sweetness and light.

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Spring has finally arrived in my part of the world, blowing in on the heels of April’s last blustery gusts, and everything is responding favourably to its sudden and unseasonable warmth with bare limbs blatantly exposed, long fervent conversations had and mornings whiled away in the sunlight.

I’ll spare you the full April post – wittering on about icy winds and bleak outlooks and the sound of a train in the distance – that was left on the cutting room floor, but I will tell you that no one unlucky enough to have been in my vicinity these past few months was sorry to see the winter finally draw to a close.

The change has been so welcome, and yet so sudden – it feels a little like May, with all of its attendant goodness, arrived late last week with a vengeance:

Last weekend, our park exploded with cherry blossoms, and I couldn’t get over the paradox: that those stunning, ethereal blooms, all sweetness and light, can bring out the some of the ugliest and hungriest parts of people. Even after an early morning of dodging couples in formalwear, crying children, men with long lenses, mountains of garbage, and raging, impatient motorists, though, I came home raving not about the hideousness of humanity, but the beauty of the blossoms.

That colour, that smell.

I dragged the whole family back to the park almost in spite of myself.

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Two of my dearest friends have birthdays this week, and we are expecting an honoured guest in our house, so I have stocked the cupboards with wine and other celebratory goodies in anticipation. Sunday is the Junction Flea, possibly the best mother’s day gift a person like me could hope for.

I don’t even care that they are forecasting unseasonable cold, because I have had this dish in my pocket for months, waiting for just such an occasion to share it with you.

Happy weekend, friends! Happy spring!

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Lamb Shoulder Roast for Any Occasion

When I say any occasion, I mean any time, any season. I first made this last July, for a friend’s birthday celebration at my house. I made it again when my sister and her family visited in August, then in October for my birthday feast (the one that included a version of this dish). I made it once over the winter holidays and again just a few weeks ago for Easter. It’s always that good. And the leftovers make an incredible hash. It’s an overnighter, but you still have time to make it for mother’s day, and I can’t overstate how easily made and rewarding a dish this is. Run to your butcher right now!

1 2.5-3 kg lamb shoulder roast, bone in and tied, with some fat on it

3 tbsp coarse sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

10 cloves garlic, chopped

6 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/2c olive oil

1/2c fresh squeezed lemon juice

Lightly score lamb fat at 1″ intervals and place in a roasting pan with a tightly fitting lid – the pan should be just large enough to hold the lamb comfortably. Rub lamb all over with salt and pepper, then garlic and rosemary. Finally, drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and massage everything gently into the lamb. Cover pan tightly with foil, then its lid, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roast lamb, basting occasionally (rewrap the pan very tightly with foil after each basting), until meat is very tender and beginning to fall offf the bone, about 4 hours.

Remove pan from oven, remove lid and foil, and hoist the roast onto a large platter to rest. Preheat broiler. Decant lamb juices into a jug. Remove string from lamb and transfer it back into the roasting pan. Broil for about 5 minutes, until fatty bits are crackling and golden.

Return lamb to platter; skim fat from the surface if the jus in the jug. Serve immediately, scattered with lemon pieces and rosemary sprigs.

Serves 6, with plenty of leftovers.

 

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fresh.

 

I tend to greet the first month of the year less than enthusiastically.

I am wont to feel a little bitter about the end of the holidays and the return to routine (as a friend recently said on a Tuesday morning, “where are my pancakes? Where is my bacon?”) and I cringe at the thought of dark mornings and foul weather stretching out two or three more months.

But, now that we’re well into February, I have to tell you that the last day of January this year filled me with nearly as much hopeful enthusiasm as I felt for the first. And the seasonal ennui that usually causes my body to demand bread and butter and cheese, in such quantities that every meal feels like a battle of wills, has been largely absent.

I know that this is at least partly because the temperatures in our city have regularly crept nearly into the double digits (that’s above zero), accompanied occasionally, if bizarrely, by enough snow for my children to get their 45-minute fill of snow-angel-making and snowman-building. I went running outdoors last week in cropped pants, and left my coat open on an afternoon walk with my husband.

So the weather has helped.

But the first several weeks of 2012 have also flown by very quickly, a fact for which I am extremely grateful.

I can actually barely remember the first 14 days or so, which were taken up by my attempt at a January cleanse.

(I have nothing good to say about that experience, unsurprisingly, except that now that I am back to eating and drinking normally, if not with abandon, each meal seems to bring with it a fresh opportunity to consume something delicious.)

But aside from that brief donning of the proverbial hair shirt, my resolutions for the new year have taken a while to take hold, as they usually do.

And I know you know me well enough by now that, despite its title, you aren’t expecting any kind of crisp, leafy goodness from this post

(indeed, you could be forgiven if you are not welling up with enthusiasm for the dish you see photographed here. The ravenous hordes – my husband and I – had been waiting for it to come out of the oven for what felt like far too long for me to do its gloriousness any kind of photographic justice last night, and to be fair, it actually didn’t look any better the next day when I put slightly more effort into trying again.

And if all of that doesn’t make you want to spring into action, I understand completely, but I will still heartily encourage you to make this dish. It’s that good, if not that pretty).

What I can offer up is winter comfort food at its finest, a little bit lavish but not enough to irrevocably derail any food-related resolutions you may, like me,  have high-mindedly made a few weeks ago.

A kind of quasi-fresh start, if you will.

Onward, February!


Mediterranean Deep Dish

I have to stop short of calling this a pizza, but pizza is what I had in mind when making it. I was in a rush, though, so needed to rethink the crust completely, which led me to a lovely old stand-by dish of Nigella’s called Supper Onion Pie.

For the filling:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
425g lean ground lamb
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
a handful (about a cup) of fresh baby spinach leaves
3-4 tbsp sundried tomato pesto
salt and pepper, to taste
225g soft goat cheese

For the crust:

1 2/3c whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
scant 1/2c milk
1/4c olive oil or melted butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium – high heat. Add onions and saute until softened, then add garlic. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, just a minute or two; then add lamb to the pan. Cook, stirring, until lamb is no longer pink. Transfer lamb mixture and any accumulated juices to a bowl and set aside.

Add pepper to pan and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes, until slightly tender. Transfer to bowl with lamb mixture; add spinach leaves and toss gently. Add pesto and toss well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.

Spread this filling into a 10-inch cast iron skillet or deep-dish pie plate. Top with goat cheese.

Now, onto the crust. I made mine in the food processor because I was feeling very pressed for time, but mixing it by hand would also be no trouble at all. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk well to combine. Stir wet ingredients into dry, just until a firm but sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a round roughly the same size as your pan. Gently transfer dough onto filling and press firmly on the edges to seal.

Bake in 400 degree oven 10 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 degrees and cook a further 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden and firm.

Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.