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

La Culinari is born.

So we talked about it and thought about it for ages but it took a closed pub and a sunny evening to boot us into action. We’ve cooked together forever, at parties and school do’s and such like – our Potters Pies and Quiz Night curries are part of local folklore, and we wanted to keep this going in a friendly informal way – to try out stuff we wouldn’t do on our own and to cook,  eat and drink together just because…