Week 78: Navarin D’Agneau Printanier (Spring Lamb Stew)

My lover told me to make something special for Easter.  I wanted to make rabbit in honour of the Easter bunny, but that was banned.  The kill joy.


Week 73: The Mighty Moussaka

Normally when I attempt a recipe I halve it so I have a sane amount of food for me and him.  I’m not sure why I didn’t do it this time… This week, I have mainly eaten moussaka.


Week 55: Rapid Ragu

I remember being a schoolboy back in the 90s and pasta sauces were becoming a thing.  My Mum (known as the poisoner), decided that we should have pasta with everything. Some nights it was with fish fingers (yep), some particularly terrible nights it was pasta and quorn escalopes (no sauce), and then she discovered Ragu.

I’ve been avoiding this recipe for the last year because to my poor scarred mind Ragu is slimey lukewarm tomatoish sauce over some slightly wet pasta. And to be honest, I would probably still be avoiding it if my lover hadn’t told me to make it. I still wasn’t everso keen on the idea until my lover said that Gino D’acampo was on the radio and said that you don’t need to eat Ragu with pasta, and it should be really meaty – so I was sold! Hurrah!

To make this for four you will need: garlic oil, 125g pancetta (cubed), 500g lamb mince, 75g caramelised onions, 80ml Marsala (I used some leftover white wine), 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 75g green lentils, and 50g grated Red Leicester cheese.  Nigella recommends using caramelised onions from a jar, but I couldn’t find it and had to make my own by finely chopping an onion and slowly frying it with butter and a bit of sugar.


I’m going to track down a jar of these onions before I make it again, and also see if the lentils come in a jar like capers – just to cut down on waste.


Firstly heat 2 tablespoons of garlic oil in a medium saucepan (with lid) and fry the pancetta until it starts to go crispy, then add the lamb (break it up as you stir it around while it browns)


Add the caramelised onions,  the Marsala, the tin of tomatoes, the lentils, and 125ml of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes then serve with grated cheese.


It was really tasty – good thing too cos half went in the freezer – next time I make it I’ll simmer it for slightly longer or at a slightly higher temperature so there’s less juice, but all in all I’d say Nigella’s Rapid Ragu was a success. Hurrah!



Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)

nigella express

Week 52: Shepherd’s Pie

Week 52! That’s a year! Actually a year and a bit but I think I missed a week or two somewhere along the line… But that’s some sort of blogaversary right?

I was going to cook something exciting and grandiose and frivolous and impressive… Lobster Thermador or sommat equally as flashy.  And then I needed to use some beans up, which usually means have a pie round at ours. So I decided to make a pie… A luxury pie magnificent enough to pay fitting tribute to a whole year of new recipes, maybe containing blackbirds. So I broached the idea of pie to my lover and his face lit up, he clasped his hands together and said “Oo yay Shepherd’s Pie!” And that was that. I’ll tackle the Blackbird Thermidor Luxury Pie another week.

There was only one book I could possibly reach for for a pie like this: The Good Granny Cookbook. Unfortunately the recipe was in the leftovers section so there was a certain amount of swapping and improvising as I’ve not really had leftovers since the great bread and butter pudding incident.

To make this for four you will need a large onion, about 450g of leftover lamb (I don’t imagine the size of meal that would yeald a pound of leftover lamb, unless you had a load of unexpected vegetarians for dinner), 2 carrots, a garlic clove, some olive oil, half a glass of red wine, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, leftover gravy (my sister can drink the stuff through a straw, so I don’t think I’ve ever seen leftover gravy), stock, 450g potatoes, 30g butter, and milk.

If you’re using actual left over meat you’ll need to cut off any gristle or fat and shove it in the food processor with the peeled and chopped onion and pulse it into a sort of course oniony mince. I bought ready minced mince, chopped the onion up really finely then sort mushed it all together… it was ok.


Finely dice the carrots and gently sauté them in a small pan with the garlic cube (crushed) and some of the olive oil.  Start the potatoes boiling.


Grease your pie dish and turn the oven on to 200c.  Brown the oniony mince in a large frying pan with some more olive oil.  Add the wine, a tablespoon of ketchup, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce, the leftover gravy and ‘enough stock to stop the meat drying out’.  Like I said; leftover gravy isn’t a thing in my life, so I thought I’d make some instant. As I looked through the cupboards for some Bisto my lover said “this isn’t a gravy household” as he swished out to smoke… so I had to improvise and make gravy from cornflour and Jacobs Creek.


