Red lentil and coconut curry

    • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil or sunflower oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 tsp ground turmeric
    • 1-2 fresh green chili peppers (you can omit these, depending on how hot you like your food)
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp chili powder, according to taste. We had kashmir chili powder
    • 2 tsp Madras curry powder
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp salt
    • Black pepper, to taste
    • 200g red lentils
    • 500ml vegetable stock
    • 1 tin of chopped tomatos
    • 1 tin of coconut milk
    • juice of half a lemon
    • chopped leaf coriander


  • Rinse the lentils in cold water
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and chili pepper and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir to prevent the garlic from sticking and burning.
  • Add the other spices and stir for a minute, then pour in the stock, tomatoes and lentils, and stir to mix well. Make sure you mix in any spices that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. 
  • Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cook for around 20 minutes, checking from time to time to ensure that the mixture is not sticking. You might need to add a little more water and cook for longer, to ensure that the lentils are nice and soft. 
  • Add the coconut milk, salt and pepper, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the curry is thickened. 
  • Stir in the lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves, beat a little to break up the lentils slighty. 

Serve with rice, or a flatbread. You could serve this with a number of other Indian dishes with rice as part of a feast. 

Raf’s apple butter and caramel rolls

My lovely daughter had a party, and someone bought these delicious apple butter and caramel rolls. They are very sticky, and the cider vinegar elevates the apple butter to complement the caramel stickiness. The technique is a bit like making a tarte tatin, in that it is cooked upside-down and turned over to reveal the sugary fruity nutty topping. 


For the apple butter:

  • 4 tart eating apples, or cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 115ml apple cider
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a generous grating of nutmeg, around 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • a pinch of salt
  • 55g butter (use vegan ‘butter’ as a substitute)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

For the caramel

  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 100g walnuts or pecans. If you are using walnuts and they are a bit bitter, soak them in water first.

For the yeasted dough

  • 480ml milk
  • 120g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 8g dried yeast
  • 700g strong plain white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g dark brown sugar


  • Mix the chopped apples with the spices, salt and cider and simmer slowly over a low heat, for about an hour. Check and stir regularly to make sure they are not burning. Add a little water if the mixture is beginning to stick. 
  • When the apples are very very soft, use a blender, and return the puree back to the pan and simmer it until it is a thick creamy consistency. 
  • Beat in the butter and lemon juice, to taste. Put it in a wee jar and chill in the fridge. This can be used as a spread in its own right. 
  • Make the pecan caramel sauce. Mix the butter and sugar in a saucepan and warm until everything is dissolved and smooth. Add the nuts and pour into a greased baking tray and leave to cool. The baking tray should be quite deep, and measure around 33cm by 23cm.
  • Make the dough. Melt the butter into the milk and sugar, and leave until it is just warm. 
  • Sprinkle in the yeast and stir it in. Leave in a warm place until the yeast is beginning to bubble.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture and mix well to make a sticky messy dough. Don’t bother trying to kneed it at this stage.
  • Cover the dough bowl with a damp teatowel, and leave in a warm room for up to an hour, until it has puffed up. This is a good time to set the oven to preheat to 180C.
  • Knock back the dough, and kneed it until it is stretchy and elastic. Stretch and roll it into an oblong, about 30cm by 60cm, and about 1cm thick. If it is not behaving, leave it to relax for a few minutes and have another go. You might need a dusting of flour on your surfaces to stop the dough from sticking. 
  • Spread half the apple butter onto the dough and sprinkle on the dark brown sugar. Roll the dough up lengthways, swiss roll style, to make a long snake. Don’t squeeze at all, because the apple butter needs to stay in the roll. 
  • Slice the snaky roll up into 15 slices
  • Arrange the dough slices like rosettes on top of the nutty caramel, 3 rows of 5, and leave to rest for around 20 to 30 minutes
  • Bake at 180C for around 30 minutes. 
  • Turn out onto a larger tray, while hot, and before the caramel sets, and leave to cool. 
  • Serve with extra apple butter. 

Lamb with mint and chickpeas, Afghan style

This is not the first recipe I have made using these three main ingredients, but it is the simplest, and it uses lots of bits of meat that don’t always find a good home. I made this with a bag of lamb ribs and breast, but you could also use boned shoulder of lamb, cut into cubes. For cooking these cuts of meat, a long slow cook is best. 


