Yellow Split Pea Soup

I have eaten many forms of this cheery soup; London Particular, German Split Pea Soup made with bacon or wurste, and most commonly in (for me) Amsterdam, where it is known simply as ‘snert’ and is almost everywhere during the winter months. In fact, it’s a cultural tradition that is almost everywhere in the northwestern corner of Europe in the winter months. This soup  is usually made with ham stock and ham or smoked pork of some variety, but I’ve started to prefer to make a vegetarian version and then ring the changes throughout the week when having the soup for lunch. This also means I can give a bowl of soup to a greedy vegetarian. You can put sliced frankfurters in, a la Nigella Lawson (as I have here), or off cut chunks of ham,you could grill some bacon and serve it on top, some crumbled feta, or you could just sprinkle with paprika and olive oil. If you are not bothered about keeping this veggie, then I would make it with ham stock.

Makes 4 generous bowls, very easily doubled.

  • 250g yellow split peas (follow instructions on packet if they need pre-soaking)
  • glug olive oil
  • small carrot
  • small onion
  • small stick celery
  • 800 ml vegetable stock or water
  • bay leaf
  • 1 blade of mace, slightly toasted in a dry pan and bashed up or a good pinch of powdered
  • pepper

Cut the onion, celery and carrot into a fine as dice as possible, or blitz in a food processor until finely chopped. Warm a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and put in your olive oil. When the pan is hot, put in the vegetables and cook them over a low heat until they have started to soften. If they start to fry or colour, the heat is too high. Add your bayleaf and mace, and then your peas and give everything a good stir. Pour in your stock, bring to the boil and then turn heat down, and gently simmer for an hour with the lid on. Keep checking throughout the process that the water hasn’t all been absorbed by the peas – you may want to top up with hot water from the kettle. Serve with desired accompaniments, as above.

Tandoori Lamb Chops with Yoghurt Dressing

These are just amazing. When I look at them, and notice they are not tandoori red nor tell tale tandoori scorched, I cannot kid myself that I am not in my favourite curry house. I do not have a tandoor (oh, how I wish…) and I do not use a red dye in my food. But the taste of them, is comparable with the best tandoori lamb I have ever had. And damn easy too.I can take no credit for the deliciousness of the chops as I nicked the recipe from here, but I have modified the dressing somewhat, owing to availability of ingredients and evading the evil coriander. I bet my dressing is nicer.

Marinade and cook the lamb chops as per instructions. Take blender, and add:

  • 100 ml plain yogurt
  • good sprig of mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • glug of olive oil
  • half teaspoon of sugar

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender and serve, with chops and salad.

Chinese Spiced Roasted Chicken

The last of the chicken thighs. Do not be surprised if you don’t see another chicken thigh on here until Easter, such are my feelings of ennui regarding the thigh at the moment. Another particularly easy recipe, just perfect after a busy day with a bowl of rice and perhaps, if you can face the effort, some stir fried veg. See how this chicken has made me? Too listless to consider chucking some chopped veg in a wok! I must confess, I didn’t have high hopes for this dish – my tolerance for dark chicken meat has waned recently, and there was nothing that sang out at me from the recipe.  But it was beautiful, rich and slightly sweet and, unsually for me, no chilli hit (that’s a  good thing, I think). This is one of those dishes far more than the sum of its parts – kitchen alchemy at work, which is the very best we can hope for. Anyway, you don’t need to use thighs – drumsticks or wings just as good.  To serve 4.

  • 8 chicken pieces, thigh or otherwise
  • 4 tbsp light soy
  • 6 tbsp yellow oil – groundnut is perfect
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients apart from the chicken in a bowl. You may find the garlic easier to chop very finely if you chop it along with the salt, as this helps break it down. Put in the chicken and leave to marinate for at least an hour (any more than about three hours, store in the fridge, but remember to get out to bring to room temperature). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and cook chicken in a roasting tin for 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes or so with the marinade. Remember to turn the chicken over around halfway through to make it slightly crisp all over. Enjoy hot or cold, perfect for picnic workaday lunches.

Dinner Out: Firehouse Rotisserie, Bath

Sometimes, when eating out, I think it’s ok to make a non-choice. That’s not to say that it isn’t a decision, or a valid decision, but sometimes you don’t want to think of somewhere new, or challenge yourself. Especially when you have a fussy son who only wants to eat pizza. Sometimes you just want reliable. And Firehouse Rotisserie is reliable, for the most part.

