Aligot, pulled brisket and our first ever festival pop-up

Spianata with pulled brisket and coleslaw

We’ve just come back from a lovely couple of weeks in France. Our usual summer holiday of filling a big house with friends and family for eating, drinking, volleyball and lounging. There were briefly 18 of us when two of Jonny’s friends who were cycling from the Pyrenees through France decided that a few nights of home comforts would refresh them for the last leg of their journey. The first night the cyclists were with us was the kids (teenagers now) turn to cook and they came up trumps: Aligot (a local speciality: cheesey mash made with a young Tomme cheese which you can buy ready-grated and seasoned in the market) with a fragrant fennel and sausage casserole followed by roast peaches with a kind of sweetened yeasted cake a bit like Pannetone (also bought in the local market) and ice cream. Can’t you just taste it all?

Back home my mind has rapidly turned to our first ever festival pop-up. The splendid guys at A Rule of Tum started the Hereford Indie Food festival last year and it was an instant success. This year it’s back, bigger and better for the three days of the August Bank Holiday weekend. As well as a producers’ market and street food stalls (of which our Bill’s Kitchen is one) the Indie Food crew have teamed up with the Hay Festival to offer a series of food-related talks. Sunday morning sees Stephen Terry (from the excellent Hardwick pub near Abergavenny) at 10am followed by me at 11am talking about some recipes from my new book. Book your tickets for the talks at

But the street food stalls are at the heart of what the Indie Food festival is all about. Our stall, ‘Bill’s Kitchen’, will be focusing on sourdough spianata sandwiches. For the fillings customers will choose between grilled halloumi with roast vegetables in a tomato and basil dressing or our stunning slow-cooked pulled Herefordshire brisket.

You’ll be able to find the spianata recipe in my new book, also called Bill’s Kitchen (published on 2nd October but available now to pre-order at ) but here’s the recipe for the utterly mouthwaterig slow-cooked pulled brisket.

Pulled brisket in its cooking pot

I think it makes sense to make quite a big quantity of this and then freeze what you don’t want straight away. If you’re not used to cooking things overnight then have courage and give it a go – it’s bizarre but rather wonderful to wake up to the aroma of slowly cooking spiced beef.

Serves 15-20 depending on your appetite

2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and whizzed in a spice grinder or bashed with a pestle and mortar
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
20g salt
2 tsp hot smoked paprika

2kg beef brisket boned but not rolled (if you can only get a rolled one then just cut the string and unroll it so that it’s easier to rub the spices into it)

500ml dry cider
75g molasses or black treacle

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan).

Mix together the ground fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic, salt and hot smoked paprika. Rub the spice spice mix over all the meat’s surfaces and try to get it into any nooks and crannies. Put into a heavy casserole dish with a well-fitting lid.

Roast for 30 minutes with the lid off. Mix the cider and molasses together and pour over the meat. Put the lid on and turn the oven down to 120c (fan) and cook overnight (or for 10-12 hours) until a lot of fat has run out and the meat is soft enough to be pulled with a fork.

Pour off all the liquid (including any melted fat); put in a gravy separator and discard the fat. Discard any remaining solid fat and any grissly bits (there shouldn’t be much of this) and pull the beef with a couple of forks. Put the pulled meat and the liquid together and mix well. You can either serve it straight away or keep in the fridge and fry it up in a pan or warm in the oven when you want it. It’s resilient stuff.





Tapas for bake-off


We are clearly not the only family in the country for whom the Great British Bake-off is a key date in the weekly diary. Unless I’m very organized we usually end up eating supper in front of the telly on Wednesday evenings and this makes for a pleasurable hour.

For last week’s Bake-off we had a delightful combination of leftovers from my niece Grace’s wedding (who had got married from our house the weekend before) and continued harvest from the garden. That all served as the basis for 3 delicious plates of tapas.

The leftovers were:

  • Alex Gooch’s remarkable sourdough, beginning to go a little stale
  • A large quantity of slow-roast pork from the hog roast at Grace’s wedding
  • A beautiful piece of Cashel Blue from ‘Liz the Cheese’ a guest at Grace’s wedding who runs Scotland’s busiest cheese shop (She had also brought the first of the season’s Vacherin Mont D’Or which we finished off on a subsequent evening baked in ready-made all-butter puff pastry with home-made blackcurrant jam)
  • Montgomery Cheddar – it’s become a very welcome tradition that my cousin Greta brings a massive chunk of this, the king of cheddars, whenever she comes to stay, as she did for the wedding.
  • A bag of superb mixed leaves from Lane Cottage Produce, with extra flowers added especially for the wedding
  • A nearly-empty bottle of white wine

The produce from the garden was fresh figs (they’re doing pretty well this year), runner beans, cucumbers and Gardeners’ Delight cherry tomatoes.

