Travel & Life Digest

Autumn Sundays are made for this!

What ever happened to Sunday Roast...and all the trimmings?...
And to kicking orange and brown leaves around the park in your wellies? 
And to friends and family sitting around the table while the oven huffs and puffs, in full swing?
And to red, velvety beetroot that stains hands and faces? 
And to endless conversations about this, that and the other?
Having grown up in a Greek family, Sunday lunch has always been a sacred tradition.
When I was very young and my grandparents were still alive, we'd have at least fifteen people around the table, on any given Sunday. The setting was outdoors most of the time, under two trees that provided shade. Tables were joint together, chairs fetched from all rooms around the house and the shed, if needed. My grandma's biggest fear was to have mismatched crockery and glassware - if only she knew how "trendy" it is now she'd giggle and shake her head.
My grandma would be putting a roast in the oven first thing  on Sunday morning, along with countless potatoes and my mama would be whipping up all kinds of sweet treats, like millefeuille and her famous double chocolate mousse. Not for the fainthearted!
I love that Sunday roast has strong roots in the UK too, although nowadays it seems to materialise mainly in pubs rather than at home. And while cooking shows dedicate hours to Sunday Roast ....everybody works hard, everybody is busy, everybody is stressed; who's got time to tidy up the house and spend the whole of Sunday morning in the kitchen? All perfectly valid comments!

Here's the thing: you can make a roast without much fuss and you are allowed to invite around family and friends, or truthfully, anyone who won't focus on your messy house but on the welcoming hug, once you open the front door.

There is nothing better than entering a good-smelling house, with cooking fragrances finding their way tot he front door - it triggers the happiness censors in your brain. A bit of heartfelt hospitality goes a long way, to make someone's Sunday!
 Caramelised Beetroot Tart
- 3 Filo pastry sheets
- 600gr Cooked Beetroot
- 1 big red onion (or 2 small ones)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
- 3 tablespoon melted butter & 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 100gr Feta cheese, crumbled
- Dried oregano
A word about cooked beetroot: in the UK it' easy to find pre-cooked beetroot in the supermarket;  if you are using fresh beetroots then boil them in water for 30 minutes and rub the skin off afterwards, it's easier than peeling them. Remember they stain!
Slice the onions and cooked beetroots down the middle and then slice again vertically to end up with thin half-moon shape slices.

Coat the frying pan with half of the butter-olive oil mixture.
Grate the three cloves of garlic straight into the frying pan.
Layer the onions on top of the garlic, salt and pepper and cover with the beetroot slices.
Sprinkle over the beetroot the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and dried oregano.
Cover the frying pan with a lid and cook in medium heat for about 20 minutes.
Don't keep opening the lid, you want the steam to cook down the onions and help release all of the natural beetroot juices that will help caramelise the onions.

After fifteen minutes if the onions seem soft enough give them a stir carefully and cook without the lid for another 5 minutes, you don't want to mash everything together.
Switch the heat off and let the beetroots and onion cool down.

In the meanwhile use a brush to coat the inside of a tart pan with the butter-olive oil mixture. Layer three filo sheets unevenly around the pan, allowing for the edges to hang over the sides, for a rustic feel.
If your pan is bigger, or the filo sheets quite small you might want to use 4 or 5 sheets.
Butter each filo sheet as you are layering with the remaining butter-olive oil mixture.

Once the caramelised beetroot is cool enough, carefully spoon the beetroot/onions mixture over the layered filo sheets in your tart pan. Make sure it's all evenly spread out and then crumble some feta on top and finish off with another sprinkle of dried oregano.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes, serve immediately!
My friends confessed that although they cook a lot at home, they don't cook lamb however, because they're worried it might smell and have this strong milky flavour.
They actually made these amazing chocolate puddings for dessert last Sunday, surely they are not going to let a little lamb scare them off, right? Right!
Well, here's a fool-proof, easy way to deal with roast lamb. It all depends on the piece of cut you'll choose and its' size, as well as your oven. This time, I actually found two smaller pieces of lamb shoulder, which cooked much faster.
Roast Shoulder of Lamb
- 1 Lamb Shoulder (on the bone), or 2 smaller ones for faster cooking
- Olive Oil
- Salt
- Pepper
- Garlic Cloves

Wash the lamb under running water and place it in a roasting tray. It's better to use a roasting tray proportionate to the size of the lamb, don't give it too much space. You want all the heat to stay concentrated and avoid the juices drying out because you'll use them for your gravy later.

Rub olive oil over the lamb and with a knife make 4-5 holes on each side. They need to accommodate a garlic clove each, so adjust the size accordingly.
Push the garlic cloves in all of the incisions you just made. 
Salt and pepper each side generously and cover the baking tray with foil, tightly.

Cook the lamb for 2 hours in 180C oven. Don't keep uncovering it to check it, it will be just fine! The smaller pieces will take 1.5 hours in the oven.

After the 2 hours of baking, uncover the piece of lamb and pop it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, for the skin to brown and get slightly crispy.
Switch the oven off, move the lamb to a serving dish and let it rest covered in foil for about 10 minutes. 

Use the baking tray juices to make  the gravy with some red wine and a bay leaf. 

You have yourself a Sunday roast!

Lamb shoulder, slow cooked, with garlic

The lamb is great for when you have a lot of people around because once you put it in the oven covered, you forget about it for the next 1.5 hours!

On Sunday, we actually had the Caramelised Beetroot Tart along with some drinks during this time, then switched the oven off, wet out to Burnham Beeches for a long walk and came back to give the lamb its' final 20 minutes in the oven. It was soft and fell off the bone, can't go wrong with this!

Have you discovered Burnham Beeches yet?
Robin Hood, Goldfinger and Harry Potter were all filmed there!
It's an old woodland, with paths cutting through the dense Beech trees. It's very diverse, walk down the Lord Mayor's Drive and on your left there is a pond-ecosystem with ducks, frogs and all kinds of birds. 

Sometimes you can even spot white cows in a distance, between trees and bushes, but they never stay for you to have a second friends said it was the ghost of Burnham Beeches....time to go home to our roast I think! x

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