The Cold Shoulder

Another cookery post. I’ve been looking for ways to make the Sunday roast more exciting. We’ve tried not having a roast at all. We’ve tried whole and partial ducks, pork, beef and chicken. We’ve slow cooked, pot roasted and normal roasted.

Today, I tried something a bit different. My husband bought a bone-in shoulder of lamb and a bag of salad. He hates salad, so it was clearly aimed at me. But I turned that into the basis of a delicious meal for the whole family for Sunday lunch, but the title of this post is a clue – it takes rather a long time to cook at such a low temperature.

Slow-cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Salsa Verde

15 minutes to prepare, 4.5 hours cooking

1 bone-in shoulder of lamb (ask for one that serves about 4 people)
1 bag watercress and rocket salad
1 teaspoon chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice + set of a lemon if you are using fresh lemon
1 teaspoon child flakes
(3 anchovies, finely chopped)

Preheat oven to 200c. Snip the lamb all over with scissors to make tiny pockets in the meat and fat.
Put the mint and half the garlic into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Chop the salad down to chopped herb size. Put one third into the bowl, season and stir. Rub all over the lamb.
Put the lamb in the oven, ideally in a baking tray that has a rack in the bottom.
After 15-20 minutes, turn down to 110c. I know it seems low. Cook for four hours. (If you are brave try at 85c for six hours – not tried it myself, but a friends with a meat thermometer swears by it! This is why I called this the cold shoulder.)
Remove from oven, cover in foil and rest for 10-15 minutes. Watch out, the bone will be hot to touch.

Salsa Verde traditionally contains anchovies. If, like me, you are not an anchovy fan, this works just as well without. Mix the rest of the olive oil, the rest of the chopped up salad bag, the rest of the garlic, all the lemon juice (and zest if you have it), the chilli flakes, and a LOT of salt and black pepper in a jar. Lid on, shake this and put it in the fridge for use later. It comes out a gorgeous bright green colour.

I served the lamb in a couple of different ways, some chunks, some shredded. I added roasted butternut squash cubes (or mini roast potatoes for the kids), with steamed carrots and asparagus. And red wine. Absolutely delicious. The salsa verde really cuts through the fat too.

Cake with no eggs – apple and cinnamon


 Kids home ill today, which always ends up meaning baking. But without any warning of illness, I don’t have the right ingredients in. I don’t even have enough flour and butter, and no eggs at all…
But they’re ill and clamouring for cake.
Ok then. Let’s see if we can make a fabulous cake with only random ingredients…
And we can! This is an awesome, fruity, light cake. I was amazed!

Store-cupboard Apple and Cinnamon Cake

5 heaped dessert spoons of soft brown sugar
5 heaped dessert spoons self raising flour
3 heaped dessert spoons polenta
2 heaped dessert spoons natural fibre boost powder (Matt Dawson branded)
4 kids’ little fromage frais, apricot flavour
2 apples, finely diced
1or 2 dessert spoons cinnamon
8 dessert spoons olive oil
2 dessert spoons lemon juice

I mixed all the above together, and baked for 1 hour at 190c.

I mixed the last of my icing sugar and butter together with some more lemon juice to make a toupee of butter cream icing on the top. It’d be great to kid myself that with the polenta, fibre powder and fruit this approximated to healthy, but it’s cake at the end of the day, and a lovely one too. After all, if you can’t have comfort food when you are ill…

The Anything Cupcake Mix

My toddler has a new hobby: baking. I discovered recently that he bakes once a week at nursery – he has usually eaten his biscuit or cake before he gets home so I have rarely had the chance to see the results – but he came home this week saying that he had made a red nose and digging in his bag revealed a smiley face cookie with icing and a glace cherry.

So we’ve been cooking at home too. He corrected my crumble the other day (I’d made it with flour and butter and his help but just as I was about to use it he said “no Mummy, you need to put sugar in it now then rub it some more”) and told me the timing (“it goes in d’oven from 11 to 12” – in actual fact it took about 50 minutes).

So we’ve started baking cakes. It’s great fun when he has friends round, and an easy and tasty way of spending some time together in the afternoons. To date, we’ve made peaches and cream cupcakes, and adapted the recipe to be banana and toffee, triple chocolate, summer fruits, and vanilla and raisin. Baked at 180 degrees in a fan oven for 15 minutes (for mini cake cases) or 25 minutes (in the standard size silicone cupcake cases) these are speedy and fun.

