If there's a culinary challenge, I don't need to be invited twice. Especially when there is a chance to test a new kitchen gadget and work together with my blogger friends. To celebrate the launch of their new Illumina range, Russell Hobbs invited me to take part in Virtual Blogger Come Dine with Me cooking challenge. If you follow Russell Hobbs on Facebook, you must have seen the images of menus created by foodie bloggers in the last few weeks. This week the Three Musketeers, aka Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews, Alison from Dragons and Fairy Dust and I, your humble servant, are doing an imaginary menu. I so wish we could meet up in real life!
Cheryl has totally rocked it with her delicious starter of Briouates (hope that's the correct spelling, that's quite a mouthful to pronounce). It's a Moroccan dish, a kind of pasties made with filo pastry, and I will be definitely making my own, now that I have seen Cheryl's recipe.
I know Alison has a mouthwatering dessert coming on Friday, and I am looking forward reading all about it.
I cooked the main dish. And here it is, my entry for Virtual Blogger Come Dine with Me with Russell Hobbs: Lamb shanks with dates & pomegranates.
In one of February Weekend issues (The Guardian, 15/02/14), Yotam Ottolenghi exclaims: "Meat and fruit on the same plate? You'd better believe it". Not sure what's the novelty though. Meat and fruit have been paired for thousands of years, in many cuisines and cultures. Even in my childhood, when the Soviet shops haven't had much of a variety of foods, my Mum often cooked dishes which combined meat and fruit, mostly dried, like apricots, prunes, raisins, figs, apples. So, for me personally this is something very familiar. And if we move to the warmer climes, what about the famous combination of ripe melons with paper thin prosciutto slices? Or lamb tagines of the Eastern cuisines? Fruit, both fresh and dried, gives the meat the touch of sweetness, while the fruit itself absorbs the meaty juices and flavours, a win-win combination.
Lamb shanks with dates & pomegranates
2 lamb shanks
1 tsbp plain flour
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp ras el hanout
sea salt with rose petals
a few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
8 dried apricots
100ml rose wine
1 tomato, sliced
1tsp ground ginger
more fresh mint and half a pomegranate
to serve with mashed potatoes: 2 medium potatoes + 2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche
Start by dusting the lamb shanks with the plain flour and browning them in a frying pan with the olive oil (it takes about 10 minutes). Chop the onions and slice the carrots. Remove the lamb shanks out of the frying pan and put them in a Pyrex dish. Fry the onions and carrots in the oil and juices from lamb for about 10 minutes on low, until the onion is golden brown. Add the onions and carrots to the dish with lamb shanks.
Season the shanks well with the sea salt (I like to use the sea salt with dried rose petals, but this is optional). Add the cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, mint, dates, dried apricots, tomato, ginger and rose wine. Pour enough water to cover the shanks with all the other ingredients.
Put the Pyrex in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for half an hour. Then stir the contents a bit, cover the dish with the lid and cook for another hour and a half. If you want the dates to be chunkier, add them at a later stage, as being cooked for two hours, they almost dissolve into a sticky sauce.
Serve with the mashed potatoes made with creme fraiche.
When serving, add more mint and scatter a generous helping of pomegranates.
This is a veritable feast for eyes and palate. The lamb is very tender, and the sweet sauce of dates and spices is perfect with lamb.
As part of the challenge I received a new kitchen appliance from Russell Hobb's new Illumina range - Illumina Food Processor - which is a stylish modern gadget with unique colour features. It has a set of 4 different speeds and settings for slicing/shredding/grating, dough/cream, blending and chopping/processing. Depending on the speed you choose, the colour of the ring changes, that is so neat.
It has a capacious 2.3 litre processing bowl with safety locking lid, as well as a 1.5 litre blending jug which is perfect for making milk shakes and smoothies.
It is very easy to use and as easy to clean.
It took seconds to do a "tearful" job of chopping the onion. No more tears. I also sliced carrots for this dish. And just yesterday I posted a recipe for beetroot fritters, where again I was glad to use the food processor to shred the beets, carrots and onion.
Russell Hobbs says: "Consumer insight, years of development and expert know-how within Russell Hobbs has now resulted in the launch of Illumina – the enlightening new food preparation range which uses colour control technology to help make cooking and home life easier.
Every product in the new five–piece collection features an innovative colour control light ring which changes colour to represent speed with clear guidance on which setting is best for different food types, helping to take the guess work out of cooking"
You can find more about Illumina range on Russell Hobbs site.
Disclosure: I received the shopping vouchers to cover the cost of food products used in the recipe, and the Illumina Food Processor for the purposes of testing and taking part in the culinary challenge. All opinions are mine.