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Pork ribeyes are a bit of revelation for us but they’re excellent on the barbecue and also good value. You cook them low and slow first, then a fast sear at the end. This will give you tender meat with a good browned crust on the outside. You will need a meat thermometer – they’re not expensive and an essential piece of equipment for cooking outside. You also want to start this the day ahead so you can season the meat the whole way through.

Wine Suggestion: We were treated to a gem from the cellar of our friends David & Joyce. The Domaine Tempier Bandol 2006 was at it’s absolute peak. Fresh as a daisy with velvety layers of plums and sloes and a deep, earthy bass note with touches of leather, tobacco and gentle spices. The forceful tannins from the Mourvèdre tamed by time into a silky texture allowing the fruit to emerge.

Barbecued pork ribeye steaks with mushrooms & tarragon sauce – serves 4 generously

  • 4 pork ribeye steaks, about 300g each
  • 1 tbsp flaked sea salt
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 175ml white wine
  • 300ml double cream
  • 20g fresh tarragon leaves, picked and chopped

Sprinkle the pork steaks all over with the salt and place on a rack over a tray. Leave uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours (or for as long as you’ve got).

When ready to cook you need to set up the barbecue for both direct and indirect heating. This means piling up the charcoal on just one side. You can then put the meat on the opposite side (without charcoal underneath) and cover with the lid to cook indirect – this will cook the meat slowly. When you want to finish over a high heat, you transfer the meat to the other side.

Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to just cover. Leave to soak until soft, then finely chop the mushrooms and return to the soaking liquid. Set aside.

Put the pork steaks on the opposite side to the charcoal and allow them to cook gently for 30-40 minutes. You want the internal temperature to reach 50C.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan and add the fresh mushrooms. Fry until soft, then add the garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add the wine and the dried mushrooms along with their soaking liquid. Allow to bubble until the liquid is almost completely reduced, then add the cream, tarragon and seasoning. Allow to heat through, then cover with a lid and set aside.

Remove the steaks to a plate and, if you need to, add a bit more charcoal to the barbecue to get it super hot again. Then sear the steaks over a really high heat, with the lid off, turning them every 30 seconds until really well browned. Keep cooking like this on the internal temperature ahas reached 63C for medium or 71C for well done.

Warm the sauce a little if you need, then serve the steaks with the sauce poured over. Potatoes and green veg are good on the side.

(Original recipe from Seared by Genevieve Taylor, Quadrille, 2022.)

A great combination and nice to cook something meat-free on the barbecue. Serve with naan breads – we get ours from the local takeaway. You need to get started a few hours ahead.

Wine Suggestion: Nothing complex or too heavy with this so focus on pleasurable fruit and balance. For us tonight Umani Ronchi’s organic Serrano. A Montepulciano – Sangiovese blend from Rosso Conero, in the Marches. Youthful and vibrant which suited us perfectly for a summer barbecued dinner.

Barbecued tikka paneer with fresh mango chutney – serves 4

  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp tikka curry paste, we use Patak’s
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 300g paneer, cut into 18 cubes
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 18 pieces
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 18 pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into 6 wedges
  • vegetable oil, for brushing the grill
  • a small handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • naan breads, to serve

FOR THE FRESH MANGO CHUTNEY:

  • left over red onion from the kebabs (see below)
  • 1 large mango, finely diced
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of mint, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • juice of half a lemon

Put the yoghurt, curry paste, garlic, and ginger into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix together. Add the paneer and peppers. Peel off the outer 2-3 layers of each onion wedge and add these too (keep the rest for the chutney), then fold everything together gently. Cover and put into the fridge for a few hours, or if short of time leave at room temperature for an hour.

To make the mango chutney, finely chop the leftover onion and put into a bowl with the mango, tomatoes, chillies and mint and stir to mix. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice to taste, then set aside.

Get your barbecue on and hot, then brush the grill with vegetable oil to prevent the kebabs from sticking.

Thread the paneer, peppers and onions onto kebab skewers and cook for 12-15 minutes or until lightly charred.

Sprinkle coriander over the skewers and serve with the mango chutney and naan breads.