I bunged the carrots and garlic in with the meat, and simmered it for about 15 minutes. I mashed the potatoes with a small knob of butter and some milk.  It came out freakishly creamy which worried me because I thought it might somehow mix in with the gravy; but it was also good because I could pipe it if I ever found a Fanny Craddock recipe.  Pour the mince and sauce into the greased pie dish and then spread the mash over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.



It wasn’t the special-est thing I ever made, but it was strangely satisfying – the first comfort meal of the autumn. I’ll definitely make it again, I probably won’t make the recipe exactly as written above, but everyone has their own version of shepherd’s pie, right? Pie and veg, perfect for a Sunday evening – and if you find yourself with a spare pound of lamb and a load of gravy; I could not recommend this recipe enough… Tuck in!




Good Granny Cookbook by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (Short Books 2007 ISBN 978 1 906021 10 8)

good granny

Week 28: New Season’s Lamb with Crushed Peas

I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and I’ve never been able to use it.  Gordon Ramsey’s Fast Food – it’s even written in an angry font…

This year Easter has crept up on me, but I’d had my eye on this recipe for a while; waiting for this season’s lamb.  In New Zealand that season is autumn.

I’ve only ever done lamb twice before, first was lamb shanks, the second time was the lamb lollipops a few weeks ago ( so I was intrigued by the idea of poaching it.  I’d mastered eggs, how hard could a bit of sheep be?

Pretty hard actually.

To cook this for four you will need: 4 rumps of lamb (about 140g each), 800ml chicken stock, thyme, a bay leaf, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 300g fresh peas, olive oil, chopped oregano, salt and pepper.  As usual I was just cooking for me and him so halved the amount of lamb, peas and olive oil; but I used the same quantities for the stock.

First put the lamb in a cooking pot/pan in the stock with the peppercorns, coriander, bay leaf or thyme.  Listen up ‘cos this is where I went wrong.   Bring it just to the boil and turn it immediately down and simmer for 8 minutes.  If you take your eye off it –  like I did, and accidentally let it boil for longer then the meat will turn white and go rubbery.

A big draw to this recipe wasn’t just being able to swear like a trooper, I got to use my whizzy new processor while cussing in the kitchen.  Boon!  Blanch/thaw the peas (blanch the fresh, thaw the frozen) and put them in the blender.  Pulse the peas to crush them slightly, not too much.

Fish the lamb out of the stock and place on a warm plate to rest for 10 minutes.  I need a warmer plate, because mine was pretty much cold by the time I came to eat it, even wrapped in tin foil.

Put the peas in a pan with some olive oil and the chopped oregano and warm it through, then spoon the peas onto the plates.  Gordon suggests spooning them into a ring so you can pretend to be eating somewhere posh… so I whipped out a pastry cutter and gave it a bash:

Chop the lamb, sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil, rude words, and more oregano and serve.

Would I make it again? Yes I would, just to see if I could get it right.  I’d have to make it for myself, my lover was put off by the cold, rubbery, white meat and told me I could do the peas again but not the rest.


Gordon Ramsey’s Fast Food, by Gordon Ramsey (Quadrille Publishing 2007, ISBN 978 1844004539)

Week 26: Merzuez with Halloumi and Flame-Roasted Peppers

Here is a recipe that takes longer to say the title than it does to prepare.

This is a very simple recipe from Nigella Express, the page before my favourite Curry in a Hurry (from Week 8 To make this for four you will need 8 Merguez (or spicy sausages 340g-ish) 250g block halloumi cheese, 220g jarred flame-roasted peppers, 1 tablespoon of garlic oil.

I had  bit of a mission trying to find the ingredients; it was Monday and my usual butcher was shut.  Off to the big Sainsbury’s I went like a fool.  Sainsbury’s in Chiswick don’t sell Merguez sausages, but they sold spicy pork sausages.  I picked up a pack and went to the butcher’s counter and asked if they were like Merguez – a simple enough question – and the butcher looked at the pack and said:

“I don’t know sir, I’m not a sausage expert”

Off I went to my back-up butcher (who opens when mine is shut) and they had proper lamb Merguez, although they were quite small so I bought six… can’t have enough sausage haha!  I also had a little trouble finding garlic oil – after coming up blank in Sainsbury’s, I googled how to make my own and up popped Nigella’s website which told me that making your own garlic infused Olive Oil was actually a Botulism risk.  So I used olive oil instead.

Enough waffle!  To make this dish start off by turning your oven on to 220c/gas 7 (alter if you have a fan oven) and dust off your low-sided roasting tin.  Put the sausages in the tin:

Cut up the halloumi into 5mm slices and put them in the pan, then cut up the peppers and throw them in too.

