This week I am

enjoying the beginning of spring, even as it lurches from winter to spring and backwards and forwards again until it is summer. The parsley is going to seed, the chervil is lush, the chives have multiplied, the not-long-planted thymes are settling in well, the oregano has come to leafy life, all the citrus trees are in blossom, there are bird calls throughout the day, and the scent of roses and lilac. Lockdown, yes, but I am lucky to have a garden, and a kitchen.

I have ordered some finish-at-home meals, and particularly enjoyed one of Estelle, which taught me (again!) how different good restaurant cooking is from good home cooking. It began with cured kingfish, that came with all kinds of things (a shallot cream, pickled radish slices, celery, a bonito vinaigrette, onion slices) and instructions about how to assemble the dish. There were more components than I would have, than I could have prepared at home. The result was complex and an entirely delicious combination of interlocking flavours and contrasting textures.

I’ve been exploring one-pot dishes, and salads. One-pot dishes need something fresh and crisp on the side. The last was pot-roast boneless leg of lamb. I sliced a big onion, and softened it in a little extra virgin olive oil in my big cast iron oval pot. Then I moved it to one side, and lightly browned the fat side of the lamb. I removed the lamb, add added a mixture of finely chopped garlic, sage and rosemary – rather, half on it on the lamb, half of it into the pot. I stirred it a little, then added two big potatoes, sliced thickly. I put the lamb back, seasoned it with salt, and then added the juice of two seville oranges. (There are still lots of them on the tree.)  If I didn’t have those, I would have used orange juice and lemon juice. I added a couple of bay leaves, put the lid on the pot, and put it into a slowish oven. It cooked for an hour and a half, perhaps a bit more.

In the meantime, I had taken a big fennel bulb. I kept half for a salad, then cut the half into halves, and cooked them for a couple of minutes in boiling salted water – more than blanching, but a long way from being fully cooked. I added that to the pot, and because there was a fair bit of liquid, I left the lid ajar.

When it was ready – everything soft and browned – we ate it. I let the meat rest a few minutes before carving.

Fennel salad? The fennel sliced finely, and sprinkled with salt. It was left for about 15 minutes. Then I added some sliced blood orange, a few stoned black olives, and some olive oil.  

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