Spiced Mutton and Lamb Balls

We were really lucky to be given some diced mutton to try by one of our favourite local food suppliers, Mill Farm in Isington, just off the A31 between Farnham and Alton. This got us to thinking about mutton/lamb lamb/mutton and all the associated jokes,.. don’t even go there @hippyjon

None of us had cooked mutton before although some of us had tried Hugh FW‘s mutton burgers at Camp Bestival a couple of years ago which were really tasty, served with a yogurty minty side and chilli salsa. Who bettter to turn to than Hugh for a good mutton recipe? We got this on the go before starting on the mini lamb balls…


750g diced mutton
250g organic dried apricots
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 large onions, sliced
3 large carrots in chunks
1 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp crushed  coriander seeds
6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
1 tsp ginger
pinch of mace
1 glass white wine
4½oz good fruit chutney (we used our own Potters Pickle)
salt and black pepper

Rinse the apricots well in cold water then place in a bowl. Pour over enough boiling water from the kettle to barely cover them. Leave to soak while you heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and carrot and sweat for a few minutes until softened. Add all the spices, and fry for a few more minutes. Transfer to a large stockpot. Turn up the heat under the (now empty) frying pan and add the rest of the oil. Brown the meat quickly in small batches and add to the vegetables.

Spiced Mutton Stew

Pour over the juice from the soaked apricots, the glass of wine, the chutney and enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to the boil, then reduce immediately to a very slow simmer. Put on the lid and cook for 1½ hours. Add the apricots. and cook for a further ½ hour at least but longer won’t hurt it. By this time the meat should be extremely tender. Taste a bit and if in doubt cook for a little longer.

While this simmered away we made our dinner.

First the mini meatballs…


Quantities here are variable, depends what you have and what you fancy. We put in about 500g lamb mince (again from Mill Farm), 1 egg, 1 grated onion, 1 grated courgette, 1 grated carrot, a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a good big tablespoon of the Moroccan spice blend Ras-el-Hanout. Ours is from Seasoned Pioneers – it’s a complex mix of spices and herbs and contains REAL rose petals. Nice. Mix it all together in a big bowl and sprinkle some semolina in until the mixture starts to stick together.

Mini Lamb Balls

Then take small spoonfuls and roll into balls the size of walnuts and place on a tray or large plate ready to be cooked. You could use the same mixture for burgers – just shape them accordingly. When the balls are ready, heat some oil in your largest pan and cook the balls in batches – don’t overcrowd the pan. When the balls are brown all over, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and shake onto a large plate covered in kitchen roll. They are equally delicious hot or cold. We had ours with this lovely, herby salad, a yogurt & mint side and La Culinari flatbread…


500g strong white bread flour
7g fast yeast
2 tsps salt
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml warm milk
A bunch of herbs – we used coriander but you could use basil, parsley, thyme…depends what you’ll be eating it with.

Blend yeast with flour then add salt. Make a well in the middle and add oil. Start to mix the flour into the well and slowly pour in the milk. Knead on a floured board for approximately 10 minutes then put in a warm place for an hour. Rip up your herbs and add to the dough. Depending on the size you want your bread to be, divide it up into 8 – 16 balls and roll out until about half a centimetre thick. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 2 minutes either side.

Flatbread Meatballs

This is our favourite Culinari combo so far – just a perfect spring supper, lots of fresh flavours and it all works so well together – the soft bread, the fragrant lamb and the zingyness of the salad and yogurt. All in all deliciousness.

We drank… Cucumber & Mint G&Ts – don’t know if Martha Stewart would approve of our doubling the Gin quantities in her cocktail recipe but there you go. It’s a delicious twist on G&T when it’s too early in the year for a Pimms. Muddle some mint and cucumber in the bottom of tall glasses, fill the glass with ice then add gin and tonic and garnish with a mint sprig and a cucumber wedge.

Cucumber & Mint G&T

We talked about… David Bowie at the V&A, Weydon Student Leaders and school uniform, Thatcher, holidays, GCSEs, Proms, false eyelashes.