Drizzle with oil (I only put a little on, the peppers are pretty oily) and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

While its cooking I would recommend preparing some sort of rocketty salad, or come cous cous to soak up the oil.  I forgot, but my friend made it with salad and really liked it.

When its done in the oven the halloumi should have coloured in places – my ovens pretty fierce so it burned a little, but I think that added to the flavour!

I like this, and I really liked how simple it was to make, but my lover isn’t keen on halloumi so I’m not allowed to make it again!  Can’t win them all.


Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)

Week 17: Lamb Lollipops

I did it again, I reached for the 15 Minute Meals book.  Like last time there was a lot of mess, a massive panic, and the need to scrub my entire kitchen.

I’ve had my eye on this recipe since I got the book, and it took a bit of work gathering all the ingredients, but I finally got everything together.  To feed four the recipe calls for: 300g basmati rice, 8 cloves, 40g red lentils, 300g peas, 8 lamb cutlets, 1 tbsp garam masala, 4 spring onions, a red chilli, a thumb sized bit of ginger, 4 jarred red peppers, 1 tsp runny honey, splash balsamic vinegar, 1 tin coconut milk, and 2 tbsp Patak’s korma paste.

I feel just like a Blue Peter presenter when I spread all the ingredients out, but I found with the Lamb Meatballs (Week 11 ) that for the timings to work, everything needs to be ready to throw in.  Of course, what I should have done was made sure the chilli, ginger, peppers and spring onions were chopped before I started – and so should you 😉

Firstly, put two frying pans on the heat and then put the rice in a saucepan with two mugs full of boiling water and the cloves.  Add a pinch of salt and put the lid on the pan.  Rub the shanks with salt, pepper, and the garam masala, bash them flat and put them in one of the frying pans with a tablespoon of olive oil.

In the other frying pan stir together the coconut milk, korma paste and the juice of half a lemon (pre-juice the lemon or you’ll read that and panic like I did) bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Mix the lentils in with the rice then two or three minutes later (the time that Jamie thinks you can chop up the spring onions, chilli, ginger and peppers) toss the spring onions, chilli, ginger and peppers in with the lamb, then stir the peas into the rice.

By this time it should all be pretty much cooked… having said that I had managed to pretty much boil the rice onto the pan because I’m a slow chopper.  Fluff up the rice and – depending on how you want to serve it – plate it up or put it in a serving bowl, the same goes for the curry sauce.

Toss the lamb with the honey and a splash of balsamic and serve.  Jamie recommended serving with a scatter of coriander leaves, scrunched up poppadoms and natural fat free yoghurt… but I ignored him.

The rice was delicious, I’ve never used a lentil without glitter and glue before, but I think they really added to the flavour – I’ll make the rice again with other meals.

The bit I would change is the cut of meat used.  Cutlets are really tricky to eat, there was a lot of rice on the floor by the time I’d finished and I ended up eating loads of the fat and still ended up leaving loads stuck to be bones.  Also, my lover hates meat on the bone and eating fat, so maybe cutlets wasn’t the best choice for dinner!

I would definitely make it again, just not with cutlets.


Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver (Penguin 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15780-7)


Week 13: Lozza’s Lamb Biryani

Oof… Happy New Year Y’all!

Welcome to the first weekly installment of New Recipe Night – from now on, every Friday!

It also marks the first recipe made from the first cookery book I’ve bought in six months – only because it was on offer when I bought my mum one for Christmas.  It was rude not to buy it really.  The book is Lorraine Pascale’s Fast Fresh and Easy food:

Lorraine Pascale

To serve four, the recipe uses Vegetable Oil, 5 Cardamom Pods, 2 tsp Garam Masala, 2 tsp Ground Tumeric, 1tsp Ground Cumin, 1 tsp Chilli Powder, a bunch of Spring Onions, 500g Lamb Chump Steak, 350g Basmati Rice, a tin of Coconut Milk, 100g Sundried Tomatoes, 50g Raisins and 25g Toasted Flaked Almonds.

I halved the quantities to make it for two people.  Splitting it worked really well, with the added bonus that I can make it the day after Nigella’s Curry in a Hurry (see week 8: using the left-over coconut milk.  However, this is one recipe I wouldn’t make then freeze – just because I’m a bit gun-shy about freezing rice, but it’s really quick to make so it’s OK.

Unfortunately, with it being the last Saturday before Christmas when I made it, the butcher didn’t have lamb so I used beef instead.

It went together really easily and I was surprised just how straight forward the recipe was, especially after the Jamie Oliver recipe last week!