Here’s the basics:
150g sugar
150g butter
Beat these together with an electric whisk.
Beat in 1 egg.
Add 150g self-raising flour – I’ve never yet found a need to sift it.
Plus a pinch of baking powder.
Beat in 2 further eggs.
Add in your flavours. I recommend big chunks of chopped banana and bits of dark chocolate (put half a bar into a plastic bag, seal the top and bash with a rolling pin to break into suitable chunks.
Stir in so these are distributed evenly.
Spoon into cake cases – I’ve found it fills 12 larger and 12 smaller cake cases usually, but sometimes a few fewer.
Cook as described above.
These timings will give a slightly soft and springy centre.
Cool on a rack, after peeling off the silicone cases.
These can be eaten just as they are, or with a buttercream cupcake icing (butter beaten into icing sugar and cocoa powder) piled on top, or a frosting (water or and appropriate fruit sauce beaten into the icing sugar and drizzled over).


Leftovers for lunch- twisty turkey lattice

So, leftover turkey.

It’s a pain, isn’t it?  Cold and sliced for a couple of days, hot and stirfried or chopped up into pesto for pasta.  Curried, too, if you can stand the thought.  It get’s hugely tedious. I know the real answer is buy a smaller bird, but no one ever does, do they?

Anyway, thought we were going to be snowed in today, so this is the leftovers recipe I’ve just made.  And rather yummy it was too. As it was made with leftovers, the measurements are somewhat approximate.

Twisty Turkey Pie

Left over turkey, shredded
3 slices left over bacon, chopped
third of a box of passata
third of a tube of concentrated tomato puree
3 chopped carrots
3 lumps of frozen spinach
1 glass white wine
5 chesnut mushrooms, sliced
1 pack frozen puff pastry, defrosted
olive oil
salt, dried thyme, lemon juice

Firstly shred as much turkey as you can stand.  My food processor’s still in the box from moving house, so I actually grated mine.  Very odd feeling, doing that, but worked brilliantly. Turkey is very low fat, so add a slug of olive oil and start frying, gently.
Add the bacon, and the tomato puree.  Boil a kettle and cover the three spinach lumps in a measuring jug to defrost.
Add the wine and passata to the turkey and stir, remember you’re still sort of frying it. Then add the spinach and water.
Chop carrots and slice mushrooms, add to the mix. Season with the salt, thyme and lemon juice.

You’ll end up with a kind of pale orange mixture, studded with veg and flecks of spinach.

Butter a pie dish, or if like me you’ve not actually unpacked those yet, a springform cake tin.  Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board, and put it into the tin, lining all sides with the pastry.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit patchworky, as long as it’s sealed.  Load in the filling.
You will probably not have enough pastry to make a full pie top from the leftover pastry.  Cut the remaining pastry into long strips.
Twist these and attach them across the top of the pie, like a lattice.
Butter or milk around the edges to glue them to the edges of the pie pastry, and across the lattices to make them nice and shiny in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 190c, then check every 10 after that to see if it’s done yet.  Mine took 50 minutes, but it will depend on the quantity of filling.

Best use for leftover turkey I’ve found yet…

(NB that’s not my pie – can’t get my photo to upload – so that one’s from and may actually be filled with rhubarb… but it does nicely illustrate the twisty lattices)

Feeling autumnal, feeding autumnal

(not my pork, but a very similar looking one from Asda magazine!)

I promised to share a recipe that we made up the other week and which turned out to be totally delicious and perfect for autumn.

Pork and Cider Casserole

4 pork neck steaks
1 330ml bottle decent cider
pork/ chicken/ vegetable stock cube
1  bag chantenay carrots, topped and tailed
8 portabellini mushrooms, sliced
2 eating apples, cubed or in neat slices
4 sprigs rosemary
salt, pepper, dried thyme
olive oil

(one chopped onion and two crushed garlic cloves)
(crème fraiche)

We started off by coating the steaks in flour, and browning them in the olive oil.  Put them into a big lidded pan for the oven (we used a Le Creuset).
Once that’s done, really you should cook the onion and garlic in the same pan until the onions are golden after which they should go in the same oven pan as the pork.
But we forgot to add them all together and the casserole was still delicious.

Next, we added half the carrots, all the mushroom and apple to the pan, frying these a bit to release the flavours,  then tipped those into the same pan.  Seasoning with the salt, pepper and thyme, we topped up the pan with cider so that pork and bits were completely covered, adding the rosemary sprigs to the top.
We dissolved a stock cube in a little bit of boiling water and stirred in the resulting goop.
This all went into the oven at 180c for an hour and a half.  You could take the lid off for the last half hour to reduce the sauce into something nice and sticky.
You could stir in crème fraiche at the last minute if you like.

