Boiled ham, lentils & barley

Often simple food is the best. This is one of the dishes we regularly cooked and i think originally came from Gary Rhodes book Rhodes Around Britain. It really is simple and truly tasty.

We always get a much bigger ham joint than we need so that we have lots left over for sandwiches and shredded in soups.

You need (for the joint):

  • ham or gammon joint – smoked or not as you prefer
  • water/light stock/wine/cider – what ever mix appeals and enough to cover the joint when its in the pan
  • onion, leek, celery, carrot
  • bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme

Then you need to do this:

  1. soak the joint overnight in water if you think its particularly salty, lots of modern joints don’t need soaking, although it does help reduce the ‘scum’ when you start the boiling bit
  2. put the joint, in a pan, add the celery, leeks, carrot, onion all cut into largish chunks and aslo the herbs
  3. cover with fresh water/stock/wine/cider (don’t only use wine or cider but some added to the pan is great)
  4. bring to boil
  5. skim off an scum
  6. simmer for 1 1/2 hours….for some reason the size of joint doesn’t seem to affect the cooking time
  7. turn off the heat and leave for 30 mins in the liquid before carving and serving
  8. keep the liquid and use as a hammy stock in soups

For the lentils and barley you need:

  • 1oz green or puy lentils per person
  • 1oz barley per person
  • some of the cooking liquid from the ham

then with just over 45 minutes before serving put the barley in a  pan and add some of the ham cooking liquid, bring to the boil and simmer with 20 minutes left add the lentils and more liquid is needed, continue to simmer.

Serve the ham sliced on a bed of lentils and barley, with a vegetable such as steamed green or red cabbage and with pickles or mustard of your choice.

Festive menu, part 3 (all about chestnuts)

Yesterday I told you about the cheese terrine we had for starters today its all about the chestnuts…mainly so you can make the chestnut stuffing from my festive menu but also so I can share my most recent blog for Francoise Murat Design on Christmassy foods and which also includes a fab chestnut jam and a chocolatey chestnut cake…so here it is….. (first posted 8 December the cakes are actually made now!)

One of the wonderful things about Christmas is the fact that there are lots of chances to cook up delicious meals and food gifts for friends and family. Some people will have started their Christmas preparation months ago baking Christmas cakes which are now slowly being ‘fed’ brandy or whisky to make them extra moist and tasty ahead of being decorated. I’m not quite that organised although I have ear marked some of my chutneys, pickles, fruit vodkas and vinegars as gifts and I’m planning on making lavender shortbreads and perhaps cheese biscuits too. The fruit is now soaking in whisky ready to make the cakes and I think I might try my hand at some home cured gravadlax.

For lots of people the big decision is what meat to have for the Christmas meal, should it be turkey or the supposedly more traditional goose, a classic English roast beef or perhaps a stuffed loin of pork. For me though it’s all about the trimmings and the other meals, the roast is almost irrelevant. I’ve often joked that you could easily serve me a plate piled with all the trimmings and I wouldn’t notice if the roast meat was missing. I just love the extras so much and they are the things that most of us only decide to do for Christmas…..stuffings, bread sauce, fruit jelly, sausages wrapped in bacon, about 5 types of vegetables all with little twists, proper gravy made from real stock, tons of crispy roast potatoes…we might do some of these some of the time but we almost never do so many together and of course that’s just the ‘main’ course…there will be a starter when perhaps normally there wouldn’t, there’ll be dessert and mince pies and cake and then somewhere in all this there’ll be a groaning table of cold cuts, pates, pork pies, cheeses, breads, smoked salmon following by an array of cheesecake, trifle, gooey chocolate cake…and lots of citrus fruit too to balance it all out.

My particular favourites are homemade mince pies with proper crumbly delicate pastry, baked ham, the sausages wrapped in bacon, roasted root vegetables, braised cabbage with lardons and a splash of white wine, chestnuts tossed with Brussels sprouts and butter, super crispy roast potatoes. Give me those over the festive period and I’ll be happy but there is one thing that that I wouldn’t ever go without at Christmas regardless of what else I chose to cook and that’s chestnut stuffing. Even if I’m not having turkey or chicken or pork I still make some in a sort of terrine style and eat it with chutney or pickle or as a sandwich filling. I love it, it’s the stuffing we always had at Christmas when I was growing up, so it’s a Christmas must (the recipe is from my Grandma). Its tasty and moist without being heavy, lots of stuffing’s use pork mince, which makes them very rich. This is simpler and with a little adaptation could easily be made into a fantastic vegetarian version as a terrine.

