Pearl Barley Salad & Pea Puree


haven’t blogged anything new in some time. Don’t worry I haven’t stopped cooking, our meals have just rotated between old favourites, cheap quick fixes and emergency lentils. I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with…a wedding. My wedding! My first blog post as a married woman. He was a happy man he said as he cheerfully devoured this dinner. Little does he know the menus to come…just wait for anniversary one!

The promise of a proper summer streamed through our balcony windows today and the forecast for our precious weekends begins to look brighter, dressy and filled with cold crisp pints. It is also a pinnacle time for the world opening up again. I very much look forward to stopping for an unplanned, non-booked drink at a random pub and even ordering it myself at a bar. Heck I might even pay in cash (perhaps one step too far?).

Back to this recipe. The dish is so fresh and vibrant in flavour yet it is deceivingly satiating. The barely salad is filled with summery, flavours all coated in the gorgeously sweet velvety pea that I always wish I’d made more of.

Serves 2

  • 2 fillets of fish – seabass, bream, cod – pick your favourite.
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 stock cube
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 1/2 courgette
  • 1 handful mint & parsley, leave picked
  • Handful of pine nuts
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 knob butter
  1. Prepare your pearl barely salad ingredients. Cut your courgette into dice, bite sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop the herbs and grate the zest of the lemon juice on top. Set aside with the courgette.
  3. Toast you pine nuts in a dry hot frying pan until golden, set aside.
  4. Simmer the pearl barley in boiling water for about 20-30 minutes until just soft and the bite has gone. Drain and return to the pan and keep warm with a lid on. You’ll finish this at the last minute.
  5. Make you pea puree just before serving, right before you cook you fish. Prepare a pan of stock and add the garlic clove and the peas. Boil for about 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Add the peas & garlic clove only (keep the stock) to a blender/nutribullet with some seasoning and a knob of butter. Add a small splash of the hot stock to the mix but best to add little to start so you can thin it down to the desired consistency, its harder to make thicker again! Blend and add more stock to achieve a smooth creamy texture but you really don’t need a lot. You’re not looking for soup but you’re not looking for mash! Season well to taste. Set aside and keep as hot as you can while you cook the fish.
  6. Heat a frying pan until piping hot and add a tiny bit of oil. Season you fish and cook, skin side down for about 2-3 minutes, finishing for 30 seconds on the flesh side (timings for a seabass/bream fillet)
  7. Combine herbs, lemon zest, juice of the lemon, courgette and the pine nuts and mix well into the barely you set aside.
  8. Spoon a lovely ladleful of pea puree onto a plate. Top with your pearl barley salad and finally your fish fillet. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil if you like, extra pine nuts or another squeeze of lemon

Eat ideally in a sunny garden while the birds chirping in the background. I will have to settle for a balcony, London sirens but a handsome husband to gaze into the eyes of. Who knows, perhaps a garden and bird song is on our list for the next adventure.

Raw Noodle Salad & Peanut Dressing


uch a delicious rainbow salad, you can just feel your body thanking you for the amazing vitamins. The dressing is amazing (courtesy of Bill Granger) and can be used over hot noodles, salad leaves or some simply grilled salmon. It’s got fantastic peanut depth and sweetness. I served mine with some sesame crusted seared tuna steaks. 

I’ve mentioned this before but if you don’t have one of these julienne peelers then get on Amazon Prime and have one delivered tomorrow! They make such light work of this salad, and are great for raw vegetable noodle dishes. If you don’t have one, you can hand cut or use a grater but you won’t end up with the same texture. 

Serves 4 (as a side)

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper, thinly slices
  • 1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
  • Handful coriander, chopped
  • Around 80g fresh grated coconut (you can use a few handfuls of toasted desiccated coconut f not)
  • A few handfuls of roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted to preference)


  • 1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter (I use Pip & Nut. Not added BS and runny for dressings)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp unflavoured oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Thinly chop or julienne the carrot and courgette into a large bowl. Add the finely sliced red pepper and red cabbage and the chopped coriander.
  2. Add your coconut if using and stir to combine
  3. In a jam jar, add the honey, peanut butter and lemon juice and shake with the lid on. Or whisk well in a bowl.
  4. Add the oils, soy and vinegar and mix well to combine. 
  5. Only when you are ready to serve, dress your salad with the dressing and scatter over the peanuts. Serve immediately! If you let it sit around it will get soggy.


