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.

Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream

I have been struggling with new fennel recipes recently but I am particularly pleased with this new concoction of Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream.

 

Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts

2 heads fennel

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

Small bunch thyme, tied into a bundle with a piece of string

1 tsp. ground fennel seeds

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

150ml white wine

150mls double cream

Season the chicken on both sides. In a heavy bottomed pan, brown the chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides. Remove any stalks and tough outer leaves from the fennel. Cut in half through the root and then into wedges. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the fennel. Season and cook slowly until golden brown all over. Add more oil if necessary. Add the fennel seeds, the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute more and then add the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce for a minute or so. Add the cream and the chicken back to the pan with any juices. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken regularly, until it is cooked to your liking. The juices should run clear. Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce until the right consistency. Squeeze the juices from the thyme bundle. Check the seasoning and serve poured over the chicken. Serve with boiled new potatoes.

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

When I was making pizza dough this week, I made up an extra batch for Focaccia. Focaccia is quite simply an Italian bread, similar to a deep-pan pizza that, no matter the topping, should involve a generous amount of Olive Oil.  This acts to produce a golden brown, crispy crust that is to die for.  It has to be fresh out of the oven.  Don’t ever believe that it is worth buying a Focaccia from a supermarket shelf.  It will inevitably be a complete contradiction of what it is meant to be – slightly stale, dry and dreary.  You have to make it yourself. And it will be anything but!

I love this time of year when all the alliums are out and so I topped my Focaccia with caramelised red onions, which I just cooked slowly with some extra virgin olive oil, a great way of using up a glut of onions.

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

½ batch of pizza dough

6 red onions

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Malden sea salt

Rosemary

Lightly oil a large metal frying pan or a metal dish with olive oil. Press in the pizza dough. Allow to prove for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your onions really thin. Use a food processor if you have one. Add to a heavy bottomed saucepan with lots of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly groung black pepper. Very finely chop your rosemary and add that too. Cook over a medium heat until almost dissolved. Keep an eye on them so they do not catch. Cook them for as long as you have got. Check for seasoning. Preheat your oven to 200C. Add your onion mixture all over the dough, but not quite at the edges. Sprinkle with Malden sea salt. Bake neat the bottom of the oven to ensure that the top gets cooked in the same time as the bottom. Bake until deep-golden brown. Remove the Focaccia from the tin to allow the bottom to cool. Eat warm.

Mushroom Pizza

The sun is out and you want to be using the BBQ but it is sometimes hard to think up vegetarian dishes and also keep the kids content at the same time. I served up this Mushroom Pizza with a big salad on the side and for once everyone was happy. You will need a BBQ with a lid though, but the additional heat that a BBQ can go (around 400C) makes the pizza that much better and as close as I am ever going to get to owning a wood-fired pizza oven.

Mushroom Pizza

Mushrooms, thinly sliced

Mozarella

Pastata (I use Pizza Express)

Pizza dough

Fresh thyme

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garlic oil (made with peeled garlic cloves whizzed up with extra virgin olive oil)

Truffle oil (optional)

A pizza stone really helps when cooking pizza on the BBQ or in the oven as the pizza has a hot base to go onto and the bottom crisps up beautifully, but if you do not have one, preheat the BBQ or oven (as hot as possible) with a metal tray in side and transfer the pizza straight on to that.

Roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible. Place the disk onto a floured flat baking sheet. Shake the sheet to ensure the pizza is not going to stick. Add your toppings, tomato first and then mushrooms. Season lightly and add the mozzarella, fresh thyme and drizzle with garlic oil or truffle oil if using. With a quick decisive motion, transfer the pizza directly on to you hot surface. Quickly close the oven or BBQ to avoid heat escaping. Cook until bubbling and golden brown.

