Sunday, 8 November 2015

Beef Stew and Dumplings

Simple but incredibly tasty, and really only one way to do it properly!  My version of the British classic, it spends a long time in the oven but little time to prep. This is always a crowd pleaser, enjoy.

Ingredients (to feed 8 adults)

1 kg beef shin or skirt (the best quality that you can find)
4 large onions
4 large carrots
500ml stout or dark ale
1 tbsp lard or dripping
3 tbsp plain flour
3 bay leaves
125g suet
250g self raising flour
2 eggs
Small sprigs of sage and thyme
Around 50ml whole milk
Salt and pepper


1) Allow the beef to come to room temperature and cut into large chunks.

2) Heat the lard until smoking in a large casserole and fry the beef hard in batches until crispy and golden, do not stir as this will make it release moisture and stew.

3) Slice the onions and carrots and sweat over a low heat in the same pan for 15 minutes until softened.

4) Add the plain flour and season stir and allow to cook out for 5 minutes.

5) Add the beef, beer and bay leaves, bring to the simmer stirring occasionally and simmer for 12 hours (an oven at around 90C is perfect) with a lid on. Longer won't hurt and you can probably get away with shorter, but at least 3 hours if you're in a rush.

6) Mix together the eggs, suet, self raising flour and enough milk to form a very loose dough, stir in the herbs and season well.

7) Spoon the dumpling mixture onto the top of the stew and replace the lid, allow to steam for around 1 hour back in the oven.

8) Serve with mash and veg or just a big chunk of bread....

Thursday, 25 June 2015

My pork butchery masterclass at the Olive Branch in Clipsham

I was bought this rather intriguing half day course as a gift and I have to say that I really wasn't sure what to expect as I pulled into the 'posh pub' car park in Rutland at 8AM.

I was met with some very welcome coffee and pastries and took a seat at the bar awaiting Sean Hope, the head chef and my tutor for the morning.

As soon as Sean arrived we got off to a promising start, he asked me what my experience level was  and what I wanted to get out of the course.  I discovered that we'd be working with half an orchard reared free range pig sourced from Smithfield and we talked stock making, seasoning (interestingly he eschews pepper for largely salt and herbal vinegars) and cooking.

We walked through to the hallowed turf of the restaurant's meat prep area and I met my half pig, for the next five hours Sean taught me 1:1 how to butcher said carcass into chops, joints, fillet, rack and interesting small seam butchered cuts from the leg (something I always struggle to cook as a large joint).  Throughout this 5 hours Sean not only taught me butchery but we discussed every facet of cooking this beast and others and he shared many anecdotes from his career, finishing with preparing a trotter for the classic 'Pierre Kofmann' dish as we'd be chatting about it earlier.

After an incredible morning I left with my entire half pig butchered as I wanted it and vac packed, a delicious brawn cooked by Sean and a pot of dripping ready rendered, along with some recipe sheets on how to cook my cuts 'Olive Branch' style.

I had an incredible time just picking Sean's brain over various cooking techniques and recipes and learnt a huge amount of butchery in the process, not to mention all of the delicious pork that I brought home!

I would heartily recommend this course to anyone with an interest in food or cookery, Sean's a passionate foodie and more than willing to share his many tricks and tips.  At £75 this 'alternative spa day' as Sean refers to it, is incredible value for money.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Pan fried harissa hake with a chorizo hash

Ingredients for 4

Hake fillet (4)
4 tsp harissa
1/2 large chorizo ring
2 leeks (or 1 onion)
1/2 cabbage
4 large potatoes
Small bunch of chives
1 pickled beetroot
Olive oil, salt and pepper


1) Cut the leeks, potatoes (I leave the skins on) and chorizo into 1 cm dice and sweat in 1 tbsp of olive oil, in a  large lidded pan. Season as and taste as you go.

2) Once the potatoes are soft (usually 15-20 minutes) shred the cabbage and add, and cook for another 5 minutes.

3) Whilst the hash is cooking season and coat the hake with olive oil all over and spread the flesh side with a thin coating of harissa.

4) In a medium hot frying pan, cook the hake skin side down until opaque 3/4 of the way through and then flip and allow to rest in the hot pan on the flesh side.

5) Serve a pile of hash and then place the hake fillet on top, garnish with cubes of pickled beetroot and chopped chives.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

'Moroccan style' casseroled whole chicken

An easy recipe taking the flavours of a classic tagine and putting them into a simple casserole. Great for a last minute dinner party when you're short on time!

