Since Spring seems to have evaded us this year, I thought it might be a good idea to bring Spring to the plate instead.   This is a light, crunchy and tangy salad of beetroot, baby gem, lentils and goats cheese with added freshness from a dill vinaigrette.    
Dill is one of my favourite herbs, mostly because it reminds me so much of home.   In Sweden, dill is scattered through the freshest new potatoes laced with butter and salt- I ask you, is there anything better?  It is also frequently used in pickles and added to traditional fish dishes.  You can even get crisps flavoured with dill and chives.  This dressing celebrates this underrated herb and is surprisingly versatile.  For the salad, I used the precooked, vacuum-packed variety of beetroot for convenience, but you could of course use the fresh kind, boiled or, even better, roasted.  
Dill Vinaigrette
You will need:
A large handful dill
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 tsp of sugar. 


1.  The easiest way to make this dressing is to toss all the ingredients into a food processor and wizz together.  But if you don’t have one, start by chopping the dill very finely.

2.  Mix with vinegar, salt, sugar and then finally add the oil.  Drizzle over leaves, beetroot, lentils and crumbled goats cheese.  Alternatively, use to dress green beans and peas and serve with fish. 

What’s Up, Doc?

Dinner party table decorations: Spring greens in a vase and plump tomatoes.  Why not?

We had some friends round for dinner a couple of weekends ago and I’m afraid, dear reader, that I rather overdid it.  It’s been a good few months since we gathered a group around our hearth and broke bread.  So I decided to do five courses and make amends with the dinner party deities.

First up, a cocktail- the thyme martini, which is surprisingly light and refreshing.  Course numero uno was a mini beetroot mousse with horseradish cream (sort of inspired by this recipe).  Second, a light salad of smoked mackerel, apples, pickled shallots and dill vinaigrette (see my recent post) followed by an Italian style rabbit stew with added kick from a flavoursome gremolata.  This was served with cheesy polenta mash and lemony spring greens.  And that wonderful Sicillian aubergine stew, the camponata, for the vegetarian option, which was also livened up with gremolata.  A selection of cheeses, with pickles and honeyed walnuts and finally, the coffee granita and hazelnut choc-chip biscuits from the last post.  Personally, I could hardly move afterwards, so it may well have been a bit too excessive.  But these feasts happen so rarely…

For me, the real highlight was cooking with rabbit, a first for me.   It is surprisingly versatile and pretty straightforward to prepare.  Just a little bit bony perhaps.  I’m thinking some rabbit ragu with tagliatelle could work nicely for a future supper.  I just have to wait till the next time I’m in Crouch End to go to the wonderful Budgens (the only supermarket in the world to sell the produce they grow on their roof- they call it food from the sky), they stock a really decent selection of game and wild meats.  

Time for a cocktail: fragrant thyme martini

Thyme Martini

You will need:
A bunch of fresh thyme
150ml water
100 g caster sugar
lemon juice


1.  First, make the thyme syrup by combining the water, caster sugar and a handful of thyme (about 10 sprigs) in a pan.  Let this come to the boil and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Take off the heat and leave to infuse overnight.

2.  Remove the sprigs and any stray leaves from the syrup and pour into a bottle or jar.  It will keep in the fridge nicely for a few weeks.

3.  To make a thyme martini, combine two shots of vodka and one shot each of the syrup and lemon juice.  Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass.  Decorate with a sprig or two of thyme.  Sit back, enjoy and pretend you are Don Draper.

Traditional hearty Italian rabbit stew with gremolata and polenta mash

Italian Rabbit Stew with Gremolata
Serves 6

You will need:
 100ml olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 kg rabbit, jointed
200ml red wine
1L chicken stock
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp rosemary needles
2 bay leaves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata:
Large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
Zest of 2 lemon
3 cloves of garlic


1.  Heat the oil in your largest pan.  Add all of the vegetables and cook until softened, giving the pot a good stir every so often.  

2.  Add the pieces of meat and cook until browned on all sides.  If your pan isn’t quite big enough, you may want to do this in a separate frying pan, then add the rabbit to the pot with the veg.

3.  Pour in the wine, bring to the boil, then lower the heat until the mixture is simmering. Add the juniper berries, peppercorns,rosemary, bay and chopped tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add enough stock to cover all the meat before finally stirring in the tomato purée.

4.  Continue to cook, uncovered, for two hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Season with salt and pepper.

5.  Meanwhile, make the gremolata.  Wash the flat leaf parsley and leave to dry (or use one of those salad spinners if you have one.) Finely chop the garlic cloves and I mean really finely.  Zest the lemon and finely chop the parsley.  Combine in a pretty bowl and leave to one side.

6.  Depending on your meat and your guests, you may want to make things easier for them by fishing out the joints and removing the meat from the bone.  Add this back to the stew and leave to simmer a few more minutes before serving.

7.  Serve with cheesy polenta mash and the bowl of gremolata for your guests to sprinkle liberally over the stew.

Another lunchy thing

Salmon. Spuds. Spinach. Mustard dressing. Dill. Beetroot. Delicate, russo-scandinavian flavours. A way to extend the holidays.