If you go to the dictionary, under hard-working you will find Nick's name and a little engraving of a man toiling at a computer with two screens. When a man works so ceaselessly to bring home the bacon, he really deserves something great in return.
Of course, he also makes it his business to read every letter, on every page, of every document that our self-build bureaucracy-fest spews relentlessly out - even when his eyes are tired and he'd like to stop thinking about it for a while.
When that man is the sort of company director who always tries to deliver 100% to every client, because they all matter - not just the huge housing corporations. He deserves to shrug off his business shoes, roll up his sleeves and tuck into something that I have taken care over too.
One of Nick's favourite meals is Moussaka. I don't make it often because it's rare to find English Aubergines and it is rather more complicated than throwing a piece of fish in the steamer! But when I saw some English aubergines for sale in Waitrose and then spied some shanks at the meat counter, it was a done deal.
This dish is infinitely better made the long way with shanks and not mince. The added flavour and texture imparted by bones and cartilage and juicy chunks of tender meat, leave that supermarket wodge of tomato-y mince and bechmel sauce standing!
Lamb Shank Moussaka (SCD) feeds 6
2 large Lamb Shoulder Shanks (approx 500g)
200g Diced Stewing Lamb
400g tin Chopped Italian Plum Tomatoes (check label if SCD)
2 sticks Celery (diced)
1 medium Red Onion (finely chopped)
1/2 a Large Leek (the white and pale green part, washed and finely chopped)
4 cloves Garlic (chopped)
2 tsp Dried Oregano (or 4-5 fresh)
4 Fresh Bay Leaves (or 2 dried)
2 tsp Sherry Vinegar (or Balsamic, but check label if SCD)
1 tsp Goose or Duck Fat or Olive Oil
2-3 pinches Sea Salt
Fresh Black Pepper
Optional extras - a large handful of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and/or 4 chopped Sun-dried Tomatoes in Oil
Heat goose fat/olive oil a large pan and brown all sides of the shanks. Set aside and brown the stewing lamb in the same pan. Set this aside too.
Into the same pan throw diced celery and finely chopped onion and leek and one pinch of salt. Sweat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and then add garlic and herbs. Sweat for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the mix is translucent and starting to smell sweet.
Add browned stewing lamb and tomatoes and nestle the shanks in there too. Fill the tomato tin half full with water and add this to the pot. Add a good pinch of salt and a few good grinds of pepper (be lavish with the pepper). Bring to the boil and then cover with a close fitting lid and turn down to simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the lamb is melting off the bone.
Cool and refrigerate overnight.
When you're ready to make the moussaka first salt the aubergine as described below and while it is sitting, get on with the sauce.
Scrape as much fat off the top of the lamb mix as possible and pick the meat from the lamb shanks - discarding as much of the fat as is practical. Some fat is fine - after all, this is a Greek winter dish!
Chop the lamb roughly and add it to the pan with the optional roasted/dried tomatoes. Heat until bubbling and then let the mixture simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated, but not until it's dry - you're after a thick meaty sauce, not tomato paste!
Check for seasoning. Add lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper etc to taste - remembering that the aubergine slices will be salted. Leave to cool.
Slice 2 fat aubergines (three modest ones - don't be stingy!) lengthways into 1cm thick slabs. Sprinkle them lightly on both sides with fine sea salt and lay on a double thickness of paper kitchen roll for about an hour.
After an hour, the surface will be beaded with moisture. Blot this with fresh kitchen paper and smear both sides of the slices with some olive oil to coat.
Heat a ridged griddle pan and griddle the slices both sides until nice black lines have appeared. Alternatively, grill (broil?) both sides under a hot grill until cooked through.
I use a baking tray 10"x 10" (25cm x 25cm) but you could go for something a little bigger and end up with a slightly shallower moussaka if you need to.
oil the bottom of your tray with a little olive oil and arrange half the aubergine slices in a single layer. Top with half the lamb mixture. Repeat the aubergine and top with the rest of the lamb - smooth the top.
200ml Organic Whole Milk Live Yogurt (or Greek yogurt for extra richness) or SCD yogurt
125ml Organic Whole Milk (for SCD just use more yogurt)
3 Large Organic Eggs
Pinch Sea Salt
125g Cheddar Cheese (or 200g feta for a more authentic tang)
Set the oven to 180C (170C if you know your oven to be fierce)
Whisk everything except the cheese until smooth (stir in crumbled feta if using)and pour over the moussaka. Sprinkle grated cheese (leave this out if using feta) evenly over and bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is firm, puffed up and patched with golden brown (it won't be brown if you've used feta, just golden).
The top will sink when you take it out of the oven, but this is just fine. Serve with a crisp leafy salad or some wilted greens spiked with lemon.