Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Fresh Tomato and Basil Soup, Home made bread, Guinness Lamb Shanks on a bed of Potato and Parsnip mash, Minted peas, Bonnie Cranachan

Hello dear bloggers and friends,

What a Monday!!!

"Monday, monday, can't trust that day
Monday, monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh monday morning, there was no warnin of what was to be
Oh monday, monday, how could my boiler break on me?

Every other day (every other day), every other day
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever monday comes, but whenever monday comes
A-you can find me crying all of the time."

That's the new lyrics of this classical song!!! Yesterday I had a planned dinner for 4 excluding David and myself. It was all ok, we went shopping, we bought all the ingredients for what I planned it would be the most elaborate dinner of them all. We invited Alan Will's parents plus their daughter Jackie and Gordon. I planned to cook what the title describes, a very ambitious menu that took me 6 hours to prepare, including the freshly home made bread.

That would have been all so lovely if it wasn't for the fact that David had scheduled the boiler to be replaced on that Monday and the job would take all day. How can anybody cook in a kitchen with 2 men working all day? The answer is: impossible. 

I was starting to panic when I asked my dear mother in law if I could cook and serve dinner at her house and fortunately she came to the rescue. It was our salvation! We bought another lamb shank from the butcher (Luscombe again) and there I went to cook. It was before 2 pm when I started and 7:30 pm when I finished. Why did it take so long? It was a laborious process. I started cleaning the kitchen and the work surfaces and made room for all the things. 

Most ingredients for the cooking

The first dish was Lamb shanks, as they take 3 hours to cook. I chopped the onions, weighed the ingredients, david picked fresh rosemary and mint from Kingsland's garden and I fried the shanks in lots of 3 and 4. In one pan there was the gravy being made with sultanas, currants, marmalade, red onions and Guinness, and in the frying pan I sealed the meat.

Red onions, sultanas and currants

With Guinness

Cooking lamb shanks (Sealing the meat)

This is the beginning of the cooking: 3 hours to go

After that it was time to prepare the tomato and basil soup, I blended tomatoes, carrots and garlic, ready to cook later:

Tomato soup ready to be cooked later

Then, I started the dessert: toasted oats, toasted almonds in honey and made the strawberry coulis:

Raspberries, rosemary and mint from Kingsland

Oats being toasted in a non sticking pan

Raspberry coulis with honey, rosemary and other things

Time to make the bread. As we left the bread flour home, David had to run to the supermarket to get some more. I made some white rolls with poppy seeds and also a big loaf. I absolutely love making bread, it is one of the most rewarding things on the planet and we simply cannot beat the taste of bread that has just come from the oven, crunchy and warm. This recipe is also a Jamie Oliver's recipe for bread.

Dough proving

Bread is made, second prove

Little rolls

Straight from the oven

Just look at that!! Isn't it gorgeous?

Cooking rack

It was time to finish off the tomato and basil soup, cook potatoes and parsnips for the mash (it was supposed to have been potato and celeriac mash but I couldn't find celeriac anywhere!) and preparing whipped cream, yoghurt, whisky and vanilla for the Cranachan.

Tomato soup was ready but I decided to pass it on a sieve to get rid of seeds and skin and make it more palatable. I forgot to mention that mint and spring onions were previously chopped for the minted peas.

Tomato soup all ready to go

Finally, it was waiting for the guests and dishing up the food, serving, eating, chatting, being amongst friends and family around the table. There can't be more happiness in the world than that!

Tomato soup with fresh basil and a dash of single cream

Guinness lamb shanks on a bed of potato and parsnip mash

These lamb shanks were delicious, just melted in your mouth

I had to blend the gravy to make it smooth and sticky. And what a gravy it was!

Minted peas

Our guests Jackie and Helen

Gordon, Jackie and Helen

Bonnie Cranachan, a layer of Raspberry Coulis, oats, almonds in honey, cream and fresh raspberries

David, Heather and  Jim Wills

This was the end of what I think was the best meal so far, I had a very generous donation and I am hugely grateful to my mother in law who made it possible and for people that came and contributed for the charity and to keep it going.

See you soon,


Some recipes I hope will inspire you:

tomato soup© David Loftus

tomato soup

serves: 6 to 8


• 2 carrots
• 2 sticks of celery
• 2 medium onions
• 2 cloves of garlic
• olive oil
• 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes, preferably organic
• 1x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
• 3 large ripe tomatoes
• a small bunch of fresh basil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


I bet you didn't know it was so easy to make your own tomato soup – this basic recipe won’t take more than 45 minutes, depending on how fast you chop so it’s a great one to have up your sleeve. Give it your own twist by adding some of your favourite herbs and spices; try making it thick or thin, chunky or smooth – the possibilities are endless…

To make your soup:
1. Peel and roughly slice the carrots. Slice the celery. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and slice the garlic. Put a large pan on a medium heat and a couple lugs of olive oil. Add all your chopped and sliced ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon.

2. Cook for around 10 to 15 minutes with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened but are still holding their shape, and the onion is lightly golden.

3. Put the stock cubes into a jug or pan and pour in 1.5 litres of boiling water from the kettle. Stir until the stock cubes are dissolved, then add to the pan your tinned and fresh whole tomatoes, including the green stalks that may still be attached to some of them (these give an amazing flavour – trust me!) Give it a good stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Meanwhile, pick your basil leaves

To serve your soup:
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper and add the basil leaves. Using a hand blender or liquidizer, pulse the soup until smooth. Season again before dividing between your serving bowls.

