lay a long piece of tin foil down, lengthways, and lay a piece of parchment paper over it. Lay another piece of foil horizontally, and again lay a piece of parchment paper over it. (You’re creating a cross.)

Lamb Kleftiko 85. Cut the onions into quarters, positioning one onion in the centre of the cross. Halve the carrots lengthways (I never peel them, I’m too lazy, but I wash them thoroughly) add 6 halves to the onions. Peel and halve your potatoes, placing 6-8 halves with the onions and carrots. What you’re going for is a mixture of veggies at the bottom of the dish, but not all of them. Drizzle some olive oil over them (about 2 tablespoons)and grind some black pepper and salt over them. Place the lamb on top of the veggies and drizzle more olive oil on top of the lamb. Sprinkle with salt. Position the rest of the chopped veggies around the lamb. Place 6 tomato slices, cut thick, on top of the lamb.

Lamb Kleftiko 96. Bring all of the foil/parchment paper sides together. What you’re going for is a very well-sealed effect. Put the parcel in a deep roasting dish put the dish in the middle shelf of your oven. Roast at 160°C (320°F) for 4-5 hours (4 hours for rare, 4½ for medium and 5 for well done).
Lamb Kleftiko 10

7. Remove the roasting tray from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before opening it. Carve the lamb, add veggies to the plate and dig in!

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Rudyard Kipling Edition

I was born in a tiny diamond mining town in the middle of the Karoo desert. Our activities consisted of climbing trees, playing outside in the red sand and reading. I was raised in a family of avid readers who taught my sister and I to have an insatiable appetite for books. My grandparents were never without a book in their hands, or on their nightstands. My mom encouraged us to read, read, read, and it’s something I am eternally grateful for. I have to add that we did watch TV, I mean we’re not Amish, but every week, like clockwork, we were taken off to the tiny town library to select a new book. I think by the time we left Kimberley for the bright lights of Cape Town, we had read every single book they had!

I look around me and see kids being raised on the Disney channel. Instead of being given books, they’re given iPads. It’s seldom I see a kid with a book, and it breaks my heart. Reading opens up a whole new world and encourages one to use one’s imagination. Also, it teaches correct spelling, an al we hv 2 do is luk at kidz txts 2 c how dey spel deez dayz. Don’t even get me started on that, that’s a whole other blog post! And it’s not just kids who do it! Adults do it too! Really? Are you that lazy that you can’t type out a coherent text/email/whateva?

Reading was, and always will be, a vital part of my life. These days its positive effects are greatly underestimated and the art of reading is deeply undervalued. What a sad state of affairs. The books my mom read to us every night consisted of the normal authors for that era – Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and the likes, but my favourite childhood book is Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. This week’s Words Crush Wednesday is one of the most beautiful and accurate quotes, pertinent to today’s times, by Kipling himself.

Rudyard Kipling

Upside Down Cake with Pineapples and Cherries

Upside down cake 10It’s time to go retro! It’s nearly Spring in the Southern Hemisphere which naturally calls for a fruity cake. I use my basic vanilla cake recipe for this upside down cake and I always use buttermilk as it ensures the cake is moist and fluffy.

Let me give you a rundown of my most recent attempt. Off I go to the supermarket, taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying the warmer weather. I get there and start cruising the aisles for ingredients. For some reason I’m in a bit of a daze so I’m standing at the tinned food section, see a large tin of pineapples and grab it without reading the label properly. Perfect. Right next to the pineapples is tinned cherries. Again, I grab a tin and carry on with my shopping. I get home, filled with excitement (it doesn’t take much, baking does that to me), and open the tins. Crap. I’ve bought chunks of pineapples instead of rings. Oh bother. Not to worry, we’ll carry on as usual. I open the cherries and I’m like, these aren’t glacé cherries. Really? Double crap, double bother. Now, I’m so excited to bake this cake so I soldier ahead, cut the cherries in half, remove the pips and make the batter. The reason I’m telling you this is because traditionally, pineapple rings are used, be they tinned or fresh, as are glacé cherries. But no, I had to complicate things. You can use pineapple chunks, they work beautifully, as do regular tinned red cherries, just remove the pips. However, you can substitute the chunks with rings and red cherries with glacé (I recommend this to avoid the schlep).

Upside Down Cake with Pineapples and Cherries

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: Prep time 10 minutes, cooking time 40-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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Upside Down Cake 1Supplies:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • Pineapple rings or chunks
  • Glacé cherries

 

  • For the cake:
  • ¼ cup pecans, crushed in your hand
  • 1¾ cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Making it happen:

Upside Down Cake 21. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Melt ½ cup of butter in a heavy-based saucepan on medium. Once it’s melted, add ½ cup of brown sugar and stir with a whisk until it starts bubbling. Remove from the heat immediately and pour into a 25cm (10″) cake tin.

Upside down cake 112. Layer the pineapple pieces and cherries in the melted butter syrup and sprinkle the hand-crushed pecans over them (give them a decent hearty squeeze to crush them).