Roasted Gnocchi, Pea Puree & Seabream


eals like this take me no time but I appreciate that isn’t always the case for everyone but if you’re comfortable with boiling, roasting and turning on a blender then you’ll do just fine. I highly recommend a good blender such as a Nutribullet/Ninja for that heavenly silky smooth pea puree but a rustic chunky version would not distract from this creation.

I love my gnocchi boiled and roasted – if you haven’t tried this before, they are essentially your ‘lazy mans’ mini roast potatoes. Crispy gnocchi on sweet and creamy peas with some fresh lemony fish. This could almost be my last supper. This recipe served 2 hungry people but would easily serve 3. Just add more peas and gnocchi to scale up.

Serves 2-3

  • 2-3 seabream fillets
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 2 tsp pesto
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1 large garlic glove, peeled
  • 500g pack of fresh gnocchi
  • 1 lemon, to serve.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a really generous pinch salt – as salty as the sea.
  2. Add the fresh gnocchi and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain well and then spread on a lined baking tray – don’t crowd them, they need space. Season well and drizzle lightly but evenly with some olive oil.
  3. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they are turning golden like roast potatoes.
  4. To make the pea puree, add the peas to a pan and top with enough boiling water to cover. Crumble in the stock cube and stir to dissolve. Smash the peeled garlic clove with the back of a knife and add to the pan. Simmer the peas in the stock for about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat, drain the peas but reserve the stock! Put the peas and garlic into a blender. Add generous salt and pepper, the pesto and a small splash of the cooking stock (you can always add more but you can’t take away!) Reserve the rest of the stock in case you need it again.
  6. Blitz the peas in your blender until silky smooth and the texture of a thick soup – add a bit more stock if needed. Taste, adjust the seasoning and set aside.
  7. Season & oil your fish fillets and either pan fry (3 minutes skin side down) or roast (about 5 minutes) with the gnocchi until just cooked.
  8. To serve, spoon a lovely smooth spoonful of pea puree into a pasta bowl. Top with your crunchy roasted gnocchi and top with your fish. Squeeze over some lovely lemon juice or zest and devour.

Roasted Chicken, Creamy Lentils, Salsa Verde


uy lentils, cream, Dijon, salsa verde and chicken. One of France’s greatest flavour combinations. There is nowhere to hide here; its an honest, humble dish best served with a creamy Burgundian chardonnay. A cinnamon infused apple tart tatin and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream would be a welcome dessert…

Salsa verde will enhance so many dishes and meats from lamb cutlets to steak and is one of my favourite sauces. The acidic and sharp flavour cuts through the creamy lentils and gives your chicken a herby hug. The below is a guide to measurements but I often throw in some rouge coriander and adjust the quantities to taste so use yours!

This would also work really well with 1 whole roasted chicken, carved or chicken thighs!

Serves 2 

  • 2 free range chicken supremes with skin OR chicken breasts with skin on (try and get the best you can afford, its make the world of difference)
  • 4oz Puy lentils (green lentils also work)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I use half fat)
  • Greens – to serve

Salsa Verde – this you will have leftover and will keep for a few days in the fridge

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch mint, leaves picked
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Handful capers
  • Handful gherkins
  • 2 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Start with the salas verde. Chuck everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Add plenty of salt and pepper and then add enough oil to get your desired consistency. Taste and adjust as needed adding a bit more vinegar/Djion/ salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.
  2. Next season the chicken well and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add a splash of olive oil.
  3. When hot, add the chicken skin side down and cook for about 3-4 minutes just to get that skin crisp and golden. Once there, turn onto the flesh side to seal it and then pop the chicken in the oven for 20-25 minutes (I used really large chicken supremes so if yours are smaller the cooking time will vary – check after 15 min by touch to see how they are getting along!)
  4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and whisk in the stock cube. Add the lentils, bring to a strong simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Again, you don’t want to overcook these. Check after 15 minutes and allow for a nice bite. If you overcook they will go mushy!
  5. Once cooked, drain and season well. Add the creme fraiche and stir well.
  6. Once the chicken is ready remove from the oven and let rest for a minute. Slice into thick slices at an angle.
  7. To plate, spoon a generous portion of creamy lentils onto a plate. Top with your chicken and finally a spoonful of that vibrant salsa verde.

