Life is Hotting Up!

It has been a busy but fun time for me in the last few weeks.  

For Harris Meats, I’ve been working at the shop in Cheviot as well as on the road visiting our clients and establishing new clients.  I really enjoy dealing with the restaurants and cafes.  There are some very passionate people out there doing some amazing things in North Canterbury, plus it’s so good to get such a positive response about our products.  As well as doing the shop and sales, we are developing recipes and ideas for our products - at the moment I am focusing on hogget backstraps.   Very lean, delicious and easy to cook the lovely meat from the loin of a sheep.  Backstraps are perfect for summer in a salad, you could either BBQ or panfry.  Great with a risotto, soft polenta or in a soft tortilla with avocado, spicy corn salsa, sour cream and a squeeze of lime. 

Middle Easter FeastI recently cooked dinner for a fun group of ten at my sister and brother-in-law’s place.  Anne and Roger hosted some of Rog’s golf buddies and their partners.  I decided to use a Middle Eastern theme – the disappointment of not getting to go to Dubai on MasterChef hasn't dented my love for the flavours used in this cuisine.  It is a cuisine that I have been interested in for some time and my appetite for it seems to be increasing.  Also known as Persian, the cuisine features dishes from Greece and right around the Mediterranean including Iran and Iraq.  The cuisine incorporates very aromatic herbs and spices, great soft cheeses, slow cooked meats and poultry, delicious seafood and amazing breads. 

I wanted the dinner party to be a continuous feast so started them off with some small dishes and bread and just kept it coming. Ceviche 

First up hummus, tlatziki (yoghurt cucumber dip), smoked aubergine salad, middle eastern ceviche (marinated fish), labne (yoghurt cheese) and Turkish fetta pastry cigars with what is an essential part of this cuisine; flat bread.   Next up was a chicken, green olives and preserved lemon tagine.  This dish calls for saffron and I was lucky enough to be given some local saffron at the Cheviot Spring Festival.  This is grown in the Greta Valley and is an excellent product.  The folks at Saffron Valley NZ Limited who grow this should be very proud of what they are doing, it totally finishes the tagine off with lovely floral notes. 

Next course was a mechouia-style lamb leg with cumin dipping salt.  Mechouia refers to the art of roasting a whole lamb, but I cook a carvery leg of lamb (tunnel boned but still with the shank bone attached.  You could also use a butterflied leg.)  

The lamb was definitely the star of the show, and accompaniments I served with it were carrots with a honey dressing, dill and fresh goats curd, cauliflower with crisp onions, currants, pinenuts and a lemon dressing and couscous.  Everyone loved it! 

DessertDessert had to be light but still with a hint of the Middle East.  Orange segments, dried dates, figs and apricots, macerated in a poaching syrup of cinnamon, cardamom and orange blossom.  I added a little orange zest to the dessert and served it with a vanilla mascarpone cream and broken baked filo pastry.  It looked great layered and served in a glass.  

The dinner guests finished with some apple peppermint tea and a lie-down in the cushion room! 

You can find the recipe to the Mechouia style lamb leg dish on my page for recipes. 

I hope you enjoy it and I would love to see any reviews and photos of your efforts.

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