Easter Lamb

I spent Easter in north Devon with my soon-to-be in laws, walking along beaches, exploring smugglers’ villages, cooking and chilling out.  The weather held for two out of three days, which is more than you can expect from an English bank holiday, so no complaints there.  I always find that Easter is a wonderful time for gathering together and breaking bread, without the stresses of decorating, present buying and the dreaded turkey cooking that comes with Christmas.  This is a much more relaxed affair, free from quite so many expectations.   There’s really only one thing I insist on at Easter: roast lamb, at its best right now.
This year, I studded mine with garlic and slow cooked it for 5 hours on a bed of spuds and onion.  However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you could try this almond milk braised recipe.  Cooking with almond milk is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages and I was not disappointed.  It adds a richness that works particularly well with the fennel and beans here, and makes for a really succulent, tender lamb.  You could also veer towards north African with the flavours, adding chilli, coriander and cumin before roasting then scattering with pomegranate seeds.  I think that would work particularly well, but felt that something a bit more classic would be more appropriate for Easter.
The photographs in this post are, yet again, taken by Faith Mason during an Easter-themed testing session.  I particularly love the black and white photo of duck eggs, with their pearlescent shells.  The blue eggs are in fact not painted (although that would be pretty fitting for Easter), but come from Cotswold Old Legbar hens and naturally have a slightly turquoise hue.  You can find them from Clarence Court, along with many other exciting egg varieties.  

Almond milk Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Fennel and Baby Carrots

You will need:
1/2 shoulder of lamb, approx 1kg/2 lb 3 oz
3 fat garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 green chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly bashed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
300ml/10 fl oz almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
baby carrots, to serve
flaked almonds and chopped parsley leaves, to serve




1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.  Using a small knife, make little incisions all over the meat and insert the slivers of garlic.  Mix together the parsley stalks, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, smoked paprika, olive oil and 1 tsp of salt (preferably sea salt) in a small bowl to form a thick paste.  Rub this all over the lamb.

2. Place the onion and fennel in a roasting tray, season and pour over the almond milk.  Sit the lamb snugly in the tray.  Cover with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, basting a few times, then remove from the oven and tip in the beans.  Continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, until tender.  Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes then scatter with chopped parsley and flaked almonds.  Serve with steamed baby carrots, still slightly crunch and, if you like, some of the beans, fennel and milk whizzed into a thick sauce. 

Lentils and Light

I’ve always been a fan of things you can whack into a large pan and walk away from.  Leave to potter and simmer and come together whilst you crack on with one or two of the other things that demand your time.

This stew is one such dish.  It takes about 35-45 minutes to cook and no time at all to prepare.  It sits happily on the stove while you crack on with those emails, feeding the cat, ironing or whatever. I served it last weekend for my film-maker friend, Mike, who kindly came round to give me a photography lesson.  Followed by a slice of plum and pear pie, I suppose it was really a bribe to trek East and patiently explain clever things about light sources and let me try out some better lenses.  But it is also exactly the kind of food I crave on days like these, when it starts to get dark around 4.30 in the afternoon and the heating needs to be whacked up.  In fact, it was the perfect meal before heading off to see the Guy Fawkes fireworks on Blackheath.  

Lentils and sausages are of course very good friends and I for one have always thought of them as a particularly Germanic combo.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but I think this recipe is a fresher, spicier take than the wurst you too might be familiar with.

Sausage and Lentil Stew with Fennel and Paprika
Serves 3 hungry people

You will need:

6 Sausages (preferably of the stronger, Italian variety- I used fennel and chili)
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp smoky paprika
300g green lentils (not puy please)
700ml passata
700ml chicken stock
A handful of parsley
Black pepper.


1.  Slice the onions and fry them in a large stewing pot over a medium high heat.  They should begin to caramelise ever so slightly.

2.  Meanwhile, brown the sausages all over in a separate frying.

3. Add the minced garlic, fennel seeds and paprika to your pot and stir for about a minute.

4.  Add the sausages, passata and stock.  Stir together.

5.  Add the lentils and cook over a low, simmering heat until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lentils are cooked through.  They should absorb a fair bit of the liquid.  This should take about 40 minutes.

6.  Plate up into large bowls, scatter with chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.  Serve with chunky bread.

Straight forward.

Stuck for a supper idea this weekend?  Try this flavoursome combo.

A couple of fennel bulbs, olives, orange zest and juice.  Some chicken thighs.  A few crushed garlic cloves, a sprinkle of parsley, a little sea salt, and pepper and a swig of olive oil.  180 degrees in an oven for 20 mins.  Bish, bash, bosh, supper.