Courgette & Rice Gratin


his one is a bit of a guesswork and culinary instinct. I make up the majority of my recipes from going by eye and taste so am constantly having to rush to the laptop at the end of a meal to formulate a trusty recipe with measurements! Due to the varying moisture of your courgette and the foolish way I left writing this one up to a week later its rough but will always be I think. When I make this again, I’ll return to this post and correct any misgivings…So try my chefs, go by eye, taste and gut to get the texture.

This makes a lovely side dish to some grilled chicken or steak. I felt it was  equivalent to but more sustainable than a creamed spinach with its carb element. It’s really moreish and filling and not creamy in the traditional gratin sense. It would also make a great vegetable main with salad dressed with a dijon lemon dressing.

Serves 4 as a side

  • 140g brown rice
  • 3 courgettes, finely grated
  • 2 shallots/1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g of grated parmesan
  • 25g butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp plain flour
  • Splash milk
  • Some breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon, zest
  1. Grate your courgettes into a big bowl and sprinkle over about 2 tsp or two good pinches of flaky salt and set aside. This will draw out the majority of the courgette moisture.
  2. Boil your rice for about 20-25 minutes until just cooked with a slight bite. Check as you go as you don’t want to overcook it; it needs texture. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Heat and then gently sweat your shallot/onion for about 8 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes.
  4. Put the courgette into a sieve and push through to drain the, now extracted, liquid. Save this liquid in a separate bowl. Don’t worry about getting it really dry, you just want to remove the excess.
  5. Add the grated courgette to the frying pan and the onions and mix well to combine. Fry for a few minutes.
  6. Next, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and then add the butter and mix until melted.
  7. Add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and mix well.
  8. Next, (ironically) you want to add some of that courgette ‘juice’ back in, but at your control. Add in stirring well to stop the flour getting lumpy until it starts to thicken a bit – here is where you need to use your instincts!
  9. Once added, top up with milk if you want a looser texture, I added a splash but my courgette ‘juice’ was about 100ml.
  10. Grate in all but a handful of the parmesan and the zest from half the lemon and mix until the cheese is melted.
  11. Tip into a baking dish.
  12. Scatter with the breadcrumbs and the reserved parmesan and season.
  13. Bake at 180 for about 20 minutes or until golden and hot through!

Mushroom & Barely Risotto


ome recipes make you excited. You end up dishing up then talking about them the entire way through the meal. With each mouthful another comment about your success or enjoyment until you realise you’re lost in an enthusiastic nodding and smiling conversation with your company across the table. This happens a lot to me, and I can only think my fiancee is happy to just enjoy his dinner and take one for the team by humouring me. Rather like I do when watching United play at the weekend I guess…

This recipe though was one of those happy soothing moments where we dined in delight, comfort and satiety. So pleasingly earthy, umami and meaty, this barley mushroom ‘risotto’ really treated our Monday evening normailty. Its a “YUM” dinner.

Free to use your favourite assortment of mushrooms here but do not skimp on the dried mushrooms. That soaking liquid is like nectar and I always have to stick my nose in when opening a fresh pot for that joyful aroma! Mushroom risotto is one of my favourites but I really think its elevated 3 fold by using barley. The earthiness comes through so pleasingly and the texture and bite make for such a delicious dinner.