I really like chestnuts, their sweet mealiness lends itself well to a range of different dishes, savoury and sweet. They are good in wintery stews particularly with game. They are delicious roasted and eaten straight from the skins. And they work in cakes and breads, particularly with chocolate but they also have a long heritage as a flour substitute in southern Europe.  When I was doing a trial batch of the stuffing last week for this blog post I also decided to play around with some other chestnut ideas so as well as a stuffing I think everyone will like, for chestnut fans I’ve a chestnut jam recipe and also a chocolate and chestnut cake. So stop worrying about whether to have turkey, goose or beef, focus on the extras and I’ll bet almost no one notices which roast you serve.

Chestnut Stuffing

The way I like to cook means this recipe is just a starting point, pick your favourite herbs to go in the mix, don’t use bacon if you want a vegetarian version and perhaps add gently softened onions instead (or even as well if you like).

  • 1 tin chestnut puree
  • 8 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces
  • zest 1 lemon (and the juice if you like)
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Break up the chestnut puree with a fork; add all the ingredients except the eggs and mix. Once mixed add the egg and bring together. Use to stuff turkey, chicken or loin of pork. Bake any you can’t fit in the meat in a dish or terrine. You can line this with streaky bacon and fold over the top or simply dot the top with butter. Cook the extra stuffing for at least 40 mins at R6 (200C), you may need to cover the top with foil half way through the cooking time.

Chestnut Jam

  • 2 tins of whole cooked chestnuts (i.e. 400g) or whatever weight you have of cooked peeled chestnuts
  • For each 100g of chestnuts you need 75ml water and 100g of sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Vanilla pod

Put the chestnuts in a pan and add the water, the lemon zest and the vanilla, simmer gently for 30 mins (covered) to allow the flavours to infuse. Drain but retain the liquid and top back up to the 75ml per 100g weight of chestnuts using either water or brandy. Push the chestnuts through a fine sieve then add back to the liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer until thick and when a drop is put on a cold plate in the fridge for a few minutes it forms a skin and is a jam consistency. Put in warm sterilised jars and seal. It’s great on toast, especially sourdough and can be used with chocolate cake (see below).

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

I was inspired by a whole range of ideas when I came up with this recipe: from Mont Blanc, various brownie recipes, Nesselrode pudding to a store cupboard cake of Nigella’s that uses jam or marmalade with chocolate…..

  • 100g of 100% cacao (grated), I used Willie’s Supreme Cacao Peruvian Black, San Martin
  • 300g of chestnut jam (see previous recipe, you can also buy online)
  • 150g sugar (or 150g more chestnut jam, this is what I used)
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 150g self raising flour
  • round cake tin (20cm) or better still a brownie tray, lined with silicon paper

Melt the butter in a bain-marie then add the cacao and allow this to melt and stir to mix as the cacao melts. Remove from heat and add the chestnut jam, mixing well, then add the sugar (if using) and eggs. When its all well combined add the flour a heaped tablespoonful at a time and mix. Pour into the cake or brownie tin and bake at R4 (180C) for at least 50 mins and a skewer comes out clean. My cake was very deep as it was in an 18cm tin and so it took and hour and half to bake, in a brownie tin it will take much less so start checking from 35 minutes and adjust cooking time accordingly. Leave in the tray/tin for 15 mins to cool and then remove.

I served the cake sliced like a Victoria sponge and filled with more of the chestnut jam and whipped cream, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with crushed meringues. As the cake was so deep this made it rather difficult to eat and it collapsed so I think doing it brownie style and topping with the jam, cream and meringues would be more effective.

Festive menu, part 2 (cheese terrine)

The first of the recipes from my festive menu is the cheese terrine we had as a starter with Peters Yard crispbreads and a selection of smoked and cured salmon from Forman’s.

The terrine is adapted from a recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas (the old version I’ve no idea if its in the recently published version). I particularly wanted to use a range of Lancashire cheeses but you could use any mix of cheeses you have and it would be a good way to use up what’s left of a cheese board. It makes a good starter or a light lunch dish (which is what I’ve been doing with the leftovers).

Cheese terrine

You need:

  • 275g of cottage cheese or other mild young soft cheese, I used Lancashire curd from Butlers but I think Brock Hall Farm soft goat cheese would also be brilliant.
  • 75ml mild good mayonnaise or greek yoghurt
  • sachet of gelatine powder or two leaves of sheet gelatine
  • 50g each of three hard cheeses, one of which should be a blue cheese, I used  Blacksticks Blue, Creamy and Tasty Lancashire combined (25g of each) and Goosnargh Goats all from Butlers Cheeses
  • tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, I used flat leaf parsley
  • water and lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine
  • 150ml double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a loaf or terrine tin 18 x 9 x 5 cm lightly oiled

Dissolve the gelatine as per the packet instructions. Blend the cottage/curd cheese with the mayonnaise/yoghurt until smooth. Cube the hard cheeses into 1/2 cm pieces. Whip the cream to the floppy stage.

