Pomegranate and Saffron Lamb

 I was looking in the freezer for something to cook while I was at work and found some lamb neck and decided that would be perfect for the slow cooker but the gloom of December is getting to me and I need something with a bit of zing to it… some brightness to cut through the dark…

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Lamb neck is inexpensive and, if cooked correctly, incredibly tasty. Those four fat slices cost just £1.70.

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There’s a good amount of meat on them, with fat running through it that, if cooked slowly and cossetted with spices, will turn the meat into something that is so tender and melting and so mouthwateringly lovely you can’t help but  smile.

I wanted spices with it, spices and a touch of sharpness and thought that a kind of Middle Eastern theme would work. In my cupboard I had a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses which would be perfect. The flavour it adds is a rich and tangy one – a mix of sour and sweet and it goes perfectly with all sorts of meat, particularly the fattier kinds as it cuts right through, really letting the meat flavour expand , if you know what I mean.

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As with any kind of slow cooking, the best thing to do is to brown the meat – not only does it add a deeper flavour but it makes it look better too.

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Then, maybe other Middle eastern flavours…. garlic and ginger – crush some, or squeeze some from a tube and fry it off in the pan after you have taken the meat out.

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Add some stock and stir it round to loosen up the caramelised meat bits and the lovely garlic and ginger.

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A good pinch of saffron will add a deeper note and the most wonderful colour.

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And crush some cardomom seeds – break them open first and then crush the little seeds inside the papery cases…. they are the bits with the flavour… sprinkle them over the bits of lamb in the slow cooker..

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Add a couple of teaspoons of honey

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And a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, then pour over the saffrony stock.

You know the chilli oil I made? Well those chillies are soft now after their long bath but just as hot… one of them dropped in there will add another layer of flavour… a spike of heat

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And that’s it.

Well that’s it till the next day, anyway. The slow cooker can go on before setting off for work in the morning and then,  on getting in from work?

Then you will find your home filled with the most beautiful smell and know that you are going to eat the perfect supper for a dark and gloomy night…. oh it was gorgeous.

There was this deep, rich smell blended with a  fruity sharpness and the underlying tang that comes from saffron. Quite mouthwatering

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The meat was falling away from the bone… all I had to do was make some couscous and then spoon the tender, aromatic lamb and gravy over it….

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And then tuck in…..

Lamb shanks with rose coco beans and tomatoes

It’s cold. It’s dark. I need something warm and filling. I am planning something that can cook by itself while I am out the following dayand be ready when we return.

When I look in the freezer I spot two lovely looking lamb shanks that I bought when I was last in the North and I know I have a packet of very beautiful looking beans…

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I’d never seen them before but they looked so pretty that I had to buy them. Well then. I can imagine them going so well with some slow cooked shanks…..perhaps a sort of Italian feel to the meal?

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First step has to be get the beans ready. They had to be soaked overnight first  and then they need to be boiled for 10 minutes or so. That would fit in with my timings for tomorrow…

So they were left overnight to soak and then the following morning put on to boil

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And the froth scooped off

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Make sure that there’s  no more froth and then rinse them clean.

While all that has been happening, you can get cracking on the vegetables


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As lamb is a lovely, sweet meat I thought that sweet potato in with the shanks would be a nice mix, alongside the usual suspects…. I think I may have been influenced by the pretty pink beans because I realise now that the sweet potato is pink as are the little shallots that are going to sit alongside the lamb.

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I browned the shanks to make sure there was a decent colour  and good depth of flavour – if you don’t, the shanks will still cook perfectly but will look pale and uninteresting.

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And really that’s it…. all you do now is put it into your slow cooker or casserole

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Put some vegetables in first, lie the shanks on top, then add more vegetables, a clove or so of chopped garlic….

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Put those boiled and rinsed beans on top

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And I topped the lot with a tin of chopped plum tomatoes. Well, beans and tomatoes go so well together. I really was thinking pink, wasn’t I?

Some salt and pepper…. lid on and into the oven it went.