Serves 2-3

  • 180g pearl barley
  • 300g (approx) chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g (approx) shiitake mushrooms
  • 15-20g wild dried mushrooms (I use these)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked, finely chopped
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • Hot Stock – I used a chicken stock but vegetable if you want to keep this vege
  • 25g butter
  • Handful chopped parsley & chives
  • Parmesan
  • Handful toasted pine nuts (to serve)
  • Hens/Quails eggs (Optional – to serve)
  1. Soak your dried mushrooms in about 200ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain but keep that mushroom stock but discard the last bit of liquid as it’ll be grainy. Set mushrooms and mushroom stock aside.
  2. Heat half the butter and a splash of olive oil in a large sauce pan on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallot, celery and sweat for about 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Don’t colour. Season well as its cooking.
  3. Add one crushed garlic clove and the rosemary and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and stir everything so you coat the barely in fats.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the white wine and simmer until this reduced.
  6. Add your mushroom stock and stir.
  7. Now add the hot stock in generous spoonfuls bit by bit as it cooks. Keep adding stock to the barley keeping it on a good strong simmer. The barley will take about 35-40 minutes to cook through but you still want it with a bit of bite. You’ll need around 800ml stock in total but use your eye to see when you need to add more but don’t add too much as its gets to the end of cooking as your want it to be reducing down.
  8. As the barley is cooking, set a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the rest of the butter and a splash of olive oil. Chop your mushrooms roughly (not too thin) or rip them if delicate and add to the pan. Season well with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes. You want to reduced them down. A lot of liquid will leak out so keep the pan hot to reduced that off and get them golden. Once ready, add the second crushed garlic clove and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside.
  9. Once the barley is ready, check your liquid. You still want some give in it, do not let it dry out, it’ll thicken with the mushrooms and cheese. Check your seasoning here and add salt and pepper as needed (lots of pepper works wonders here).
  10. Add the dried soaked mushrooms and fried mushrooms and stir well. Add the chopped parsley and chives and stir.
  11. Finally grate in a really generous handful of parmesan – I like to keep this optional as to how much! Clamp your lid on, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.
  12. If frying or poaching eggs to go on top, do that now.
  13. When ready to serve, remove the lid and stir the now molten cheese into the dish. If it’s a little thick, add a splash of water to loosen, you don’t want it cloggy.
  14. Spoon into bowls, top with grated parmesan, scatter of pine nuts, any reserved herbs and finely your eggs if using!

Texture – texture of any risotto should warrant a bowl or a large plate. It needs to ooze. If you can label your risotto onto a plate and it sits high and still like a mound of pasta, add more hot water and stir well.

Chocolate & Amaretto Cremeux with Raspberry Sorbet

…this dessert followed those pig cheeks. My word. Given the horrific weather forecast ahead of us this week, this provided some solace.


remeux sounds a bit posh but its essentially a “chocolate creme anglaise” i.e. custard. It’s served here in a very rustic form as a rich spoonful alongside some sharp fresh raspberry sorbet. The cold sorbet cuts through the rich chocolate in such a pleasant way.

Topping with something crunchy is a must for texture – I added some sugared almonds but a crushed ginger nut biscuit, baked crumble topping or even a sesame seed snap would work wonders. You can serve fresh raspberries if you don’t want to make your own sorbet or some roasted fruit but try and stick to something cleansing as the cremeux if fairly rich.

Serves about 6

This you’ll need to prepare at least the morning of eating, if not the day before as many of these elements need to cool/set.


  • 500g raspberries (I use a bag of frozen ones, defrosted)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 270 ml water
  • 1/2 lemon


  • 200g dark (70%) chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 2 tbsp amaretto (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Start with the sorbet. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Bring the heat up and simmer for a few minutes so you get a nice sugar syrup. Remove and leave to cool.
  2. Blend the raspberries in a blended until purred. If using defrosted ones, make sure they are fully defrosted.
  3. Push through a sieve using a spoon to press the pulp through and remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and add the pulp to the cooled sugar syrup and whisk to combine – its should be glossy and vibrant pink. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Churn in an ice cream maker for about 20 minutes before spooning off into a tupperware and freezing fully.


  1. Whisk the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until combined.
  2. Chop the chocolate finely and place in another large bowl that will ultimately hold the finished mixture (so needs to fit in the fridge)
  3. Heat the milk and cream in a pan just until it comes to the simmer. Add the amaretto.
  4. Take the hot mixture and pour slowly into the eggs whisking the whole time so it doesn’t scramble.
  5. Return the whole mixture back to the saucepan and very gently heat stirring continuously with a wooden spoon – again to ensure it doesn’t scramble.
  6. The mixture will begin to thicken and when it can coat the back of the spoon, remove from the heat.
  7. Pour the hot ‘custard’ over the chocolate and leave alone for a few minutes.
  8. All the chocolate should have melted well but give it all a good stir to melt the last chunks and fully combine until you have a glossy chocolate custard!
  9. Leave to cool before covering with cling film (to prevent a skin) and pop in the fridge to set for at least 6 hours.

When ready to serve, you may need to remove the sorbet from the freezer ahead of time to let it defrost a bit as it might be rock hard. Then, take a spoonful of your lovely cremeux and gently spoon onto a plate. Sit a lovely scoop of sorbet alongside and top with some crumble, roasted nuts or anything crunchy to give a nice contrast.