  • About 1kg of mutton or lamb, cut into large pieces. 
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • Around 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 600ml of water or simple lamb stock
  • 2 tsp dried mint leaves
  • 3 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of half a lemon, or more to taste
  • around 450g waxy potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced


  • Heat the oil a large casserole pan, and add the lamb and sliced onions. Cook over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the onion is softening and the lamb is browned. 
  • Add the drained chick-peas and the water or stock, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the herbs, paprika and turmeric, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over a low heat for a couple of hours, until the meat is becoming tender. 
  • Add the lemon juice, adjust the seasoning to taste, and then put the sliced potatoes on the top. Cook for another thirty minutes. As an alternative, cook the potatoes separately and serve them mashed. You could also set the stew aside, or freeze, ready to finish with the potatoes the next day. 
  • Serve with a swirl of plain yoghurt. 

Pork steaks with rosemary

You’ll think I’m obsessed with this book and you would be right. If anything happened to it, I would buy another one, or get this one sorted at a book binders. The recipe is from Nigel Slater’s book, The Kitchen Diaries. I got the pork steaks from Long Island Larder, locally raised produce. They do produce boxes, croft visits, and will be opening a shop next year. 

Don’t get caught out (as I often do) – this involves marinading the pork steaks for at least an hour before cooking. 


  • 2 pork steaks
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon


  • Strip the leaves from the rosemary sprigs, and put them in a large pestle with the salt, pepper and roughly chopped garlic. I used seasalt to help with pounding and grinding this to a rough paste.  Add the olive oil one spoonful at a time, keep grinding, and then add the lemon juice. 
  • Rub the marinade onto the pork steaks and put them in a lidded plastic box or plastic bag in the fridge for at least an hour. 
  • Preheat the grill to around 200C. Grill the steaks for around 7 to 8 minutes each side. You may need less if the steaks are thinly cut, more if they are really chunky. Once the fat is beginning to crisp up, and the steaks look done, remove from the grill, cover and let them sit for a few minutes before serving. 

We served these with baked potatoes and beetroot. The potatoes soaked up the meat juices and flavours from the marinade. Delicious. 

Lamb rib stew

When buying locally slaughtered lamb or mutton, there are inevitably cuts of meat that may be less familiar, or harder to find recipes for. Ribs are one of these, not featured in posh recipe books. I made this last night, it was delicious. There is curry powder in there, but it is subtle, not a dominant flavour, just balancing the sweetness of the lamb. 


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, such as rapeseed oil
  • 600g lamb ribs (if you have more, increase the curry powder and lemon juice to taste)
  • 1 heaped teaspoonful of Madras curry powder
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 100g leeks, sliced
  • 100g carrots, in large chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 500ml stock, (lamb stock or vegetable stock)
  • 30ml dry sherry
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced. Use a waxy potato such as Charlotte. 


  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish, and fry the lamb ribs over a high heat until browned. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, and spoon into a bowl. 
  • In the same pan, saute the leeks and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook on a medium heat for a minute or two, until really fragrant. 
  • Add the meat back into the pan, along with the sherry, stock and parsley. Bring to a simmer and check the seasoning. 
  • Simmer at a low heat for around an hour and a half. Check that it is not boiling dry, and add water if necessary. This could be on the stove top or in the oven. 
  • Add the potatoes and carrots over the top, check for water, and simmer over a low heat for another hour. The longer and lower the cooking time, the more tender the meat will be. 

Beetroot and vinegar

I have managed to grow some beetroot this year, not always my best crop, and last year was better. I served this with pork chops the other evening, delicious. Another Nigel Slater recipe, I am a huge fan, and you should buy all his books, the recipes are full of passion for ingredients.


  • Six small to medium beetroot, about the size of a lime, with the leaves on. 
  • A teaspoonful of balsamic vinegar (you could use any vinegar)
  • A tiny pinch of salt


  • Clean the beetroot and remove the leaves, but do not peel. 
  • Simmer in boiling water for around 20 minutes, or put into a small roasting tin in a hot oven with a little water, and cover with foil, and cook for an hour. 
  • When cooked and cool enough to handle, trim and remove the skin, which should be easy. Cut into segments, and add the vinegar and salt.
  •  Pick out the best leaves, rinse them, and roughly chop, including the stems. Treat these like chard. I cooked them in a small frying pan with butter and a little water until cooked, just a couple of minutes. 
  • Serve the beetroot on a bed of leaves. The book suggests eating with buttered bread and a hard crumbly goat’s cheese. We had them with pork chops. 

Fennel in vermouth

I made this delicious side dish with the last of the fennel that I grew this year. It had started to bolt, but the stems were still very tender. I sliced the bulbs thinly and chucked anything that was a little tough. 