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That was it maybe four or so hours later….

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And once spooned out…. oh the delicious smell…. it went perfectly with a glass of red wine and some  freshly baked focaccia

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Cauliflower – puree perfection

Actually, I have a bit of a problem with cauliflower. There’s always the potential, I think, when it is served in whole boiled pieces, that you could bite into it and get a mouthful of hot water….. Even making cauliflower cheese doesn’t really help. The cheese is OK, but underneath? Cauliflower.

Then one day I read about cauliflower puree. Smooth, tasty and delicious, apparently. Being curious about anything food related, I was willing to give it a try. I love to be proved wrong about food I say I hate and guess what? I was wrong about cauliflower! Creamed Spinach, cauliflower puree 010

You need (obviously enough) a cauliflower, some cream, butter, salt and pepper.

Break, or cut the cauli into florets, making sure they are of an even size so that it cooks evenly

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Put into a large pan of well salted water and bring to the boil. Putting half a lemon into the pan helps keep it white and just sharpens the flavour a little.

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It won’t take long to cook at all, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. Check with a sharp knife to see that it is tender.

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Drain it in the sink and let it dry slightly… all that steam escaping is water you don’t necessarily want in your puree.

Put the cauliflower florets in a bowl and with a hand stick blender, whizz it to a smooth puree – adding in a good knob of butter and some cream to enrich it and some salt and pepper to season it.  Taste it.. it has a rich and earthy depth to it…..

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Doesn’t that look just lovely? That turned me from a cauliflower loather to a cauliflower lover!

(One of my favourite ways to serve it is with black beluga or puy  lentils and some roast lamb….

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Just boil some lentils with some stock for extra flavour…. the drain…. and serve with the puree

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A nice bit of roast lamb on the top and you have the perfect flavour and texture combination)

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So there you have it.. take something you don’t like and make it into something you do like. 

(I blame school dinners, I really do! )


This page is for Debs… I will add her pictures as she cooks and she can add her comments. Of course the ideal situation would be for her to be able to do it all by herself but as this is done by me and I haven’t the faintest idea how to change things (at the moment, anyway) this is how it will be done.

Long live amateurism!

Debbie’s first attempt was cooking the No Knead Bread

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See that style? Netbook on the counter… glass of wine at hand (condensation beading on the glass…. she’s chilled that properly)  and bread started. Full marks, that woman!

Next she did the slow roasted spiced lamb…. despite not liking couscous


Followed by the chillies…

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Debs freely admitted she didn’t care for chillies but, you’ll notice, there isn’t a picture of the cooked chillies. That is because as soon as they were cooked they ate them. She has now made them several times and admits to thinking about them, longingly, mid afternoon and having to wait until the evening to make them.

Debs is now a chilli addict.

Her latest cooking escapade was porridge.

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I’ll leave her to comment on how everything was received but in recognition of her excellent efforts to try things out… and because I know she doesn’t have one, The Omnivorous Bear is proud to award Debs with her very own spurtle. The first prize ever awarded by the site….An authentic Scottish porridge stirring stick!

Every home should have one.

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The spurtle is now in the post to her but as we currently have a postal workers strike there’s no guarantee it will get there before next week.

Keep on cooking, Debs!

Debs then made the ginger ham… DEbs ham

this is what she said

“I know this is a rubbish photo but this is the end result. After removing the rind, I scored the remaining layer of fat and spread a thin layer of mustard, grated fresh ginger and sugar… it went into the oven for about 15 mins and that was that.

The gingerness went to well with the ham, it was absolutely fabulous and even the 6 yr olds loved it and that’s saying something!!” … and the photo was a bit indistinct.

1Nov – Debs made the pumpkin soup

Debs pumpkin soup

Tomorrow she will do the pumpkin seeds.

The beginning….


October morning mists
October morning mists

…. it is the beginning of October, the beginning of this blog and, it seems, the beginning of Autumn. When I got up this morning instead of being able to see for miles from kitchen window, it was cool and misty. When I went out onto the balcony there was a definite chill in the air. The kind of chill that suggests a need for big meaty dishes.

