Category Archives: Lamb

Baked Lamb and Potato Croquettes, Indian/Sri Lankan Style, or the Best Korokke Ever

I still hesitate if I should start my post with the Japanese croquettes (korokke), Sri Lankan “lamb rolls” or South-Indian seasoning… To make the explanations as simple as possible, the lamb rolls I saw in  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook looked to me like European croquettes, which in turn made me think of Japanese korokke and when I finally decided to make my own modified and simplified version of these Sri Lankan snacks, I realised my  improvised seasoning was inspired by certain “village-style” South-Indian recipes… All this sounds like a crazy triple fusion, but the first bite of these croquettes was so obvious, so good, so comforting…. I couldn’t believe my tastebuds! I don’t know if it was the presence of lamb, the refreshingly hot fresh green chilli, the mixture of spices… or the combination of all, but these were by far the best croquettes of my life! In short, if you like lamb, potatoes and green chilli, these soft spicy balls with crisp crust will become your favourite comfort food.

As I have mentioned above, the Lamb Rolls recipe that inspired me comes from the recently bought  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook by Prakash N Sivanathan &  Niranja M Ellawa, a beautifully illustrated collection of fantastic recipes from this barely known fascinating culinary heritage (I’ve already tested four or five and all proved exceptionally good). As I have mentioned above, I didn’t stick to the recipe at all, changed and reduced the number of spices, skipped the croquette “skins” and, as always, simplified the procedure as much as I could, so check  Sri Lanka. The Cookbook if you want to make genuine Lamb Rolls (these cannot even bear this name in my opinion… and the seasoning brings them probably closer to South Indian dishes than Sri Lankan cuisine).

If you want to make first the famous Japanese korokke, here’s my favourite recipe:

Japanese croquettes (korokke コロッケ)

TIPS: This recipe is not the quickest one, but potato boiling, meat frying and bread crumb browning processes can be made well in advance. You can cook the potatoes in advance and then reheat in a microwave just before forming balls. You can prepare the meat mixture, fry it and then refrigerate for several days or even freeze. The breadcrumbs can be toasted even a week before!

These croquettes can be reheated in a microwave and even though they are best freshly made, I think the microwaved version is still delicious.

I have baked these croquettes because I try to slim down dishes as long as they stay delicious, but you can of course deep-fry them.

PANKO is the Japanese version of breadcrumbs, but it looks like crisp flakes, absorbs less oil when deep-fried and stays crunchier than any Western form of breadcrumbs. For me it’s simply the best! Luckily you can buy panko on internet (Amazon sells it) and in many Asian, not only Japanese grocery shops. If you cannot get Japanese panko, use normal dry breadcrumbs, but when toasting them, heat some oil first in the pan.

I have used a mixture of ground lamb and beef, but you can use lamb only (or beef or pork or half beef half pork, if you don’t like lamb; for me the lamb’s presence is crucial though).

As much as I love fresh coriander, I must say apart from looking nice, it didn’t change the taste so much, so skip it if you don’t have it or don’t like it particularly.

These croquettes taste great with one or several of those: mayonnaise (yes!!! but good quality one), chilli oil, chilli oil+mayonnaise (why not?), tzatziki or any yogurt-based sauce, sriracha…

Preparation: about 2 hours

Ingredients (makes about 12-13 croquettes; serves three-four people if served with a salad or a vegetable side-dish):

1/2 kg (about 1,1 lb) ground lamb and beef mixture or lamb only

750 g (about 1.6 lb) potatoes (I prefer here waxy, not floury potatoes)

1 big onion, roughly cut into several pieces

4-5 fresh medium hot green chillies (I loved jalapeños here)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon medium-hot powdered chilli (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

3 big garlic cloves

3 cm grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (I used black, but white is ok too)

salt, pepper

1 big egg or 2 small

about 300 ml container filled with panko or dry breadcrumbs

10 tablespoons wheat flour

(chopped fresh coriander leaves-optional, combined with the toasted breadcrumbs)

First toast the panko/breadcrumbs.

Heat an empty big pan at medium heat and spread a layer of panko (if you use breadcrumbs, heat one tablespoon oil first; panko already contains some fat so it’s not necessary).

Watch it closely without stirring and when it starts changing colour, stir it, so that it becomes a more or less uniform golden (I’ve never managed a uniform colour) and so that it doesn’t burn.

Depending on the size of your pan you might need two batches. (The layer of panko should be very thin, maximum 1/2 cm).

Place the onion, the garlic, the ginger and the ground spices (not the mustard seeds!) in a food processor and mix them (a small baby food processor is perfect here).

