19 January 2013

Chilli Marrakech with Lime & Chilli Yoghurt

Well, this recipe couldn't have arrived on a better day for it.

At around 3 a.m. the night before, it started snowing - and continued throughout the day.  Eventually, we had around 4-6 inches of snow on the garden - which is really quite deep for Dorset!

Now ordinarily, I'd have been having successive batches of kittens over this happening.  However, I'd seen the weather forecast and we'd been out and done our weekend's shopping the day before, so it was just a matter of having to drive son & heir to school.  I used to not really bother about driving in the snow, but since moving to Dorset where no road exists that doesn't involve either climbing up or going down a hill, it's a different matter.  One experience of sliding down a hill whilst slowly spinning until hitting the car at the bottom of the hill (and missing all the parked cars - which was a singular miracle) is quite enough and I don't mind admitting I've lost my snow nerve where driving is concerned.  Especially now I own a nice car.  The thought of stoving in one of Alfie's sides (Alfie the Amalfi Lemon coloured Skoda, that is) by crashing in snow is just terrifying.

However, all was peace and tranquillity when at 7 a.m. we had a message from school to say that the school was closed for the day.  And breathe!

That's a lot of snow, for us!
So we spent the day sitting in the warm, watching the snowflakes fall - and trash our baby Olive tree.  Yeah, thanks snow.  Poor little chap, we should have brought him in under cover, but forgot.  I don't think he's ever going to achieve "tree" status, he'll for ever be a bush instead, because of several mishaps involving dogs paws and now the snow.

What a perfect day, therefore, to have a warming Chilli on the menu.  So often, I find myself booked to make a stew when suddenly it's like the Sahara outside, or alternatively, we're booked for a salad on a day like yesterday.  For once, however, I got it right.

The Chilli Marrakech is a recipe taken from the BBC Good Food Magazine.  You can find it here.  (Thanks for pointing me to it, Angela!).  The recipe I detail below contains all the original recipe's ingredients, it has just been a bit re-organised to suit my cooking methods better.  For instance, I make sure to drain all the fat from the meat and so as to not lose too much flavour, I brown the meat before cooking the onions.  It's a small point, but it makes a lot of difference in the eating.  The lamb fat is brilliant mixed with some bird seed and left to solidify.  If you line the container with cling film before filling, it make it easier to get out.  Put it on your bird table and watch the birdies tuck in!

We all really enjoyed this dish.  It is very aromatic and a lot lighter than your usual Mexican style Chilli Con Carne.  In fact, I think to compare it to Chilli Con Carne is a bit daft as they are, really, completely different in just about all ways other than the fact that it's minced meat with spices and a bean.  In this case, it uses lamb, Harissa and chick peas to great effect.  I'm not sure how authentically Moroccan this recipe is - but it uses flavours that originate from Morocco, so if nothing else, it is Moroccan style!

Now I really like Harissa - and most especially the Sainsbury's Speciality Ingredients Harissa paste.  The ingredients are very similar to Ras al hanout spice mix, in that they include rose petals, paprika and cumin.  Obviously it differs in that it is a paste as opposed to a dry spice mix and it also contains rather more chilli - but if you know Ras al hanout, then you will know Harissa.

The recipe also includes additional cumin, paprika and cinnamon, along with fresh ginger, garlic and coriander - so you'll begin to see the kind of level of spicing we're talking about here.  Very aromatic, very flavoursome.

However, none of the spices overtook the lamb - you could very definitely tell it was lamb and not beef involved there.  The addition of chunks of sweet red pepper was great, too - as it gave interest, colour and the occasional burst of lovely sweetness - which always helps when you're eating an intensely spicy (but not hot) combination.

In fact, speaking of spicy heat, I added a pinch of red chilli flakes to my version as I felt that the Harissa just didn't have the punch that the family would be looking for from the dish.  It was a long way from the nose-running kind of hot and spicy that a good Chilli Con Carne should be, but that additional pinch just bolstered the chilli in the Harissa.

Now, the thing that absolutely made the dish - from my perspective - was the Lime & Chilli Yoghurt.  This wasn't included in the original recipe but I would very definitely recommend you make it to accompany this dish.  It only takes a moment or two to make and is just so good along with the chilli.

I didn't serve the chilli with any rice or couscous, but with some sundried tomato & onion flatbreads that came from Asda.  Yes, I know I could have made them - but I could also have wound up incapable of movement by the end of the cooking process - and I'd really like to be able to get from kitchen to chair to eat my meal!  The Asda flatbreads are very nice indeed.  I put them onto a baking tray and give them a little sprinkling of water, followed by 4-6 minutes in a hot oven - and they're perfectly soft but with a crunchy edge.  Just right for dipping and eating alongside.  Yum.

So the next time we've got snow on the horizon, off you go to Sainsbury's for lamb mince and Harissa paste!  You can't go wrong.


Ingredients :

600g minced lamb
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped finely
1-2 tbsp Harissa paste (use less if you like less spicy heat)
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp paprika
1 pinch chilli flakes (omit if you like less spicy heat)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 long sweet red pepper, de-seeded and cut into chunks
400g tin chick peas, drained (and washed, if in brine)
150ml lamb stock made using 1 stock cube or 1 tsp powder (I used Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
15g fresh coriander, chopped.

For the yoghurt :

1 lime, zest and a little juice
a pinch of chopped fresh coriander
finely chopped red chilli, to taste
4-5 tbsp greek yoghurt
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  In a large saucepan, dry fry the lamb mince until the majority of the liquid has burned off and all the meat is brown.  Spoon the meat out into a bowl using a slotted spoon, so that the fat drains out of the meat and back into the pan.  Drain off all but 2 tbsp of the fat.

2.  Add the onions and cook on a moderate heat until softened.  Add the garlic and ginger, then cook for another minute or so.

3.  Return the meat to the pan and stir through.

4.  Add the Harissa paste and all the spices and stir thoroughly as it cooks, to make sure the paste is distributed evenly throughout the mixture.

5.  Add the chopped tomatoes, red pepper, chick peas and stock.  Again, stir through well to combine.

6.  If you have used a low salt stock, taste to check for seasoning and add as necessary.  Otherwise, add a pinch of sea salt and a good quantity of freshly ground black pepper to taste.

7.  Add three quarters of the chopped coriander and bring to a simmer.  Cook for around 30 minutes, or until the chilli reaches your preferred consistency.

8.  While the chilli is cooking, make the Lime & chilli yoghurt by grating the zest of a lime into a bowl.  Add a pinch of the remaining chopped coriander, the finely chopped red chilli (quantity depends on how spicy you like it - so be cautious when adding and taste before adding a little more), the juice of one third of the lime, the yoghurt and a tiny amount of sea salt & black pepper.  Stir to combine and taste.  Add more lime juice or more chilli, as you prefer. 

9.  Serve the chilli in warmed bowls with the remaining coriander sprinkled over, the Lime & Chilli yoghurt and warmed flatbreads.

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