The Brave Eater

When I was growing up I was one of four children. That meant every evening my mother cooked for six people. She didn’t cook three slightly different versions of the meal depending on who liked what. There was no room for fussiness or pushing food around the plate hoping to skip straight to dessert. No. Mum cooked a meal and we ate it. Simple.

The only slight concession she made with me was to dish up a smaller portion of silverbeet (also known as chard or Swiss chard). It used to grow in the garden like a weed and Mum would cook potfuls of it.

“Tracey, it’s full of iron and very good for you,” she would say.

“But I don’t like it, Mum,” I would wail.

“Well, just eat a little then,” she’d reply before unapologetically spooning some onto my plate.

I’d like to now tell you that today as an adult I love silverbeet. And incidentally my siblings and I have all grown up to be adventurous eaters, without a fussy bone in our bodies. I couldn’t say if it’s because we weren’t allowed to be fussy eaters as children. Perhaps it’s just a lucky coincidence. But I’m grateful to my mother all the same for getting me into good habits early.

When I first started cooking for my husband many years ago he informed me that he didn’t like lamb. What crushing news! Memories of slow-cooked mutton for Sunday dinner and cheap fatty cuts of lamb at school dinners put him off for life. Or so he’d convinced himself.

By the time he reached adulthood he’d decided exactly what he liked and didn’t like (and there was plenty in the ‘didn’t like’ column) and refused to even try something from the ‘didn’t like’ column. So regardless of how hard I tried convincing him to give lamb another chance – I mean he’d never tried New Zealand lamb! – he stood firm. My husband is nothing if not stubborn.

But over the years I’m happy to report that my adventurousness seems to have rubbed off on him and he now enjoys trying new flavours and giving old flavours a second chance.

It took a lot of years though before he made the concession to give lamb a go.

Considering fat and gristle is what he hates most I came up with the idea to cook him lamb loins. A fabulous cut, the loin is lean and without an overpowering lamby taste. I realise the whole point of lamb is that it tastes like lamb but the fattier cuts which are better slow-cooked (and tend to be my favourites) do have a stronger flavour.

So one evening I set about to cook lamb loins, determined to bowl him over with how delicious they could be. I flavoured them with a spice rub and served the loins with a fresh Greek salad – one of his favourites. And what do you know? He absolutely loved them. He couldn’t believe how delicious the meat was. The spice rub gave the loins a fantastic flavour and the blushing pink meat within was soft and tender.

Success at last!

The lesson of this little story is that just because you think you don’t like something don’t give up on it. Remember that your palate does change over time. Be brave. Continue to try new and old flavours. Or the next time you’re out, try something you think you don’t like but cooked in a different way to how you’ve eaten it in the past. Perhaps you don’t like omelettes but the Spanish omelette with spicy chorizo on a brunch menu sounds pretty good. Try it!

It may be clearer now why I’m such a fan of the lamb loin and why I can’t resist finding new ways to cook and serve it. The recipes below produce a mini-feast that is such a pleasure to eat with so many different flavours and textures going on – the spicy lamb and couscous, the freshness of the tomato and parsley salad and the creamy tzatziki with a gentle hit of garlic. The toasted almonds in the couscous provide a fabulous crunch.

This little feast is made by easier by the fact that the spice rub is used for both the lamb and the couscous. The tzatziki I’ve made previously and served as part of a meze. It’s also great served as a dip. So versatile.

If you wanted to add yet another element some grilled pita breads would in no way be out of place.

 

Spiced Lamb Loins

Serves 4

 

Spice Rub

4 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons coriander

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sea salt

 

3-4 lamb loins (depending on their size)

Olive Oil

 

Firstly, get a pan nice and hot. While it’s heating, make the spice rub. Simply combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the lamb (reserving enough for the couscous, although this makes plenty) and rub into each side. Drizzle over olive oil and once again rub into each side.

Place the loins in the hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side (once again, depending on their size). I find this amount of time per side gives a nice medium finish but cook for longer if you prefer it more well done. Or indeed slightly less for medium-rare.

Once cooked to your liking, transfer the loins to a plate, cover with tin foil and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

Slice and serve.

 

Spiced Couscous

Serves 4

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon spice rub (as above)

90g couscous

120ml boiling water

50g flaked almonds, toasted

75g raisins

Extra-virgin olive oil

 

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion. Sauté until the onion is soft and just starting to take on a golden colour.

While the onion is sautéing, measure out the couscous into a bowl. Add the boiling water, cover and leave to steep for around 5-10 minutes. It’s ready once all the water has been absorbed. Run a fork through the couscous to separate the grains.

Add the tablespoon of spice rub to the onions, stir through and let this fry for a minute or so. Then add the couscous and stir well so that the spicy onion mixture reaches all the grains.

Finally, stir through the almonds and raisins along with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Transfer to a serving bowl.

 

Tomato and Parsley Salad

Serves 4

 

1 small red onion, sliced thinly

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

12 black olives, stones removed and halved

Handful of parsley leaves

Extra-virgin olive oil

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper

 

The salad couldn’t be easier. Simply combine the salad ingredients in a bowl, add a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle over some freshly ground salt and black pepper and give it a good toss. Check to see if you want any more olive oil or lemon juice but I find this salad is so fresh and full of flavour you only need a touch of dressing.

image-3

 

Tzatziki

250g Greek yoghurt

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

Half a large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped finely

Salt, to taste

Juice of a lemon

Bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped

 

Simply add all of these ingredients into a bowl and mix well. As to the garlic, I use my microplane grater and grate it straight into the bowl. Once everything is combined have a taste and see if you want to add any more salt or lemon juice.

 

Now just eat.

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7 Comments

  1. annika says:

    I so enjoyed your story. I even read parts of it to my very picky-eater 8-year-old. I, unlike your mum and mine, do try to accommodate her.. not sure if I am helping or not… we will see. Loved your recipes as well! I am not at all surprised that you have been able to change your husband’s eating habits.

    Liked by 1 person

      • annika says:

        Thank you again. I started reading the excerpt of Can’t Hurry Love yesterday and the first thought that came to my mind was “Why don’t I read novels anymore?”… then I kept getting interrupted and I realized why… but I am sneaking in a few paragraphs at a time today while caring for my sick 3-year-old… enjoying the novel very much!

        Like

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