To start, heat a bit of oil in a pan, slam the cardamom pods open and put them in a pan with all the spices for 3 or 4 minutes.  While this is cooks finely slice the spring onions, and cut the lamb into bite-size pieces (although my lovely butcher did this for me)

Turn the heat up and lob in the lamb and onions, with a little more oil, and brown the meat for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the rice, coconut milk and 100ml of water.  Fit the lid, bring it up to the boil and then turn it down to a very gentle simmer and leave it for the amount of time the rice takes to cook (it says it on the packet)

When its done, you take off the lid and it should look like this (preferably better than this) and it will be just like Christmas!

While its cooking cut up the sundried tomatoes, some coriander (or mint) and stir them into the biryani when the rice is done, along with the raisins, and heat for a couple of minutes.

Season it with some salt and pepper, maybe stir in a knob of butter if you want your biryani to be extra creamy (I didn’t) and plate it up.  Artfully sprinke some more coriander/mint and the toasted flaked almonds over it and serve it to admiring diners (who will shower you with compliments and maybe wash up)

biryani 4

The only thing I would change if I used beef again would be the cut of beef.  When I told the butcher I was doing biryani he selected a cut of stewing beef, and as this recipe is really quick to cook the beef was pretty chewy.  Delicious, but chewy.

Lorraine Pascale’s instructions are much clearer than mine, so I reckon this book is a must have for your kitchen (and its always really cheap in Smiths’)

Fast Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins 2012 ISBN: 978-0-00-793482-9)

Available here: or on 2 for £10/3 for £12.50 at WHSmith.

Week 11: Lamb Meatballs, Chop Salad & Harissa Yoghurt

It took ages to work out what to say about this recipe.  It’s not that it wasn’t very nice, I just don’t think I did it right.

Lamb Meatballs, Chop Salad & Harissa Yoghurt is from Jamie’s 15 minute meals, by Jamie Oliver.  I bought this book in the spring after seeing 10 minutes of one program which made me think it looked a good idea for work day dinners.

jamie 15min

I would have chosen to make a different meal, but I was limited in the recipes I could choose.  The reason for this is simple,  the recipes are achievable in 15 minutes because all the ingredients have to be blitzed in one of the many different types of mixer/blender/tazer/microwave/Cern Collider that I just don’t own.

To make this recipe to serve four you will need:  400g lamb mince, garam masala, olive oil, pinch saffron, 1 fresh red chilli, 2 spring onions, half bunch coriander, 2 cloves garlic, 400g tin chickpeas, 350g passata, half cucumber, 2 little gem lettuces, bunch radishes, 2 tomatoes, 1 lemon, 1 heaped tsp harissa, 4 heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt, 8 wholemeal tortillas and an orange.

I am going to start by slightly deviating from the recipe, because with the benefit of hindsight I know that when I got this wrong it was the defining moment that this recipe went wrong.  Start off by putting the pinch of saffron into a cup, and just cover it with boiling water.  (Don’t fill the cup like I did, making some sort of weird saffron-y tea which took forever to boil down)

Put a frying pan on a medium heat.  In a bowl mix the mince with salt, pepper and a heaped teaspoon of garam masala.  Wet your hands and divide this mixture into four and roll each half into four balls.  Put them into the frying pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

To make the sauce finely slice the chilli, spring onions and coriander stalks – if you’re a slow chopper like me do this before you start doing the meatballs – put them in a pan with a table spoon of olive oil, and crush in a peeled clove of garlic (if you don’t have a garlic crusher, panic at this point and chop a clove up as quickly and finely as you can) fry for 40 seconds and add the saffron with the water, the passata and the drained chickpeas (make sure you drain them before you start rather than fling chickpeas all around the kitchen).  Cover and bring to the boil.

In a small dish swirl the harissa through the yoghurt.  Roughly chop the salad, lob it on a plate (or a serving board, if you have one – I don’t) and drizzle it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Microwave your tortillas.  If like me you don’t have a microwave it will say how to warm them in the oven on the packet)

If the sauce has stuck (mine didn’t) loosen it with a bit of kettle water and pour it into the meatball pan, and serve with a scattering of coriander leaves and orange wedges (if you can be arsed).

When I made this – as I mentioned above –  my main problem was that the sauce took forever to boil down and was a bit too like soup to have in a tortilla… with hindsight I can say that it was because I put too much water in with the saffron.

I thought I’d make the sauce and meatballs for 4 as per the recipe, and then freeze 8 balls and half the sauce, but we were still really hungry after we’d had half – so we ended up eating it all.  The sauce was really tasty and I will make it again, but first I need to sit and stare at the recipe and think how I could better serve it up – maybe more lamb and some sort of couscous/bulgar wheat?

When I work it out, I’ll report back!


Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver (Penguin 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15780-7)