Braised Pork Cheeks with Parsnip Puree


ork cheeks are such a delight to braise slowly in wine. After 3 hours quietly stewing they are pleasingly tender with a melt in the mouth texture. Beautiful served atop something creamy and comforting like some garlicy mash potato but I love the sweetness of the parsnips here and their velvety texture.

You can get pork cheeks at any good butcher and they are cheap as chips but are such a show stopper! If you can only get hold of ox cheeks, you can use the same recipe just upping the cooking time to 5-6 hours and adding more stock/wine – they are about 10 times the size after all. Two ox cheeks will easily feed 4 unlike pork cheeks where I usually allow 2-3 per person.

Serves 4

  • 12 pork cheeks
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 carrot
  • 6 banana shallots, finely chop 2, cut the others into halves.
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
  • 400ml red wine (roughly – I didn’t measure)
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped to serve

Parsnip Puree

  • 500g parsnips
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200ml milk
  1. Heat the oven to 160 degrees and get a large casserole dish on the hob over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil and heat.
  2. Coat the pork cheeks in the flour and some salt and pepper and dust off the excess. Add them to the pan and brown quickly on all sides for just a few minutes and then set aside on a plate.
  3. In the same pan, add the finely chopped carrot, celery and shallot and sweat for about 5-8 minutes on a light heat until starting to soften and caramelise.
  4. Add the halved shallots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary and some good seasoning and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Return the cheeks to the pan and mix.
  6. Add enough red wine to just come up the sides of the dish. Crumble in a stock cube and top up with enough boiling water to submerge the cheeks but not so they are drowning.
  7. Pop in the oven for about 3 hours. Check the liquid level now and again, it should be reducing so after the 3 hours, you have a nice reduced thick sauce but the meat is by no meats drying out. Top up with more liquid if needed OR remove the lid if its too thin so it can reduce a bit.
  8. After about 3 hours, the cheeks should be beautifully tender, the sauce reduced and the top of the cheeks browning. You can pop the dish back on the hob to reduce some more if needed.


  1. Peel and chop the parsnips into chunks and add them to a saucepan with the milk and then top up with water to cover. Add the bay leaf and some cracked black pepper.
  2. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until they are just tender – don’t over cook of they will be water logged, undercooked and you’ll get a lumpy puree!
  3. Drain the parsnips making sure you reserve the hot milk. Remove the bay leaf.
  4. Blend the parsnips in a blender with some salt and pepper and some of the reserved cooking milk but don’t add all at once. Add more of the milk as you blend to get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, spoon a lovely pool of parsnips puree onto a warm plate. Top with a few pork cheeks and some of that lovely thick sauce and a scattering of chopped parsley! Serve with some braised leeks and peas or greens of choice!

Hummus B’lahmeh (Crispy lamb topped hummus)


e all know and love our hummus especially in England as it lines the shelves in various delicious and odd disguises (Marmite hummus now exists…discuss). This though. This Middle Eastern theatrical version takes it to the next level! Its hard to resist the look of it with a file of warm freshly baked flatbreads and a glass of something cold…

A simple (super speedy) way to ‘pimp’ your hummus if you have some guests round as a nibble with drinks or as a great sharing starter (are we allowed to share food during a pandemic!?).

You can of course use a packet of hummus from the shop if you don’t want to make your own but it really takes seconds (blender permitting) and doesn’t contain half as much oil.

Makes 1 large dish to share

Serve with some lovely toasted pitta or some homemade flatbreads (see here for my recipe) for scooping up all those lovely lamb juices!

  • 1 can chickpeas – I use Napolina as they are the best canned version, creamy and large. I find supermarket versions like little chickpea bullets and won’t give you a creamy hummus
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1.5 tbsp spice mix (see below) OR add in some spices of your choosing. Or, leave off if you want a more authentic hummus
  • Extra virgin/rapeseed oil
  • Minced lamb (about 300g)
  • 1 heaped tsp each ground cumin, coriander, spice mix, smoked paparika
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • Handful dill/parsely, chopped
  • Handful pine nuts
  1. Put the chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, tahini, garlic, chilli and spice mix in a blender and add some salt and pepper. Add a good few tbsp’s of good oil and blend well. Add a splash of boiling water to thin this down to your desired consistency (you can also add more oil but I don’t like to make my hummus too oily when water works just fine and helps emulsify).
  2. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.
  3. Heat a frying pan on high and lightly toast your pine nuts until golden. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add splash of olive/vegetable oil to the pan and lightly soften your chopped shallot for a few minutes.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the minced lamb, using a fork to break it down into pieces. Fry quickly until turning nice and brown and then add your ground spices, chilli flakes, cinnamon and some generous salt and pepper.
  6. Mix well and fry until the lamb is just cooked (taste and adjust seasoning with more spices/S&P) and then remove from the heat so it doesn’t dry out.
  7. Spoon your hummus onto a nice shallow bowl or plate making a slight well in the middle.
  8. Top with your lamb and scatter with your fresh herbs and pines nuts.
  9. Serve drizzled with some good oil, the juice of the 1/2 lemon and with some lovely warm pillowy flat breads or pitta for scooping!

