Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Last week it was all summer fruits and ice-cream and salads and then the weather changed. I was almost tempted to turn the heating on – in June – as the temperatures plummeted and the rain lashed at the windows. Forget the ice-cream, it was back to stew weather. But what stew do you eat in June. A Navarin of lamb of course packet with lots of tender, young spring vegetables and lots of vibrant fresh mint. So delicious you could forget about the awful weather!

Navarin of Lamb with Broad Beans, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

The vegetables are flexible here – use what you have. Tender new seasons carrots, little spring onion heads or French beans all work well.

Serves: 4

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions or leeks, chopped

A couple of sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

450 g (1 lb) lean boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes

150 ml (5 fl oz) red wine

450 ml (15 fl oz) lamb or chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 or 2bay leaves

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

Baby new potatoes, scrubbed (cut into bite sized pieces if large)

Small turnips, scrubbed and quartered

Bunch of asparagus, cut into even sized pieces about ½ cm

Large handful of shelled fresh peas

Large handful of shelled broad beans

Fresh mint

Heat some oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the seasoned lamb, in batches so as not to over crowd the pan. Brown evenly on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Turn down the heat of the pan and add the chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Scrape the browned bits of lamb of the bottom of the saucepan and stir them into the veg. Add the cubes of lamb back to the pan with the wine, rosemary, bay leaf and stock

Bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Let it gently bubble away for 1 hour.

Meanwhile boil the broad beans for three minutes and then plunge them into cold water. Shell.

Add the turnips and potatoes to the stew and stir. Cover the casserole again and continue cooking for 30–45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Next add the peas and asparagus and cook until just done. Finally add the broad beans and mint. Check seasoning and serve.

Nutty Superfood Salad

It is so much easier to eat healthily in the Summer I find. I actually crave salad, whereas in the Winter I crave stodge. Occasionally I pick up lunch on my way home from work, before I pick up the kids. Unfortunately, in my line of work, your job is to cook other people lunch, not cook or eat your own! Marks and Spencer is probably best for ready-made salads. Although I know that Waitrose also do a range. Most of the ones I have tried, may sound nice, but are usually disgusting. They always seem to try just a bit too hard, chucking in any combination of trendy ingredients – black quinoa seeds, Camargue red rice, cranberries, amaranth leaf, black barley –  and the dressings are always really nasty – too much japenese rice vinegar and Yuzu!.

The other day I bought a selection of two different salads, both which unannounced contained seaweed!  Surely if you are going to add seaweed to your salad, you would mention it in the name, not just hidden in a long list of ingredients which are far too small to read with human eyes. Well my eyes anyway. I couldn’t work out what this slimy, sort off-fishy taste was in my salad. Narrowed it down to the Wakame which was eventually mentioned in the list of 30 ingredients, now that I had been forced to put my reading glasses on. I even like seaweed, on say nori rolls, where it is meant to be, but this was disgusting and both pots of salad ended up in the bin. However, I am pleased to say, after much trial and error, I finally found a ready-made salad that I really liked. Marks and Spencer Nutty Superfood Salad. Featuring green beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, black-eyed beans and quinoa plus peanuts, almonds and pistachios, it is absolutely packed with delicious ingredients. It comes two ways, either on its own or served alongside a dollop of cannellini bean hummus and with a soy and ginger.

It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it is super easy. Make up a large batch and dress it as required. What is so fab about making it yourself, is you don’t have to skimp on your favourite expensive ingredients, which inevitably the supermarkets always do!

Nutty Superfood Salad 1

Nutty Superfood Salad

To serve 4

2 Broccoli florets, shredded

1 Handful of peas

100g French beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large carrot, finely chopped

100g spelt (wheatberries, barley or farro) you can buy ready cooked

100g soya beans

200g cooked black eye beans (or another type of bean – haricot, cannallini)

50g quinoa (You can buy ready cooked)

1 tsp. poppy seeds

1 handful pumpkin seeds

1 handful peanuts

1 handful pistachios

1 handful almonds

A little freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, mix together:

2 tbsp. soy

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp sesame

1 tsp honey

Juice ½ lime

½ tsp. chilli paste

Put three pans of water on to boil. In the first add the quinoa. Cook 12-15 minutes until all the quinoa has gone squiggly. Drain well. In the second add the farro, cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well. In the third pan, add a pinch of salt and then the green beans. When cooked, add the shredded broccoli, bring back to the boil and add the peas and soya beans. Bring back to the boil and drain. Drain well.

Combine the salad ingredients.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over each portion or alternatively, toss through the entire lot in a large bowl.

Nutty Superfood Salad

Summer Minestrone (Minestrone Estivo)

First broad beans of the year turned up in my box this week. It is always so exciting to get the first of the seasons, like meeting a long lost friend. I realized these were the first broad beans of the year, which I was shelling when I discovered that I could no longer shell in my usual way. (I am a confirmed and devout double podder.) My finger, which I trapped in a door back in last November, had subsequently lost its nail and although it has almost nearly regrown, it was still not quite long enough for broad bean shelling. As a result, I have had to adapt and learn to do it left handed.

