The House Party

It is sadly an altogether too rare delight that my housemates and I manage to be in the house all at the same time of an evening. Despite the fact we have lived together for the past 4 months, we very rarely seem to manage to all be there at the same time. This may have something to do with the fact that I work during the day, Mark Francis works during the evening and Clare Balding works whenever she can/has to. When we do find ourselves in the house together, it is usually either early in the morning standing in our bedroom doorways clad in dressing gowns for a quick 10 min chat, or occasionally at about midnight, when we all traipse in from our various social activities to share the gossip we know about those still at the university. Hence the fact that a dinner together is practically unheard of. When we discovered we all happened not to have prior social commitments on the same evening, that evening became a social occasion in itself. I hit up Aldi, Clare Balding brought the Prosecco and Mark Francis brought… himself. We decided we would make one course each: CB the starter, myself the main and MF the dessert. I feel each course reflected our different cooking styles…

We began with a classic combination of melon, prosciutto, Parmesan, rocket and balsamic. It was delicious. Sometimes just combining good quality ingredients together is all you need to make a really good dish. (Plus look how pretty it is!)

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I, of course, went to the other extreme: simplicity was not the aim in my dish. I made lamb neck fillets with a harissa pine nut crust, roasted veg and raisin-studded couscous, a thickened tagine-style sauce, sautéed spinach and a mint raita.

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The highlight of the meal was inevitably the pizza, sorry, ‘pudding’. Unfortunately by this point the novelty of cooking had worn off, and we were all more interested in watching Christmas adverts on YouTube and listening to 100 year old recordings of castrati sounding incredibly bad. Mark Francis did his best though, and made beautiful looking (slightly pizza-esque) individual strawberry tarte tatins with grated white chocolate. These managed to be not too sweet and full of luscious strawberry flavour: like a fruit-filled strawberry ice cream. However he was too impatient to actually wait for the tarts to cook… As Mary Berry would say (and I know my housemates are fans) the tarts most definitely had rather soggy bottoms.

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Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Loosely based on a Fat Duck this is dedicated to my mum – Happy Mothers Day.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Lamb
2tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 juniper berries
dash lemon juice
800g rolled, boned lamb breast, cut in half widthways to make two pieces
Pea Puree
300g frozen peas
½ garlic stock cube (or 2 cloves crushed garlic)
pinch of salt
60g butter
dash of cream
dash lemon juice
4 sprigs dill
Caramelised Onion Gel
1 large white onion
1 large red onion
knob of butter
1 leaf gelatine
Pickled Cucumber
¼ cucumber stick
100ml olive oil
100ml white wine vinegar
black pepper
splash of lemon juice
3 sprigs dill
pinch of salt (3g)
pinch of sugar (5g)
Lamb Jus
Reserved caramel onions
Reserved lamb juice
Spelt Poppadoms
200g flour
water
oil
1tsp fennel seeds
50g spelt
pinch of salt


1.     For the Pickled Cucumber, peel and halve the cucumber lengthways. Halve lengthways again then halve widthways. Mix the oil, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, salt, sugar and cucumber. Leave to marinate.
2.     For the Caramelised Onion Gel, peel the onions and slice into rings thinly. Put in a frying pan with the butter and cover, leaving over a low heat for 30mins. When the onions are golden and caramelised, remove from the heat and pour over 150ml water immediately, then cover. Leave for 5mins, and then drain the onions, reserving the liquid. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 1min then mix into the onion liquid. Place in the fridge for 1-2hrs until set*. Puree the remaining onions and reserve.
3.     For the Puree, Pour boiling water over the peas with the garlic. Leave for 3-5mins, topping up with boiling water if the water goes cold, until the peas are a bright green and do not feel frozen but feel a little tender. Drain and puree wit the butter and cream, leave aside.
4.     For the lamb, place in a shallow dish and pour over the spices. Then pour over boiling water and leave for 7mins.
5.     For the Poppadoms’, mix the flour, salt, fennel seeds, 2tbsp oil and spelt with water, adding until it forms a firm dough (roughly 100ml-200ml water). Split into 3 pieces and roll out thinly. Heat up 3tbsp oil in a pan till hot, fry each piece for 4mins until crispy, turning halfway.
6.     For the lamb, drain and reserve the liquid. Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and sear the lamb for 2-3mins on each side. Meanwhile mix the onions and 300ml reserved lamb liquid and heat to boiling, simmering for 5mins until it forms a jammy gravy.
7.     To serve, warm the pea puree and spoon a large teardrop onto the right side of the plate. Delicately place four cucumber pieces on the left of the tear drop on each plate at different angles. Chop each lamb piece into four slices and lay on top of the teardrop. Gently spoon over the gravy on the lamb. Spoon out dabs of the Caramelised onion gel and dot between the cucumber Finally break up the poppadum and place a shard between each lamb slice facing upwards, finish with dill sprigs.

*alternatively place in freezer for 30-40mins