Lamb Pilaf

I adore this dish.  It’s something I’ve been making regularly for a few years now and has been tweaked and tweaked from so much from its original Delicious recipe there is little resemblance anymore.  

Though the picture above isn’t great, I think it displays the appeal of this dish rather well.  The nuts, the berries, the meat, the aubergine… I just love how every mouthful tastes just a little bit different.  And it makes your kitchen smell incredible too.  🙂

Lamb Pilaf

(serves 4)

Olive oil

300g  neck of  lamb, diced

2 onions, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 red chili, chopped

400g tin of tomatoes

1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm cubes (I like to salt these for 30 mins and squeeze dry in a tea-towel)

1 tblspn cumin

1 tspn paprika

1/4 tspn saffron (soaked in a little warm water)

225g basmati rice

350ml stock (chicken or lamb)

Handful of walnuts, chopped

Handful of dried cranberries

Fresh coriander

Yogurt & rocket to serve (optional)

  • Brown the meat in a little olive oil in a large cast iron pot.  Remove from the pot and set aside.
  • In the same pot fry the onions until soft and golden.  Add the chili and garlic and stir well.  Add the tomatoes and lamb.  Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fry the aubergine in a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan until starting to colour.  Add the cumin and paprika and cook for another minute.
  • Add the spiced aubergine, rice and saffron to the lamb mixture and stir well.  Add the stock and taste for seasoning.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer very gently with a lid on for 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the heat but keep the lid on for another five minutes.
  • Remove the lid and add the cranberries, walnuts and coriander.  Stir through with a fork, fluffing up the rice as you go. 
  • I like to eat this topped with a dollop of yogurt and a mass of rocket.

Change of Plans

Decided that the site I had previously chosen for my new vegetable patch just wasn’t going to work.  Everything I read said most crops need a minimum of six hours direct light and this plot only just achieved it.  Moving the gravel and clearing the ground beneath was going to be a big job and one I would have totally resented if my broadbeans didn’t grow.  Time for a change of plans.

One short call to my landlord later and we were digging up the front garden instead.

The plot is one metre wide and nine metres long.  Planting starts later in the week after I have erected a chicken wire fence to protect my seedlings from  a certain black devil.  

Shall post my crop plans soon.

Weekend Bird Blogging

Spent an hour out in the garden this evening trying my best to get a picture of the swallows and housemartins that are nesting in next door’s shed.  This one:

No chance.  Nippy wee buggers.  This was the closest I came:


Hooray for starstruck sparrows.

Banana and Oatmeal Muffins

One can indeed have too much of a good thing.   Last year, after much experimentation, I came up with a bran muffin recipe that produced (if I do say so myself) exceptionally moist and tasty bran muffins.  Containing very little fat and freezing well, they were perfect for breaktime snacks throughout the working week and so I made them often.  Very often.  So often, in fact, that I’ve become a wee bit fed up of them and haven’t made a batch in months.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a reader called Dean asked if I knew of a similar recipe for banana bran muffins amd my interest in them was suddenly revived.  The following recipe is the result.

Though I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are as good as the original bran muffins, these oatmeal ones have their own charm.  The banana and brown sugar create an almost caramel like flavour and the oats create a denser and, therefore, more filling muffin.  No bad thing, I think.  🙂

Banana and Oatmeal Muffins

(Makes 12)

100g finely ground oatmeal

250ml buttermilk 

200g (or thereabouts) tin of prunes – drained, stoned and pureed

3 medium very ripe bananas

2 tblspn vegetable oil, plus extra to rub over muffin tin

1 egg, beaten

100g brown sugar

125g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

100g nuts, chopped  (I used mixed nuts)

  • Mix together the buttermilk and the oatmeal and leave to soak.
  • In a separate bowl mash together the prunes and bananas.  Mix in the oil, eggs and sugar until combined.
  • Add the buttermilk mixture and stir well.
  • Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl.  Add the nuts.  Stir until just combined.
  • Spoon mixture into an oiled muffin tin and bake in a 190oC pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • When muffins are golden brown remove them from the oven and cool slightly.
  • Keep in a air-tight container for a couple of days.  Or pop them in the freezer to keep them for longer.