Add the dissolved gelatine to  the soft cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the hard cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper and mix. Then add the cream and stir through. Pour or spoon into the terrine mould. Cover with cling film and leave to set for 3 hours or more in the fridge. Turn out onto a plate and serve in slices or allow people to help themselves.

Enough for 8 as a starter.

Festive menu, part 1

I’m sure everyone has their festive menu’s already sorted. Their shopping list written, deliveries planned, meat ordered and so on. Down to the last detail. So my festive might have come to late. But if you are dithering then read on (and into the remaining parts as they appear) you might find some inspiration. And for those who have everything planned out with military precision well you might find some ideas for surpluses or things to make if you can’t get what you need for your menu on your final dash to the shops.

I cooked this menu last weekend when we had a pre christmas, Christmas dinner with my parents and my brother and sister in law. we’ll all be in different places with other bits of our families on Christmas Day so this was our festive get together complete with tree decorating, silly games, sherry and presents. and of course lots of food.

Here’s the menu:


Selection of smoked and cured salmon
Terrine of Lancashire cheeses (recipe to follow)


Slow roast shoulder of pork served with two stuffings (Chestnut Stuffing recipe to follow)
Roast root vegetables
Roast potatoes
Sprout and peas
Lashing of ‘jus’ from the meat


Sticky ginger pudding
Clementine sorbet (recipe to follow)
Jersey cream

And in the spirit of making things easy for the chef so everyone could spend time chatting rather than sweating over hot stoves lots of it was ‘cheaty’ so bought in but from top quality suppliers. And some of it was very easy to make in advance.

Here’s where I sourced things from:

Salmon: Forman & Sons London Cure smoked Salmon and 3 gravadlax cures

Lancashire cheeses for the terrine (recipe to follow): Butlers Cheeses

Crispbread: Peters Yard (of course!)

Pork shoulder : Anna’s Happy Trotters

Sticky Ginger Pudding: Cartmel Village Shop

So that’s it delicious food from good suppliers making the menu easier but still delicious. Watch out for the recipes coming soon.

The fat of the land

This post was originally published in early November in Francois Murat Design newsletter. Although the apple season is pretty much at an end now many varieties store well so this is still a lovely dish to make over the coming cold months……

Autumn is well and truly here, the nights are drawing in, the weather is cooling day by day. Many of the fruits and vegetables are harvested. Those that can be have been turned into preserves of various kinds or carefully stored away to be used over the winter months.

Apples are still with us and there are varieties that are still being harvested during November but the main crop has been taking place throughout October and celebrated with Apple Day events across the country. Apple Day was started 20 years ago by Common Ground to help save and celebrate the huge range of English apples that were being lost bit by bit. In that time much progress has been made and varieties that were almost lost have been reintroduced. If you care about British food though there is still plenty to be done and attending an Apple Day event can be great fun for all the family with a chance to buy apples, press your own juices or simply learn more about orchards and the variety available. If you missed out this year then put a little reminder in your diary now to seek out apple events next October, and in the meantime support the growers by searching out interesting varieties or even sponsoring a tree at a community orchard project.

Autumn is not only a time for preserving fruit and vegetables its also the time when, traditionally, meat would be preserved in a variety of ways to see the household through winter and save on animal feeding costs. This is particularly true of the pig. In ‘Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery’ Jane Grigson says:

It could be said that European civilization – and Chinese civilization too – has been founded on the pig.’


Of course there are plenty who don’t eat pork and they would disagree with Grigson’s statement and her subsequent analysis. But for many it has been staple of cooking for centuries and the tradition of the autumn pig slaughter and subsequent preserving is well documented. Bacon is also often cited as the meat that vegetarian converts most miss but I’m not sure there is any real data to back this claim up. For those with strong constitutions I highly recommend Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay ‘It takes a Village to Kill a Pig’, not for the faint hearted, but fascinating not least because it was first published in American Vogue, not the sort of place you imagine happening on a detailed account of traditional pig slaughter in a Basque village. Preserving meat is not something I’ve tried although there are now quite few books and courses around on preserving the bounty of the pig and I know of a number of people who make their own sausages, bacon and salami at home. I’d recommend reading Tim Hayward (of The Guardian’s Word of Mouth) articles as a good starting point.