(Original recipe from Charred by Genevieve Taylor, Hardie Grant: Quadrille, 2019.)

We often make this for lunch, and sometimes late breakfast. So simple but very tasty.

Baked feta with cherry tomatoes & garlic toast – serves 2

  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 200g block feta, halved
  • 4 slices sourdough
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • a few leaves of oregano or basil, picked and chopped or torn

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of 2 small ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle some tomatoes into each and season with salt and black pepper. Set the pieces of feta on top, then top with the rest of the tomatoes, season again and drizzle with a little more oil.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Toast the sourdoubh and rub one side with the cut side of the garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

Take the foil off the dishes, drizzle with the balsamic and sprinkle over the herbs. Serve the salad with the sourdough toast.

(Original recipe by Janinie Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, April 2016.)

A great dish for using up the end of a tub of cream with just a few ingredients that you might well have already.

Wine Suggestion: Central Italian whites just seem to sing with this dish and the La Piuma Pecorino which is light as a feather, citrussy and floral hits the spot; and is a bargain to boot.

Tagliatelle with broad beans, cream & mint – serves 2

  • 150g broad beans, blanched and skins slipped off
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • a small handful of mint, finely chopped
  • 75g pecorino, finely grated
  • 200g dried tagliatelle

Get the pasta water on, then start the sauce.

Whizz half the beans in the small bowl of a food processor to get a rough purée.

Warm the 1 tbsp of the oil and the garlic in a heavy-based saucecpan for a minute or two to soften the garlic but without letting it colour.

Add the puréed broad beans, to the pan and cook for a minute, then add the double cream and the rest of the broad beans. Stir in the mint and bring to a simmer. Add half the pecorino and season to taste – careful as the cheese is quite salty.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of salty water then scoop straight out of the cooking water and into the pan with the sauce. Toss to combine and add a little more pasta cooking water if needed to make a sauce. Serve with the extra pecorino for sprinkling over the top.

We made this on a rainy Sunday last year in an effort to entertain Orlaith for a while. It’s light and buttery, and easy enough for little helpers. You will need 2 x 20 cm round sandwich tins.

Orlaith’s Strawberry Cake

  • 225g butter, at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • icing sugar, to dust

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 100ml double cream
  • 175g strawberries, sliced

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking parchment.

Mix the butter and sugar with an electric whisk or stand mixer until light and creamy.

Whisk in the eggs a little at a time, then sift in the flour and gently fold it in using a metal spoon.

Divide the cake mixture between the prepeared tins and bake for 25 minutes.

Cool briefly in the tins then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Whisk the cream, then spread it over the flat side of the first cake and cover with the sliced strawberries. Place the other cake on top with the round side up. Dust with icing sugar.

(Original recipe from the Complete Cookbook for Children, edited by Claire Lloyd, DK – Penguin Random House, 2017.)

Fattoush

We love this fresh salad, the perfect side dish for so many summer dishes. You can crumble some feta over the top before serving if you like.

Fattoush – serves 4

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 2 flatbreads or pitta breads (about 120g in total)
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 small Persian cucumbers or 1 small regular cucumber
  • 4 tomatoes (about 450g in total)
  • 75g Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 10g mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 20g parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 75g feta cheese (optional)

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6.

Toss the pitta breads in the olive oil, then bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes or until very crisp. Leave to cool then snap into chunky pieces.

Cut the cumcumbers in half and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Chop into 1-2cm pieces and put into a salad bowl.

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds, chop the flesh into pieces the same size as the cucumber and add the bowl with the crispy pieces of bread. Add the lettuce and herbs.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, then use your hands to toss everything together. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then crumble over some feta if you like.

(Original recipe from Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

This simple pasta dish will be ready in 10 minutes, the kind of dish we like on a Friday night! The Italian sausages we used tonight were the spicier sort but this would be delicious with milder ones too, the key is the higher meat content. If the sausages have fennel in them halve the fennel seeds.

Wine Suggestion: An under-rated Tuscan coast gem, Morisfarm’s Mandriolo. A classic, youthful Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot this is juicy and vibrant, but also hiding a serious core that stands up to flavoursome food

Penne with Italian sausages & rocket – serves 4

  • 200g Italian sausages
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ glass of white wine
  • 500g penne rigate pasta
  • 100g freshly grated pecorino
  • 100g rocket

Remove the skins from the sausages and break them up into a bowl.

Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat, add the sausages and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add fennel seeds and some salt and continue to cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook for a minute more, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in lots of salty water.

When the pasta is cooked, return the sauce to a medium heat. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Sprinkle over the pecorino and rocket and toss for about 30 seconds over a medium heat to allow them to come together.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)

Vegan Chilli

Well this is just delicious; we love bean chillies anyhow but this is a particularly good one. We are not vegan and so served this with sour cream. We’ve included the instructions for a vegan crème fraîche below if you prefer.

Wine Suggestion: For some reason we gravitate to American (both North & South) reds when eating chillies, and with the Wines of Argentina tasting in Dublin yesterday it was natural we’d open a Malbec. A star of the show, and definitely by no means the most expensive, the Altosur Malbec by Finca Sophenia in Gualtallary, Mendoza was our choice. And it seems like Decanter agrees with our choice too – Best in Show and Best Value in their World Wine Awards just announced. Bravo Finca Sophenia and perfect for our chilli.

Vegan chilli – serves 4-6

  • 4 sweet potatoes, skins scrubbed
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil, plus a bit extra to rub on the potatoes
  • 100g broccoli florets
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 x tins chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drianed and rinsed
  • 100g fresh, frozen or tinned sweetcorn kernels
  • 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • sour cream or crème fraîche (or make the vegan crème fraîche below)

IF YOU WANT VEGAN CRÈME FRAÎCHE:

  • 65g cashews soaked in 120ml water for 30 minutes, then drained
  • juice of ½ lemon

TO SERVE:

  • 75g edamame beans
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C.

Rub the sweet potatoes with a little bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Steam the broccoli until tender, then set aside.

If you want to make the vegan crème fraîche, put the soaked and drained cashews in a blender with the lemon juice. Season with salt and blitz to a cream.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan, over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and spices and cook for a few minute or until softened. Add the red pepper and tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chickpeas, sweetcorn, black beans and kidney beans. Season with salt and simmer for 10-15 minutes. If it starts to look dry, you can add a splash of water.

Add the steamed broccoli and mix to warm through.

Trim the ends off the sweet potatoes and cut them in half but not the whole way through. Spoon the chilli into the potatoes and top with some edamame beans and sour cream or crème fraîche, then serve with the avocado and lime wedges.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein at Home, BBC Books, 2021.)

This is just a simple green salad but the addition of chopped green olives and red onions takes it to the next level. It’s particularly good with tomato-based dishes, like lasagne or Parmigiana.

Green salad with olive dressing – serves 6

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 50g green olives, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 6 big handfuls of mixed green salad leaves

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl, then add the olives and red onion and season.

Tip the salad leaves into a bowl and drizzle over the dressing, then toss gently to coat.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Today was a sunny Sunday so we grilled aubergine slices on the barbecue, made this delicious veggie bake, and ate it outside. Happy days! Serve with garlic or crusty bread and salad.

Wine Suggestion: We think youthful, fruity reds are a joy with this dish and can’t pass up a chance to open a good Beaujolais. For this dish Domaine Rochette’s Régnié, a cru that is often overlooked and unfairly so. Bright and almost crunchy fruit that shouts just as much of sunshine as the Parmigiana.

Melanzane Parmigiana – serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing over the aubergines
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 8 large sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp golden caster sugar or granulated sugar
  • 6 large aubergines, sliced very thinly, lengthways
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 85g white breadcrumbs
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 2 x 125g mozzarella balls, torn into small pieces
  • a handful of basil leaves

Get the sauce on first. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or a wide saucepan, then add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar, and simmer gently for about 25 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, light your barbecue – a gas barbecue is particularly good for this as it’s easier to control the heat, you don’t want the aubergine to char before it’s softened. If you don’t have a barbecue (or if it’s not barbecuing weather) you can use a griddle pan instead.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, then barbecue in batches until softened and lightly charred.

Mix 25g of the Parmesan with the breadcrumbs and pine nuts, and set aside.

