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.

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.

Christmas is coming …

It’s November. Cold and dark evenings. We need some sharp citrusy and warm spicey smells to get us in the mood for the pre-Christmas madness to come in December. We are puddinging and mincemeating. Read on…

I don’t understand why anyone would buy a Xmas pud. So easy to make your own, the only onerous bit is the shopping but that’s hardly an issue since we’re all in and out of the supermarket all the bloomin time anyways. The recipe should really just read – buy the stuff, mix it up, cook it, easy peasy lemon squeasy but here it is in full just in case.


500g mixed dried fruit (best quality, don’t scrimp here)mixed fruit soaking in rum and raki
RUM & RAKI (lots)
100g chopped pecans and walnuts
125g veg suet
50g brown breadcrumbs
125g dark brown muscovado sugar
2 tblsp treacle
50g plain flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
zest and juice of a lemon and an orange
2 eggs
(Sue forgot the eggs. The night -and possibly Christmas itself – was saved by Hannah-round-the-corner)

At least a day before start to soak your fruit – we used a mixture of rum (because we like it and it reminds us of Mojitos) and Raki for a waft of liquoricey exotica. Add as much as the fruit needs and keep adding it if the fruit keep soaking it up.

Next day, combine the fruit, nuts, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar, treacle, flour and spices and mix well. Then mix together the eggs and zests and juices and add to the fruit.Christmas pudding mixingChristmas Pudding mixing

Butter your bowl and spoon in the mixture. We scaled up this recipe and made some big puds and little ones too. It’s REALLY nice to cook a little one – ramekin size – and eat it on the day of cooking. Put the pudding in a saucepan of water with the water level halfway up the pudding and gentle simmer away for 2 hours. When the pud is cooked, let it cool then keep in the fridge til Christmas. To reheat on Xmas day – simmer for 45 mins or zap in the microwave.

The smell when you’re grating, chopping, mixing and cooking is absolutely delish.
Whilst the puddings were cooking we made mincemeat…


500g mixed fruit
3 apples, grated
150g best-quality mixed peel
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 tsp ground cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
150g dark brown soft sugar
your alcohol of choice

Put everything in a big bowl and mix thoroughly. Tradition has it that everyone should have a stir starting with the littlest – this had the dangerous potential to start a sizest arguement so we just took turns as WE ARE GROWN UPS. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars up to 2cm from the top and top up with your chosen liquor. We had access to a fine selection belonging to someone who wasn’t there so we went for Mandy’s fave Metaxa. Pop on the lids and keep in the fridge topping up the liquor every now and then as it needs. Delish in teeny tiny bite sized pies as everyone knows but we are going to have a go at mincemeat ice-cream if there’s any left in January. Nice.


Feeling super virtuous looking at our stack of jars we were also hungry. The tiny ramekin-sized puds were done so we tipped one out onto a warmed plate, splashed it generously with brandy and set it afire! We ate it with unpasteurised Jersey cream and Meadow Farm ice-cream from Blackburn & Haynes Farm Shop in Headley.

Christmas pudding aflameChristmas pudding with cream and ice-cream

We drank…
 mulled wine of course, first of the year. We also had a snifter or two of the Metaxa and Brandy to help us decide which to use haha.

We talked about… impending operations, Skyfall, Farnham Food Initiative, kids at Uni, mice in kitchens (not the one we were cooking in!), OHs in SA, visiting scousers, stilleto marks in wooden floors, Christmas singing falalalala


Where’s the time gone? Our last get-together was July and now KABOOM it’s October. Lovely autumny October and our thoughts turn to pickle…

We were very lucky to be offered some local apple and beetroot gluts and snapped them up immediately to pickle and chutnify. La Culinari and pickle go together like beans and toast or fish and chips. When our children were little and at Potters Gate Primary School in Farnham there was an old apple tree that every year shed apples onto the school field which got used as mouldy footballs (when the lunch time supervisors weren’t looking). We thought it was such a shame to waste the apples so began an epic, annual, hysterical apple collection at the beginning of every Autumn term involving ladders and many a Chuckle Brothers moment. We turned the apples into Potters Pickle and sold it at the Xmas Fair to raise money for the school. Sadly, the tree is being lost to the school’s new building project but Potters Pickle lives on!

Potters Pickle

2-3kg apples, any sort – we used a mixture of eaters and cookers for a good “mushy but with chunks” texturechopping apples
4 onions
2 chillies
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
5 tsp ground cloves
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
black pepper
a big thumb of ginger, grated
500 ml cider vinegar

Just peel and chop the apples, onion and chillies and bung in a big pan with everything else and cook for about an hour til the fruit is soft. Taste and see if it needs more spices or chillies when it’s about half way through cooking. Spoon into clean, warm jars and according to Hugh F-W via Mandy you should invert the jars and leave to cool upside down which seals them. I’ve never heard this before and have just spent tooooo long googling this and cannot find out the definitive answer, any ideas anyone?