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Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

I can’t avoid it any more. The dreaded Kol Rabi has turned up in my box this week. I have to admit, I am not a great fan. It’s the smell that gets to me, of old turnips, not the taste which is really unobtrusive and the texture is crunchy and present. So I set about finding the perfect dressing for a Kol Rabi slaw. I wanted something with a bit of an attitude as Jamie Oliver says, something with a bit of guts to camouflage the smell and transform my slaw into something special. After scouring through hundreds of slaw dressings I found this one, which although I was most dubious of due to the strange mix of ingredients – balsamic vinegar with ginger and coriander! And also lime and honey, which always reminds me of cough sweets! But the reviews were glowing. Apparently it comes from TGI Fridays. Unfortunately, that I have ever been to one, so I can’t testify to it being true or not. I made a few changes, including quartering the amount of honey, but I have to say, it made a pretty good Kol Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing. Just ready for the BBQ season!

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

1 Kohl Rabi, peeled

3-4 carrots, peeled

Dressing

1 fresh chilli, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

Large knob of fresh ginger root, scraped

2 limes, juiced

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Small bunch of coriander

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz the whole lot of dressing ingredients up with a hand blender. Adjust seasoning. Coarsely grate the Kohl Rabi and carrot. A food processor is good for this, but otherwise use a grater. There should be about an even amount of each. Dress and serve.

Glazed Turnips

When I see turnips, I think of working at Chez Panisse. For the first month, I was on the veg section and it was my job to cook to order each and every glazed spring vegetables which accompanied the main course. The selection of baby spring vegetables was a thing for beauty. We did not ever get to see vegetables that came anywhere close to these ones in California. Baby beetroot in a rainbow of colours, tiny fresh peas and beans, purple and yellow baby carrots, deep red spring onions and these pretty pink topped turnips. It was my job to prep all these vegetables with utmost care and cook them to perfection. Each vegetable was added at a different time to the pan, to allow for different cooking times. It did all seem a bit of a fuss, about something that seemed so easy, but it was there that I learnt that sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do really well and I have to admit, the vegetables were absolutely delicious.

So, I was a little apprehensive about cooking the beautiful purple tinged turnips that turned up in my box this week. Did I still have the touch – 25 years later, to cook a perfect turnip?

Glazed Turnips

Bunch of smallish turnips

Large pinch of salt

Large pinch of sugar

Large knob of butter.

To prep the turnips, trim the stalks short but leave attached. With a small paring knife, scrape around the leaves to remove any dirt or grit. Rinse. Peel the turnip downwards to the bottom, from where the purple tinging ends and gives way to white. Cut into even sized pieces through the stalk – either halves, quarters, sixths or eights depending on size. Place in a heavy bottomed saucepan which allows them to roughly just cover the bottom of the pan. Nearly cover with water and add the salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat so that they boil away gently for about 5-10 minutes, depending on their size. A sharp knife should just insert easily. By this time to water should have nearly boiled away. Add the butter and reduce to a glaze. This should take about a minute. Taste and check for seasoning. Eat straight away.

Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Fresh Goat’s Cheese

We all get a bit stuck in our comfort zone and when scaning through new recipes, I must admit I have a tendency to stick to the familiar, so I nearly bypassed this Ottolenghi recipe I found when looking for a new way of using up chard. For a start it was called Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Young Cheese, and I knew for sure that I did not have any “young cheese” lying around in my fridge, nor was I very likely to be able to get hold of any very easily in the culinary void of Wimbledon. Secondly, I wasn’t sure about the mint. I am always a little wary of cooking mint. I little too much and it can end up tasting like toothpaste. I wasn’t sure about the quantities of the ingredients – follow the net weights not the descriptions. 8 large chard leaves turned out to be a whole bag of chard from Riverford. And finally I didn’t have any courgette flowers – too early in the year for my allotment. But I decided to make it anyway and I am really pleased that I did. It is absolutely delicious, even without the courgette flowers. For the young cheese, I used a Abergavenny goat’s cheese that I found in Sainsbury’s.

Swiss chard and herb tart with young cheese

Adapted from Yotem Ottolenghi. Serves four as a main course.