Spread a little of the tomato sauce over the base of a large baking tray or lasagne dish. Top with a layer of aubergine slices, then season well. Spoon over some more sauce, then scatter over some mozzarella, Parmesan and bssil leaves.

Repeat the layers and finish with a layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle over the cheesey breadcrumbs. You can bake the dish now or stick it in the fridge for up to 24 hours and bake when you’re ready.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden and the tomato sauce bubbling. Rest for 10 minutes, then serve with salad and bread.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food).

These have to be the easiest snack ever and they’re great to serve with drinks. The best thing is that you can have them made up in the fridge and just bake them when you need them.

Wine Suggestion: Find a bone-dry white that gets your digestive juices watering. For something really special look out for Quinta Soalheiro’s Granit which is an high altitude, single vineyard selection from, as you might have suspected Granitic soil. Piercingly dry and laser focused, and yet so beautiful and expressive it made us sit up and pay attention.

Za’atar & Goats’ Cheese Puffs – makes 20

  • 1 x 320g ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
  • olive oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp za’atar
  • 300g soft goats’ cheese

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.

Put the cheese into a bowl and break it up with a fork.

Unroll the pastry sheet but keep it on the greaseproof liner it’s wrapped in.

Place the pastry on the work surface with the long side facing you and brush lightly with olive oil.

Scatter over 1 tbsp of the za’atar, then distribute the cheese all over the sheet, leaving a 2.5cm border at the edge of the pastry furthest from you. Season generously with salt and pepper, then sprinkle over the other tbsp of za’atar.

Start to roll the pastry, starting with the long edge closest to you and rolling away from you. Roll it as tightly as possible without crushing it. Use a serrated knife to cut the roll in half then cut each half into 10 slices. Put the slices onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and pat them down flat with your fingers to hep them stay together.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and serve immediately.

(Original recipe from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, Michell Beazley, 2016.)

This dish couldn’t be easier and is all cooked in the one tray; a great spring celebration. It helped that we were able to source all of the ingredients locally, always makes us feel good about what we’re eating.

Wine Suggestion: Simple, but fresh and asparagus friendly Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, in this case blended with a touch of Chardonnay from the Cheverny appelation. Pascal Bellier produces a charmer.

Sea trout, new potatoes and asparagus with a dill & mustard sauce – serves 4

  • 1kg baby new potatoes, we used Jersey Royals
  • 400g asparagus
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 fillets of sea trout (or you could use salmon)

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill, plus a bit extra to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Cook the potatoes in salty water for about 3 minutes, then add the asparagus and cook for a further 2 minutes. Drain well and and run the asparagus under cold running water to stop it cooking any further.

Put the potatoes into a large non-stick baking tray, toss with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Put into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown.

Tuck the trout and asparagus in and around the potatoes and season these too. Roast again for 10-12 minutes or until the trout is just cooked.

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard, sugar, vinegar and oil together to make the dressing. Stir through the dill just before you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the sauce over the dish and scatter with some more dill if you like.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe and Adam Bush in Olive Magazine, May 2019.)

This is Meera Sodha’s fresh take on Matar Paneer, which is usually a richer dish. Delicious with warm naan breads and plain yoghurt, this version could easily become a regular favourite.

Fresh Matar Paneer – serves 4 as a main or more as a side with other dishes

  • rapeseed oil
  • 550g hard paneer, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g mangetout
  • 200g frozen peas (defrosted), or you can use fresh of course if you have them
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced to serve

Heat a couple of tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the panner over a medium heat until browned and crisp all over, then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat another tbsp of oil in the pan, then add the garlic and stir-fry for a couple of minutes (make sure the frying pan isn’t too hot when you add the garlic or it will burn). Add the tomatoes and cook for about 6 minutes or until just turning jammy. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, chilli powder and turmeric, then stir for another minute before taking off the heat.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add salt. Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes, then add the mangetout and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 1 more minute, then drain and leave to steam dry.

Heat the sauce, then stir in the paneer. When both are hot, stir in the veg. Sprinkle over the sliced red chilli and serve.

(Original recipe from Fresh India by Meera Sodha, Fig Tree, 2016.)

