In her latest book, Slow, food writer Gizzi Erskine celebrates the joy of taking your time in the kitchen. Try three of her hearty recipes, made for chilly days
“Cooking shouldn’t just be about the final result – it should be about the whole experience. I want to inspire you to get stuck in and enjoy the techniques”
We’re more time-poor than ever these days, but for food writer Gizzi Erskine, cooking is an excuse to break the pace of modern life. In her new book, Slow, she encourages readers to embrace the time it takes to braise, bake, poach and roast delicious dishes.
“Sometimes I feel out of sync with the modern approach to cooking,” explains Gizzi. “It seems to be all about valuing convenience over quality. Our obsession with ease and speed puts us in danger of failing to appreciate the joy of process.” From intensely flavoured miso ramen to crab linguine, butter masala curry and lemon meringue pie, Gizzi’s globe-spanning recipes are well worth the effort.
When it comes to cooking, says Gizzi, we should appreciate “what it means to pour love and care into the food we are making. It shouldn’t just be about the final result, but the whole experience.” Of course, she admits this isn’t always possible during a manic working week. ”But I guarantee that a well-spent Saturday afternoon in the kitchen, investing in the perfect stew or ragu, is attainable.”
Get started with the three wintry recipes below. Try a tender slow-roasted lamb shoulder, inspired by a traditional dish from Mallorca. “The meat just falls off the bone, and the most wonderful natural sauce is made from the cooking juices and the wine,” says Gizzi.
Veggies need not miss out on hearty dishes, meanwhile, thanks to the food writer’s mushroom and lentil shepherd’s pie. “I’ve used dried mushrooms, mushroom stock and Marmite,” she says, “which are all rammed with umami flavours, and bring that meaty equilibrium back to the dish.”
For dessert, Gizzi is on a mission to bring back an old-school English favourite: Sussex pond pudding, which she tops with double cream. “I couldn’t not include this classic in my crusade to resurrect the steamed pudding,” she explains.
Feeling hungry? Hunker down in the kitchen, slow down the pace and give Gizzi’s recipes, below, a try.
“This is one of the most famous dishes in Mallorca. The lamb cooks very slowly in delicious juices with lots of vegetables. This would work as a Sunday roast – use the cooking liquid to make a proper gravy.”
2.25kg shoulder of lamb, bone in
3 tbsp olive oil
1 head of garlic, halved
3 onions, thinly sliced
3 carrots, halved lengthways and widthways
2 celery sticks, each cut into 3
1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthways and cut into 3
4 small vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
Handful of fresh rosemary
2 fresh bay leaves
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
1 bottle Spanish red wine
300ml fresh jellied chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 230˚C/210˚C fan/gas mark 8. Rub the lamb with the olive oil and plenty of seasoning and place in a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the outside is well browned. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 160˚C/140˚C fan/gas mark 3.
Remove the lamb with two forks and set it aside, then place the garlic, vegetables and herbs in the dish and replace the lamb on top. Pour over the wine and stock and cover the dish with foil. Make sure there are absolutely no gaps for the air to escape. Pop the lamb into the oven and slow roast it for 6 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone and the vegetables have shrunk stickily into one another and the sauce is reduced.
I prefer to remove the lamb from the cooking vegetables and strain the veggies out of the sauce, giving you a really delicious lamb gravy to pour over the falling-to-bits lamb. But traditionally, the foil is whipped off and everything served together at the table with peeled waxy potatoes that have been boiled with shedloads of salt and drizzled with a bit of olive oil.
Mushroom and lentil shepherd’s
pie with root veg mash
“I’d suggest using meat stock if you’re not veggie or vegan, but vegetable stock is still super. This intensely flavoured stew is balanced well with the root vegetable mash.”
30g dried porcini mushrooms
300ml boiling water
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
5 field mushrooms and 4 shiitake mushrooms, pulsed in a food processor until as fine as mince
2 onions, finely chopped
3 small carrots, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
300ml red wine
100ml port (optional)
1 bay leaf
Sprig of rosemary
Pinch of ground cloves
350g dried puy lentils
750ml fresh vegetable stock (or chicken or beef if you’re not veggie)
1 tsp Marmite
For the root vegetable mash
½ small celeriac, cut into small cubes
1 parsnip, cut into small cubes
2 medium carrots, cut into small cubes
1 medium swede, cut into small cubes
2-3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk or cream
Grating of nutmeg
35g cheddar, grated
35g parmesan, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside for 20 minutes to rehydrate. Next, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep casserole on the hob over a high heat. Add the ground fresh mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the water that seeps out has evaporated and they’re browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
Add some more oil and fry the onions, carrots, celery and leeks and cook slowly for 10 minutes, until softened and starting to go golden. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato purée and ramp up the heat. Caramelise the vegetables in the purée for 1-2 minutes.
Add the alcohol and cook for 5 minutes before adding the fried mushrooms and the bay leaf, rosemary and cloves. Remove the porcini from the soaking water and finely chop. Add these, along with the water they were rehydrated in (sieve the water or discard any sediment at the bottom), lentils, stock and Marmite. Cook over a low heat for 1 hour or until the sauce has reduced and the lentils are cooked and plumped up. Season, place in a pie dish and allow to cool, overnight if you can.
Heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C fan/gas mark 6. To make the mash, pop all the root veggies into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain, then allow the vegetables to steam in the colander for 5 minutes. Mash with a potato masher or ricer. Add the butter, milk or cream, nutmeg and seasoning.
Pick out any stray herbs from the lentil mixture, then top with the root veg mash. Sprinkle over the cheeses and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and piping hot.
Sussex pond pudding
“It seems weird to plonk a whole lemon in the centre of the pudding, but as it cooks it releases its juice to form a beautiful lemony sauce that pours out over the plate – hence the pond!”
2 large unwaxed lemons
250g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
170g golden caster or soft light brown sugar
100g beef suet
130ml whole milk
100g butter, finely diced and chilled, plus extra for greasing
Prick one of the lemons all over with a skewer and grate the zest. Juice the other lemon. Combine the flour, 20g of the sugar, the lemon zest and juice and the suet in a bowl, then add the milk. Knead to form a dough but be careful not to overwork it. Divide the dough into two rough balls, comprising one-third and two-thirds of the mixture respectively. Line the bottom of a 1.5 litre pudding basin with a small circle of baking parchment and liberally grease the top and sides with butter to prevent sticking. Flour a worktop and roll out the larger ball to about 1.5cm thick. Use this to line the base and sides of the basin.
Fill the pudding with half the cold butter cubes and half the remaining sugar. Pop the whole lemon on top, then add the rest of the sugar and butter. Roll out the smaller ball of dough to make a lid for the pudding (this will become the base so make it nice and thick). Brush the edges of the lid with water, put on top of the pudding and press to seal. Cover with a circle of baking parchment and a layer of muslin, then tie it with kitchen string under the rim of the basin. Before cutting the string, take it over the top to create a loose handle, then tie securely. Trim off any excess baking parchment.
Place the basin in a large saucepan and fill with hot water two-thirds of the way up the sides of the basin. Cover and simmer for 3 hours and 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level and top up as necessary. Allow the pudding to rest for 10 minutes before carefully turning it out onto a serving dish. When serving, ensure that everyone gets a little of the lemon.