Out of this cornucopia I made:

Baked figs and cashel blue on toast

img_6495I sliced about 5 fresh figs and tossed them with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a good teaspoon of sugar and then baked them in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. I then put the warm figs and their sticky juices on slices of toasted sourdough and crumbled a little Cashel Blue over each one and returned the whole thing to the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese was just beginning to melt. We had a few of Lane Cottage’s delicious leaves with this.

Pork and beans with fennel, garlic and white wine

img_6497For our next nibble I pulled apart a good handful of the leftover pork and fried it in a little of the leftover pork fat on a high heat. After a minute I added a crushed large clove of garlic, some salt and a teaspoon of fennel seeds. After a couple more minutes I added a generous splash of white wine and a couple of handfuls of finely sliced runner beans, stirred well, put on the lid and reduced the heat  and simmered for about 4 more minutes until the beans were just tender before serving.

Tomato confit and Montgomery cheddar on toast

img_6501I roughly chopped a couple of couple of dozen Gardeners’ Delight tomatoes and fried them in a generous slug of olive oil with some salt, turning occasionally until they had become a rough and deeply flavoursome pulp. This was then spread on more sourdough toast and topped with plenty of shavings of Montgomery cheddar (Montgomery is so fully flavoured that I want to eat it in shavings rather than chunks – like parmesan). The whole thing was then baked in the oven for about 5 minutes. I then added a few torn basil leaves to each slice before serving. Montgomery doesn’t melt like most cheddar but it wilts in a rather satisfactory way. This is cheese on toast for royalty.

And just in case you’re wondering, we don’t normally run to 3 course tapas meals for supper in front of the telly!

Happiness is a potato glut

Enthusiastic potato and courgette plants in our garden

Enthusiastic potato and courgette plants in our garden

Our veg garden is currently getting over-excited, especially on the potato front. Some gluts can feel oppressive whilst others just give an extra dose of pleasure. I like broad beans, but faced with a couple of rows that need picking and eating rather immediately I feel a slightly worthy protestant pressure not to let all that beautiful growth go to waste. Last year the broad bean glut was solved by our friend Parker spending  a whole day podding, blanching, peeling (not something I generally bother with – but he’d taken a year out from financial fraud investigation to do the Leith’s cookery course, so he had high broad bean standards) purreeing and freezing in meal-sized batches. This year the broad bean glut was solved by the bean failing to germinate.

Freshly dug Pink Fir Apple potatoes

Freshly dug Pink Fir Apple potatoes

However, just now we have a more delightful glut – potatoes. This year we’ve grown 2 rows of Charlottes and 2 of Pink Fir Apples and they’re both doing remarkably well. We started digging the Charlottes in July when they were the size of the dainty ones you buy in supermarkets. By the time we got back from holiday in the second week of August some of them were almost the size of small baking potatoes but still really delicious. Like Charlottes, Pink Fir Apples (which are just ready now) are known as a salad potato but they’re uses are much more various than just salads. Pink Fir Apples have a distinctive and delightful nutty taste and waxy texture and an engagingly ugly shape. Anyway both varieties are now at the point of peak taste and quantity so pretty much every meal we eat at home (including the occasional breakfast) features potatoes. Often I boil some potatoes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and make a simple accompaniment to go with them. Recent successful accompaniments include:

  • thickish sliced courgettes fried very thoroughly (about 20 minutes) with olive oil and plenty of garlic then tossed with diced tomatoes, basil and crumbled feta
  • small diced courgettes fried quickly in butter and then bubbled for a couple of minutes with diced tomatoes, mustard and chopped ham (You may detect that we’ve got the beginnings of a courgette glut as well….)

A couple of days ago I tossed some warm  Pink Fir Apples with peppery leaves,  chopped smoked salmon trimmings and a simple vinaigrette. Unbelievably simple, quick and delicious.

Potato cakes with cucumber & tomato salad

Potato cakes with cucumber & tomato salad

I nearly always cook twice as many potatoes as I need to so that I’ve got the basis of a quick second meal. At lunchtime today we had potato cakes made with leftover potatoes, crisp-fried smoked bacon and a beaten egg (one per person), topped with a little grated cheddar. Incredibly quick and easy if you’ve got potatoes already cooked.