• from Ministry of Food

incredible baked lamb shanks© David Loftus

incredible baked lamb shanks


Many people have a real affection for lamb shanks, thinking of them as a bit of a treat. I’ve cooked them for years and really love this particular style of baking them because it’s so easy and comforting – almost like wrapping up a jacket potato to put on the bonfire. By using simple root veg and a flavoured butter, and by tightly squeezing the tinfoil around each shank, the most is made of the flavour of the meat without having to cover it in spices or tomatoes or anything like that. It’s very easy to prep the shanks for this dish and I think they look cool enough to be a lovely main course for a dinner party.

The shanks should be eaten with all the veggies and any buttery juices. They’re really good served with creamy mashed potato and steamed greens to contrast with the roasting stickiness of the lamb.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Pick the leaves off 2 sprigs of rosemary, whiz them with the butter, most of the sage and the thyme in a food processor and season with salt and pepper. Using a small knife, take one of the lamb shanks and cut between the meat and the bone from the base of the shank upwards. You want to create a hole big enough to put your finger in, making a sort of pocket. Do this to all the shanks and divide the flavoured butter between them, pushing it into the pockets. This will give a wonderful flavour to the heart of the shanks.

Tear off four arm-length pieces of tinfoil and fold each in half to give you four A3-sized pieces of foil. Divide the garlic and veg between them, making a pile in the middle of each square. Rub the lamb shanks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then put one on top of each pile of veg and a sprig of rosemary and a few sage leaves on top of that. Carefully pull up the sides of the foil around the shank and pour a swig of wine into each. Gather the foil around the bone, pinching it together tightly. Any excess foil can be torn or cut off with scissors. Repeat for all 4 shanks, then place the foil parcels on a baking tray with the bones facing up. Put in the preheated oven for 2½ hours or until the meat is as tender as can be. Serve the parcels in the middle of the table so that your guests can open them up themselves.

• from Cook With Jamie

basic bread recipe
© David Loftus

basic bread recipe


I’m still really mad about bread – I love it. It’s so exciting. It’s such a rewarding, therapeutic, tactile thing and you’ll be so proud of yourself once you’ve cracked it.

Stage 1: making a well
Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.

Stage 2: getting it together
Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don't want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour in to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency – then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it's stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)

Stage 3: kneading!
This is where you get stuck in. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.

Stage 4: first prove
Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with cling film, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough and it's always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.

Stage 5: second prove, flavouring and shaping
Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. You can now shape it or flavour it as required – folded, filled, tray-baked, whatever – and leave it to prove for a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more. This is the most important part, as the second prove will give it the air that finally ends up being cooked into your bread, giving you the really light, soft texture that we all love in fresh bread. So remember – don't fiddle with it, just let it do its thing.

Stage 6: cooking your bread
Very gently place your bread dough on to a flour-dusted baking tray and into a preheated oven. Don't slam the door or you'll lose the air that you need. Bake according to the time and temperature given with your chosen recipe. You can tell if it's cooked by tapping its bottom – if it sounds hollow it's done, if it doesn't then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes – fandabidozi. Feel free to freeze any leftover bread.

• from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

Raspberry Cranachan

by Diana Henry from Market Kitchen

A summery Scottish pudding using the very best of the regional ingredients from Diana Henry

    * Servings: 2

    * Level of difficulty: Easy
    * Preparation Time: 10 minutes
    * Cooking Time: 10 minutes


    * 25g Butter

    * 40g oats
    * 100g Sugar
    * 125ml double cream
    * 125ml Greek yogurt
    * 2 tbsp whisky
    * 2 tbsp runny Honey
    * 1 punnet Raspberries
    * 1 ½ tbsp framboise liqueur


1. Melt the butter in a hot frying pan. Add the oats and cook, stirring, until they are lightly toasted. Add the sugar, stir and cook until caramelised. Remove from the heat.

2. Lightly whip the cream in a mixing bowl then stir in the yogurt, whisky and honey. Stir in the all but a few of the raspberries, crushing some and keeping some whole.

3. Make sure the oats are broken up, then stir them into the raspberry cream mixture with 1 tablesppon of the framboise liqueur.

4. Fill two large wine glasses with the cranachan, top with 3-4 raspberries and finish with a drizzle of the remaining framboise liqueur.



• 1kg strong bread flour
• 625ml tepid water
• 30g fresh yeast or 3 x 7g sachets dried yeast
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
extra flour for dusting

serves: 4


• 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
• 150g cold butter
• 15 fresh sage leaves
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 lamb shanks, preferably free-range or organic, crown- or French-trimmed
• 12 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
• 2 large carrots, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 leek, washed, halved and finely sliced
olive oil
• 2 wineglasses of white wine

RECIPES 29, 30, 31


  1. I am in awe of your skill and all the love you put into this. You are such a beautiful person and such an inspiration. Thank you for that! Love you!

  2. Oh...thank you so much my darling, it brings tears to my eyes. I love cooking and I feel great that I am helping girls that haven't got much hope in life to start again. I am definitely going to visit the charity next year and hopefully get to know those girls I am helping xxx