Put the meat into a big bowl and mix well with spices (the best is using your hand).

Put into the fridge.

In the meantime cook the potatoes until soft (without peeling them).

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and wait until they are cool enough to be handled.

Take the meat out of the fridge.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a big pan.

Throw the mustard seeds into the pan and fry at low heat until they start popping.

Now add the meat and, stirring, fry it until it’s well cooked, separating well the lumps with a fork.

Put the meat into a big bowl.

Peel the potatoes and mash them roughly with a fork or with a potato masher (I think they taste better when not too smooth), season with salt.

Combine the potatoes and the meat.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Prepare three plates: one with beaten egg, one with flour and one with panko (or breadcrumbs).

Shape flattish round patties (mine had a 6 cm diameter), coat them first in flour, then in the egg and then in panko.

Place the balls on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes until they start changing colour and are well heated inside.

Seven-Hour Lamb Roast with Garlic

sevenhl3pMy rudimentary photography equipment requires natural light, so, just like every year, I had waited for long months until days became long enough to feature on my blog also the dishes I eat exclusively for dinner. I was particularly impatient to write about this seven-hour lamb roast, one of the most exciting discoveries not only of the past winter, but of my long cooking experience. The arrival of spring means young lamb’s season and its particularly tender delicate meat made this dish unsurprisingly superior to all the previous winter versions I already considered extraordinary, so now I’m even more eager to share it with you.

I kept on reading about seven-hour lamb roast for many years, but somehow I was put off the long cooking process and the limitation to those weekend days when I was certain to stay at home. Meanwhile, I never managed to get my lamb roasts right: they ended up too dry and slightly tough at the same time. I don’t remember why, but one Sunday I simply decided to give the slow method a go. I added my usual lamb seasoning, briefly browned the meat and then put it into the oven for the whole day. The result went well beyond all my expectations: I had never tasted so amazingly tender lamb! Moreover, it’s so effortless… Now I cannot imagine roasting it in any other way. While I am still fond of briefly grilled rare cutlets, when it comes to roasts, the seven-hour lamb is the incontestable winner.

TIPS: You can use here any lamb cut, as long as it’s not too lean. My favourite are those with bones (shoulder or leg) which largely improve the flavours. Lamb is quite fatty, so I must admit I cut off most of the visible outer fat and, in spite of this, the result is juicy and tender.

Slowly cooked lamb “melts” much more than a quick roast, so you need to buy more meat. Moreover, if you buy meat with bone for the first time, it’s difficult to say how many portions you will obtain. It depends on the size of the bone (I often buy half a leg and if it’s the lower part, it often has more bone…), on the amount of fat, which will partly melt and partly be left aside (see above), on the side dishes (if you serve potatoes and not a salad, obviously you’ll eat much less…), on the starters… and most of all on your appetite! It’s always better to ask your butcher or even safer, to buy more and then reheat the rest another day (it’s delicious warmed and then eaten in a sandwich with chilli sauce/chilli jam – and pickles). 

I always roast lamb in a casserole (aka Dutch oven) which is also adapted to stovetop cooking, but if you don’t have it, brown the meat in a pan and then transfer to a baking dish with a lid.

Most people swear by cooking lamb with white wine, but I have noticed that both red and white wine are good, though I wouldn’t advise very tannic red wine with young lamb’s delicate meat. The wine has to be drinkable, not corked, etc., but keep a good bottle of wine to drink afterwards. (I only drink red wine with this hearty dish).

Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the casserole. The “sauce” shouldn’t be as thick as with a normal roast (in my opinion, it’s best very “thin”…).

This is a highly garlicky and fiery version, so if you are a moderate garlic eater and aren’t used to hot flavours, cut down on both.

Preparation: 7 hours

Ingredients (serves three – four, but the portions depend on many things, see the TIPS above):

1,3-1,4 kg (2.8-3 lbs) lamb shoulder or leg, both with bone (if you buy a cut without bones, 1 kg should be enough, but it depends on many things, see the TIPS above); if the cut is covered with a thick layer of fat, count even 1,5 kg or more

1-2 heads of garlic

a couple of dried red chillies, deseeded

2 glasses (2×100 ml) dry wine (white or red)

rosemary, thyme, powdered garlic, salt, powdered chilli

300 ml (about 10 oz) chicken/vegetable stock or water

I always start by cutting off a big part of the outer meat fat, but you can keep it of course.

Peel the garlic cloves. Take five cloves and cut them into 4-5 thin strips lengthwise. Leave the remaining cloves whole.

Make thin cuts in your roast (lengthwise) and stuff them with garlic strips (do this after each cut, so that you remember well where you did them).