A slight elaboration on the bacon/potato/cheese combination in the form of a gratin provided perhaps our tastiest potato meal from this year’s harvest so far. Bacon, potatoes and cheese are possibly three of the tastiest things in the world, so it’s hard to go wrong if you put them all together. Various takes on this very Northern European trinity occur in Alpine cookery and appear on ski resort menus, but this version comes via Michaelhouse Café in Cambridge where our chef Lownz makes something similar but more creamy using Lincolnshire Poacher – now also regularly on the menu at All Saints.

At home, we ate the gratin with courgettes fried in olive oil and garlic and some raw yellow and red tomatoes thrown in with plenty of fresh basil at the end – a delicious and pretty accompaniment.

Potato, bacon and cheddar gratin, ready to serve

Potato, bacon and cheddar gratin, ready to serve

Bacon, potato and cheddar gratin
serves 6 very generously

1kg Charlotte potatoes, boiled until just cooked and cut into thick slices – or just halved if they’re small
300g smoked streaky bacon, diced about 1cm
50g butter
1 dsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 dsp fresh thyme, stripped from the branches
salt and pepper
250g good cheddar, grated
100g parmesan, grated

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C or 180C without a fan. Fry the bacon until it’s crisp and the fat is running. Add the chopped herbs and stir well. Scrape all the bacon and all the fat into big bowl with the potatoes and mix well.
  2. Mix the two cheeses together and put half into the potato mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper, mix and check the seasoning, adjusting as necessary.
  3. Put into a big baking dish and top with the remainder of the cheese. Cook for about 35 minutes until the potato mix is piping hot and the top is nicely browned.
  4. Serve either at once or when you’ve finished your glass of wine.






A spring supper – May 2016

Asparagus ready to cook

Asparagus ready to cook

This is a great time of year for eating. English asparagus has arrived; outdoor rhubarb is doing its manic thing in the garden, and there is the brief but glorious season when, if you’re lucky, you can get hold of Alphonso mangoes from India. Our neighbour Ray goes to Birmingham wholesale fruit and veg market a couple of times a week so he has been our route this year to mango happiness.

Alphonso mango ready to eat

Alphonso mango ready to eat

We had friends round on Friday and feasted on all of these delicious things.

  • Asparagus with a lime and chive hollandaise with a bit of Spianata toast
  • Confit duck legs cooked on ducky potatoes with rhubarb/duck sauce and peas
  • Meringues with passion fruit cream and alphonso mangoes

I find it very satisfying that you use the egg yolks for the hollandaise and the whites for the meringues. That’s what I call wholefood. For the hollandaise I used both juice and zest of a lime with four egg yolks and 250g butter and then snipped a handful of chives into it at the end. Great flavours and very pretty with the perky green asparagus. Add really fresh asparagus to a large pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil and boil for a further minute or so until the bottom of the stem is just beginning to feel tender when you squeeze it.  Drain at once and toss in a little olive oil salt and pepper.

I’ve been experimenting with various delicious Italian breads at home (more of that in another post) and we had some leftover Spianata (a very wet dough that makes fantastic flatbread) that I toasted and that mopped up the hollandaise beautifully.

Dean had made the confit duck at All Saints and so I got ready-made not only the duck legs themselves but also a large quantity of ducky juices which had formed a delicious jelly at the bottom of the confit container. Some of the juices I mixed with thinly sliced Maris Piper potatoes. These I baked in a deep roasting tray for about an hour at 160C until the potatoes were tender. I then put the confit duck legs on top, skin side uppermost and cooked at 220C for about 25 minutes until the skin was crisp and sizzling.

My starting point for the rhubarb/duck sauce was slow-roasting the rhubarb. I picked about 1kg of fat but young stems and chopped them up small with about 100g sugar and then spread them on a big roasting tray covered by bake-o-glide (parchment would be equally good) and cooked at 180C for about ten minutes and then another 3 hours or so at 140C, stirring very occasionally. This reduces the volume of rhubarb to about 20% of what you started off with. The result is an intense rhubarb pulp with a small amount of toffee-like rhubarb juice. Delicious.  I usually eat this with ginger yoghurt and granola for breakfast, but on this occasion I added a generous dollop to a small pan of duck juices and whizzed it all up. It needs a surprising amount of sugar – you’re looking for a sauce which is on the ‘sweet and sour’ end of the flavour spectrum. But taste as you go and decide how you like it.

