Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Definitely NOT a Greek Tragedy - Lamb Casserole with Feta Dumplings

Yes, I know the title is cack but I've already used 'It's all Greek to me' and I was desperate for something to suggest the Greek influence of this dish, and whilst I know that what I am about to write is not the literary definition of tragedy, the fact is that this dish made everyone happy, ergo, not a tragedy. Yes, like I said. Cack.
Anyway, moving on, As soon as a google search revealed this dish I knew I had to make it, not least because it contained the word 'dumplings'. The original search happened because I had lamb mince and felt like something with a Greek influence but not moussaka, mainly because of a lack of aubergines in the fridge and because (whisper it) I don't always like moussaka. I find it too greasy. However this recipe appealed immensely as I was struck by the combination of intensely tasting lamb mince, submerged beneath feta flecked carb.
Madeira. No, not the island. I always like to try recipes for which I already have the ingredients or else the ingredient I buy is something that is not going to sit at the back of the cupboard gathering dust until I unearth it again and have to throw it out because it's two years past its 'best before' date. Anyway, I didn't have Madeira. I toyed with Marsala but decided that if I was going to do this properly I needed to go out and by a bottle and if it all went badly wrong I could drown my sorrows with the remainder. Or else find another recipe with Madeira in it. What I can say is that I am so glad that I went to get the right type of booze because it flavoured the mince with a depth that I couldn't have achieved with stock alone. It made the lamb mince robust enough to compete with the salty feta dumplings, in my opinion.
This recipe is taken from the TV programme 'Sunday Brunch' and is a Simon Rimmer creation. This is one of many of his recipes I have cooked over recent years which have been devoured with gusto and intense pleasure. I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first of his recipes that I have featured on my blog. It won't be the last.
I made few adaptions to the original recipe. What I did do however is make sure the dumplings were not too big and thick. There was a cobbler incident many years ago when I started this whole cooking malarkey where the cobbler looked cooked on top but the insides were still raw. Since then I've always made cobbles or dumplings a bit smaller to ensure even cooking. And if I'm not sure once the cooking time is up, I have a prod around or put some foil over the top and cook a little longer to make sure. But you will be fine, for you are not inept, like me.
Lamb Casserole with Feta Dumplings, taken from Channel 4's Sunday Brunch. Recipe from Simon Rimmer.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, plus one other.
For the lamb casserole:
Vegetable oil, for frying
450g good-quality lamb mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato purée
Few sprigs rosemary (I also added some parsley)
200ml Madeira
200ml strong beef or game stock (I used concentrated beef stock)

For the topping:
225g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, cubed
175ml sour cream
150g feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
For the filling, heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan and brown the mince.
Remove the mince from the pan and set aside.
To the same pan add the onion, carrot and garlic and fry gently to soften but not colour.
Add the lamb mince back to the pan, add the cinnamon and tomato purée and cook out for 4-5 minutes.
Add the rosemary, parsley, Madeira, stock and some seasoning, and bring to the boil.
Allow the meat mixture to simmer for at least 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced. At the end of this time, taste to check for seasoning.
For the topping, rub together or pulse together the flour, baking powder, salt and butter.
When it looks like breadcrumbs add the sour cream and do the same again. The dough will be very sticky. (Yes. Yes it was very sticky!)
Spoon the filling into individual pie dishes, (I just made one big dish) then spoon dollops of the batter on top.
Sprinkle over the feta and bake for 25 minutes until crisp and golden.
I served this with what I am going to call sauteed Mediterranean veg and a cheeky glass of red. It was truly lovely, and appreciated (in part) by Lola and Finn. Lola more so than Finn. No change there!

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