A.K.A. Marco

Was going to post properly today but it’s sunny and warm and we still have more than half of the vegetable garden to dig over.

Instead, I’m going to offer you yet another picture of Marco, A.K.A. Marco Barko, Donnie Marco, Markie Bark, Tootie and Tootie Pie. 🙂

Good Morning Sunshine

I like grapefruit in the morning.  I like how it tickles my nose and I like how it makes my mouth water like crazy.  It’s a very nice way to start the day. 

My usual way of eating the fruit is to cut it into six large wedges and tear the pulp out with my teeth trying (usually unsuccessfully) to catch the inevitible dribbles on a carefully positioned plate.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered a gentler way to eat grapefruit.  Mellower in taste and far less messy to eat, baked grapefruit has been gracing my breakfast table over the last couple of weeks.  The heat seems to make the fruit plump up and become even more juicy – if that is possible – and the dribble of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon softens the sharpness of the citrus flavour perfectly. 

Baked Grapefruit

1 grapefruit

2 tspn runny honey

1/2 tspn cinnamon

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 oC.
  • Slice the grapefruit in half and use a sharp knife to carefully loosen the segments. (Apparently there is a utensil called a “grapefruit knife” made specifically for this purpose but I don’t have one and wouldn’t have anywhere to put it even if I did, so full are my kitchen drawers.)
  • Fashion a small tray from a piece of tin foil (to catch the juices) and place each half in the tray. 
  • Drizzle a teaspoon of honey over each half and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Bake for 12 minutes until warmed through and plump.

Chilli Bean Soup with Quesadillas

Sticking with the Mexican theme, I made the following soup for lunch this week.  It was based on a pre-made soup I had bought in the supermarket the previous week.  A soup which had sounded great and smelt great but tasted disappointingly vinegary.  Knew it had promise though so set out to make my own version.

Attempt number one was nothing less than disasterous.  I added rice to the beans and stock then was far too liberal with the cayenne resulting in a sinus-destroying gloop.   Attempt number two was a total success though and has been feeding us at lunch times most days this week.

This is my entry for this month’s No Croutons Required event and as per Holler’s request, I would also like to offer a suggestion for an accompaniment.  A bowl of this served with a cheese and spring onion quesadilla is a perfect lunch.  It’s easy enough to make for one or two but special enough for company. 

Chilli Bean Soup

(serves 6 for lunch)

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 peppers – 1 red, 1 green – chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 green chilli, chopped

2 tspn coriander powder

2 tspn cumin

1 tpsn cinnamon

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

400g tin kidney beans

200g chickpeas

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tblspn tomato puree

600ml stock

Fresh coriander

  • Gently fry the onion in a splash of olive oil until just beginning to soften.
  • Add the carrot, celery and peppers and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute before adding the spices and stirring well to coat all the vegetables.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree and stock.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh coriander and cheese and spring onion quesadillas.


Cheddar cheese, grated finely

Spring onion, chopped

Coriander, chopped (optional)

1 flour tortilla per person

A teeny bit of olive oil

  • Heat an olive oil smeared non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat.
  • Sprinkle cheese, spring onion and coriander on one half of a tortilla and fold.
  • Cook folded tortilla for a couple of minutes on each side until cheese is melting and outsides of tortillas are golden.

Sweetcorn Salsa

One of the most popular recipes on A Wee Bit of Cooking is for sweet potato and blackbean burritos.  For good reason too – they are remarkably good.  Even David adores them and he very, very rarely goes wild for vegetarian food. 

Recently, I decided to stray from our usual tomato based salsa and experiment with a corn based recipe instead.  Very glad I did.  This sweetcorn salsa has a vibrancy in both colour and taste that suits the creamy sweet potatoes and beans perfectly. 

A great dish just made better.  🙂

Sweetcorn Salsa

(serves 2 generously)

1 cup of frozen sweetcorn kernels

1 stick of celery

1/2 green pepper

1/4 red onion

1 green chilli

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of coriander

  • Toss frozen sweetcorn kernels in a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat until defrosted and slightly coloured.
  • Finely chop the celery, pepper, onion, chilli and coriander.
  • Toss all the ingredients together with the lime juice.  Leave for 30 minutes to let the flavours mingle then serve with sweet potato and black bean burritos.