Hot Cross Bums

We’ve always been ones for culinary double entendres – we’ll never miss a lovely bap opportunity and cocktails involving big jugs will always be our favourite. So when we felt ourselves hurtling towards Eastertime and what with none of us being religious in any way we just had to try out some seasonal bun cooking and so our attempt at Hot Cross Bums began…

We turned first to the ultimate bunner – Mrs Beeton in her Household Management Book of 1861, who tells us that these buns have an Average Cost of 1d. each. Good to know.

MRS BEETON’S HOT CROSS BUNS (RECIPE NO: 3341)Mrs Beeton's Hot Cross Bun

1 lb plain flour
¼  lb sugar
½ oz yeast
½ pint warm milk
¼ lb butter
½ currants
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp salt

Mix the flour, sugar, spice and currants; make a hole in the middle of the flour, put in the yeast and a quarter of a pint of warmed milk; make a thin batter of the surrounding flour and milk and set the pan covered before the fire until the leaven begins to ferment. Put to this mass a quarter of a pound of melted butter, add the salt and beat well together. Make up into rather a soft paste with all the flour, using a little more warm milk if necessary.  Cover this with a clean cloth, and let it once more rise up for half an hour. Shape the dough in buns, and lay them apart on buttered tin plates or baking-sheets in rows at least 3 inches apart to rise for half an hour. Place a cross mould on them (this may be done roughly with the back of a knife), and bake in a quick oven from 15 to 20 minutes.

Unfortunately we had no fire to “set the pan covered before” so we had to improvise. Also we had to guess what a “quick oven” means…quite hot?!

Next up….a very chocolatey version as requested by our children…


7g sachet dry yeastChoc Chip Buns Proving
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1/4 cup caster sugar
4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
60g butter, chilled, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark or milk choc bits

Flour paste for the bum tops:

3 tblsp plain flour
½ tblsp caster sugar
2 tblsp water

Grease a baking tray. Place yeast, milk and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl. Whisk to dissolve yeast. Cover. Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes or until foamy. Sift flour and cocoa into a bowl. Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in centre. Add yeast mixture, egg and remaining sugar and stir to combine. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch down dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Add choc bits and combine. Roll into 16 balls and place on prepared tray. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until slightly risen. Preheat oven to 200°C. Meanwhile, make the paste – combine flour, sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a bowl. Spoon into a snap-lock bag. Snip 1 corner from bag and pipe crosses (or bums) onto buns. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180°C. Cook for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

When the buns come out of the oven, mix 1 tblsp of sugar and 1 tblsp of boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun with it.

Choc Chip Hot Cross Bums

After our success with spelt bread we decided that spelt buns must be worth a go (we were right)…


50g butterDSCN0041
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove
200g bread flour
200g spelt
1 sachet yeast
100g glace cherries
50g sultanas
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
150 ml milk
1 egg

Heat the milk, butter, zest and clove until the butter melts, then leave to infuse. Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. Take the clove out of the milk and beat in the egg then pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients. Knead the dough until you have silky, elastic dough. Form into a ball and place in a buttered, covered bowl and leave to prove overnight in the fridge.

Next day, preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220ºC. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns. Sit the buns on a lined baking sheet. Score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross (or a bum). Cover with a teatowel and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen and almost joined up.

Brush the buns with an egg wash, and then, as in the previous recipe mix flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Pipe your pattern over the buns in the indents, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Glaze with a sugar glaze when they’re out of the oven as in the choc chip recipe above.

Here’s a fine selection of buns ready for tasting. From left to right – Cherry Spelt, Mrs Beeton’s, Choc Chip.


We tried the buns loaded with butter while still warm from the oven. A bit more spice wouldn’t have gone amiss but all were tasty. Next morning however they came into their own and made for an excellent breakfast. Mrs Beeton’s and the Spelt Buns were comfortingly breakfasty toasted with butter and the choc chip ones made a calorific luxury morning treat toasted and spread with Nutella, mmmmmm.

Now…if you do have left over buns gone a bit stale you can make a delish custardy pudding like we did here…


4 hot cross buns
15g unsalted butter
320ml double cream
100ml whole milk
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
100g Greek-style yogurt
1tsp demerara sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (gas mark 3) and grease a 1-litre ovenproof dish. Cut the hot cross buns in half and spread with butter both sides. Arrange the buns in an ovenproof dish, layering the cross sides face up on top.