½ small red onion, thinly sliced (85g net)

3 celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced (220g net)

8 large chard leaves, roughly chopped, white stalks discarded (175g net)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tbsp torn mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tsp chopped sage

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

75g feta, crumbled

50g pecorino, finely grated

15g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

350g all-butter puff pastry, I used ready rolled

100g brocciu cheese (fresh cheese) or ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese

6 Courgette flowers, cut in half length-ways (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and black pepper

Place a large frying pan on medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, chard, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil. Cook, stirring continuously, for 15 minutes or until the greens are wilted and the celery has softened completely. Remove from the heat and stir through the feta, pecorino, pine nuts, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a hearty grind of black pepper. Leave aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Roll the pastry, if necessary to a 3mm thick sheet and cut it into a circle, approximately 30cm in diameter. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Spread the filling out on the pastry leaving a 3 centimetre edge all the way around. Dot the filling with large chunks of brocciu, ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese.  Top with courgette flowers, if using. Bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure, decorative lip over the edge of the tart. Alternatively press with the end of a fork. Brush the pastry with egg and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bake the tart in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and brush with a little olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Greek Salad

I am over run with herbs at the moment. Ever since setting up my little gardening business, literally making “little gardens”, the bestselling box by far, has been our Summer Herb Garden Box – a little herb box packed with your favourite herbs for cooking, for herbal teas or barbequing. Being a kitchen table business, or in this case a garden table business, my back garden is overflowing with herbs waiting to be planted into our hand-made wooden boxes and delivered.

It is great having herbs on hand growing in your back garden, or even on a window ledge, because you never know when you are going to need them. Like in this fabulous Greek Salad. This is one of my favourite salads because it is so jam-packed with summer. The fresh mint and ripe tomatoes, the oregano and the cool crunchy cucumber, with salty olives and feta, it makes me long to be in Greece, in a little Taverna over-looking the deep blue sea. Still, there are many worse places to be than my back garden surrounded by herbs.

Greek Salad

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, quartered length ways, de-seeded and diced

6 ripe tomatoes cut into bite sizes chunks -8ths or 10ths, depending on size

Large handful of pitted Greek black olives

225g feta, crumbled (I used Wooton White)

1 handful of shelled cooked broad beans

½ bunch of mint, shredded (roll the leaves into a cigar shape and cut through as finely as you can)

For the dressing

Juice of half a lemon

Extra-virgin olive Oil

Fresh chopped oregano or dried

Make the dressing by putting the lemon juice in a large bowl. Add a large pinch or two of salt. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring vigorously all the time. Keep tasting until you have a perfect mix of lemon, salt and oil. Add the sliced onion and marinade whilst you chop the rest of the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, broad beans, mint and feta and carefully stir through. Check for seasoning.

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Home-made V8

I have been desperate to make my own tomato juice ever since I got a juicer so I was waiting to have a glut of tomatoes. Obviously I had to wait until winter was over to have any decent tomatoes at all, but then this week I seemed to have somehow collected three punnets. So without hesitation I chucked one punnet into my juicer. Absolutely nothing came out and when I peered inside, I seemed to have made little more than some tomato froth. Turns out you really have to cook the tomatoes to get the sort of juice I had in mind. There is a raw version but it is just not the same. So you simmer your tomatoes for about 25 minutes and push them through a sieve. No juicer required. However, if like me you wanted to use your juicer, there are all sorts of favours you can add to make your tomato juice a bit different. Mine ended up tasting a bit more like V8, but I didn’t mind, because I love the stuff. I added a little beetroot, which is great as it gives it a better colour, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and a couple of carrots. Obviously salt, onion, pepper, sugar, Worcester sauce or tabasco can help add a kick, but that is up to you.

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Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

I hate to admit it but we eat rather a lot of sausages in our family. They are cheap and please everyone, which is always a bonus. I serve them up alongside all manner of vegetables and it is a great use up of whatever veg I have in the fridge, but I was I was thrilled to come up with this new way of serving them up and still managing to please the family.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

2 heads fennel, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

8 good quality sausages or about 400g sausage meat

100mls white wine

1 tin plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

200g pasta, I used Conchiglie

Freshy grated Parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the fennel with some olive oil. When beginning to colour, add the sausage meat. Squeeze it from the casings and break it up really well with a wooden spoon. You don’t want any large lumps. Turn up the heat and fry really well. It is nice if it begins to brown. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Scape the bottom to release any stuck on sausage. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with a little water and add that too. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and let the sauce gently bubble away whilst you cook your pasta. Check seasoning before serving. Top with Parmesan.