There is no better homage to new season’s vegetables than The River Cafe’s Summer Minestrone from their fantastic first book. It is not strictly a Minestrone at all as it contains no dried beans, pasta or bacon and I was full of apprehension when I came to make it again, as the recipe seemed so simple and I had not tasted since I was working there, about 20 years ago.  I remembered it being the most stunning soup and I was anxious that it was not going to live up to its memory. I felt it wasn’t quite “room temperature soup” weather yet so I served mine warmish. I needn’t had worried – it was absolutely delicious. I even managed to find it still on The River Cafe’s Summer Menu on their website, and at £12.50 a bowl, it damn well should be!

You can make your own pesto or buy a good quality one. Riverford stock an organic one, but I have included a recipe, just in case you happen to find yourself overwhelmed by a glut of basil.

Summer Minestrone (Minestrone Estivo)

Summer Minestrone (Minestrone Estivo)

The River Cafe Cook Book

This Recipe Serves 10

I halved the recipe and had enough for 6. Also, as I was making it for a Vegetarian, I just used water instead of chicken stock and it was just as delicious. As I said, I like double podding my broad beans, so I blanched them first and shelled them again, before adding right at the end to keep their super spring green colour.

2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
1 small head celery, chopped
3 small red onions, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
900g thin asparagus trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces using only tips and tender parts
450g young green beans ,trimmed and chopped
450g peas, shelled
900g broad beans, shelled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1L chicken stock
1/2 bunch basil finely chopped (or marjoram or mint)
300ml double cream
150g Parmesan freshly grated
120ml pesto

In a heavy sauce pan fry the garlic celery and onion gently in the olive oil until soft about 10 minutes.

Divide all other vegetables between two bowls. Add half to the onion mixture and cook stirring to coat with oil for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with chicken stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the herbs, cream, Parmesan and pesto. Stir to cool at room temperature,  then serve.

Herb Box


½ a clove of garlic, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and chopped
A handful of pine nuts, very lightly toasted
A good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
A small squeeze of lemon juice

Pound the garlic with a little pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor. Add a bit more garlic if you like, but I usually stick to ½ a clove. Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again. Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan. Stir gently and add olive oil – you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an good consistency.

Season to taste, then add most of the remaining cheese. Pour in some more oil and taste again. Keep adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency. You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end but it’s not essential. Try it with and without and see which you prefer.

Broad beand shelled

Flat Green Beans in Sesame Dressing (Ingen no goma-ae)

I have never seen Riverford’s flat beans anywhere else. Looking more like a runner bean it however resembles more a French bean in texture, being less fibrous and sting-less and is very popular with my kids.

I first got this recipe from a Japanese cookbook in Wimbledon library. It is meant to contain Dashi which is a little tricky to find, so I usually leave it out. The freshly toasted sesame paste is pleasant change to the more common tahini and along with the salty soy it is a really versatile dressing which the kids love. What is not to like – plenty of salt and sugar, but remember that both sesame seeds and miso are super good for you, both listed as two of the worlds healthiest foods.  It works well with runner beans and french beans as well and is very popular in Japan with spinach too.

Ingen no goma-ae – Flat Beans in Sesame Dressing

Ingen no goma-ae – Flat Beans in Sesame Dressing
Works very well with spinach too
Serves 2
200g flat beans or French beans, cut into 1 cms pieces
a pinch of salt
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon miso paste – brown rice or sweet white
1 tablespoon soy sauce
A few extra sesame seeds for garnish

Toast the sesame seeds. The best way to do this is spread out on a sheet of greaseproof paper in an oven at aroun180C. Keep an eye on them because they can burn easily. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. They should be golden brown, sometimes they make a popping sound and they should clump together as they release their natural oils. Grind in a clean coffee grinder. Add to the other ingredients and stir to make a smooth paste. Cook the beans in a pan of salted boiling water for a few minutes until tender. Drain and dress with the dressing. Sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds and serve.

Toasted Sesame Seeds

Salade Niçoise

Finally for this week, the weather managed to stay bright just long enough for me to make one of my favourite quick lunches, Salade Niçoise. I was inspired by the lovely French beans and tomatoes around at the moment but you could try it with runner beans instead. I am however an avid believer that a Salad Niçoise simply has to contain tuna and anchovies to be permitted to bear the name. I made it with a fresh piece of grilled tuna but you can use tinned if you prefer. The anchovies in my recipe are only used to season the dressing but by all means add some extra if you are inclined. You can get delicious marinated anchovies or Boquerones if you shop around.

This recipe is from Alastair Little who is credited as being the inventor of Modern British cooking, which is what inspired the entire revolution in food that began back in early 90s. His fantastic book “Keep it Simple” is now out of print but you can still pick up second hand copies if you try. Alistair always amazed me by his inclusion of tomato ketchup in this dressing, but it really works!

Salad Nicoise

Salade Niçoise
Serves 2
2 fresh tuna steaks
8 new potatoes
4 tomatoes, cut in eighths
Small handful of French beans, topped
½ small red onion, very finely sliced
4 eggs, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water, halved
A handful of good pitted black olives
Small handful of capers
For the dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice ½ lemon
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Boil the eggs for 6-8 minutes, depending whether you prefer a soft or harder yolk. Drain and refresh.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 12-15 minutes until tender, then drain. Cut into halves or quarters depending on size
Boil or steam the beans for 5 minutes. Refresh in cold water, then drain.
Make the dressing: Whiz everything together with a hand blender. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
Peel the eggs, cut into halves.
Heat a ridged griddle pan on the hob or a hot barbecue for 5 minutes. Cook the tuna steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your fish.

French Beans