Rub the meat with the spices and leave to reach room temperature.

Heat the oven to 120°C.

Heat the oil in the casserole you will use in the oven.

Brown briefly the meat on both sides at high heat (it’s mainly for aesthetic reasons… otherwise the meat will be greyish).

Pour the wine and quickly put the casserole aside.

Add more spices (I always add some more thyme, rosemary and chilli), some more salt and water or stock.

Throw the remaining garlic cloves into the casserole and the dried chillies.

Cover and leave in the oven for 7 hours.

Check every hour if there is still enough liquid.

After six hours, flip the meat over. Flip it back just before serving.

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

What do you do with leftover roast? For many years I used to put it into salads, sandwiches or stir-fries and then one day I simply wrapped them in rice paper with some vegetables and glass noodles, making very unorthodox version of spring rolls. Since then this is the first thing I think about when I take out the leftover roast from the fridge. Spring rolls with leftover meat proved not only easy, quick and healthy, but most of all extremely versatile and convenient. They can be made with any vegetable found in the fridge, while rice paper and glass noodles can be stocked for long months or even years. If you have ever made spring rolls you probably know that they can be served for any meal of the day, as a starter, a snack or a main dish. They are also an excellent choice for a picnic, for packed lunch at work and I often prepare them for long car journeys instead of traditional sandwiches. (If you are not the one who drives, you can even dip them in a bowl of sauce!). Last but not least, they can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge for several days (as long as they are tightly wrapped in cling film).

The rolls can be served with any sauce of your choice, but my absolute favourite now is a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar. It’s hot and slightly acid thank to the vinegar.

Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

2 big slices of roast chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb…

6-8 (22 cm or 8 3/4 in) rice paper sheets

1 small individual package of glass noodles (40 g)

2 big carrots

mint leaves

(roast sesame seeds)

Dipping sauce:

5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or less if using standard soy sauce)
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Cover the noodles with boiling water. Put aside for 15 minutes.

In the meantime cut up the carrots into matchsticks and cut the roast slices into rectangular pieces.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl.

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.

As soon as the sheet softens ( after about ten seconds), put it onto a chopping board.

Rinse the noodles.

Place horizontally a stack of the carrot and roast pieces, a bit of the noodles and the mint leaves close the the rice paper edge (the
one which is closest to you).

Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like them and roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.



Lamb Masala

Usually when the lamb season starts, I start enjoying it by grilling lamb chops. However, since it has been quite cold for over a week I decided to make an Indian curry. Even though I have been preparing Indian curries for years, I am not sure if the sources I take them from are not too “westernised”… This time I decided to look for more “genuine” sounding recipes and finally chose to adapt the Mutton Masala from the recently discovered Hooked on Heat blog. All I can say is I was not disappointed. The word “masala” means roughly “mixture”; on one hand it can be a mixture of spices (dried or forming a paste used in curries) and, on the other, a name of a dish and this one tasted like nothing I have ever had at home or in any Indian restaurant. It was perfect and confirmed what I have always suspected: a good Indian dish is not necessarily full of fat! I will certainly come back to Hooked on Heat for new recipes!

Since I have bad experience with whole spices in sauces and hate biting into a clove by accident, I crushed peppercorns, used powdered cinnamon and cloves. Cumin is the only spice I left whole. I have also changed a bit the ingredients’ proportions and didn’t have any coriander to sprinkle on the dish (the mint branch served merely as a decoration). However I am sure it tastes perfect with fresh coriander.

I used lamb instead of mutton. Maybe this is the reason I had to let the dish simmer for 3 hours; the meat softened very slowly…

Preparation: 3 hours

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 kg lamb cut into 2 – 3 cm cubes

1 big onion, sliced

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon grated/crushed fresh ginger

1 tablespoon tomato paste

chopped fresh chilies (I used four chilies, since they were not very hot)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon (the recipe calls for 1 cinnamon stick)

2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns (the recipe calls for whole peppercorns)

2 teaspoons ground cloves (or whole 7-8 cloves as in the original recipe)

1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric

1 tablespoon powdered coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder (or more)


(chopped fresh coriander leaves)

Fry the cumin seeds in oil for one minute.

Add the onion and brown it a bit.

Add the meat, the fresh chillies, the garlic and the ginger.

Let it fry for a couple of minutes, stirring.

Add the chili powder, the turmeric, the powdered coriander and the salt and stir well.

Finally, when the meat starts to brown,  add the remaining ingredients and 500 ml water.

Cover and let it simmer until the meat is tender (the recipe says 30-35 minutes, but my meat became tender only after 3 hours). Add water if necessary.

Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander.