17 Jan 21

The whole point of this column is to inspire, jogging your memory with old favourites, new ways of tackling old favourites and, most particularly, making something delicious from the store cupboard. It’s great when there is an Ocado slot although I’m going to try a friend’s suggestion of on-line shop and collect at Waitrose. I hate food shopping like this but my usual meander around the shops is severely curtailed and I rarely venture further than the fishmonger, butcher and fruit and veg stall on the high road. I make soup most days from whatever needs eating up or what the leftovers present but certain ingredients keep taking over. Pasta, of course, rice, cous cous and lentils, are useful starting points. In my house, we still have Christmas ham (ordered ages before Christmas with big tables in mind; then we were six and then we were two). Much as I love it with baked potatoes, in gratins, in sandwiches, with eggs and added to soups, I will be ungratefully pleased when this bone-in York ham is done and I can make stock with the bone. Sausages remain a top favourite; twice this week, two days running. If you live anywhere near www.mackenbros.co.uk I cannot recommend their sausages enough. I am stuck on their Cumberland sausages, chipolatas and cocktail sausages all of which are shopped for regularly for the freezer.  You’ll find many recipes in the recipe index but also in Beyond Bangers and Mash. I’m also very pleased with my Lamb and Apricot Tagine (lamb neck fillet is another good thing to have in the freezer). I am very lucky that my partner The B loves nothing more than laying in treats such as tins of French peas, duck confit and novelties such as Barnsley Chops (www.northfieldfarm.com). Friday is the closest we come to Date Night, when The B orders in takeaway or cook at home. This week I earn my Michelin star in the kitchen, cooking Jason Atherton’s amazing Pollen Street Social-styel food.


We had thought of making ham sandwiches to eat on our lunchtime walk but decide it’s too cold and anyway, we aren’t supposed to enjoy food on our Lock Down 3 walks are we? Instead, we have an early lunch of ham, egg mayonnaise and a grilled cherry tomato salad. The salad is simplicity itself and very delicious; the tomatoes grilled till they pop with a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, scraps of garlic and pitted black olives. Supper is super-lazy cassoulet from a jar (www.dukeshillham.co.uk) scoffed down as we binge-watch The Serpent on Netflix.


I’m making Cauliflower Cheese Gratin (choufleur gratinee as some people call it) without the bacon lattice but with hard-boiled egg and flat leaf parsley but giving it a thick gratinee finish with 3 tbsp fine breadcrumbs mixed with 3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan instead of the bacon. I’m also roasting tomatoes – halved round their middles, smeared with olive oil and roasted at 150C/gas mark 2 for at least an hour until squishy then left in the oven in the fading heat. This will be supper, well it was going to be until I spied 12 big fat sausages (individually frozen on a tray then bagged up; a little tip that means they stay separate like frozen chips avoiding the need to defrost the whole lot if you don’t want to). I defrost 8 to go with cauli and toms and boy it is a highly recommended combination, very easy and a great make ahead supper. (The B ate 5, I ate 3).


Up early to make the brilliant, super-quick, super-easy, super-delicious, super-healthy So Simple Leek and Potato Soup. The B is driving in to Chambers this morning and rather than search out lunch, he can pop this in the microwave. There will be plenty for two days. Make a second batch of marmalade (On Making Marmalade) and think I must look out for mangoes, so I can make Marmalade Chicken Biryani with Mango again. It’s so easy and so delicious. We are having a snicket of smoked salmon on toast followed by grilled sausages with tinned French peas for supper. Yum. And more Serpent on Netflix.


I’m de-frosting minced lamb and assembling everything I need to make a batch of ragu, the sauce previously known as Spag Bol. It is actually going to be spag bol with spinach added at the end but the recipe is Lamb Ragu. It is good over any pasta but spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle is best and will give you a chance to show off your spoon and fork technique.


Also out of the freezer yesterday, a large piece of lamb neck fillet, with a packet of dark, dried apricots with plans to make Lamb and Apricot Moroccan Tagine which I’ll be serving with saffron cous cous and green beans.


I’m very impressed with the efficiency of Jason Atherton’s home delivery service. He’s teamed up with www.lakedistrictfarmers.co.uk, presumably his butcher and the e mail to see his weekly different menus. Our Lake District & Pollen Street Social menu truly lived up to memories of past meals at the restaurant. This is a treat of a meal (ours cost £140 for two including incredibly efficient delivery service) and requires a clear head to unscramble the 26 different numbered plastic pots. JA got off on the right foot with me when I saw Hedone bread (the best sourdough ever; I buy it every few days from www.bayley-sage.co.uk )  and Ampers&nd butter (www.ampersanddairy.com). The latter was a first but this better churned from Jersey and Guernsey herd cow milk, healthy bacteria culture and mineral rich Himalyan pink rock salt, is possibly the finest, richest, butteriest butter I’ve ever tasted. It’s a secret ingredient at many high end restaurants but available from various delis and www.dukeshillham.co.uk. The salad starter of Italian bitter leaves, confit pear, apple and celery, with nuggets of blue cheese and sweet-toasted walnut with herbs and blue cheese dressing, was a meal in itself and absolutely delicious. It had many impressive, unexpected aspects, not least placing a spoonful of pear puree on the serving plate before layering up the salad. The main course of dry aged Cumbrian sirloin, a huge, thick steak, was over accompanied for my taste: steamed aubergine finished in the oven with a very salty miso glaze, carrots, superb generous portion of mashed potato that came back to perfect without any additions, with a very rich smoked bone marrow jellied sauce. I couldn’t finish my steak (it prompted me to make Forfar Bridies – a Scottish pasty – for lunch on Sunday, recipe next week) and neither of us could manage the mango, coconut and passion fruit fool but did eat the little blood orange macaroons that were supposed to go with it. Both of us loved this meal. Stunning and made me, the cook, feel like a real chef with quite wonderful mise en place. Omg, I’ve just looked at the latest menu; Jason Atherton food is very tempting indeed and could become an expensive habit. That said, I’m very excited at the prospect of a Quality Chop House home delivery (www.shopthequalitychophouse.com) next Friday.  


After the usual fruit salad and coffee breakfast, The B nips out for bread (Hedone, natch) and a newspaper while I whip up a quick soup for lunch inspired by leftover cous cous and green beans. It begins with onion and leeks, adding carrot and diced tomato, the result a wonderful bowlful that with huge originality, I’m calling Leek, Carrot and Cous Cous Big Soup. Its piqued with lemon and is almost a stew, just the ticket as the chill factor sets in for tomorrow’s dusting of snow. From www.northfieldfarm.com we have a set of Barnsley chops. These are double and double thick lamb chops. I ate them once in Barnsley but I’ve never knowingly seem them on sale or cooked them. I decide the best route is probably to season them on both sides and then sear the copious strap of fat that runs around them and roast them at 220C/gas mark 7 for 10 minutes and rest for 5. I didn’t bother with gravy and we ate them with leftover mash from Saturday’s Jason Atherton home delivery and tinned French peas. I don’t remember ever eating such delicious lamb and the fat was out of this world; I’m usually a Jack Sprat when it comes to lamb fat but not this time.