And once you’ve got duck, potatoes and gravy of course the only thing to eat with it is frozen peas, possibly the world’s finest convenience food.

For the passion fruit cream try to find ugly bumpy fruits that feel very light – the smooth-skinned ones are generally not ripe. Halve the fruits and scoop out the pulp.  Add 5 fruit to 300ml double cream and about 50g sugar. Whizz briefly with a stick blender until the cream is just beginning to thicken. Spoon the cream over a meringue and then garnish with as much Alphonso mango as you can get your hands on. And don’t forget to suck the mango stones.

100% pure spring pleasure.

Pulled brisket for All Saints Saturday street food

A street food brisket bun ready to eat

A street food brisket bun ready to eat

Last Saturday we opened our Saturday Street Food stall at All Saints for the first time. Thank goodness the rain held off and we not only gave away 50 street food dishes in short order (sorry – it won’t happen again!) but sold another 50 after that before we started running out of food. Next Saturday we’ll be better prepared. We’re aiming to be there every Saturday over the summer offering Brindisa chorizo, grilled halloumi, Tudge’s famous sausages – and, of course, the pulled brisket that is the subject of this blog. In the (home-made) bun with the pulled brisket we offer garlic mayo, our roast pepper/chilli ketchup and coleslaw. It’s the business.

The more I slow cook meat, the more I love it. I love the shredded texture which so much slow-cooked meat gets and I love the deep flavours; the way the rendered fat mixes with juices and the meat itself to give a delicious but not oppressive richness. And once you’ve got the pulled meat it’s the ultimate convenience food – to be used in any number of different ways.

The recipe that follows is particularly aimed at eating in a bun for people at a party or (in our case) people wandering around Hereford city centre on a Sunny Saturday. But when I’ve made it at home I’ve always made a pretty big quantity and used the leftovers to make stunning ragouts to go with pasta as well as a wonderful beef and onion pie that’s pictured below.

a young pastry chef at work

a young pastry chef at work

the beef and onion pie with cream cheese pastry

the beef and onion pie with cream cheese pastry

At the cafes we cook overnight in our superb Rational ovens. At home I generally use our Aga (since it’s on anyway) but that requires a bit more judgement as none of its ovens is at quite the right temperature. The temperatures I’ve given here are aimed at standard domestic ovens. (In our Rational we do all our overnight slow-cooking of meat at 105C & 100% humidity but you can’t get that degree of precision in most domestic ovens)











Feeds about 20 (but see above re. leftovers)

Spice rub:

2 tsp fennel seeds
2tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, crushed
30g salt
2 tsp smoked paprika (I prefer the spicey version but that’s a matter of taste)

  1. Toast fennel seeds.
  2. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and whizz or bash with pestle and mortar

For cooking the meat

3kg brisket, boned but not rolled
200cl dry cider
200cl water
50g molasses

brisket in the roasting tray having just been pulled and mixed with the cooking juices

brisket in the roasting tray having just been pulled and mixed with the cooking juices

  1. Rub spice mix over all the meat’s surfaces and try to get it into any nooks and crannies. Put into a deep baking tray fat side up. At home I use the biggest size of roasting tray that fits into our aga – 42cm x 30cm.
  2. Mix the other ingredients together (cider, water & molasses) and pour into the baking tray. Cover very tightly with strong foil – unless you have a lid which is even better.
  3. Cook at 120C overnight or for about 8-12 hours until the meat is soft and easy to pull apart.
  4. When it’s done take out the meat and pour off but retain all the liquid (including any melted fat); put the liquid in a gravy separator and discard any fat you regard as excess. You want to retain at least 100ml of liquid fat to give the meat the necessary richness. Discard any remaining solid fat and any grissly bits and pull the beef using two forks pulling in opposing directions. Put the pulled meat and the cooking juices together and mix well. Stick the pulled meat straight in a fresh bun or keep warm if you’re going to eat it fairly soon.
  5. If you’re going to use it later then as the meat cools you need to mix it a couple of times so that all the meat remains well coated in tasty liquid. Refrigerate until you need it. To re-heat just put the desired amount in a pan and heat until piping hot, stirring regularly.

A winter pork belly supper


Pork and crackling ready for eating

Pork and crackling ready for eating

On Friday we had another great evening at All Saints – 60 in for baba ganoush, coq au vin, daube of beef, prune and cider fool etc). In case you hadn’t gathered we’re now open in Hereford every Friday evening for great value home-cooked dinners.

And then back at home we had a lovely bunch of people round for dinner on Saturday. Good chat & great grub. We started with sloe gin and prosecco which is my newly found best friend. A generous slug of home-made sloe gin – which we made in the autumn following the Sipsmith instructions – and topped up with prosecco in a good-sized flute. A great simple cocktail.

Then a salad of roast leeks in lemon and parsley dressing (chopped curly parsley, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, a little garlic) with roast squash and some Rosary goat’s cheese on top. We ate this at room temperature but I think doing it again I’d serve it slightly warm. The leeks, squash and parsley all came from our veg patch which I continue to feel inordinately proud of given the lack of time and attention that we give to it.

I’d tried to get hold of some beef cheeks to cook in beer but it seems that even in Herefordshire (world centre of cattle body parts) you have to order beef cheeks in advance. So I fell back on my current obsession which is belly pork with cider sauce; accompanied by mash, roast beetroot with ginger yoghurt, beet tops with butter and mustard, sweetheart cabbage. There are many wonderful things to do with pork but I think that my current desert-island pork dish would be this one.

I was going to make rhubarb bread and butter pudding but that felt a bit massive after pork belly so in the end I made meringues with apple puree (cinnamon, butter, lemon juice, apples that had been sitting in wheelbarrow with rainwater for the last 2 months), salted caramel flaked almonds and cream.

Ingredients ready for cooking for supper

Ingredients ready for cooking for supper

So here’s the recipe for the pork belly. Once you know what you’re aiming for with the flesh of the belly this is a reliably fantastic dish to serve that’s great for doing at home when you don’t want lots of last minute faff. I do this with a whole belly of pork (about 3kg including the bones) as it takes a bit of time to cook and any that you don’t use on the day heats up incredibly well either for serving as it is a second time round or for chopping up and having in soups/stir-frys/noodles etc.

At the cafes we cook the belly overnight at 105C/100% humidity but since I don’t (sadly) have a commercial combi oven at home I do the following.

Slow roast belly pork with cider and crackling

serves 8-12 depending on appetite and accompaniments

1 pork belly, rind scored, bones separated (ask your butcher to do both these things)
1 litre cider – cheap stuff is fine for this

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put the rib bones in a large roasting tray and put the belly on top rind side uppermost. Roast for about 30 minutes until the top is beginning to brown.
  2. Add the cider, cover the tray with foil and return to the oven for about 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 140C and leave for a further 3 to 5 hours. Check every hour or so that there is still some liquid in the roasting dish – add boiling water if the liquid is disappearing. The amount of evaporation seems to vary hugely from oven to oven. Liquids will evaporate much more quickly in a fan oven even when the roasting tray appears to be carefully covered in foil. After about 4 hours the pork belly flesh should be collapsing – you should be able to pull strands of flesh off with your fingers. If it’s still firm then leave it for longer.
  3. When the meat is ready take it out of the oven. Carefully remove the meat and bones and put on one side. Pour the liquid into a bowl and allow it to cool completely. Once the fat has solidified it’s easy to remove and discard it. If you don’t have time to let the liquid cool completely in a fridge then use a gravy separator to get rid of the fat. Once you’ve got the cidery juices without the fat put them in a pan and reduce until you’ve got a bit less than half a litre of very tasty thin sauce. Season if necessary – it probably won’t be. Leave on one side until you need it.
  4. Meanwhile, using a large knife, carefully remove the crackling (which at this point will almost certainly be soggy and un-promising) and, using some kitchen scissors, snip it into long thin strips. Put the thin pieces of crackling on a fresh roasting dish and put back in a very hot oven (200-220C). After about 10 minutes take it out, pour off any excess fat which has come off the crackling and return to the oven. Keep checking at least every five minutes (it can go from not quite done to burnt very quickly) until the crackling is very nearly as crisp as you will want it – you’re going to return to the oven for 5 minutes just before serving the pork.
  5. Portion the pork (between 8 and 12 rectangular chunks for a whole 3kg belly) and cut up the ribs and then refrigerate it all until about 20 minutes before you want to eat.
  6. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat (or longer if the you’ve stored the portioned meat in the fridge) but the belly and bones back in the oven at 180c. When the meat has nearly heated through put the crackling on top. Meanwhile put the cider juices back on the heat. In about five more minutes the whole lot will be ready to serve. Give each person a couple of ribs, a pit of belly, a few bits of crackling and some sauce and watch happiness grow around the table.

