Friday, 5 December 2014

3: Delia Smith–How to Cook, Book 3–Cooking the Books

Starter:      Grilled Polenta with Ham, Cheese & Sage

Main:         Lamb and Cannellini Bean stew

Dessert:     Lemon Curd

So after a really easy, quick week with Nigel, this time it’s Delia’s turn. You’d think with a title of ‘How to Cook’ the recipes would be fairly easy. Well, they are, but often have many ingredients and stages, whilst also teaching you processes along the way. The skill from this week’s main course was ‘how to peel a tomato’: make a cross in their bottom with a sharp knife, pop into just boiled water for a minute or two, then peel the skin away.

To be honest, the post this week has been difficult. I’ve had a busy Monday, including F’s gymnastics, worked three days, had three trips to the doctors, one to the vets, one to the gym (where I am currently, completing the writing of this) and, for some rest and relaxation, a visit to the cinema to watch Paddington with friends. The fact I’ve actually fitted in some cooking and writing as well is nothing more than a miracle! Well, it is nearly Christmas.

Starter: Grilled Polenta with Ham, Cheese & Sage

Easiness: 6/10 (It is easy, but there are several processes which make it quite longwinded)

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 6/10

Cheats & Changes: I used normal ham as we didn’t have any air-dried. I also used Cheddar (again) instead of Gruyere or Fontina.


I’d have never chosen to make this as neither me, nor my husband, are really fans of polenta, but I have a pack in the cupboard, primarily used as a fish-finger coating, (cut fish or chicken into chunks, dip in whisked egg, then into the polenta. Shallow fry and, for chicken, finish in the oven for a few minutes) so thought I’d use that up. The sage is from the garden, after popping a bag over it to protect from the worst of the frost.

You’ll find the recipe here, but its simple cooking the polenta as per the packet, making into circles, grilling, then topping with ham, cheese and sage and grill again to melt the cheese. It was easy, there were few skills involved, but I found the boiling of the polenta, allowing to cool, pre-grilling, then grilling again quite a long winded process. Having said that, it was much tastier than either of us had anticipated and would be a great dinner party starter, or even a nice Christmas canapé…what I’m saying is that just to make two it’s too much phaff, but if you’re making for a larger number, it’d be worth your while.


Main: Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans

Easiness: 8/10 ( but lots of chopping )

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 3/10 (I’d make the one I cooked previously)

Cheats & Changes: Canned, rinsed and drained beans rather than the dried variety that you have to hydrate yourself. Half the quantity of wine, supplemented with half stock. (I couldn’t justify a half bottle of wine in a stew!) You could buy pre-chopped ‘stew’ veg as a quick alternative.


I know I made a very similar lamb stew a few weeks ago, but I had all the ingredients and wanted to try the Lamb Shanks from Abel and Cole, so, since it’s chilly out, thought this would be a different variation on the last one. And how I love that I can find all Delia’s recipes online – if you want to follow her version, just click here!

Basically, you brown the lamb shanks in a lidded hob-to-oven casserole then remove. Do the same with the veg, a selection of tomatoes (skin-off), celery, garlic, onion and carrot, add the beans, wine, stock, bay leaf, rosemary and seasoning and pop the lamb on top. Braise slowly in the oven for 3 hours.

This is a stew that will happily stretch to 4 people, especially if you use two large lamb shanks and bulk it out with a bit more veg. I also served it with new potatoes and broccoli which helped. I’d suggest taking the lamb off the bone before serving and mixing into the stew so it can be easily distributed, although it looks far more impressive served on the bone!


It was ok: a simple, rustic stew, but I felt the beans gave a mushy texture to it, which wasn’t very pleasant. Perhaps if I’d used dried, it’d have been better? It was also lacking a little flavour…I think the full half bottle (I know) of red wine would have combatted that though, rather than my cheat’s version. On reflection, after two very similar lamb dishes, the Waitrose Lamb and White Bean stew definitely had more flavour.

Dessert: Lemon Curd

Easiness: 7/10 (just weighing of ingredients, but you also have to sterilise jars)

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10, but only to add to recipes.

Cheats & Changes: 0

009Not strictly a dessert I know, but you could always use as a filling for lemon meringue pie, or simple spread on biscuits! I used it to make the lemon and mascarpone filling for Nigel’s biscuits last week and was surprised by how much simpler it was than I thought: I usually end up with something similar to burnt scrambled eggs when using them in this way, but, after following the instructions carefully, it worked!

Delia’s recipe is here and I’d suggest you follow that rather than my abbreviated version, but if you want an idea of what to do then whisk eggs and heat gently with lemon juice and zest, caster sugar, unsalted butter and cornflour. Pour into sterilised jars, cover straight away and label when cooled. It will keep for several weeks in a cool place.


These would make a lovely Christmas present or addition to any hamper.


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Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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