Of all things comfort food

Tagliatelle with lamb ragu, rose harissa,black olives capers and garlic bread

Eyebrows might be raised at the mention of leftover lamb, but I am sure that a lot of us have found ourselves left with a plethora of the stuff Easter dinner was made of. The problem is the meat, depending on the cut, can be very fatty, which makes it unctuous and flavoursome when hot, but too greasy to nibble as a cold snack or use in sandwiches and salads .Instead, your best bet is to recook it and turn it into something new. Being the funny old times we are in at the moment we had lamb pre easter left over from a recipe testing session for a friends website.( "more on that story later" Kirsty).  Our real Easter Sunday dinner comprised a snap crackling belly pork courtesy of Feito no zambujal, so it gave me the chance to try out a few left over options. Moussaka and rogan Josh are the obvious choices. The thespian has not been partial to an aubergine of late so I made a delicious moussaka just with potatoes. I love using slices of lamb in a kebab-style supper. Make a shawarma seasoning using a blend of paprika, cumin, allspice, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper and garlic. it’s great sprinkled on reheated leftover lamb. Serve with flatbreads and add all your favourite kebab shop trimmings. If you’re feeling inspired, try stirring some harissa through shop-bought hummus. Some of the best recipes for lamb however I feel stem from Africa, tagines, pastillas or the Cape-malay dish Bobotie. My favourite to have come up with however was a fusion of Ottolenghi and Ina Garten. Yes the mind boggles at what might emerge from that mutation. It brought a nod to the Algarve´s Moorish connection in the form of harissa.In her most recent book "Modern Comfort Food" Garten has a recipe for Baked rigatoni with a lamb ragu. Forget the pasta bake, I have never achieved perfection with a pasta bake.I always find them a tad dry and crusty,  but lamb ragu yum, add this to Ottolenghi´s pappardelle with Rose harissa and now we´re talking. I just adore this heavily spiced North African chilli paste .The difference between harissa and rose harissa is the addition of rose petals in the latter bring a special sweetness to the paste and soften the kick of the chilli. That being said, the range in kick between one harissa and the next can be huge. The original Ottolenghi dish has become one of my  staple supper dishes and is vegetarian, but with the addition of a lamb ragu it took it to another level. I made my own rose harissa and served the dish up with the perfect accompaniment of a good old retro garlic bread. Make sure you dice the lamb up into small pieces or even mince it. It reminded me of my dear mother who had a little hand mincer that was permanently clamped on to the end of her kitchen work table. The point of it was not to do as Mrs Lovatt did in Sweeney Todd ( a little home butchery) but to grind up the remains of the former roast for recycling into a shepherd's pie.The perfect comfort food. Here´s how...

Pappardelle with lamb ragu, rose harissa, black olives and capers

serves 2 comfortably

Tablespoon good olive oil
1 medium onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced carrot
sprigs of fennel fronds,(optional)
quantity of left over lamb,diced up finely or minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1½ tbsp rose harissa,good brand like Belazu or home made (recipe below)
200g cherry tomatoes
pitted olives
20g capers
15g flat leaf parsley
250g dried papardelle (or another wide flat pasta I used tagliatelle)
Greek style yoghurt
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper

Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan,for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat.Once hot,add the onion and carrot and fry until both are soft and caramelised (about 10 minutes should do it ) stirring every once in a while.Add the garlic, fennel, if using, the lamb harissa, tomatoes,olives, capers and 1/2 teaspoon salt.Continue to fry for a further 3-4 minutes stirring frequently until the the tomatoes start to break down.Add 125 ml of water and stir through.Once boiling,reduce the heat to medium low,cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.Remove the lid of the pan and continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick,stir in half the parsley and set aside.
Meanwhile, fill a large pan with plenty of salted boiling water and bring to a boil on a high heat.Add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well.
Return the pasta to the pot along with the harissa sauce and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt.Mix together well,then divide between shallow soup plates.Serve hot,with a spoonful of yoghurt and a final sprinkling of parsley.

Serve with garlic bread.

Rose harissa
Makes approximately 350 grams

500 gr red bell peppers
1 to 4 chili peppers (any type), depending on how spicy you want the harissa
5 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons olive oil and more for preservation
4 tablespoons dried or fresh (edible) rose petals, ground
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon rose water

Preheat oven to 120 C (250 F)
Deseed and devein the bell and the chili peppers. Quarter the bell peppers and half the chili
peppers lengthwise.
In a roasting tray place the red bell peppers, chili peppers and garlic. Make sure the skin side of the peppers is facing upwards because you don’t want their flesh to over-dry in the oven. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and place the tray in the warm oven for 1 hour. After one hour, your peppers should look a bit wrinkled. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool.
Once the peppers and the garlic are cool enough to handle, chop them very finely or run them through a food processor. Heat a large deep pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat and place the chopped/processed bell peppers, chili peppers and garlic in the pan. Leave and stir occasionally until there is no more liquid in the pan. We want the mixture to dry and all the water from the peppers to evaporate. It will take about 45 minutes. Don’t cover the pan, otherwise the liquids won’t evaporate. Once there is no more liquid in the pan (except oil), add the rose petals and the rose water and leave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer your harissa in a sterilised jar and leave a bit of room in the jar to top the harissa with olive oil. Olive oil will act as a natural preservative. Close the jar, place the jar in the fridge and keep for up to a month.

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