This soup recipe by Skye Gyngall is delicious. Make it while you can get local aspragus and serve with some crusty bread.

Asparagus, rice & pancetta soup – serves 4

  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of thymes, leaves stripped and stalks discarded
  • 5 slices of pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 100g white rice
  • 1 litre good chicken stock
  • 500ml water
  • 12 green asparagus spears, snap off the woody ends and cut into short lengths on the diagonal
  • 100g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the onions, thyme and a pinch of salt and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Add the pancetta and garlic and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in the rice. Pour in the stock and water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down low, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

Add the asparagus to the soup and cook for a few minutes until just tender, then stir in the Parmesan. Season to taste with lots of black pepper and salt to taste.

Ladle into warm bowls and top with the parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

(Original recipe from My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell, Quadrille Publishing Limited, 2008.)

This recipe comes from Chasing Smoke by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. in London. This is hands-down the best hummus we’ve ever made (and we’ve made lots) and the crispy lamb belly (poached then finished over charcoal) is fatty but fabulous. It’s good with a simple salad (we went for cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions & Baby gem dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and sumac) and lots of warm pittas. You need to soak the chickpeas the night before.

Wine Suggestion: Anything with a hint of middle-eastern spices or warm sunshine. A Garnacha, or maybe a Tempranillo. Tonight the classic Massaya le Colombier from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. A lot has happened in this part of the world and we’re glad to support the friends we’ve met still trying to make great wine despite all the challenges. Well done Sami and Ramzi, bravo!

Crispy lamb on creamy hummus – serves 4 (generously)

FOR THE LAMB:

  • 1 lamb breast on the bone, about 1.5kg
  • 1 tbsp table salt
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 litre of water

FOR THE HUMMUS:

  • 200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in lots of water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 250g tahini paste
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

TO SERVE:

  • a small handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp biber chilli flakes (or Allepo)
  • pitta breads
  • salad (see suggestion above

Rub the lamb all over with the salt, cumin seeds and peppercorns, then leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Put the lamb in a large pan with the onions and water. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer slowly for about 1½ hours.

Make the hummus while the lamb is cooking. Drain the soaked chickpeas, then place in large saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off the foam. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then skim again.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and mix well. Skim it really well this time then simmer for 30-40 minutes, skimming regularly, until the chickpeas are very soft – they should melt in your mouth.

Drain the chickpeas into a colander over a bowl so you can reserve the cooking liquid. You need to finish the hummus now while everything is still hot. Pour 250ml of the cooking liquid over the chickpeas and add the garlic. Now whizz using a stick blender or food processor until really smooth. It will be pretty thick at this stage but not to worry.

Add the salt, tahini, cumin and lemon juice and whizz again until well combined. Give it a taste and add more salt or lemon juice if you like. Cover the surface with cling film to stop a skin forming and set aside. It will be quite liquid but it will thicken as it cools.

Lift the lamb out of the cooking water, keep a few spoonfuls of liquid for serving. The meat should be completely soft and easy to pull from the bones. Carefully (so it doesn’t fall apart altogether) lift it onto a hot charcoal barbecue and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn it over and cook for 10 minutes on the other side. You need to do this over indirect heat or it will burn or catch fire as there is a lot of fat.

To cook over indirect heat pile the charcoal to one side and with the lid on cook the meat on the other side. Despite no direct flames underneath the meat cooks a treat – slower, but no less effectively.

Take the cooked meat off onto a chopping board and shred it with two forks – like crispy duck.

Spread the hummus on a serving platter and top with the lamb and a drizzle of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and chilli flakes and serve with lots of pitta and a salad if you like.

(Original recipe from Chasing Smoke: Cooking over fire around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2021.)

Bored with bolognese? Try this lamb and pea ragu for a change, it’s just as comforting but peas for a bit of Spring freshness.

Wine Suggestion: We had a glass of the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero Serrano, which is an unoaked Montepulciano with a touch of Sangiovese. Springtime in a glass.