  • 2 bulbs of fennel, sliced
  • 60g butter
  • 60ml dry white vermouth (Martini, Noilly Pratt, etcetera)
  • A tiny pinch of salt


  • Melt the butter in a small pan, and add the sliced fennel. Cook over a low flame until the fennel is softening.
  • After about five minutes, add the vermouth, cover with the lid and leave to cook very slowly for another twenty minutes. Check occasionally to make sure that the mixture is not burning. The mixture should be just about caramelised at the end of cooking. 

Mushroom and leek orzotto

I have been in a fizz of pedantry. Why call a dish made with pearl barley a risotto. It isn’t a risotto, it is an orzotto, thanks to Wiki for sorting that one out. Risotto is made with rice. The italian for pearl barley is orzo (and hence why orzo pasta is so named as it has the same shape). And then – orzotto.

Now I have got over the nomenclature, I have made this delicious dish, using mushrooms from a mushroom kit and some leeks and thyme from the garden. 


  • 60g butter (2x30g)
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 250g mushrooms. cut into large pieces.
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme (or use rosemary)
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • 300g pearl barley
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1000ml stock (low salt if possible)
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone – optional
  • squeeze of lemon juice – optional


  • Lightly toast the barley in a large pan, be very careful not to burn. This step is optional, but adds a lovely toasted flavour to the final dish. 
  • In a large saucepan, melt half the butter, and add the leeks and garlic, frying until soft.
  • Add the mushrooms and herbs, and season with pepper. Continue to fry for another five minutes. Keep stirring, so nothing sticks. Don’t add salt until the end, because the stock and the parmesan will alter the saltiness. 
  • Add the rest of the butter, and then the toasted barley. Cook for a minute and then pour in the glass of wine, and cook for another three minutes, so the barley absorbs the wine. 
  • Add a ladleful of stock. I used beef stock, other stocks also work. I also added a tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, and cook and stir until the broth is almost absorbed, before adding the next ladleful. Continue in this way, stirring and simmering gently, and adding the stock a bit at a time. Keep going until all of the stock is added. The barley should be tender to the bite, and you may need to add another little bit of boiling water or stock until it is to your liking. 
  • When you are ready, add the grated parmesan, and taste to see if you need to add any salt. You can also add the optional mascarpone or a squeeze of lemon juice. Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving. 

Beef and butternut squash khoresh

When I first made this, it was so delicious, I woke up the next day, still longing for it. The flavour is rich and comforting, sweet and sour. Cutting the beef into thin strips means that it cooks to tender morsels in a short time. We purchased the beef from Long Island Larder.  They were selling their produce at the Tagsa Saturday Market in Balivanich, but the’ll soon have a farm shop in Loch Skipport as well. The meat was delicious, excellent quality. Just a note, Tagsa will continue with their neighbour food project through the winter, but the fresh produce market is a summer/autumn thing. 

Here’s the recipe. 


  • 5 tbsp olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 500g beef, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g ready-to-eat prunes
  • 1 medium butternut squash (pick one that feels very heavy for its size)
  • 3 tbsp date syrup or brown sugar
  • Juice of 2 limes (about 60ml)
  • A large pinch of saffron, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water


  • In a medium casserole or large saucepan, heat about 2 tbsp oil over a medium heat, and fry the onion for around 5 minutes, so that it softens and becomes translucent. 
  • Add the beef and fry for another 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. 
  • Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, prunes and around 600ml water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for a further 20 minutes. 
  • Meantime, peel and chop the squash into large chunks, coat with olive oil and roast in a hot oven (200C) for around 15 minutes. You could also fry the squash in olive oil, until the outside is browned.
  • Stir the date syrup, lime juice, saffron water into the stew, and then add the squash. Cover and simmer for a further 40 minutes. 
  • Serve with white rice, preferably saffron steamed rice. 

Grilled and buttered fennel bulbs

I grew bulb fennel this year with varying success. To get the fennel to make nice tight little bulbs, it needs to be well watered, well fed, not overcrowded or stressed at all. I feel very accomplished with each perfect bulb. This is an excellent way to prepare them. For each person, allow one small fennel bulb. 


  • 1 fennel bulb per person
  • 20g butter per person
  • 20g grated parmesan per person
  • salt and pepper


  • Put the fennel in a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Cut the fennel bulbs in half, and place in an oven proof dish, cut sides up. 
  • Melt the butter and pour this over the fennel bulbs
  • Add a layer of grated parmesan to each fennel bulb, and grill under a hot grill until the cheese is browning and crisping up. 

That is all. I served as a side dish with a rich stew and potatoes.