The Dish (with apologies to Katherine Whitehorn)

Many years ago, when I cooked a daily after work recipe for the Evening Standard, I wrote about Katharine Whitehorn’s Cooking in a Bedsitter first published in 1963 and again in 2008. Her pragmatic and amusing style was a breath of fresh air in world where most cookery books were wrapped up in etiquette and ‘principles of good cooking’. She broke the rules, providing realistic recipes which might rely on stock cubes and gravy mixes but were grounded in good taste and a knowledge of Elizabeth David. Many recipes evolved while sharing a house with five other girls, often one-pot dishes that could bubble away while she was doing something more interesting. The most famous was simply called The Dish (‘so called because my flat-mate and I cooked almost nothing else for nearly two years’). It inspired me to write this recipe – included in Supper Won’t Take Long, a cook book of the ES column – and when Katharine Whitehorn died I looked at it again. This updated version requires a tad more work than the original, but not much. It was so good, making a small amount of lamb fillet go a long way. Do try it. The original included small potatoes added to the stew, this time I served it with my super-quick jacket potatoes, the recipe for which you will find here: Lamb Chops, Diamond Jackets and Minted Pea puree.

Serves 2
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 45 min

1 onion or large shallot, 100g
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb
½ tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
220g, approx, lamb neck fillet
2 carrots
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml chicken stock
12 pitted black olives
200g frozen petits pois
25g flat leaf parsley

Halve, peel and finely chop the onion or shallot, peel the garlic and slice in thin rounds. Cook together in 2 tbsp olive oil in a spacious, lidded sauté/frying pan over a medium-low heat. Stir occasionally while you halve the fennel lengthways, cut out the dense core at the base, halve the halves lengthways and chunkily slice across the pieces. Stir the fennel into the onion, add ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram. Cook, covered, stirring a few times, for 10 minutes while you cut the lamb into small kebab-size pieces. Scrape the carrots, cut on the slant into chunky pieces. Stir in the meat and crown all over in the juicy vegetables. Add the carrot cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the tin of tomatoes and rinse out the tin with the stock and add that too. Halve the olives round their middles. Chop the parsley leaves. Add olives and half the parsley. Stir. Cover the pan and simmer gently but steadily, giving the occasional stir, for 30-40 minutes until the juices have cooked into a thick sauce, the vegetables and meat are tender. Add the peas 10 minutes before you are ready to eat. Garnish with the last of the parsley.