Lamb & pea ragu – serves 6

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 leek, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 anchovy fillet, drained
  • a splash of white wine
  • 200g tomato passata
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 150g frozen peas
  • grated Parmesan
  • 500g casarecce, fusilli or other pasta

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the mince and fry until well browned. Season with salt and pepper and scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the carrot, celery and leek to the fat in the pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, and anchovy to the pan and cook for another minute.

Return the lamb to the pan and stir into the vegetables, then add the splash of wine and allow it to almost evaporate. Add the passata and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes more, until the sauce is quite thick.

Add the milk and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thick and creamy, then stir in the balsamic vinegar and peas and cook for a final 3 minutes. Season again to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the past is lots of very salty water. Drain and reserve a mug of cooking water. Combine the sauce and pasta and add a bit of pasta cooking water to moisten if you need.

Serve with lots of grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Jane Baxter in The Guardian)

Tender chicken in tasty sauce, healthy stuff for mid-week. We served with brown rice.

Paprika chicken goulash – serves 4

  • 500g skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 tbsp plain flour, seasoned well
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1½ tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • sour cream, to serve
  • rice, to serve

Toss the chicken with the seasoned flour. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large deep frying pan and cook in batches until browned all over, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot to the pan and cook for 10-12 minutes or until soft and browned at the edges. Add the pepper and cook for another 8 minutes or so or until soft.

Put the chicken back into the pan and add the spices, tomatoes and stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the chicken tender. Stir in the parsley and serve with sour cream and rice.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, May 2018.)

This is absolutely lovely for lunch and you can make it up a few hours in advance and chill it in the fridge. It’s also easily doubled if your serving a crowd. Like everything it tastes better outside in the sun. Serve with some crusty bread and green salad leaves if you like.

Lemon & herb chicken salad – serves 6

  • 750g cooked skinless chicken, cut into thin strips (we cook our chicken on a barbecue for extra flavour)
  • 150g pitted green olives, halved
  • 290g jar chargrilled red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped basil
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 200g feta cheese, broken into small pieces

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl and seasoning with salt and black pepper.

Add the chicken to the dressing and toss well, then addd the olives, half the peppers, the basil, parsley, and two-thirds of the feta. Season again.

Arrange the chicken on a large platter and top with the rest of the peppers and feta. Chill in the fridge for a bit before serving.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry Cooks up a Feast with Lucy Young, Penguin Random House, 2019.)

We loved these little breakfast tacos so much we made them a few days in a row; and the mini yellow corn tortillas from Picado work perfectly. Jono bravely picked each taco up with a bit of spillage, Jules sensibly used a knife and fork.

Breakfast tacos with bacon, eggs & avocado – serves 2

  • 4 rashers smoked back bacon
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 8 mini corn tortillas (use less if you’re using bigger ones)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • a bunch of coriander, chopped
  • Sriracha sauce, to serve

Grill or barbeuce the bacon until cooked and crispy, then snip with scissors into small pieces.

Melt the butter in a saucepan then softly scramble the eggs, take them off the heat when still slightly liquid so they don’t overcook. Stir in the crispy bacon.

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan and lay onto two warm plate.

Spoon the bacon and eggs over the tacos, then top with avocado, coriander and a drizzle of Sriracha sauce.

(Original recipe from The BodyCoach App)

We’ve tried a few of these lately; a pasta dish where you literally chuck everything into the one pan, pasta and all, and cook. Perfect for weeknight/late night cooking.

Wine Suggestion: Well we wouldn’t go too fancy here as it would sort of defeat the purpose, something red, Italian, and not too expensive would be our choice.

One-pan pasta with sausage & fennel – serves 2-3

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 pork sausages, skinned
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp hot-smoked paprika
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped or plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 175g penne pasta or similar
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche, soft cheese or double cream
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated, plus more to serve
  • a bunch of basil, roughly torn

Heat the oil in a a large deep frying pan. Pull off small pieces of sausage and add them to the pan. Fry until nicely browned all over. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, paprika and chilli flakes and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the pasta, then cover with a lid and simmer gently for 12-15 minutes or until almost cooked, give it a stir now and then as it cooks. Stir in the crème fraîche, Parmesan and basil, then remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to sit for a couple of minutes. Serve with extra Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, May 2020.)