Having consumed during the Christmas period one massive turkey, a Norwegian spiced pork belly, a baked ham and a venison casserole, we are craving vegetables in this house. Sprouts, red cabbage, salads and lots of fruit also featured heavily on the menu but meat predominated. I’m not saying we’re going in for Veganuaray or any other New Year trend; it’s about needing to reset our dietary priorities. This month I’m going to cook without meat during the week but we’ll continue to have a roast or other meat dish on Sundays.
With this in mind I was delighted to pore over one of my Christmas presents from my sons: Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cook. I confess I was not familiar with Trivelli, who is head chef of the River Café, but I am glad to have been introduced. And Diana Henry, whose recipes you know I love, gave it a mention in her Telegraph column. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
It’s a beautiful book and I want to make everything in it but so far I’ve only got as far as making one of the dishes twice, first as a starter on New Year’s Eve and then last night we had it as our main meal with some fresh bread to mop up the juices. The recipe works well in the Aga.
Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas
Serves 4 (or 6 as a starter)
500g Jerusalem artichokes
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
½ large or 1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g frozen peas
10 mint leaves
2 parsley sprigs or a handful of chopped parsley
Sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil
Peel the artichokes and cut into wedges. Keep under water to stop them discolouring.
Remove any stringy-looking outer parts of the fennel and cut into thin wedges. Toss in some lemon juice to prevent them discolouring
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based, wide pan with a lid and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt. You could place the pan in the simmering oven at this point
Once the onion is soft add the garlic and a minute or two later the fennel. Stew with the lid on for five minutes (or longer if you put it in the simmering oven)
Add the Jerusalem artichokes, peas and some black pepper and continue to stew. Trivelli says to do this for 10 minutes over a low heat but my artichokes needed a lot longer than this (in the simmering oven) before they were soft. In fact, to try to speed things up I put the pan in the baking oven for a while. And Trivelli is right to say that Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly: I found that when some wedges were soft and tender, others were still hard. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise you
Once your artichokes are cooked, check the seasoning, add your herbs and stir them through with some extra virgin olive oil
The Country Wives were kind enough to publish this recipe on their website recently.
When cooler temperatures and rain put paid to our barbecue plans on Sunday, I decided to make Navarin of Lamb, a delicious braise which uses a variety of spring vegetables. I didn’t have in my kitchen any of the baby turnips or carrots which are traditional but knew I could make the dish with what I did have, and the recipe below is the result. Use any good veg you can find, with this recipe as a guide.
Navarin of Lamb
600g lamb neck fillet cut into large dice
1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
1 tbsp tomato purée
I clove garlic, bruised
Sprig or two of thyme
Sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
100ml white wine (or red if that’s what you have)
300ml chicken stock
225g baby new potatoes
100g carrots (baby carrots left whole or “old” carrots peeled and cut into thick batons)
150g frozen baby broad beans
150g frozen petits pois
Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed casserole on the simmering plate and add the onions, celery and pieces of lamb
Stir to coat everything in the fat and then move the casserole to the floor of the roasting oven for a few minutes to brown the lamb
Return it to the simmering plate and add some seasoning, the tomato purée and wine. Let this bubble for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic, bay leaf, herbs and stock
Bring to the boil, cover and place in the simmering oven for 1½ hours but longer would be fine: in an Aga nothing dries out
About half an hour before you want to eat, place the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan with a little salt, a teaspoon of caster sugar, a knob of butter and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and transfer to the simmering oven
Cook the peas, drain and rinse in cold water so they retain their colour
Cook the broad beans, drain and rinse in cold water and slip off the skins
Remove the lamb from the casserole to a plate, discard the garlic, herbs and bay leaf and bring the broth to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little
Return the lamb to the casserole and, having checked they’re tender, add the potatoes and carrots and finally the peas and broad beans
Taste for seasoning, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve