Onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala


I don’t make risotto – all that standing and stirring is too boring and laborious for me. I get impatient and try to add the stock too quickly…my arm hurts. Luckily though my husband Ben is a risotto king. It has become his special dish which he makes for me with love and care when I ask him very nicely and give him plenty of notice (having first checked the weather forecast as standing stirring over a hot stove in the heat is not fun).

This very simple sounding risotto from Lindsey Bareham has become my new favourite – knocking beetroot risotto off the top spot. Prior to that it hand been a James Martin smoked haddock and black pudding one.

The combination of onion and rosemary with the sweet Marsala produces the most heavenly rich flavour. You won’t believe me until you’ve tried it.

Marsala is widely available in supermarkets, look for it in the ‘fortified wine’ section. It also makes a nice aperitif, served cold with ice.


The master teaching the son.

Lindsey Bareham’s onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

  • 2 ½ medium sized onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 75g of butter
  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 1 small glass of Marsala (or Madeira works well too)
  • Approximately 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is always best but a good ready made stock will still be nice)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the ½ of the onion in hot vegetable oil until crisp and drain on some kitchen roll. These are for the crispy onion garnish which is essential.

Melt 50g of butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the rest of the onions seasoned with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes until limp.

Stir the rosemary into the onions. Add the rice and cook with the onion for a couple of minutes until the rice is semi-translucent.

Then add the Marsala and let it bubble away into the rice stirring all the time as it does.

Now for the laborious bit.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and not adding the next ladleful until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. You may need to turn the heat down a bit so that you have a nice gentle simmer. The whole process will take around 30 minutes in total. At the end the risotto will have a creamy like consistency and the rice should be soft with a slight bite in the middle. If when you have used up all the stock the rice is still not cooked keep adding a little more hot water until it is done.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining butter and cheese and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cover the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with the garnish of crispy fried onions and extra Parmesan if you like.


Meatballs with brown ale gravy


I made these last week and they were fantastic – comforting and homely with a good old-fashioned meatball taste (more school dinner or granny’s kitchen than IKEA). Ben said they tasted just like faggots but I disagreed (there is no offal involved for starters, which is good because I hate offal). Everyone in our house loved them and I will definitely be making them again.

I recently began a subscription to Honest Brew beer delivery service. The idea behind it being that I should drink LESS but BETTER beer. It’s expensive (£36 a month for 12 beers, which I have to share with Ben!) but I drink less so it sort of evens itself out. I get very excited when the delivery arrives (sad, I know). Aside from interesting tasting beers I take a huge amount of pleasure in the beautifully designed beer labels – the creative collaboration between illustrators and craft beer makers is a truly wonderful thing indeed.

I used this tasty little number from Siren Craft Brew for the beer gravy with my meatballs.


Tom Kerridge’s pork meatballs in brown ale gravy

Makes 24 meatballs

For the meatballs

  • 600g of good quality minced pork
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 100g of dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of English mustard
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of dried sage (I used fresh because this was all I had)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1 egg

For the gravy

  • 2 shallots or small onions, skin on and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skin on and roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 300ml of brown ale
  • 500ml of chicken stock (homemade is best but readymade is fine)

Fry the diced onion gently in a little oil until soft (about 10 minutes) and leave to cool (I missed this bit by accident and added it to the meatball mix raw – the results were still good).

In a large bowl add all the meatball ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands. The more you mix the better the meatballs will hold together. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight (or for at least an hour).

Divide the mixture into quarters and then divide each quarter into six and roll each portion into a ball so you have 24 meatballs. Put them on a plate and cover and chill again for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Fry the meatballs in a little vegetable oil until well browned on all sides. They do not need to be cooked all the way through. Put them into an oven proof serving dish.

Turn on the oven to 190oC.

To make the gravy, put the onion, garlic, rosemary and 250ml of beer in a saucepan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and almost all the beer has evaporated. Add the stock and reduce by about a third.

Pour the gravy through a sieve over the meatballs and bake them (uncovered) in the oven for 20 minutes until the gravy has thickened and the meatballs are cooked through.

To finish pour in the remaining beer, sprinkle over some fresh sage (or I used parsley) and give everything a good stir. I thought it sounded strange to add ‘raw’ beer to the mix at the end but trust me it really does work.

Tom serves his meatballs with buttered peas and mushrooms. I served mine with homemade potato wedges (I  really wanted oven chips). But they would also be good with mash, rice, spaghetti – pretty much anything really.


Do not be afraid of GAME – roast haunch of venison


On the whole I don’t like game, but my husband really does, so in an effort to buy something that might please us both I asked my butcher*, “Can you tell me what is the least gamey sort of game?”.

How dumb? But he just smiled and offered me a rolled, boned, haunch of venison (that looked very much like a joint of beef) and I was so embarrassed by my stupid question that I felt compelled to buy it.

It then sat in my fridge for a week (terrifying me) while I decided what on earth I was going to do with it. Seriously out of my comfort zone I faffed around on the internet looking at various recipes and then tried the following – an amalgamation of a few.

It worked so well that I completely annoyed my husband by going on (and on) about how surprised I was at how good it tasted (it was pure relief, not gloating I promise). Unlike venison I’ve had in the past it was not at all liverish but very tender and possibly even nicer than roast beef.

Roast haunch of venison

  • A 838g haunch of venison, rolled and deboned (see note below)


  • 1/2 a bottle of good red wine (I used a light Rijoa)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 juniper berries, roughly crushed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed

To roast

  • 30g of butter
  • 3 slices of bacon, streaky or back, bashed until thin with a rolling pin


  • marinade liquor, sieved
  • juices from the roasting pan
  • 1/2 Knorr beef stock pot (or equivalent)
  • a dollop of blackcurrant jam (or other sweet jam)
  • a teaspoon of cornflour ‘slaked’ (guess whose programme I’ve been watching?) with a little water

Bathe the joint for at least 24 hours but for up to two days in the marinade ingredients above.

Take the venison out of the marinade and reserve and strain the liquor. Pat dry and leave uncovered in a cool place for a few hours to dry out a bit. Cover loosely with kitchen roll if you’re worried about flies or other contaminants.

Smear the joint with butter and lay the bacon over the top.

Roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 220oC.

Then another 20 minutes at 170oC.

Take out of the oven and leave to rest, covered in tin foil, for 15 minutes.

For the gravy, boil the sieved marinade until the alcohol has burned off and it has reduced by about a quarter. Add the stock pot and the juices from the roasting pan. Then stir in the cornflour mixture and cook on a medium heat, stirring all the time, until thickened. Add the jam. Taste and season with salt and pepper if you think it necessary.

Carve the venison and serve with the gravy.

I served mine with peas and pommes coq d’or (you need to scroll down the page, past the gammon, for the recipe).


*Coates Traditional Butchers, Bramcote Lane, Wollaton – I’m not saying this because I want freebies or discounts, I just want people to support really good butchers. If you live this side of Nottingham then please use Coates instead of the Waitrose round the corner.

There are no photos of the venison because I was so convinced it was going to be awful that I didn’t have the camera ready.

If you have a different weight of meat (very likely) here’s the maths to work out the cooking time. Weigh your meat in grams and get a calculator. Whatever the weight cook for 20 minutes at 220oC. Then multiply the weight of your meat (in grams) by  0.024 and that is how long you need to cook it for at 170oC. This is for medium rare.

Use any leftover meat to make rissoles. I use a Delia recipe which will probably appear here soon.

Rosemary butter cookies

lavender biscuits

Despite having my own blog I don’t follow many others, but I’d like to tell you about two of my favourites, just in case you don’t know about them already.

Recipe Rifle

The first is Recipe Rifle by Esther Walker (she’s the wife of Giles Coren but don’t let that put you off). There’s usually a recipe but the bit I like most are the introductions – hilarious and honest stories about her life with young kids. If (like me) you are often exasperated by your children, do trawl through the archives of this blog – you’ll feel as though you’ve found a friend. Esther eloquently tells it how it is – putting in words what many of us really feel about motherhood whilst outwardly smiling and telling our friends how much we’re ‘loving it’.

Cupcakes and Cashmere

In complete contrast is smiley Emily who writes ‘Cupcakes and Cashmere‘. This blog is the epitome of shallow but it’s beautiful presentation lures you in like, well just like a pretty cupcake. She writes posts like ‘How to style your bookshelf’ (you mean there’s another way apart from alphabetically?). Her food is always tiny, and immaculately presented and often includes stars, hearts and sprinkles. Despite becoming a new mother recently (when surely it should have all gone to pot!) she continues to look elegant wearing tiny skirts and beautiful shoes. There are no photos of sleep deprived/puffy eyes, there is no whinging, just lots of sunshine and all American positivity. I should hate her but Emily is so likable and sweet – like a Disney Princess. Reading her blog I feel as though she genuinely wants to show me a better way.

But Esther is now finishing her Recipe Rifle blog which I’m gutted about, but on hearing her disarmingly honest reasons perhaps it’s for the best.

‘When I was in the eye of the storm I was a better person, I thought more deeply, I was more sensitive, attuned and intellectually alive. Now all I think about is my career and clothes. That’s it. I chase the high of a new commission and the high of total, sheer, vanity.’

It seems that Esther fears turning into Emily, or rather she fears that ‘Recipe Rifle’ will become like ‘Cupcakes and Cashmere’. From my point of view I don’t really want to read one without the counter balance of the other, so I’ll probably give up blogs entirely and read Victorian novels and Elizabeth David cookery books instead.

Anyway, despite food being a key part of both of these blogs, I have only ever tried one recipe from either. It was this Martha Stewart one which Emily recommended, accompanied by some photos of her own version which were, of course, more beautiful and perfectly formed than the original.

Mine were ugly but tasted delicious. I also had the idea of adding lavender instead of rosemary to half the batch. This was with my son Edgar in mind. He hates ALL fruit but eats lavender straight off the plant without blinking an eye.

Rosemary (or Lavender) Butter Cookies

Makes about 30

  • 225g of soft butter
  • 170g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 312g of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary OR lavender flowers
  • 3/4 of a teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Mix the butter and the sugar together until pale and fluffy. I used an electric hand whisk for this bit but you could probably just use a wooden spoon.

Mix in the egg and vanilla extract, then add the flour, salt and rosemary OR lavender. Mix until well combined.

Halve the dough and shape each into a log with floured hands.

Place each log on a square of baking parchment and roll up into a log about 3 3/4 cm in diameter twisting the ends to keep the shape. Put in the freezer  for an hour to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 190oC.

Cut each log into 1 cm thick rounds and place on a flat baking tray lined with parchment. You will need two trays and probably two batches for this amount.

Bake until the edges are golden 15-20 minutes (mine were pretty well done after 15).

Cool on wire trays and store in an airtight container.


Martha recommends using a loo roll around the log to hold the shape while freezing. I didn’t think this was necessary.

She also paints the logs with egg white and rolls in sanding sugar before cutting into rounds. I still don’t know exactly what ‘sanding sugar’ is (they don’t sell it in Tesco so I think you may need to find a specialist cake decorating shop). I used granulated sugar instead on half the batch but to be honest preferred the ones without.