Now of course we can eat pork (and other meat) all year round if we want to. Whether it tastes its best or has been reared in a sustainable manner is of course open to much debate. It seems to make sense to eat less meat, reared in the best way possible and used sensibly. We can learn a lot from the seasons and the way people used to cook though of course we can’t go back to how they lived (and I doubt we would want to) but we can think more carefully about what we eat and when we eat it.

So eating pork at this time of year makes sense seasonally and pairing it with apples has a long heritage. Roast pork and apple sauce is a classic British dish with the apple sauce cutting through the sweet fattiness of the pork. That’s the point of this combination the apple provides a counterpoint to the meat, so often missed with over sweetened commercial sauces. Apple jelly is wonderful with sausages, either on the side or as a glaze to create extra sticky sausages. If you don’t have your own apple jelly to hand then try one with a little kick of chilli for some added interest (Jules & Sharpies Sage & Apple Jelly is my current favourite) track down something local to you and support a local food business.

There’s a recipe I’ve been cooking for years that sprang to mind (from an early Delia Smith book) after I’d been to an Apple Day event at Copped Hall in Essex recently. I think it’s the first dish I cooked entirely on my own at home but I wanted to do it a bit differently this time and make it into an almost one-pot dish. It’s simple, pretty quick and of course tasty.

Creamy pork, apples, cider and potatoes

For 2 people you need:

  • 2 large pork chops on the bone
  • 1 onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 apple, I used an Egremont russet (my favourite apple just sharp enough and good firm flesh), cored and sliced but not peeled
  • ½ bottle cider, I used Aspalls Organic
  • small handful of fresh sage (about a tbsp when chopped)
  • ½ tub crème fraiche (100g)
  • 3-4 large potatoes cut into thin slices
  • salt & pepper
  • butter

What to do….

  1. Pre heat the oven to 190C/R5
  2. Put some butter in a frying pan and brown the chops, place then in a shallow casserole dish.
  3. If needed add a little extra butter and soften the onions for about 5 minutes over a low heat, add them to the pork chops.
  4. Fry the apple slices quickly and add to the casserole.
  5. Add the cider to the frying pan and bring to simmering then pour over the chops.
  6. Sprinkle the casserole with the chopped sage and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the crème fraiche and stir into the liquid
  8. Add the potato slices pushing them down into the creamy liquid.
  9. Cover and cook for 20 minutes then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes.

The chops will be cooked but remain juicy, the potatoes will have absorbed some of the creamy liquid and cooked rather like daupinoise. Serve with a lightly steamed autumn vegetable to balance the creaminess, we had red cabbage.

Good Food Show Winter 2010 (very special competition)

I’ve been to local food festivals, I’ve been to food trade shows but I’ve never been to any of the big, big food shows like The Good Food Show. The idea of the NEC packed with good food is is slightly overwhelming.

But this year I’m going to be there. Not cruising the aisles checking the produce mind you. Oh no. I shall be a Pop-Up Pie Assistant to the wonderful Brays Cottage Pork Pies. If you are in any doubt about their wonderfulness then consider that they were one of only ten producers selected from over 70 to win a Bursary Award to enable them to have a stall at the show. And the list of people who rave about their pies is simply too long to mention…

I’m really excited about being Pop-Up Pie Assistant, I’m following in the trailblazing shoes of this list of luminaries of the Pop-Up Pie Assistant academy:

@Farctum and @Josordoni and @DrTimKinnaird and @deantoms and @enjoynorwich and @JonnyB and apparently even an MEP

…..each had their trade mark style I’m hoping mine will be a porkpie hat…

So of course naturally you want to come along and see me being pie assistant. You want to meet Sarah the driving force behind Brays Cottage. You want to sample the pies. Of course you do. Who wouldn’t.

And you’ve two ways to get there:

1. The usual way: pay your entrance fee pop along to the stall and buy a pie. We’ll be thrilled to see you.


2. The GSD special way: enter my competition to win one of 3 pairs of entrance tickets donated by the show organisers, pop along to the stall, flash your special Pie Voucher and YES YES YES you get Bray’s Cottage pie for FREE. And better still you get a special GSD/WKF limited edition for this competition only gift.

WOW. This is truly an exclusive competition. You CANNOT get this deal anywhere else.

So what do you need to do:

Leave a comment on this post telling me why you deserve to win and how will your life be changed by experiencing pork pie nirvana. I’ll pick 3 entries (pair of tickets to each winner) on some basis yet to be determined, probably the 3 that I like most and failing that by random number generator.

Get entering you have until midnight on Friday 19 November. I’ll pick the winners on Saturday 20th and mail the tickets out to you.

Small print:

1. Tickets are general admission only. Excluding Saturday. They are non transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash.