We had been given loads of home grown beetroot so the second chutney we made was a vivid pink and spicy beetroot and ginger one, christened Brooty Toot. Here’s the recipe:

Brooty Toot Chutney

3kg beetrootchutney pans
1 kg apples
4 onions
2 chillies
a big thumb of ginger, grated
half a jar of stem ginger in syrup
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
2 tsp salt
black pepper
500 ml red wine vinegar

As before, just chop peel and chop the onions, beetroot, chillies and apples. Chop the stem ginger. Put everything in a big pan and simmer away til the beetroot is soft and tender. Spoon into warm jars and seal. The best thing about this chutney (apart from the earthy, sweet and sour taste) is the zingy bright pink colour.

Both chutneys had a fair chilli kick which we liked. The chillies we used were hot ones from a mixed box from the South Devon Chilli Farm – an ace birthday present from my brother @hippyjon We also got to christen another present from my other sibling @fabiapol – my jam funnel, sounds rude but it’s NOT. Very practical and much less messy jar filling guarenteed.

All in all the above made about 12 jars of Potters Pickle and 15 of Brooty Toot, plenty enough to share between the four of us and to give some to Helen and Sue who generously provided us with the apples and beetroot. THANK YOU, YOU TWO.

We were starving after a good couple of hours of chop n chat so we ate some still-hot chutney with home made smoked mackerel pate (the easiest thing in the world to make – smoked mackerel, cream cheese, lemon juice, pepper) and some shop bought pate with prunes in (very nice) and some boring cheese, baguette and oat cakes. DELICIOUS SUPPER and a massive sense of achievement looking at our stack of chutney filled jars. Not bad for a Monday!

chutney jars

We drank… well it was almost Mandy’s birthday so we had to have a fizzy and Gilly treated us to a bottle from a local vineyard, Greyfriars on the Hogs Back. The vineyard changed hands in 2010 and our bottle was from the previous owners time, very good, but the new owners are promising improvements so we’ll keep an eye out. Always nice to support local producers.

We talked about… Christmas (sorry), Nigel Slater, Mandy’s upcoming party, apple shortages, English sparkling wines, gardening woe, Milton Jones, kitchen refurbs.


Our July meet up was all about bread. We had a go at four different sorts and we liked them all. We liked them even more with some ace local butter and cheese on the top. Why don’t we make bread more often? Easy peasy, quick and so delicious.

So what did we make? First we made a loaf called Auntie Mary’s Super Soda Bread which claims to be a foolproof recipe needing no kneading (ha ha), no proving, no skill and no time – so right up our street. It was quicker than quick to make, just mix everything in a bowl and then stick in the oven. We used a spelt flour which none of us knew much about but if you’re interested there’s a lot of info on the Sharpham Park website. It’s a healthy alternative to wheat flour dubbed by the Romans as “the marching grain” due to it’s high energy content.

Here’s the recipe:

2 x 284 ml pots buttermilkGilly making Aunty Mary's Super Soda Bread
420g flour (we used Sharpham Park Organic Spelt)
4 tblsp sunflower seeds
2 tblsp linseeds
150g oats
1 tsp muscavado sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Put one carton of buttermilk in a bowl, add one third of the flour and all the seeds. Add the second pot of buttermilk, the remaining flour, oats, sugar, salt and bicarb. Mix well. Grease a round baking tin and tip in the bread mixture. Smooth the top and give the tin a bash to make the mixture settle. Bake for an hour at 190C/375F.

While that was cooking we started on the others – Easy Soda Bread, Lemon Pepper Bread and Focaccia. The second soda bread was exciting as it used fizzy soda water and again very healthily, included lots and lots of seeds. Incidentally when Gilly was confusedly stood staring at the all the flours available in the shop she asked a bread-making lady (how did she know?…) what she would recommend and she was told Canadian flour is best for bread. Not sure why but not good for our LOCAL support.

3 cups wholewheat flourGilly's soda bread
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsps flax seeds
3 tbsps sesame seeds
2 cups soda water

Combine all dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the middle and add the soda water – it will fizz up immediately inducing squeals and shrieks (or is that just us?) Combine everything and tip into a loaf tin. Sprinkle with more seeds and bake at 200C for 45 to 50 mins, a skewer should come out clean when it’s done. Kaboom…done.

Lemon Pepper Bread was next. Not a soda bread this time so required some kneading but no proving so still a quick recipe. The smell of the lemons and pepper was heavenly.