Spice Mix – I make a batch of this and keep in a jar. Made by toasting 1 tbsp each of the following and then grinding in a pestle and mortar: fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, fenugreek and mustard seed with 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cardamon pods and 1 star anise.

Lamb & Guinness sticky (Irish) Stew


his recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s first cookbooks (Jamie’s Kitchen 2002!) has been sitting on my shelf for years with the page turned down as a reminder to cook it and I never have. Shameful. It’s taken me about 10 years but ‘Dark, Sticky Stew’ is a must for January 2021 for reasons I don’t think I need to explain.

This reminds me of an Irish stew with the addition of the soul soothing pearl barley which has an amazing ability to soak up all the meaty stock. However this one has a slight twist with the addition of chipolata sausages! Its still an odd addition I’m not overly sure about (so omit if you like) as the lamb is the hero itself. Given it reminded me of an Irish Stew I thought it the perfect time to add some dumplings and introduce my South African fiancee to this delicious treat. Light, fluffy and moreish, dumpling done this way are the best and remind me of such wonderful home comforts form my childhood. Most millennials probably don’t even know what Suet is !

It seemed fitting that we celebrated Burns Night last week with some haggis to follow it with some Irish Stew. Maybe some eccles cakes are next on the agenda…

Serves 4-6 (Adapted from here)

  • 800g stewing lamb, diced into big chunks (I used neck fillets, you want something that will slow cook nicely)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 punnet mushrooms (of choice) roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, chopped into horizontal chunks
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 tbsp pearl barely (of a big handful)
  • 1 tbsp marmite/Bovril
  • 300ml Guinness/Ale
  • Hot beef/chicken stock (300-500ml)
  • 12 chipolata sausages (optional)
  • Parsley, chopped to serve
  • 1 lemon, zest to serve

Dumplings (makes 4 average sized, double it for more)

  • 100g self tasing flour
  • 50g vegetable suet
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • Cold water
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle the lamb in a tablespoon of flour and some salt and pepper and mix. Heat a heavy based casserole dish with a splash of oil. When hot, add the lamb and seal on all sides until beginning to brown and create a lovely caramelised outside. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. To the pan juices and oils, add the carrot, onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook gently until soft for about 8-10 minutes. Season well and add the chopped rosemary.
  4. Stir all to combine and add the lamb back.
  5. Add the Guinness/Ale, marmite, pearl barely and mix all to combine. (take a sip of Guinness for your hard work…)
  6. Add the sausages if using making sure they are on top.
  7. Top up with as much stock as you need just to cover the mixture but don’t drown it. This will reduced down in the oven but you want to add enough moisture so its doesn’t dry out and leaves enough moisture to cook those dumplings.
  8. Cook in the oven for 1 hour with a lid on.
  9. Before the hour is up, make the dumplings by mixing the flour, suet, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of cold water and mix with a fork until it comes together. Don’t be tempted to add too much water but add enough until it just forms a dough.
  10. Once you have a nice dough ball (don’t knead/ overwork it) cut into 4 pieces and roll into balls.
  11. Remove the casserole after 1 hour and turn the heat up to 200 degrees.
  12. Place the dumplings into the casserole so they are half submerged and half exposed.
  13. Pop back in the hot oven for 20 minutes to brown on top and get those sausages all golden.
  14. Serve with a scattering of parsley and some lemon zest with a big ladleful into warmed dishes!

If you aren’t adding dumplings, a nice hunk of fresh sourdough is lovely for dipping and soaking up those juices! However, its perfectly filling and satisfying just on its own.