2. You must present your special Pie Voucher to claim your free pie. One pie per person. And I’ll have a cunning system in place to ensure only the winners get their mitts on the free pies so don’t bother making your own, photocopying or anything else ‘smart’.

3. The Pie Voucher is also used to collect your GSD/WKF exclusive gift.

4. I’m the judge and my decision on who wins is final.

5. You can’t enter if you are related to me, sorry.

6. Oh and I’m there Thursday and Friday but you’ll still be able to claim your pie etc if you choose to go a different day

Gluts of all types

It’s coming to the end of harvest time but everywhere you look there are gluts of produce to be turned into something delicious. Some to be eaten now, some to be saved for the winter months. Gardens and hedgerows are filled with bounty and will continue to provide opportunities to harvest interesting things until late October. You might have your own fruit trees providing you with an abundance of apples, pears, plums or damsons, too many beans, courgettes or unripe tomatoes. Maybe a neighbour has a surfeit they need to share. There’s sure to be produce by peoples gates either for free or very cheap. And of course you can go foraging in country lanes, in parks and open spaces, on moorland.

Whatever you find there’s plenty of ways to put it to good use: cakes, crumbles, pies and tarts for now, freezing and multiple ways of preserving for later…..compots, jams, chutneys, pickles, curds, vinegars, favoured gins or vodkas, fruit jellies and cheeses, cordials, wines and ales, ketchups and sauces. Almost too may choices.

First of all some rules of foraging:

  1. Be sure you are allowed to forage from the lane/park/open space you choose; land maybe protected or private, foraging isn’t just a free for all.
  2. Don’t strip plants bare, leave fruit for others and for the wildlife.
  3. Make sure you know what you have collected before using it as food.
  4. Only collect from areas where you are happy there won’t be contamination, so right next to a busy road might not be great.
  5. Always be considerate and sensible about where and how you forage.

The are some good books on foraging to help you know what you might find where and when and also for identification. Three that I particularly like are Food for Free by Richard Mabey (it comes is a tiny pocket size so is easy to carry with you); The Foragers Handbook by Miles Irving more a research book for at home, Miles also runs foraging courses (as do others); and the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook by John Wright.

Most of what you’ll collect over the next two months will be fruits and berries of some description, but there could be end of season vegetables too from the garden. There’s mushrooms to be had of course but that’s a whole other topic. To decide what to do with whatever glut you have think about the following: how ripe is the fruit, how sweet or tart is it, how long is the season (is this the last for this year or might you be able to collect more), how much do you have? All of these things will influence what you might choose to do. If you have a small amount of ripe fruit then if its edible uncooked you’ll probably want to eat it as is with cream or yoghurt or perhaps made into a cake, pudding, tart or crumble. If you’ve a lot of something then you’ll need to preserve some for later use either as a jam, jelly, chutney, pickle or something. I tend to make pickles, chutneys and fruit vodkas because they are what I like but think of what is most likely to get eaten up before next years glut and also what people you know will appreciate as presents. If the fruit is less ripe then pickles and chutneys are a good choice as the sourness is part of the taste and can be balanced by the spices and sugar. Very under ripe fruit can be made into Indian style pickles (a bit like lime pickle), I’ve tried this with plums and green tomatoes and it works well with both.

There really are so many choices it’s hard to single out one recipe (but I’ve included lots of links this month for you). Good resources are River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin and The Jam, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook by Marguerite Patten. Both are excellent on basic techniques with plenty of recipes to try. Do remember that if you are making chutney or pickles then you need a non-reactive pan (i.e. not aluminium) and inevitably the vinegar evaporates so have the extractor on and close the kitchen door, the taste though, is worth it.

One thing I’m determined to try this year is drying fruit. I love the dried berries and apples in granola and muesli so I’m going to make my own. I’ll be following this method from a curious little book called They Can’t Ration These, written during WW2 by Vitcome de Maudit (and republished by Persephone) its fully of quirky ideas for foraging and cooking.

How to Dry Berries

Use only sound, unbruised fruit, wash, clean and drain the berries on wooden or iron sheets and place them in a very moderate oven (110F). Raise the heat gradually to 130F, then when the berries fail to stain the hand when pressed but are not so hard that they will rattle, take them out and store. The length of time for the drying varies with the kind of berries, but it is from 4 to 6 hours.

(Note: The temperatures quoted don’t seem to tally with any conversion charts I can find so I’m assuming that the oven should be on its lowest possible setting. This is part of the joy of old recipes.)

This article was first published as part of the series I write for Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter. If you want to get the article sooner then why not subscribe to the newsletter which also has features on gardening (including kitchen gardens) and interior design.