We served ours with jacket potatoes, and more carrots (the other half bag) – yum.  Just the thing now the nights are drawing in…

Basil’s grown up cooking for kids

(image from Omnivorous bear who read the same Observer article)

Another installment in my efforts to teach my toddler to cook.  We do this when it is raining. Today, we made packet Postman Pat cakes.  No information needed.

But we also made basil biscuits.

This is amazingly easy.

50g butter
50g sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 handfuls chopped basil leaves
(I used thai basil as it happened to be at hand, but greek or standard is perfectly good too).

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Toddler can do this, slowly.
Blend in the flour and baking powder.
Knead in the bowl, or on a board, roll into a sausage.  Put back in bowl, roll in the chopped basil leaves, keep rolling around to mix the basil leaves in evenly.
Make the dough into a 2cm wide sausage. Cut into 1cm slices.
Put on a greased baking tray, and bake in the oven at 180c for 12 minutes.

Now, these could happily be changed around – parmesan in place of the sugar, lemon juice and peel in the sweet biscuit mix,or tomato puree or sundried tomatoes in place of the sugar.
Toddler’s not completely sure about them, but has said he’ll try again after his nap…

10 random things about #myEurope

9 May is Europe Day.  No one in the UK is really likely to know or care, so (as part of the bloggingportal #myeurope blogging carnival) I want to take a few short minutes to celebrate some of the things that I love in and around Europe…

1) Europe is my continent, the place where no matter what the language spoken in the place I visit, however different it is from home in terms of weather and building style, there a sense of familiarity (working out which bit of Bratislava I’d want to live in, where I’d set up my B&B in France, whether I could take that job in Brussels etc. etc.) and a sense of interconnectedness between my history and those of the people living in the other countries near mine.  And yes I am aware that the common history is largely that of fighting each other in different combinations… so my Europe is partly about preventing future conflicts.

2) Oh wow, European food.  Yummy things.  Including but not exclusively sachertorte, Belgian chocolates, pastichio, bacon, queso de membrillo, French cheese (all of it), feta, beer, goulash, Parma ham, battered courgette flowers, crayfish, clafoutis/financier, asparagus, curries, British Beef with yorkshire pudding… I defy anyone to live in Belgium for 3 years without gaining what British diplomats call “the Brussels stone”.

3)  There’s something beautiful about countries choosing to work together for a common future, not something being imposed by an outside force.  Forgiving what has happened in the past, but not forgetting, and trying not to allow the memories that need to respected become a quest for future vengence. 
For example, Riga has an amazing museum of occupation, heartbreaking when you see the things that you have read about a thousand times that happened all across Europe and witness by those not even two generations before my own.   

4)  My B&B?  It’s a little near-retirement dream.  But I love that if I want to set up business anywhere I want to, I can.

5)  Such amazing diversity.   Not just of peoples, languages, cultural traits, but look at the geography!  From tundra and mountains to reclaimed land, lush green fields and pastures, to biblical dusty paths and scratchy bushes, coastlines, rivers and marshes, annual snow and wrong-sort-of-snow…  Flora, fauna…


6)  I gain a whole extra level of identity.  I feel like a kid writing my address on an envelope my house, my road, my town, my county, my country, my continent, my world, my solar system, my universe…  Being European doesn’t detract from me being British, or Kentish, or Ashfordian, it adds to it.  I’m one of nearly half a billion.  And that matters.  In a world where climate change deals are struck by the USA, India, China, South Africa and Brazil, being at the table counts, and you don’t get to be there if you’re not big. 

7)  I hardly dare mention it, but I’m going to.  If I want to buy strawberry jam in the shop down the road that was made in Spain, I know that the contents will be as safe for my child as strawberry jam that was made in East Sussex and will be lovely and fruity rather than filled with sawdust or plums-with-strawberry-flavouring.  It has to be, or they’re not allowed to sell it here.

8)  I love that it’s so easy to travel around Europe, crossing borders without tedious queuing and visas, fulfilling the quote attributed to Ernest Bevin “my policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!

9)  Despite living on an island, I grew up living closer to Calais than to London, and could see France from the beach nearest to my house… and had a friend who lived on the other coast who could see that beach from hers!


10)  I have posted 10 random things in a random order, some triggered by the one in front, others completely disjointed.  If I was writing this list in French in the 1960s, this would be known as a stream of consciousness list!  How fantastic would that be? Tres Marguerite Duras. And that itself brings back the memory of reading L’Amant for A-level French. Not my finest hour!

P.S. Write on My Europe Week, or link a post on your own blog, in the language of your choice. Twitter away under #MyEurope and #EuropeDay. Share your Europe.