The restaurant is clean and airy, the staff are friendly (and friendly to fussy son, which is important to me) if a touch forgetful. The menu isn’t long, or particularly varied, but what they do sell is of a high quality, very tasty and suited to most palettes.

We started with some bread and olives, which were delicious. The bread had been warmed in the oven and came with a lovely pesto which was gorgeously parmesany, and the olives came in a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which was also perfect for dipping the bread in.

For our mains, the fussy one had a margherita pizza (herby sauce, light base, stringy mozzarella), I had the half rotisserie free range chicken, with thyme, lemon, bacon and aioli. Tender chicken, and gorgeous thick bacon. Mr Greedy had the confit duck, which was very rich, with lovely cheesy creamy mash. Perhaps a little too rich for my tastes, but lovely nonetheless. I had ordered a bowl of fries with my main, which never arrived – I found this a bit irritating, but also a bit of a relief because it was all more than enough. Maybe they were subtly trying to tell me that my bum would only spread further with the addition of deep fried carb. Who knows?

We had to wait a long time for dessert – a touch irritating in a half empty restaurant with a son desperate for a chocolate brownie. I was  a little torn what to have, unusually for me as I don’t have that sweet a tooth I wanted everything but I settled for chocolate brioche bread and butter pudding, but it was tepid and badly warmed as it was fridge cold in spots and luke warm in others. Texturally though, it was a triumph. Mr Greedy won the prize for the best chosen dessert with a strawberry shortcake.


At £73 for three of us with wine and coffees, I don’t think it was fantastic value for money, but given its location and food quality it wasn’t terrible. Any cheaper than that and you’re going down to paper napkins and battery chickens. In all, I’d give this a 3.5 out of 5 – a good half a mark lost for serving my dessert poorly warmed.

Lamby Lamb Pie

Pie ‘eck , You’re Gorgeous.

Maybe not strictliest a pie, as this only has a pastry top and no crust. Still, we can kid ourselves that it’s better for us this way as pastry is hardly health food #1. Also, the cut of lamb I’ve used – shoulder – is a fairly fatty cut so I have trimmed as much obvious fat as possible off it, but there is nothing else really to be done. You could, I suppose, use leaner cuts like fillet or leg of lamb but they are more expensive, arguably less flavoursome and not as suited to long slow cooking. Personally, I think shoulder is the perfect cut for this dish.

Recipe will serve 4 generously.

  • 500g lamb shoulder, chopped into large bite sized chunks
  • splosh olive oil
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • glass of red wine
  • 800ml lamb stock
  • splash of Worcester sauce
  • bay leaf and couple of sprigs of thyme
  • onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 300ml of root vegetables – I used carrots but you might like swede, turnip or parsnips or a mixture – chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 250g puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  • splash of milk
  • salt and pepper

A good few hours previous to when you plan to assemble the pie, put the onion, garlic, bay and thyme in a heavy based saucepan over a  low heat with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sweat the onions down, until they are golden and completely soft. Meanwhile, put the chopped lamb and 1 tbsp of the flour into a freezer or ziploc bag and shake until the lamb is dusted with the flour. Brown the cubes of lamb in batches in a hot frying pan, and do not crowd the pan as this will cause the lamb to steam rather than brown.

When the lamb is sealed all over, put it in the saucepan with the onions and add the remainder of the vegetables. Turn the heat up to medium and pour in the glass of wine. Let this bubble away for a few minutes and pour in the stock and shake in a few drops of worcester sauce. Mix another teaspoon of flour with a couple of spoonfuls of the stock until smooth and pour into the saucepan. Bring this to the boil, stirring, and then turn down to a simmer. And then just simmer for a couple of hours until the sauce has reduced down and thickened and the lamb is very soft. Pour this into a large pie tin or lasagne dish and leave to cool.

Roll out your pastry, and cover your pie. Cut a hole in the top to allow the steam to escape and then mix and egg with a couple of tablespoons of milk. Brush this mixture over the pastry and then put into a preheated oven at Gas 7 for approximately 30-40 minutes. Like me, you may wish to cover it with foil towards the end of cooking, in order to stop the pastry burning, as mine has started to do. Serve with mash and veg.