250g self raising flourGilly's soda bread and Mandy's in bowl
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsps black pepper
45g butter
1 tblsp chopped chives
90g cheese – we used Sussex Charmer
2 tsp white wine vinegar
185 ml milk

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the lemon and pepper then rub in the butter to like you are making pastry. Stir in cheese and chives. Mix the milk and vinegar together and don’t worry if it looks curdled then add to the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Divide into two, place on a buttered baking tray and press each out into a circle about an inch thick. Score into wedges and dust with flour. Bake for 20 to 25 mins. It will be deep golden when ready and make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom (as I do. Actually,… depends who’s doing the tapping).

Last up was Mama Slooo’s Focaccia

500g strong white flourSue kneading
1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
1tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tblsps olive oil
300ml warm water

and for the topping – sea salt, black pepper, fresh rosemary leaves and sprigs

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix the oil and water then pour onto the flour. Stir with a spoon then bring together with your hands to make a ball. Knead for 5 mins then put in an oiled bowl and leave to prove for an hour while you have a drink. Knock it back and push out to a rough rectangle on an oiled tray. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for 30 mins. Have another drink while the oven preheats to 220C/425F. After 30 mins, use your finger to make dimples in the dough then drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the salt and black pepper and chopped rosemary. Stick some little sprigs in too. Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown.


Aunty Mary's Super Soda Bread    Soda and Lemon Pepper Bread  Focaccia  Bread Board 2

The smells in the kitchen were making us VERY HUNGRY and as we staggered the baking we had to resist from eating too much of the first cooked loaves so we had room to try all four. Resistance is not one of our strong points but we tried. We ate the bread with a selection of local butter and cheese which we bought from Mill Farm Shop just off the A31 on the way to Alton – really worth a visit for local produce and their own organic meat.

Cheesewise, we had two delicious ones from award- winning Loosehanger Farmhouse Cheeses near Salisbury – a creamy, mild, blue Old Sarum and a soft, mold-ripened White Hart. We also had the rest of the tasty Sussex Charmer left over from the Lemon Pepper Bread and South Downs butter made by the same producer – Bookhams in West Sussex. The butter was a revelation, absolutely lucious and very different to bland supermarket stuff. Oh and we had some ace Chilli & Apple Jelly made from Mill Farm apples – we liked that a lot too.


We drank… pink Prosecco with strawberries

We talked about…  pinnys, Blissfields, holidays, poledancing, guitar playing, Grayson Perry on the telly, Mandy’s ear, spelt, Higgs Bosun

Oh and we didn’t eat ALL the bread that evening…we each had a proper bread basket to take home to our families and we are happy to report that all the breads were still delicious the next day – the soda breads are great for toasting. YUM.

Perfect Pasta

So… we began our cooking collaboration with pasta. We really want to support small producers, local where possible so we used Chapel Farm eggs which had the most beautiful, brightest yellow yolks and Wessex Mill Pasta and Pizza Flour.  The flour has a Good Taste Award and is the colour of a really smart off-white heritage paint and totally unlike that schreechingly bright white supermarket stuff.

Making the pasta was easy-peasy, like Jamie says ” just chuck the eggs and flour together, no big deal”. Rolling it out was fun as we were by now on our second bottle of celebratory fizz.

So to stuffing… we wanted to make RAVIOLI and we were super hungry. We had local asparagus, potatoes, peas, goats’ cheese and lovely mint from Mandy’s garden so we did two sorts of ravioli…here’s the recipes, bit vague but that’s how we roll..

LA CULINARI RAVIOLI NUMBER UNO (this was our favourite)

We cooked some peas (from pods, real peas…you know?) then added some frozen ones too for their zingy green and sweetness…drained them then crumbled in some goats’ cheese and chopped mint, some olive oil and loads of black pepper.


We lightly cooked the asparagus stalks and added them to crushed cooked potatoes, and then softened with garlic, parmesan, nutmeg and pepper (we like pepper).

We had loads of pasta left so we rolled whole sage leaves into squares of it which looked super pretty and we made lots and lots and lots of linguine.

Things were getting proper messy now and we had covered most of the room with pasta so we cooked some of everything to try. We cooked the asparagus tips in with the pasta (which takes no time at all) and served with Loseley butter, extra parmesan, pepper and sage leaves.

It was ALL GOOD.

We drank… Freixenet Cava and Cuvée Royale Brut NV Crémant de Limoux

We talked about…  pinnys, our childrens’ exams and work experience, Blockbusters, Jubilympics, hosepipe bans, rumoured coffee shop openings and closings in Farnham and the Frensham Farm Shop