Sunday, 20 April 2014

Slow-Cooker Leg of Lamb with Soya Bean Casserole

I think I'd instinctively do this recipe with cannellini beans, haricot beans and maybe some borlotti beans. However, I've had a jug of soaked soya beans in my fridge for some time - good intentions involving pork belly and yellow bean sauce never materialised - so soya beans it was tonight.

We've spent a very noisy two days with family visiting. The children have bickered their way through a morning on Thurstaston Beach, an afternoon at Church Farm and a day at Erddig (where masses of wild garlic could be found in the play area). Tomorrow we are planning on visiting the Eaton Estate, and I am hoping for a calmer day.

Because we've been out and about, I've been aiming for ease when it comes to meals. Tonight's lamb was prepped before bed last night, then cooked on the low setting for 9 hours. It was eaten without too much complaint, a minor success after what has felt like two days of shouting! There were some new flavours for the children - olives, capers and anchovies - which met without too much protest.

I chose the squattest leg of lamb that I could find, in order to squish it into the slow cooker. A way around this would be to buy the lamb already boned. I probably wouldn't use shoulder for this dish, as it would be too fatty.



  • 1 leg of lamb, approx.1.6kg
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup of dried soya beans
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • A splash of red wine
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs (thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, dried chilli)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1 tsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
  • 8-10 green olives, pitted
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Olive oil
Serves 8-10



  • Soak the soya beans in plenty of water overnight. Drain and rinse, then place in a large pan with plenty of water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse off any remaining scum
  • Place the sliced onions, soya beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine, mixed herbs, garlic, capers, anchovy and olives into a 6.5l slow cooker. Mix well to combine and level the surface
  • Place the leg of lamb on top of the beans and pour over a few tablespoons of olive oil, until the top of the lamb is coated
  • Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper
Ingredients in the slow cooker

  • Cook on low for 9 hours
  • (Optional) Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Carefully lift the lamb onto a roasting tin and place in the oven for 5 minutes to brown and crisp up the outside
After 5 minutes in a hot oven

  • Pour the bean casserole into a large pan and boil hard for 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce
  • Serve with mashed potatoes
Slow-Cooker Leg of Lamb with Soya Bean Casserole

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout with Black Bean and Garlic Sauce (蒜蓉豉汁煎虹鱒魚)

Rainbow trout is a relatively cheap and abundant fish. It is an oily fish, and a source of omega-3 oil. We haven't had it for a long time - the bones can make it a bit tricky for young children, especially if you are my husband and can't remove meat from a fish without mushing all of the bones up with it. I used to roast it in a hot oven with a horseradish creme fraiche and sliced potatoes, a recipe which comes from Jamie Oliver's "Return of the Naked Chef". It suits strong flavours, and worked well tonight with ginger and black bean and garlic sauce.

I remember as a child, not being phased by meat and fish that looked like meat and fish, and I would like for my family not to be sensitised to such things. Growing up in a catering family, I was used to following my dad around during the school holidays, going to the wholesalers at Prescott Road in Liverpool at 5am to buy meat and vegetables for the restaurant. When I started my career as a summer student, I took a basic food hygiene course run by Essex council. The lady asked if anyone had been in an abattoir, and I put my hand up. Her immediate reaction was "oh really? And how was it? I hear the abattoirs in China are very different to how they are here!". I don't think she was expecting me to mention that the abattoir I'd visited had been in Birkenhead. Mind you, that wasn't quite as toe-curling as the ante-natal class in Surrey, when I was pregnant with the eldest. The physiotherapist had been discussing birthing positions, and noted that women in the 3rd world tended to give birth in the squatting position. She then turned to me in front of all of the expectant mums and asked "so, do you know how to squat??!!", much to the amusement of my husband. When we had all had our babies and become friends, we had a good laugh about it.



  • 1 rainbow trout, scaled and gutted
  • 3 slices of raw ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 50-75ml water
  • 1 heaped  tsp black bean and garlic sauce
  • (Optional) 1/4 tsp cornflour mixed in a little water for thickening
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Serves 1 (or more as part of a meal)



  • Wash the trout inside and out, and pat dry on kitchen towels
  • Add two tbsp sunflower oil to a hot, heavy-based frying pan and heat until the oil is smoking
  • Add the trout to the pan and leave it for 3-4 minutes whilst it sizzles on a high heat and crisps the skin. Reduce the heat slightly and leave for a further 1-2 minutes
  • Turn the heat back up to high, then flip the trout to the other side and repeat
  • After 10 minutes' frying, check that the fish is cooked right through by separating some of the flesh with a sharp knife and making sure the flesh is opaque to the bone
  • Remove from the heat and place on a warmed plate
  • Drain off any excess oil until there is approximately 1 tbsp left in the pan. Heat the oil until it is moving in the pan, and add the ginger. Stir-fry rapidly for 30 seconds - make sure it doesn't burn
  • Add 50-75ml water and 1 heaped tsp black bean sauce to the pan. stir to combine and boil for 30 seconds
  • (Optional) thicken the sauce with a little cornflour mixed in water, if required
  • Pour the sauce over the trout
  • Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately (we had it as part of a meal with rice, fried "purse" eggs (煎荷包蛋) and stir-fried lettuce)

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout with Black Bean and Garlic Sauce (蒜蓉豉汁煎虹鱒魚)