31 Jan 21

Slow-roasting a shoulder of lamb is perfect lock down food and fed my household with three very different meals.  Lots of other leftover meal ideas this week and a very special chicken pie.


I love takeaway leftovers and lunch was a superb remnants meal from Shikuman, the highly recommended Chinese restaurant at the Dorsett Hotel on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Chinese Noodles with Beansprouts are just as good cold as hot and went perfectly with tender but crunchy Chinese broccoli with a light ginger sauce topped with a couple of soft-poached eggs and the last of the braised eggplant with minced chicken (recipe coming soon). The Barrister had ordered in a shoulder of lamb specially, to be slow-cooked for dinner tonight. There is a fabulous recipe for it in One Pot Wonders (available, btw, in paperback and an absolute snip at £16.99, even if I say it myself). That recipe has a Middle Eastern slant to it, with cumin cous cous, aubergine, baby potatoes and onions all cooked together and served with yoghurt but I wanted a simpler recipe for Slow-Roast Shoulder of Lamb with thoughts of other meals from the leftover meat. It was rubbed with garlic, lemon and oil and roasted over onion and carrots with white wine, the whole lot cooked all afternoon under a foil tent so the meat steamed and roasted all at once. The last part of cooking, browned and crisped the skin and by the time we were ready to eat, the meat was so soft and succulent t, it didn’t need carving but pleasingly pulled apart with two forks. The meat is so pliant, the blade bone can be eased out of the joint making it easy to serve from the roasting tin with the vegetables and some of the juices. Lovely with red currant jelly rather than mint sauce.


Made sloppy hummus with the remains of jar of chickpeas (a 400g can would be perfect), 3 garlic cloves, a spoonful of sesame paste, generous pinch of cumin and salt, juice 1 lemon, a few tablespoons of olive oil and 1 of yoghurt. It was to go with some of the leftover slow-roast lamb, torn into pieces, dusted with ground cumin and crisped in the oven. This idea is based on a recipe I used to make with minced lamb and toasted pine kernels but as I happened to have lots of parsnips in need of eating, I teamed it with crusty roast parsnips and would really recommend the combination of textures and flavours. V yum. Do remember Cumin Lamb with Creamed Hummus and Roast Parsnips next time you have leftover roast lamb and want something a bit different.


Can’t resist making Old Fashioned Shepherd’s Pie with Lemon Mash with the last of slow roast lamb shoulder, with scraps of anchovy to perk up the flavour. As always seems to happen, I made too much mashed potato, so it goes in a box for the fridge to await inspiration. On Thursday, when we have leftovers from tomorrow’s Chicken, Ham and Mushroom Pie, the leftover mash becomes Duchesse Potatoes.


Scratching around for something to turn into soup I remember the two huge golden beetroot that are starting to wrinkle in the bottom of the fridge vegetable drawer. While they boil – they’re vast, so take an age – decide to roast a couple of Romano pointed red pepper and over-ripe cherry tomatoes to counter balance their sweet flavour. This combination produced a soup that looked like Heinz tomato but tasted far more interesting and I speak as someone raised on Heinz tomato and who usually has a tin or two in the cupboard. I ended up calling it Golden Borscht and the thick, creamy nectar comes highly recommended. I’d also been defrosting chicken thigh fillets with thoughts of making a pie. Lock Down pounds are piling up in this house so I’ve been trying to cut down on carbs (and wine) but it’s not happening. If you love a pie and who doesn’t, this one is really worth the effort. My pan wasn’t big enough for all my ingredients, so I cooked the mushrooms separately and would have happily served them on their own with fried eggs and maybe a sausage or two. Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Pie was what I’ve noticed some people call double crust pie. That means it has pastry top and bottom, which is how my mum used to make her meat pies and it’s her recipe too of making very good short crust pastry with a proportion of lard (or shortening) with the butter. I served this lovely pie with sprouts and smaller than usual roast potatoes. It would feed four handsomely this pie but leftovers re-heat perfectly with a fold of foil at the cut edge to avoid the pie drying out.


Was worried that we had been so greedy with last night’s pie, that the leftovers wouldn’t be quite enough to assuage winter Lock Down hunger. So, as I have a stash of frozen prawns in the freezer I decided to make Classic Prawn Cocktail to start. As it happens, that very morning one of my Instagram followers wrote a lovely message about The Prawn Cocktail Years, saying she’d been re-reading the book (written with Simon Hopkinson) and reminded of how many wonderful recipes it contains. Messages like that make my day. I served the leftover pie with buttered white cabbage and Duchesse Potatoes.


Beautiful bright sunny morning so tempted out early to shop for my next two sandwiches for nephew Oscar’s Toastie menu for his Winery in the Hunter Valley NSW (www.krinklewood.com). He e mailed yesterday saying he’s feeding his grape pickers my toastie recipes and they’re going down very well. Suddenly the penny dropped. A really smart idea would be to incorporate grapes into my toastie recipes. Out of the recesses of my brain, I remembered a passion I used to have for brie on toast pressed with halved white grapes. I used to make it almost every day when my brother Adam was at drama school staying at my garret flat in Holloway and I worked down the road in King’s Cross. The memory kicked off a chain reaction that saw me buying three different types of grapes, brie and Baron Bigod (a very superior artisan brie made in Bungay, Suffolk at www.fenfarmdairy.co.uk with raw Montbeliarde cows milk) and set to pickling and roasting the grapes. I’m really pleased with both and for lunch made Brie with Roasted Grapes and Pickled Cucumber Toastie. This was a huge hit with The B when I made it again on Sunday. A really delicious sandwich. Pickled Grapes, though, are poised to be a regular in my house. They are made and ready to eat very quickly and will prove to be an unusual but subtle addition with cheese or cold cuts, with al fresco meals or halved and added to salads for unexpected oomph. I’m waiting in (between 3 and 7pm) for our River Café take away Box to be delivered. It sounds very tempting and The Barrister has elected to ‘do’ the meal. Can’t wait. We chose Box Set Four and the amount and quality of food (including delivery) made the stiff £150 worth it. It’s described as a full meal for two in a box but could easily have fed 4 and in our case made two meals for two with extra perks for other meals. All the food is packed in jars or special New York-style takeaway boxes. This meal begins with quite delicious marinated Devon crab which we ate with soft but crisp, extremely moreish RC focaccia, saving the aioli that was billed to go with it, to eat with the spatch-cocked Cotswold chicken. We had that with potatoes ‘al forno’, slivers of roasted elongated waxy potatoes and spinach, both of which just required heating through. There were enough potatoes for tomorrow night (under n’duja baked beans with poached eggs and grated Cheddar) and enough braised Italian spinach for another dish. There was a huge winter leaf salad with Robiola and walnuts; a beautiful mix of pink bitter leaves, almost too pretty to eat. It formed the basis of lunch on Saturday. The chicken had been marinated with herbs and lemon juice and just required half an hour in a hot oven. My, it was good. Leftovers went well with the winter leaf salad. The finale was a loaf-shaped pale green Pistachio Cake. It must have been just cooled from the oven, it was so fresh, so light and so delicious with a thin crusty surface. It came with a pot of crème fraiche and we (mainly me) are working our way though it, a slice at every opportunity. River Café food is never cheap but always made with the very best ingredients, sensitively and simply prepared, the results superb. These carry out meals, of which there are many options to choose from, are top drawer. Portions are generous by any standards and everything is a Real Treat and very undemanding to cook and serve. I hope they keep them going when Lock Down is finally over. www.shoptherivercafe.co.uk.


Leftovers from the River Café home delivery; lemony chicken  with bitter pink winter leaves followed by a slice of pistachio cake. Super-lazy supper, a favourite in this house, n’duja baked beans with soft-poached eggs and grated Cheddar, this time served over crusty slivers of River Café potatoes ‘al forno’. In my restaurant reviewing days, when I got to know many chefs, I would always ask what their go-to quick home meal was. Answer, baked beans.