4 April 21

How lucky we were with the Easter weather and so good to be able to feast with family outside in the garden. Treat of the week is the first asparagus of the season. Read on for tips and advice on staying sane in our lock down kitchens.


Easter Sunday lunch of roast Herefordshire hogget and NZ lamb; both were juicy and tender but hogget was deemed the best bite. It was served with some of the best roast potatoes known to man; youngest son Henry totally understands that King Edwards are the king for roasting (and mash) and he cut them on the small size after blanching and leaving to cool, so the potatoes completely cooked before going into olive oil as he had no dripping or goose fat left over from Christmas. There was quite a lengthy discussion with other guests about whether to put potatoes for roasting into hot or cold fat and in the end everyone agreed that it didn’t make much different and is really a matter of timing with other aspects of the meal. We have roast carrots, stewed leeks (the star veg apart from potatoes), green beans and very good gravy. We sat outside by Henry’s home made pizza oven, the sun pounding down on us, a beautiful afternoon, almost requiring sun tan lotion. I discovered later that we were supposed to be having dessert pizzas – a massive work surface was covered with what they call play-doh, Henry and pals. It had been stretched ready for baking but covered with tinfoil. We were far too full and later I turned it into a loaf, an amazingly successful one with a fantastic crust and dense, slightly sweet dough. Smoked salmon on toast for supper.


Late start and dip in the weather, so had a fridge clear out for humungous vegetable soup – carrots, leeks, potatoes, courgette and tomatoes, thickened with cous cous, masses of flat leaf parsley and finely snipped chives. Very similar to Leek, Carrot and Cous Cous Soup made repeatedly in Lock Down 1. I served it with a big wedge of Parmesan to grate lavishly over the top. From the freezer, came my last pheasant, a gift on the feather from other son’s father-in-law who shot it and plucked by me. Roasted in a bath of cold water, 3-4 cm deep in a snug roasting tin, for 10 minutes on one side, 10 minutes on the other and 10 minutes upright then 10 minutes rest while roast potatoes cut slightly smaller than usual roasted with lardons. Delicious with gravy enriched with a spoonful of marmalade instead of the usual red currant jelly – a really good discovery! – and cabbage. Desert Island meal.


Unexpectedly, we are 5 for lunch today so crusty topped Cauliflower Cheese Gratin was teamed with Turkish Beetroot, Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad and a pale salad of pickled cucumber half moons, rocket and chicory in a mayo-flavoured vinaigrette. At the last moment, fearing we didn’t have enough food for 5 hungry people, I dug out a jar of French white beans which I tossed with diced cornichons, a swirl of olive oil and another of lemon juice and topped it with shards of tuna and chopped flat leaf parsley. It was quite a spread, colourful, different and interesting to eat.  Almost everything was eaten, wolfed down with Hedone brown bread warmed through in the oven so the wondrous crust was very, very crusty and the dough its usual almost damp self. Supper was culled from the freezer, pork ragu that I’d made following the Lamb Ragu recipe. It is rich with the dreg clear-out of red wine bottles (I am incapable of throwing away any food or leftover booze that might enhance my cooking) and looked dark and rich enough to have been made with beef or veal, tasting really luscious over pasta tossed with a knob of butter and plenty of finely grated Parmesan. While the ragu defrosted, I had a fridge recce and found a couple of Romano red peppers in need of instant cooking which I roasted with shallots and halved tomatoes. They all rest overnight under a stretch of clingfilm.


From the freezer, a huge flat-pack of the biggest sausages I’ve ever seen. Long, fat and dark and very meaty. They take an age to defrost but I set aside 4 (www.northfieldfarm.com) for another occasion and roast 3 for me and 4 for The B. Tonight it’s a no-fuss supper of bangers and mash with mustard and peas in front of the fire and telly. Heaven.


Made a slightly different version of Roasted Red Pepper and Shallot Soup with the veg I’d roasted last night. Instead of liquidising peppers and shallot with a handful of raw cherry tomatoes, this latest version is made with tomatoes roasted at the same time as the peppers. With a generous pinch of saffron softened in a little boiling water, I blitzed the peeled, seeded peppers with tomato halves and skinned shallots with 750ml stock. Again the soup had the texture of Heinz Tomato Soup but is intriguingly flavoured and so easy to make. It is, though, worth passing through a sieve to catch pips and skin debris. 


Wake up to the sad news that Prince Philip has died. Although it was no surprise after his lengthy hospital stay and dire look of the man when he left hospital (wish I hadn’t seen that footage but what a lovely yellow sweater), we are all incredibly upset, irrationally so. I think our favourite Prince would have approved of tonight’s supper, a griddled veal chop with membrillo mash. The mash was leftover from Wednesday’s bangers and mash, kept in a plastic box in the fridge. I often do that; make enough mash for two meals, either to re-constitute as mash or to pile over a shepherd’s-style pie. Mash comes back to life very easily, just heat through stirring constantly over a low heat with more milk and butter. A very pretty, very tasty and interesting addition to mashed potato is always lemon juice. I love lemon mash, just a very generous squeeze after butter and milk incorporated. It won’t curdle. Very thin slivers of golden membrillo are another good addition, lovely with chicken and pale meat like tonight’s veal chop, also with white fish.


I was thinking that lunch would be soup then bread and cheese but The B came back from his shopping expedition with the first asparagus of the season. My it looked good, plump and pert and ready for a quick dip in boiling salted water. I served the juicy spears with soft-poached eggs and half a mozzarella, a really good one, everything dressed with a swirl of balsamico and another of best olive oil. Made Scroungers Asparagus Soup with the trimmings and leftover peas, adding a big dollop of crème fraiche. Do check out this recipe, it begins with a riff on preparing asparagus and has a few serving ideas for the spears. The soup is particularly good and delicious enriched with a separately soft-poached egg. Asparagus loves soft-poached eggs. Continuing a weekend of favourite foods, we have roast chicken for supper, roasted with those humungous sausages.