The Bear had set off early to work and crept out trying not to wake me so I thought I would make a decent effort in return and have something  ready for him tonight. I also needed to make sure there was enough for him to eat tomorrow night as I was going back to the north for a couple of days. Not that he couldn’t cook for himself, but  I had plenty of time and he was busy. Might as well make myself useful. What I wanted was something with minimal effort and maximum kudos. I had bought the November issue of “delicious.” at the weekend and one of the recipes in the slow cooking section,  Spiced Shoulder of Lamb,  sounded just the sort of thing for a chilly day – with the added bonus of gorgeously aromatic smells filling the apartment while it cooked. The sheer simplicity of the recipe meant that it had a lot going for it as certain of my friends (yes, you know who you are) prefer not to exert themselves too much…… and they need encouragement.

It did suggest making it in a slow cooker but as the one I have is a very small two person pot and this recipe serves 4-6, then it seemed a good idea to do it on a low heat in the oven all afternoon… and that would also warm the place up a bit.

Spiced Shoulder of Lamb from delicious. November 2009 issue

1.5kg shoulder of lamb,

good pinch of saffron,

1 onion finely sliced,

2.5cm bit of ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick sized pieces,

2 garlic cloves, 

1 tsp chilli flakes, 

1 tsp coriander seeds,

1 tsp. cumin seeds,

 2 tsp garam masala.

I bought a piece of rolled shoulder – not for any other reason than that was what Mick the butcher had.   


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The lamb was browned all over in a hot frying pan before I put it in my Le Creuset casserole. While that was browning, I soaked the saffron in 2 tbsps of warm water and started on the paste. All of the other ingredients needed to be blitzed to a rough paste and then the saffron and water added. The paste was seasoned well and then rubbed all over the lamb

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That was it. Into a preheated oven (160 degrees/140 degrees, fan assisted/gas mark 3) and leave it to do its stuff for 4 or so hours.

Now I’m just lolling around while the apartment smells gorgeous…… ‘delicious. ‘ suggests serving it with couscous, which I will make later and making a garlic, mint and yoghurt sauce to go with the lamb.

The sauce is made with 150ml Greek yoghurt, 1 crushed garlic clove and a handful for chopped fresh mint, all stirred together .

So, my friends, do you think you can make this? It’s not hard is it? Five minutes work and then leave the oven to deal with it?

The outcome?

Lamb Lamb – the finished dish

Finally… after several hours, the Bear returned home from work and demanded to be fed. I should have taken a photograph of it before I took the string off (carefully with scissors… no running around waving knives, please!) and broke up the meat with two forks.

Oh, and then we took several portions out so there was a lot more than this. It really did fall apart. It really was soft and luscious. I made the couscous – which for coeliac/gluten intolerant amongst us wouldn’t be appropriate, you’d be better off with a jacket potato – anyway, for those that can eat couscous it is a simple matter of pouring boiling water on it and letting it fluff up.

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I made the sauce with Greek yoghurt, some chopped garlic and the last handful of mint growing in the pot on the balcony. I just put it in a jug and whizzed it till everything  was smooth then put it in the fridge to chill. I think if you make the lamb then the yoghurt sauce is a must have – it gives the finished dish a bright sharpness and livens up the couscous.

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I possibly could have presented it more attractively but after a full day of taking photographs whilst cooking (I kept forgetting… I was into “The Zone”) and trying to upload them… well, by the time it got to putting it in a dish, I just dished up.  No doubt the style gurus amongst us will suggest a white dish for better effect but hey ho… I have these. I like them. They’ll do.

Final thoughts? It was easy, it wasn’t expensive (£5 for the lamb and that is from my butcher who doesn’t do cheap) there’s enough there for at least 6 people. The apartment smells nice, the Bear seems happy. You can prepare it and stick it in the oven or the slow cooker and then get on with other stuff. It is very forgiving if you don’t know when you will be serving it up. I say do it. You won’t regret it….