Ps. If this seems like too much bother we’ve currently got roast belly pork on the lunchtime menu at All Saints.

Breast of lamb – the next big thing

Looks a bit messy, tastes fantastic

Looks a bit messy, tastes fantastic

You heard it here first. Breast of lamb is the next big thing. Nigella has re-christened it ‘lamb ribs’ and made it the centrepiece of the first programme in her voluptuous new series. So get to your butcher first before it goes the way of lamb shanks and belly pork, other once thrifty cuts which TV chefs have made sadly fashionable.

Anyway, we ate breast of lamb last night not in honour of Nigella but of Sarah’s Aunt Kate who has come to stay with us for a few days. Kate and I have had many long discussions about breast of lamb, which she was brought up on and which has been a staple of her family cookery for many years. Following our chats I’ve done various things with breast of lamb all of a casseroley nature. But yesterday I made a dish that made us all go – ‘Cor this is really delicious’ and made me think I should write this blog.

Breast of lamb is the sheep equivalent of belly pork, but smaller and in the case of the one we had last night, a lot smaller. So it’s a flat shallow cut, fatty, tough and bony. But don’t let that put you off. The starting point for me is always cooking it overnight on a very low heat and then using it for making a dish with the next day.

Breast of lamb with roast aubergines

serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you are. It’s somewhere between a casserole and a warm salad and is best served warm rather than piping hot. Although it doesn’t look very meaty in the picture the taste of lamb permeates the whole dish beautifully. We ate it with some cous cous with parsley, mint, olive oil and lemon juice.

1 breast of lamb – ours weighed about 700g but they vary considerably
water/wine for overnight cooking

2 largish aubergines, diced about 2cm
olive oil for roasting and frying
1 very large or 2 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
300g tomatoes – either cherry tomatoes halved or plum tomatoes diced, whatever are the tastiest tomatoes you can find

  1. Put the breast of lamb in a lidded casserole dish and cover with water or a mixture of water and wine if you’ve got any leftovers. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and put in a very low oven (around 100C) overnight.
  2. In the morning take it out of the oven. Take the breast of lamb out of the liquid and put it on a plate to cool a bit. (Separately let the liquid cool and then put in the fridge so that it’s easy to take the hard fat off the top. You’ve then got some delicious lamb stock to make a simple tomato and lentil soup with)
  3. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, take off all the meat, leaving as much as possible of the solid fat and all the bones behind. This is best done with your hands as the meat comes in horizontal strips. The meat wants to end up in roughly bite-sized pieces. I only got a cereal bowl full of fairly lean meat from a whole breast, but it was some of the most delicious lamb I’ve ever tasted. (Discard the fat and bones). You can then leave the meat until you’re ready to make the finished dish.
  4. Toss the diced aubergine with a generous amount of olive oil and some salt and spread on a baking tray. Roast in a hot oven (200C or thereabouts) for about 30 minutes until very soft and browning at the edges. Depending on your oven you may want to turn them over part way through the cooking process.
  5. In the same dish you cooked the lamb in overnight, fry the onions in a generous slug of olive oil and some salt for about 20 to 30 minutes until they are very soft. Then add the garlic and oregano and cook for another couple of minutes. Once the garlic has cooked a little, stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for about another minute and then take off the heat. Stir in the roast aubergine and the ‘pulled’ breast of lamb. If the lamb has been in the fridge then warm the dish gently until the lamb is warm but not piping hot. You can serve it straight away or re-warm later – just don’t continue to cook it any further once it’s all mixed together or the lamb will totally fall apart.

This dish could change your life – or at least the way you think about breast of lamb.


Pulled pork

Happy pigs make lovely pork

Happy pigs make lovely pork

Pulled pork isn’t pretty but goodness it’s delicious. Proper caveman food.

We’ve been developing our pulled pork recipe for the last few months and it’s now reached a stage of deliciousness where I want to eat it most days. Luckily for me it’s on the menu at All Saints every day.

Realistically it’s a recipe that’s tricky to replicate at home but I’m giving it here in its full glory and you can decide whether to try to simplify it for home use or just to come to us for lunch instead.

