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Mint and Chilli – Bellisima!

13 Nov

It’s been a good couple of weeks absence, but unfortunately for you guys I’m back cooking and blogging with a vengeance. There’s not a great deal that could happen to me to stop me doing the three things I love (that’s cooking, eating and writing) and what are the chances that I’d catch something that would put me off all three? Well in the cold, wet, miserable British winter, the chances are actually quite high and so I was struck down with the flu. It’s likely you’ve all had it at one stage or another so there’s no need to go into detail, but the one thing that troubled me greatly over everything else was the severe lack of appetite and the willingness to make do with ready meals for sustenance. I know, shit just got real, it must have been serious! Welcome to the flu blues, where even chocolate can’t save you. And I should know, the Lindt collection brought back from South Africa by The Boyfriend didn’t get touched or even sniffed once while I was ill. So you can imagine my relief come the weekend when I felt the flu lift and my appetite and urge to cook return, until then I was genuinely concerned that I’d only be eating ready meals or takeaways for the rest of my life, such was my lack of interest in food. First world problems and all that. Predictably, I turned to my idol Nigella to pull me out of the rut that I was in and as ever, she did good. I’ve not cooked a lot from her latest offering Nigellisima (which of course will be rectified in the next few months) and I’m not as fond of it as I am her other books but its still got the Lawson magic that pulls me in to the pages and has me dreaming of living in her fridge. Wanting to keep The Boyfriend on side (he puts up with a lot of random meals from me when all he really wants is a chilli or a roast, bless him) I went for lamb cutlets with mint, chilli and golden potatoes as lamb chops are one of his favourites. I’d seen Nigella cook these on her TV show while I was stuck drinking Lemsip and shivering under several layers and a duvet and my passing thought had been ‘they look nice…. If I ever want to cook or eat again I will make those’. So here we are. First off, lamb cutlets are really just lamb chops but with a trendy bit of bone sticking out the top, so don’t feel too bad if all you can find is chops as they will do just fine. Marinate them in olive oil, dried mint, chilli flakes and celery salt, fry and serve with cooked new potatoes that have been fried for a few minutes in the lamb juices. I’m not a huge fan of lamb chops myself, but these were just delightful. The meat was tender and juicy, with a fresh flavour coming from the marinade that complimented the meat so well. Don’t be silly like me and rest the lamb on a separate plate, rest it on the plate you’ll be eating off instead as the resting juices are seriously tasty. Combine the meat with the crunchy, salty fried potatoes and you’ve got yourselves a little plate of heaven. I also served this with some peas because when you think about it, what gels better than lamb, mint and peas? Probably a lot actually, but you see my point that it just sounds (and tastes) right.

Following this lamb triumph I persevered with the cooking and finally decided, after years of forgetting, to make a traditional Christmas cake. Thank goodness for baking mad friends Facebook updates serving as a reminder. Yes, it’s nearly Christmas and yes, I am excited so keeping to tradition I made my cake several weeks ahead and am now gagging for Christmas to just get here already. I used the recipe for traditional Christmas cake from Nigella Christmas which instructs me to make the cake well ahead of time to ensure maximum flavour and also to keep to the traditional ways of Ye Olde Worlde Christmas. Just call me Mary Berry. At this very moment it is wrapped up snugly in several layers of tin foil and an old Celebrations tub absorbing brandy and I can’t ice and decorate it for at least another three weeks which is killing me. As soon as the tree is up I am marzipanning and icing that bad boy, even though I was brought up never to eat anything in the Christmas larder until everyone has finished work for Christmas. I’ll stay true to this (even if I do have to work in between Christmas and New Year) but will want to have a pretty decorated cake in the kitchen to stare at while the countdown to Christmas is on. Don’t worry, I’ll cover the cake up, I’m not having a cake gather dust, not on my watch! I’m certain you will hear plenty more about this cakes progress in the coming weeks, but at the moment it’s hibernating. It’s safe to say my cooking mojo is back, and as for the eating mojo, lets just say that the Lindt collection has taken a hammering in recent days. All is well again!

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