Beat the eggs and egg yolk. Heat the cream and milk until just warm then pour into the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add the yogurt, whisk again.

Pour the mixture over the buns a little at a time, ensuring it has time to soak in. Sprinkle the pudding with demerara sugar and place on a baking sheet. Bake for approx 30 mins – the pudding should be puffed up, set and golden brown when done.

This turns out like an eggy custardy bread and butter pudding – nice.

Bum Pud

We drank… Another gingery cocktail – Raspberry Ginger Fizz,  a cross between two of our favourites – a mojito and a Moscow mule. Raspberries, vodka and mint topped up with ginger beer. LUSH.

We talked about… Fanny Craddock, Julia Childs, Mrs Beeton, Amour (the film), impending weddings, blood donating, Michelle Obama dancing, cameras, the Watts Gallery, Justin Timberlake, pubs in Puttenham.

Two Soups…

Inspired by our favourite comedy clip, January was all about two soups. Or soup two ways. Two ways to make tasty, healthy, nourishing soup to warm your cockles.

This first soup is so nutritious you might develop a halo whilst you eat it.  A tomato, pepper, onion and garlic combo roasted in a tiny splash of olive oil then blitzed with ginger for zing, this soup is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C and E and great for immune boosting at this cold-ridden time of year. Its so easy to make and these quantities make masses -perfect for freezing what what you don’t eat the first time. Have a go…


6 punnets of tasty tomatoesTomatoes peppers onions garlic
6 red peppers
6 onions
6 garlic cloves
6 thumbs of ginger
soy sauce, Tabasco, black pepper

Halve the tomatoes. Slice the peppers and onions into big chunks. Peel the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger.

Sling the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic in a single layer on two or three baking trays and splash with olive oil. Give it a shake and put in oven at 200/Gas Mark 6. Roast for 30 mins til tender then tip into a big saucepan and blitz with a hand blender. Add the ginger, a couple of splashes of soy and Tabasco, black pepper and enough water to make the consistency you prefer. Whizz and taste adding more soy, Tobasco or pepper as it needs. Warm through and enjoy virtuously.

This is a warmingly sweet bowl of redness. If you wanted a bigger chilli hit you could add a couple of red chillis at the roasting stage or just serve with Tobasco on the side to add to taste. We ate ours with some of our Lemony Pepper Bread (recipe here)  but it would also make a great risotto base in place of stock.

Tomato Ginger Zinger Soup

The second soup is made the traditional way by simmering veg and spices gently on the hob til soft then blitzing with milk to make a creamy, satiny soup. We’d never used almonds in a soup so were interested to try this…


50g butter
3 cauliflowers, cut into smallish florets and stalks chopped
3 onions
9 crushed garlic cloves
3 tsps turmeric
2 tsps fenugreek
2 tsps ground ginger
300g ground almonds
1.5l milk
2 lemons
bunch of coriander

Melt the butter in your biggest pan (or split between two pans to start with like we did). Add the onion, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger and soften. Add the cauli, put the lid on and cook for 5 mins on low til everything softens. Stir in the almonds then add boiling water til the cauliflower is almost covered, replace lid and simmer for about twenty mins til the cauliflower is tender. Stir in a litre of milk and then blitz until smooth and satiny. Add more milk if you want it thinner.  Now taste and add lemon juice to freshen it up and black pepper to taste. Warm through then serve with lemon wedges and some chopped coriander on the top.

Our taste buds were zapped after the tomato soup so we really need to try this again without a tomato starter but the overall effect is quite nicely korma-ry. The lemon added at the end definitely spritzes the taste up a notch and some toasted flaked almonds on the top would have been good too. Again, this ingredients list makes a large quantity but it’s easy to scale it down or freeze batches of extra soup.

Cauliflower and Almond Soup

We drank… Moscow Mules – continuing our gingery theme – a mix of vodka and freshly squeezed lime in a tall glass topped up with ginger beer.

We talked about… school dinners, graphene, second hand furniture at the Phyllis Tuckwell Furniture Showroom, the 5-2 diet and fasting, Brian Cox, Les Mis, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Sadlers Wells, science GCSEs.