Our pulled pork journey started at All Saints when we bought our beautiful Rational Combi oven earlier this year. This is a stunningly beautiful machine which controls every aspect of cooking: temperature, humidity and timing. And all with the precision of German engineering. To the basic machine we’ve added a smoker which is important for this recipe. With a bit of luck I’ll have saved up enough pennies (they cost roughly the same as a new small car) to get one for Michaelhouse in 2015.

You can see the ‘bark’ and the soft pullable meat

When we first made this dish we didn’t use a spice rub but it’s been massively improved by the addition of the rub. Our spice mix is very minimally adapted from that used by the renowned Pitt Cue company, specialists in barbecued food from the Deep South. The list of spice ingredients is annoyingly long, but it’s worth putting everything in. I also learned from Pitt Cue an excellent piece of pulled pork jargon: they stress the importance of developing a good ‘bark’ i.e. the browned edge of the meat developed during the slow-roasting. So when you pull the meat you’ve got mostly soft pinkish/brownish interior with flecks of tasty spicey well-browned exterior meat. Yum.

The quantities below feed between 30 and 50 depending on how hungry you’re feeling. The overall process for our version of pulled pork goes like this:

  1. Get your butcher to supply you with a large (about 7kg) boned and skinned (but not rolled) pork shoulder cut into two roughly equal pieces.
  2. Prepare the spice rub (recipe below)
  3. Rub the raw meat with the spice rub working it into all the nooks and crannies
  4. pork rubbed with spices prior to smoking

    pork rubbed with spices prior to smoking

    Smoke the rubbed meat on an open rack at 90C/100% humidity for about 90 minutes

  5. Put each bit of a meat in its own deep roasting tray. Mix the sauce ingredients together (recipe below) and divide equally between the two trays. It should come about a quarter of the way up the meat.
  6. Roast overnight (about 12 hours, but the timing is not critical) at 105C/100% humidity
  7. Pull the pork – use two forks like for roast duck in Chinese restaurants. Mix the pulled meat with the sauce and any juices/fat which have come out of the pork during the overnight roast.
ready to mix with the sauce and juices

ready to mix with the sauce and juices

Put in a freshly-baked All Saints olive oil bap with your chosen accompaniments and eat. We put roast pepper ketchup in the bun and serve coleslaw and salad leaves on the side. A lot of places serve it with a gloopy barbecue sauce. I’m not keen on this and prefer our method of mixing the meat juices/sauce in with the pulled pork.

Spice rub

10g fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
150g light muscovado sugar
10g garlic powder (I’ve never used this before, but it works well here)
100g salt
15g smoked paprika
30g paprika
1tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne

Toast fennel, cumin, black peppercorns and coriander then grind to a fine powder. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and mix together well.

Sauce ingredients

70 cl dry cider (we use Dunkertons)
75cl cloudy apple juice
120g molasses
120g Dijon mustard

The best meal for leftovers of roast chicken…

chelsea buns and chick risotto 029Chicken, leek and lemon risotto

This is the most delicious and comforting dish for leftover roast chicken. In fact I’d never make it unless I had leftover roast chicken. Surprisingly it doesn’t really matter how much meat you’ve left on the bird. It will be a richer dish with more chopped chicken stirred in but it’s equally (although differently) good when it’s closer to being a straightforward leek and lemon risotto.

Like a lot of simple dishes it can be delicious or it can be dull and the difference is in the detail. So the key things are:

  1. Make the stock the day before – ideally overnight. Make it part of your routine to strip the meat off and put the stock on when you’re clearing up your roast dinner. That takes the stress out of making the risotto the next day.
  2. Cook the leeks separately from the risotto. If you cook them in with the risotto you’re almost certain to overcook them.
  3. Use enough liquid . Risotto should end up creamy and unctuous – more like tinned rice pudding that Batchelors savoury rice (to use two rather unsavoury comparisons)
  4. The rice should be firm but cooked. I’m not sure which is worse: hard undercooked rice or disintegrating overcooked slop. I’ve eaten both in supposedly excellent restaurants. The only way to check when it’s ready is to keep tasting.

It’s certainly a better dish made with your own stock, but if you’re short of time you’ll still have a very decent meal by using  a stock cube.

Serves 4

A partially eaten roast chicken.