Ingredients (to feed 4-6)

1 free range chicken (the best quality that you can afford)
2 onions
2 preserved lemons (available in most supermarkets but if you have the time and inclination you can slit unwaxed lemons, salt them, cover them in juice and store for at least 3 months to make your own)
2 tsp dried ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
Handful of pitted green olives
Handful of finely chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, olive oil.


1) In a large heavy based casserole heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and carefully brown the chicken on all sides before removing from the pan.

2) Thinly slice the onions and sweat until soft and translucent in the olive oil, add the ginger, coriander and the preserved lemons (cut into fine dice) and cook out for 1 minute.

3) Return the chicken to the casserole, add a small glass of water (around 100ml) and season, baring in mind that the preserved lemons can be very salty.  Add the chicken giblets if you're lucky enough to have them.

4) Put a tight fitting lid on the casserole and cook for 1 hour at 150C before adding the olives and parsley (add more water at this stage if the dish appears dry) and cook for a further 1 hour at 120C.

I serve this dish simply with bread but it also works well with rice or couscous.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hake with chorizo and bean stew

This is another simple midweek dish, but it looks posh and can easily do a dinner party too...

Hake's fairly inexpensive in the UK and delicious, any white fish can easily be substituted.

Ingredients (to feed 2)

2 hake (or other white fish) boneless fillets
10 cm piece of chorizo sausage
1 medium onion
100ml dry white wine
10 cherry tomatoes
175g cannelini (or other white) beans, tinned is fine
Handful of purple sprouting broccoli or other green veg of your choice
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1/2 lemon
Small handful of parsley


1) Slice onion thinly and sweat slowly in 1 tbsp good olive oil until soft and sweet, then add the chorizo, diced and allow to soften and give it's oil to the mixture.

2) Add the white wine to the pan and allow the alcohol to evaporate before adding the drained beans and cherry tomatoes.

3) Allow to reduce by half and the tomatoes to soften, add the parsley (finely chopped), taste and season with salt and pepper.

4) Steam or pan fry the green veg and season with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

5) Check the fish fillets for bones. Oil and add nearly fully opaque on the skin side until nearly fully opaque, before turning over and finishing on the flesh side.

6) Season the fish, plate on top of the stew with the green veg and serve with a lemon wedge.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Beetroot salad

This is a very simple salad inspired by attempting to recreate those that I'd tasted in Marrakech, it's simple, tasty and a great way of filling up on super healthy beetroot. The other salad in this picture is my tomato, mint and caper salad (recipe in an earlier post).

Ingredients (as a side for 4 people)

4 medium beetroot
Small bunch of parsley
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika


1) Scrub but don't peel the beetroot, wrap in kitchen foil and bake in an oven at 180C for around 1 hour until soft.

2) Peel the cooked beetroot and chop into rough 1cm dice, allow to cool.

3) Chop the parsley and combine with the beetroot along with all of the other ingredients (olive oil and salt to taste) reserve the paprika to sprinkle on top to make it look pretty!

This salad will keep well in the 'fridge for 24-28 hours but tastes much better at room temperature, so take it out ahead of time.

Get in touch and let me know how you get on!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Scallops and cauliflower

This dish is still a bit of a 'work in progress' but here's the latest incarnation, it looks posh but really is a doddle!...  As ever, feel free to sub in ingredients and make the recipe your own (crispy bacon works particularly well in place of the salami).

Ingredients (to feed 4)

1 medium cauliflower
1 small red onion
l00ml cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon caster sugar
White pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Veg oil
12 king scallops (with or without roe, your choice)
2 cm piece of good salami (I use 'grasmere grunters' as they're local and great!)


1) Prepare a pickling liquor by dissolving the sugar and a teaspoon of salt in the cider vinegar.

2) Chop 1/3 of the cauliflower very finely and dice the onion to the same size, add to liquor and pickle for 12-24 hours before draining.

3) Chop the other half of the cauliflower and add to a saucepan with just enough salted water to barely cover it and a large knob of butter.  Boil for 15-20 minutes until completely soft and then blend with a stick blender until smooth.  Season well with white pepper and lemon juice.

4) Chop the salami and then pulse in a food processor until it forms 'crumbs'.

5) Heat a dry frying pan until smoking hot and oil the scallops before adding.  Depending on size cook for 1-2 minutes each side until well caramelised and still just translucent in the centre.  Don't overcook!

6) To serve, spoon a circle of puree onto a warm plate and then place 3 scallops around the edge and a small pile of the drained pickle in the centre.  Season the scallops and then sprinkle the salami crumbs over the top.