We had guests for the weekend and for the first time we couldn''t just skip off to the beach with gay abandon and lashings of ginger beer. I mean we did go to the beach, but our expeditions required planning, waterproofs and a little more thought - mainly to prevent smaller members of the party being blown off the coastal path into the sea.
The problems would not have been insurmountable - and worst case scenario there are always the water slides at Bluestone - a heady attraction some 50 minutes drive from here - to which we have not yet succumbed to (well the weather has been too good) - but, you know, part of the reason people come to this part of the country is for the wild beauty of the coast (of course, the guests have, we hope, come to see us too), and 'wild beauty' we hope we gave them.
As is often the case, the weather forecast's gloomy outlook did not entirely prevail. Yes it was windy, but the rain held off, during the day (mostly) at least. It was warm, and occasionally there was a peek of blue sky.
On Saturday, we ventured south from Ceredigion into North Pembrokeshire and walked the ruggedly spectacular section of the coastal path south from Ceibwr Bay to check out the Witches Cauldron - a pool accessible from the open sea via an interesting looking cave/tunnel. Something to explore in more detail on a lower tide and, we decided,as the waves crashed round us, echoing up the cliffs like thunderclaps, a calmer day...
We refuelled on tea and cake (and milkshakes and ice creams) at the fabulous Pavillion Cafe that you should seek out in the Penrallt Garden Centre above Moylegrove should you find yourself in the area, then headed home for sausages and chunky chips for the kids, and this delicious curry for the grown ups.
I found this beauty in Simon Rimmer's book "Men Love Pies, Girls Like Hummus". Not entirely sure I approve of the title, even though in the introduction, Mr Rimmer does defend against accusations of culinary misogyny. For the record, I love pies as much as the next man (and given that the next man is the Husband, quickly followed by Blue, that means I love pies ALOT). I do also like hummus, but given the choice, I'd probably have a pie.
Anyway, enough of this silliness. Whether you approve of the title or not, I first stumbled across Simon Rimmer in the form of "The Accidental Vegetarian" when I was looking for inspiration and veggie food to serve to my mother in law that is colourful and full of flavour - not just brown and over-salted - and have been a bit of a fan ever since.
I hadn't heard of this book, but I picked it up in The Works when I was looking for something else entirely, and it was only £2.99 - bit of a bargain really when it is full of absolutely rocking dishes. Corned Beef Pot Pie, Wild Boar & Coriander Burgers with Sweet Roasted Peppers, Beetroot & Celeriac Filo Pie (mother in law is visiting again soon), Pork Empanadas and Baked Cuban Spiced Chicken with Rice have all rushed onto my 'must try' soon - like really soon - list.That's the things with cookery books, isn't it? There are some which are beautiful, listing wonderful dishes, gorgeously photographed, that in reality are never going to make it on to your table, and others which you know you will cook from time and time again. Nigella's Kitchen is one of these for me, as is River Cottage Every Day. Of course, which books fall in to which categories will change depending on the cook and his or her circumstances at the time, but Men Love Pies, Girls Like Hummus is absolutely spot on for me right now.
I used lovely Welsh lamb from one of the butchers in Cardigan, and the amazing chilli the Husband grew. I also made this on Friday and left it overnight - I think curries and casseroles often benefit from this as the flavours develop, and also I didn't want to be tied to the cooker once our friends had arrived and there was wine to be drunk...
Lamb Saag Balti
Serves 4 (along with dahl, rice and poppadums - we'd had a lot of fresh air, OK?)
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
1 large green chilli (check out this bad boy)
1 tbsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
6 large tomatoes
750g diced lamb shoulder
1 tsp turmeric
I lamb stock cube
300g baby leaf spinach (or normal spinach, stalks removed)
Vegetable oil for frying
Peel & quarter the onion, peel the garlic cloves, peel and roughly chop the ginger and depending on the heat of your chilli and how much you like, deseed it - and then roughly chop it.
Blend the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli to make a smooth, wet paste.
Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan for a couple of minutes till they smell delicious and fragrant, then grind up in a pestle and mortar and set aside.
Bash the cardamom pods a little, then quarter the tomatoes, removing the tough core bit.
Make up the stock cube with 300ml boiling water.
In a large pan, heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and then brown the meat in batches. Set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan and gently cook out the onion paste till the liquid has evaporated - it will take 10-15 minutes. Stir regularly and make sure the paste doesn't burn.
Once the paste is cooked out, return the lamb to the pan along with the dry seeds and turmeric, the tomatoes and the stock. Bring the pan to the boil, then reduce the heat as low as you can to ensure a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
If you're serving straight away, add the spinach about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. If you're serving the next day (or another day entirely) leave the curry to cool and keep in the fridge over night, or freeze. Gently reheat, add the spinach leaves and cook for 5 minutes till the spinach has cooked.