Lockdown Tryouts – The Oven!

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Covid-19 lockdown has given everyone plenty of opportunities to experiment with their cooking, to go back to old favourites and to try out some of those newspaper cut-out recipes.

Not everything we have tried has worked but we are generally very pleased rather than disappointed. In this post we include some savoury successes from the oven.

Cazuela – An Argentinean stew

The cazuela is a terrific way of using up a range of leftovers, whether vegetables, cured meats or cheeses. It is a common dish in South America, . It is a hot pot type of dish based around the Spanish word for casserole or cooking pot. We first tried these in Buenos Aires in 2009. Click here for recipe ideas: Cazuelas. Here is a photo of one of our recent cazuelas.

Fish baked with mayonnaise and herb crumb

Because of its oil and egg base, mayonnaise works in surprising situations. For one of our Virtual Dinner Parties some months ago we cooked Karen Martini’s garfish with herbed pistachio crumb. You can read about it here: Garfish. It is an excellent benchmark recipe as it shows how easy it is to bake fish using a simple topping. The method is best for “flat” or thin slices of fish. If you have thick fillets, say from rockling, slice horizontally. Or use the fillets as is but cook a little longer.

A very simple option for a topping is to make a crumb mixture using mayonnaise instead of butter, along with breadcrumbs, herbs, seasonings, etc. Use quality bought mayonnaise and use a couple of tablespoons, enough to moisten the crumb mixture so that it is paste-like and will stick to the top of the fish. The first photo shows rockling with a mayonnaise herbed topping before it goes into the oven. The second one is immediately after taking it from the oven. You can let your hair down with the topping – garlic, Parmesan cheese, chilli, … – but be careful not to swamp the delicate flavour of the fish.

Lamb shank curries

Lamb shanks are ideal for slow-cooking. Here are two curries we have tried with very good results. Both could be cooked on the stove top, but we opted to cook them in the oven because of the better caramelisation effect.

The first photo is of lamb shank, turmeric, kale and chickpea curry. With this recipe, on our second attempt we didn’t use coconut oil and instead dry fried the shanks to render some of the fat, which we discarded, before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. And we found spinach gave as good a result as kale.

The second photo is of lamb shanks massaman curry. It provided a lovely dense sauce. Again we would suggest dry frying the shanks first to render some of the fat, and discard it, before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Silver beet and ricotta pie – A sort-of-spanakopita

There are numerous recipes available for traditional spanakopita. Trust Jill Dupleix to come up with her own variation that one just has to try – silver beet and ricotta pie. However, we have also tried this recipe with chicken – poach or microwave a breast until just cooked, shred, and add to the filling mixture. And we have also tried spanakopita-style pasties using various fillings and bought puff pastry.

Chicken, leek and mushroom pie

Another recipe from one of our favourite chefs and writers, Karen Martini – chicken, leek and mushroom pie. The pie base has lots of leek, lots of mushrooms and lots of chicken. Topped with puff pastry – in our photo we have used homemade rough puff pastry.

Hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt

Another excellent recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi – charred cherry tomatoes. The grilled tomatoes are terrific by themselves – use them as a salad, a side dish or in pasta. Adding them to the cold yoghurt provides a totally different taste sensation, as described in the link.