300g risotto
400g leeks, halved, sliced 1cm, and thoroughly washed and drained
100ml white wine
50g butter
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped
100g parmesan (maybe less if you’ve got lots of chicken bits)
½ lemon (zest and juice) – if you like it very lemony, which I do, you can use a whole lemon

  1. Strip the chicken of all the meat. Roughly chop it and set aside.
  2. Break up the chicken carcass and put it an ovenproof lidded pot. Just cover with water. Bring to the boil and then put in to a very low oven (110C) overnight. If you have an Aga or similar the simmering oven is perfect for this. In the morning drain the stock and reserve.
  3. About half an hour before you’re ready to eat start cooking the risotto. Heat the stock to around boiling and keep near the place where you’re going to cook the risotto.
  4. Put the rice in a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat and stir it around for a couple of minutes. Then start adding the hot stock, stirring very regularly. As one ladle of stock is absorbed you can add the next one.
  5. Whilst the risotto is beginning to cook in another lidded pan put the leeks, white wine, butter and fresh thyme leaves. Cook on a very low heat with the lid on for five or more minutes until the leeks are barely tender. Add the chopped chicken and continue to warm gently until the chicken pieces are hot.
  6. When the rice is just cooked and the latest ladle of liquid nearly all absorbed add the leeks with their buttery/winey liquid and the juice and zest of the lemon. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Stir well and then add half the grated parmesan. Serve at once – risotto doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Offer the rest of the parmesan at the table.

De-constructed lamb chops

My children are very annyoying about chops. They eat the eye of the meat and ignore the long strip of meat mingled with fat that goes along with it. Once a year we get given a whole lamb by Ed  (the farmer who grazes his sheep on our field) and this means that we get quite a few lamb chops. Last week I decided I couldn’t bear the sight of half-eaten lamb chops. So, I made us a two-course lamb meal out of eight chops with enough soup left over for lunch the next day.

Lamb, lentil, leek and tamarind soup, followed by lamb kebabs with rosemary flatbread and cauliflower salad. And very delicious it was. It all took a bit more time than I would normally put in to a weekday supper, but as well as feeding us that evening we were left with delicious soup, half a big rosemary flatbread and two loaves of white bread. And since I enjoyed the cooking as well that seems like a pretty good equation.

I’m not going to make this piece even longer by giving you the bread recipe, but I used a fairly straightforward white bread recipe with a little olive oil (1.75kg of flour). I used two thirds of it to make two normal white loaves and the other third to make a great big flatbread – effectively a pizza without toppings except a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh rosemary and some coarse salt.

Back to the chops: First take the eye of the meat out of the chops trimming them as well as possible as they are going to be cooked very briefly. Then take off the the long strip of meat mingled with fat and chop it up very small – almost mincing it. Personally I discard the large lumps of hard fat, but diehard nose to tail eaters may feel that’s a waste. Marinate the main bits of meat in olive oil, garlic and rosemary (chilli, crushed coriander and cumin would be good in addition if you were in the mood for something spicey) and leave on one side.

Meanwhile put the bones in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so until they are well browned. Then put them in a pan with a couple of pints of water and simmer for as long as you’ve got (minimum half an hour) to create some delicious lamb stock.

When the stock is nearly done, fry the finely chopped meat/fat in some olive oil. When it’s brown add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and some salt and cook for another minute or so. Then add one big or two smaller leeks, (finely chopped and very well washed) and about 150g of red lentils and the lamb stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so until the lentils are thoroughly cooked and disintegrating. Add 4 tsp of tamarind paste (Bart’s Spices do a good one – easier to use than tamarind in a less processed state) and cook for another few minutes. Check the seasoning and the thickness, adding some water if needed. Then it’s ready to serve.

Whilst the soup is cooking make the cauliflower salad. Cut a smallish cauliflower into tiny florets. Do this by trimming around the cauliflower rather close to the surface and then breaking up any too-large florets with your hands. You’ll then be left with a very large core. Take the tough bottom bit off and chop the remainder into wafer thin slivers. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and put the cauliflower in for no more than 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly and mix with a finely diced tomato and a couple of tablespoons of a standard vinaigrette. Leave to serve at room temperature.

Don’t cook the kebabs (or lumps of meat to describe them more prosaically) until everyone as had their soup and you’re ready for them. Heat a ridged heavy-bottomed pan until it’s very hot. Season the meat and then immediately put it in the pan, being sure that each bit of meat has some space around it. As soon as it’s browned on one side (maybe no more than a minute or two) turn it over and cook for a further minute or so (depending how well-cooked you like it) and serve immediately on warm plates with the freshly baked rosemary flatbread and  the cauliflower salad. Delicious.