Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Slow roasted lamb & chilli fetta carrots

With the cooler weather (finally) hitting Perth, Mr Alphie has started requesting a Sunday roast. We've had roast chook (WA raised free range, of course) a couple of times now, and after the most recent request for a chicken roast, I realised that the alternative had to be pretty tempting to draw Mr Alphie from the roast chook obsession he was clearly about to fall in to. I had a quick ponder back to previous winters, and other roasts cooked, and remembered stumbling upon a fantastic lamb recipe last winter.

In the low calorie obsession of the last 12 months, I bought a number of cookbooks I would not have otherwise. On reflection, most of the books are are quite weird  but one that has had more than it's fair share of gems, is Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That?. It still has some weird stuff in it, and I think she takes the low-carb thing a bit far sometimes, but the slow roast lamb recipe is definitely a winner. Beautifully soft, pull apart lamb shoulder, drizzled with a garlicky, lemony 'gravy'.... mmmm, oh, and the smell wafting through the house as it cooks... Perfection.

Another recent realisation I have had, is that just because we're having a roast, doesn't mean we have to have the full suite of traditional roast veges (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, etc), with an obligatory serve of green veg on the side (peas, beans or broccoli). Don't get me wrong, I adore roast veges, and have been known to just have roast veges for dinner, but I'm starting to fall for carefully crafted 'side dishes' to star along side the roast, rather than as uninspired support acts.

A recent favourite  thanks to a continuing excess of carrots that arrive in our fruit & vege delivery, is also found in OMG! I Can Eat That? Chilli feta carrots. So divine, and it's possible I love these more than regular roasted carrots, which I previously thought of as the best part of a roast. I have a continuing love affair with Brussels sprouts/cabbage and bacon, and of course, a roast is not a roast, without some form of roasted potato to accompany it - soft & fluffy in their jackets is my preference.

Slow Roast Lamb
slightly modified from Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That? pg 105
Serves 4-6
  • approx 1kg boned lamb shoulder
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, broken up, but not peeled
  • 2-3 stems rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
Preheat your oven to 220°C.

In a roasting pan, place the lemon wedges in the centre, ad surround with the garlic cloves. What you're trying to do here is create a 'trivet' for the lamb to rest on. Depending on the size of your lamb shoulder you may need another lemon, or some more garlic. Place the rosemary on top, followed by the lamb. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, and rub it all in.

Add the stock to the pan (Jane recommends you do this at the end to make the 'gravy', but I had too many experiences of the lemons & garlic burning on to the pan & engulfing the kitchen in acrid smoke), and cover tightly with foil. Chuck it in your hot oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 160°C.

Leave it for 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours. I promise you, it'll be worth it.

After the 4 hours are up, take the foil off & increase the oven to 220°C. Leave for another 20 minutes, just to get some crispy bits going.

Remove from the oven, set the lamb aside on the serving plate & cover with foil. Fish the lemon bits & rosemary out of the pan, and squeeze all that delicious slow roasted garlic out of its skins back into all the pan juices. You might also want to get rid of a bit of the fat in the pan at this point, although I don't always have to - it depends on the lamb. Mush up that garlic & put the pan on the cooktop on a medium heat to reduce a bit. It won't thicken up like a gravy, but that's ok.

This works best if it's served family-style - a big plate in the middle of the table & everyone can help themselves to the unctuous lamb & drippy pan gravy. So, shred the lamb on the serving plate & spoon the gravy over the top.

Serve & dig in!

(sorry about the lack of 'in progress' photos, I had to fight Mr Alphie for the oven & I got a bit frazzled trying to get it in on time)

Chilli Fetta Carrots

slightly modified from Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That? pg 193
Serves 4-6

  • 3-4 carrots, peeled & sliced on the diagonal
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, to taste
  • 50g fetta cheese (or there about, I just eyeball it)
  • 2tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
Either toss your carrots in a bit of oil, then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper; or chuck them straight on the tray (still with baking paper) and spray with oil. Whichever method you choose, sprinkle the carrots with salt & freshly ground pepper & chilli flakes.

Roast the carrots in a 200°C oven for 25 or so minutes, until they're just golden. Mix with the fetta & parsley in a serving bowl.


Do you have any favoured side dish recipes that are starts in their own right? Please share, I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why I stopped blogging...

So I wasn't completely honest with you in my last post. There are two reasons I stopped blogging. One was the time factor I mentioned in my last post. But the other, well it's a bit flinchier, a bit harder for me to talk about.

Early last year (or maybe late the year before? It seems so long ago now), I started running, in a couch to 5k program, with the aim of getting fit for the upcoming soccer season, after having 2 seasons off. Running 2-3 times a week, combined with my usual twice weekly pilates, plus twice weekly soccer training once the pre-season started up meant I got fit, and lost a bit of weight. Not much, a kilo or so maybe. But I started to think, how much would I loose if I watched what I ate?

And this is the part I don't like talking about. I started counting calories. I was not overweight by any means, right in the middle of the healthy BMI range, but I just felt I'd be a better version of me if I was a couple of kilos lighter. I was tallying my daily food intake and playing it off against my exercise, counting out almonds for my afternoon snack and drinking macchiatos instead of flat whites because they had less calories. I stopped drinking alcohol, except for the occasional vodka & soda, and pretty much gave up eating bread. I dropped those few kilos. But it was hard, really hard, there was so much guilt, every time I ate something I felt I 'shouldn't', or that took me over my meagre calorie allowance. And I wasn't a better version of me, I was just a slightly skinnier me, and much more boring to be around.

I stopped blogging because I didn't think anyone would want to read about the low-fat, low-carb, mostly vegetable, and predominantly unexciting meals I was cooking. They weren't recipes I was proud of.

A few months ago, I decided I was done counting calories. It was consuming my life. All that endless weighing & counting and recording. I was done. I started going about my life making sensible decisions about what I ate - if Mr Alphie bakes some amazing bread, I eat it (with butter!), but not the whole loaf; if we're going out for a lavish dinner, I have a smaller lunch; I don't count my almonds; and if I feel like a drink after a long week/day at work, I have one (or two...). I'm not perfect, I'm still a sucker for hot chips, and peanut m&m's are a weakness I don't think I'll ever overcome (as evidenced in my previous post). But do you know what? I haven't gained a single kilo back. And I am much happier than I've been in a long time.

I feel like I have a few other bloggers to thank for my new-found balance in life. Heidi from Apples Under My Bed, Nat from Lemon Living, and more recently Angela from Oh She Glows, have inspired me to be a happier, healthier me, and also, to share this story with you.