 

 

Upside Down Cake 53. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Pour in the buttermilk and stir/whisk until well-blended. Whisk in the eggs, melted butter and vanilla, stirring until thoroughly mixed.

 

 

Upside Down Cake 64. Pour the batter over the fruit and bake at 180 for 40 minutes, until a toothpick instered in the middle comes our clear. If the toothpick is still wet, back for another 5 minutes until the toothpick passes the test.

 

 

Upside Down Cake 9 15. Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Hold a plate or cakestand upside down over the cake tin, pressing down firmly. Flip over, tap the cake tin gently and slowly remove. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Chicken Florentine

If you’re looking for a new favourite meal, this is your guy. It’s dish-intensive but sooooo worth it! Hopefully you have a dishwasher, or kids, because kids need responsibilities and dishes need washing!

I don’t know where to start when describing this dish. Bacon. Chicken. Two different types of cheese. Creamy mushroom soup and extra cream! It’s a taste-fest like no other. The Husband immediately informed me that this is his new number one. I never thought I’d see the day. I mean, dude would live on lasange if he could, but along came this delight and knocked it off its top spot. They say change is good… except when The Husband asks you to make it again two days later!

Chicken Florentine

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 40 minutes + 30 minutes oven time
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Chicken Florentine 1Supplies:

  • 500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks
  • 200g bacon, cut up and cooked
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 500g spinach, par cooked
  • 400g chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tin condensed creamy mushroom soup
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herbs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 200g grated cheddar
  • 200g grated mozzarella
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Making it happen:

Chicken Florentine 21. Cut up the bacon and fry in 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat, until cooked, about 10 minutes. Set aside but keep the juices in the pan.

 

 

Chicken Florentine 32. Cut the chicken breasts into chunks. Dredge them through flour, shaking off the excess. In the same pan, fry the chicken pieces on medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for another 5 mins. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Chicken Florentine 93. Add the mushrooms to the pan and fry on medium heat for 5 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, par cook the spinach, just enough until it softens slightly. Spinach, when uncooked, takes up a large amount of space, and you’re only par cooking it until it shrinks.

 

Chicken Florentine 84. Preheat your oven to 200°C (mine takes 10 minutes to heat up to that temperature, making this the perfect time to switch it on). Pour the condensed mushroom soup and cream into a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the Italian herbs and lemon juice and stir well. Add the cheddar and stir until melted.

Chicken Florentine 65. In a deep dish, spray cooking spray at the bottom and layer the spinach across the dish. Place the mushrooms over the spinach and pour half the sauce over the mushrooms. Spread the chicken pieces on top and pour the remaining sauce over the chicken, making sure you cover the entire dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Serve with rice or pasta.

Chicken Florentine 7

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Edgar Allen Poe Edition

I love this man – dark yet deep. However, you don’t have to be a Poe fan to appreciate this week’s quote. Dreaming is vital to sanity, both daydreaming and the unconscious dreams that filter into our minds when we’re in comfortable slumber. The two are intrinsically different though. At night, we have no control over the movies that play in our head but during the day, that is an entirely different matter. Without fantasizing, there are no goals, no visualizations of what we desire and therefore limited motivation to achieve them. Dream big but fantasize bigger.

Image: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

 

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Coconut cupcakes 9

I’ve recently developed quite an affinity for coconut, ever since I used it in truffles. I always used to underestimate its taste but I’m now a firm (actually, somewhat flabby) believer. I had some desiccated coconut in the cupboard so I modified my traditional vanilla cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipe to accommodate coconut flakes and coconut milk and the result was amazeballs! These cupcakes are smooth, moist and the perfect balance of flavours. You don’t want them to be too vanilla-y or almond-y because the coconut will go unnoticed, and similarly, you don’t want them to the coconut to overpower the other flavours. This recipe incorporates all of those flavours and brings everything together with a light and fluffy creamy frosting that will leave you wanting more.

Coconut Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12 -16
  • Time: Prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 15-18 minutes
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Coconut cupcakes 1Stuff coconut dreams are made of:

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or essence)
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • ½ cup coconut milk (+ 2 tablespoons for frosting)
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut (+ another ½ cup for frosting)

Making it happen:

Coconut cupcakes 31. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides when needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well mixed, again scraping down the sides. Add the vanilla paste (or essence) and almond essence and stir until combined.

Coconut cupcakes 42. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In three stages, add the dry ingredients and coconut milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry, mixing until just combined. Add the desiccated coconut.

 

Coconut cupcakes 53. Pour the batter into 12 individually lined muffin cups. Bake for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clear.

 

 

Coconut cupcakes 6Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 100g butter, room temperature
  • 150g plain cream cheese, also room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or essence)
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk

Coconut cupcakes 71. Cut the butter into small cubes and allow to reach room temperature. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on high until light and fluffy, 3 – 4 minutes. Add the coconut milk and beat only until it’s fully mixed, about 5 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Coconut cupcakes 82. Sift in the icing sugar, stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until loosely combined, then beat until fully combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla essence and almond essence and give the frosting one last beat. Ice the cupcakes and generously sprinkle desiccated coconut over them.