Cooking our Goose… (recipe included)

Everyone has turkey at Christmas.  The supermarkets are full of it, frozen or fresh, whole bird or crown.  It’s so much the celebration bird that I noticed this year turkeys were being advertised at Easter too.

roast turkey

In my family, since we’ve taken over as the generation with income and houses in which to host, we have started cooking Christmas dinner.
My dad is not a big turkey fan – in fact poultry overall is not really his thing – as a student he had a summer job in a local chicken soup factory which even 40 years on rather puts him off.  On the other hand my grandfather quite looks forward to turkey and on his own has little other opportunity to have it.
My husband and I had a smallish single oven in our last flat which limited the size of bird that would fit in anyway. So as neither of us are particularly fond of it (although we both appreciate its low fat nature), so we started to experiment.

abstract_image-Perfect-Roast-Duck-with-Cranberry-StuffingImage from venisonImage from
Four years ago, we cooked a duck with an orange and apricot stuffing and a piece of venison for my parents and in-laws.  This turned out to be a very good alternative to turkey, with a lot more flavour from both dishes and pleasing the craving for variety that seems to form part of a really good christmas dinner.

fourbirdroast2 Image from

Last year, we went for a three bird roast, or bird-in-bird-in-bird (I think it was partridge and duck in turkey but I can’t quite remember).  It was amazingly good, but quite expensive – so this year we were looking for something different.

We’ve moved out of London, and one of the things that we love about living out here is the availability of good local food (actually we tried to support local food in London too – is the website of Northcote Road in Battersea near Clapham Junction which gets its own chapter in the good food guide to London…).

So this year we’ve gone to a local deli  – the lovely Rachel’s deli at Mersham le Hatch – and ordered a small goose, a jointed turkey with cranberry stuffing, and some pigs in blankets.  I’m so looking froward to this… the goose was apparently in a field in a village four miles away until last week, and the turkey was in a different field five miles in the other direction (I don’t know where the pigs were but they were also within a ten mile radius of our house – that’s the joy of realising that local really means local). 
In case you are wondering – no I don’t intend to be a vegetarian at any point (and yes I’ve eaten foie gras too!) but I think if you are going to eat meat, you should not anonymise it – you need to know where it comes from and that it was treated in a good way when alive (that’s why last year we had faux gras instead…)

re-spicedroast-goose-driedfruit-sauce608Image from

StuffedTurkeyBreastImage from…

We mentioned this to my grandfather who will be joining us this year.  He said that he’d had goose at Christmas as a child but I rather got the impression that he felt he’d moved on to something better by having turkey, hence why we’ve gone for two meats rather than one.  Oh and buying local means that the price has been very reasonable too – cheaper than we’d expected after the bird-in-bird-in-bird last year.

We’re doing a spice rub on the goose and an apple stuffing.  Here’s the recipe if you are interested… (I’m indebted to Caroline65 of for this one).

Buy one local goose sized to feed 4-6 people. 
Pinch up the skin and stab it all over with a big fork – this will help the fat drain out and make the skin crispy.  Mix together a quarter teaspoon of all spice, half teaspoon of cinnamon and some freshly ground black pepper.  Rub over the goose skin.
In a frying pan, frybatches of apple slices (I’m using a mixture of Bramley cooking and Royal Gala eating apples, about 8 in total I think) to a golden colour, sprinkling with cinnamon and adding up to 6 tablespoons of brandy (can be Calvados but I’m using the same brandy as I’ll be using for brandy butter which is always better homemade).  Once fried, put inside the turkey body cavity and sew up.
Sit goose on a trivet in a big roasting tin – this will help the bird to not spend its time wallowing in fat. 
Cover goose legs in streaky bacon and cover the lot in a tent of turkey foil, making sure to fold the foil double over the legs so they don’t burn or dry out.
Cook at 200 degrees for 15 mins per lb (450g) plus 20 mins, baste every half hour and uncover the breast (but not the legs) 45 minutes from time.  It needs to rest for 20-30 mins outside the oven. Roast potatoes take 30-40 minutes in goose fat if they’ve been parboiled first, so you’ve still got time to cook them as the meat rests.

You should get loads of goose fat – this is fab if fattening for cooking roast potatoes – we’re going to try to remember to put some into jars as it’s selling at 2 quid a can in the supermarkets at the moment!

So hopefully Christmas dinner will run smoothly and it will all be lovely.  And Rachel’s just let me know that I’m getting a free organic veggie box too with my meat order – so I’m very happy and we should have enough food to see us through the next few days!

Happy Christmas to one and all.