Autumn has arrived – so hearty food is the order of the day.
Farmers Weekly asked top chef Philippa Vine to suggest a warming option ideal for thes chillier evenings.
Sussex-based Philippa came up with a tasty stew, plus a delicious cake perfect for this time of year.
Lamb meatballs with squash and pearl barley stew
- Serves 4
- Preparation time About 1 hour
- Cooking time About 1 hour 10 minutes
For the meatballs
- 500g lamb mince
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp fresh herbs, parsley, thyme or coriander, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the stew
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 150g pearl barley, rinsed in cold water
- 500ml good chicken stock
- Half a butternut squash, peeled and diced into small cubes
- 1 tbsp sundried tomato puree
- 5 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs. Season well with salt and plenty of ground black pepper.
- Roll into 16 balls. Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan. Brown the meatballs over a high heat briefly, turning each one, then remove from the pan.
- Add the onion to the same pan and cook over a medium-low heat until soft, without browning. It will take about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic and butternut squash, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring well.
- Add the rinsed barley, stock, tomato puree and sundried tomatoes. Give it a good stir and bring it to the Return the meatballs to the pan. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat. Cook, covered for about 40 minutes, or until the barley is cooked.
- Taste for seasoning. Scatter with the chopped parsley.
Pumpkin & walnut cake
- Serves 8-10
- Preparation time About 20 minutes plus 1 hour chilling time
- Cooking time About 45 minutes
- 450g light brown muscovado sugar
- 325g sunflower oil
- 4 eggs
- 300g self-raising flour
- 1 level tsp mixed spice
- 1 level tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- Half a tsp baking powder
- 125g grated pumpkin or butternut squash
- 150g chopped walnuts
For the filling
- 75g butter, softened
- 90g icing sugar
- 1 small tub of Philadephia cream cheese, full fat (180g)
- Half a lemon, zest and juice
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly oil 2x23cm cake tins and line each one with parchment paper.
- Beat together the sugar and oil until blended well. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then sift in the flour, spices and a good pinch of salt.
- Stir in the grated pumpkin or squash. Spoon into the prepared tins and sprinkle on top the walnuts.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Carefully transfer to a wire rack and allow to get completely cold before icing.
- For the icing, beat together the softened butter and icing sugar until light, then add the cream cheese and half zest of lemon and juice. Give it a good beat until thoroughly mixed.
- Once the cake is completely cold, sandwich together the two cakes with the icing. Give the top of the cake a good dusting of icing sugar.
- Store in the fridge overnight if there any leftovers. Remember to take out of the fridge and serve at room temperature.
Bluebell Farmhouse Kitchen
“Local” and “seasonal” are words Philippa Vine uses a lot.
When it comes to food, she’s been a champion of such concepts for decades – long before they were widely talked about, in fact.
The Sussex farmer’s wife first came to prominence as a contestant in MasterChef in 2001, when she faced the young Gordon Ramsay as a judge.
She impressed with her “rustic” food, describing herself as more of a home cook than a chef.
Her passion for the farm-to-fork approach still very much guides her cookery business, which is an integral part of the farm near Arlington where the family keep sheep, cattle and poultry.
Together with husband, Michael, they’re opening a new cookery school this autumn in a converted building in the yard, with newly installed British-built Esse cookers.
“Everything always happens around the kitchen table, especially in a farmhouse, so that’s what I want to replicate. People can watch, take part, learn, discuss food and then eat it of course.
“If people feel like they’re in someone’s kitchen, they’ll be relaxed – and, if they’re relaxed, it gives them confidence and they’ll be more likely to learn.
“I get a buzz out of helping people to remember or discover the simple joy of food.
“But it’s like with so many farm diversifications – you have to love people to do it well. My husband says I’m nosy, I say I’m just interested in people.”
As agricultural incomes have fallen, so the courses are set to become an ever-more important diversification.
They also have a small shop on the premises and visitors flock to the venue for the “Arlington Bluebell Walk” which was established by her father 40 years ago and attracted more than 20,000 people in a six-week period this year.
Farmers Weekly readers may also already be familiar with Philippa’s delicious recipes, as she has contributed many to Farmlife over the years.
The proliferation of food shows on TV has encouraged people to cook which is great – but often they encourage people to simply follow recipes, rather than to properly “feel” ingredients.
“I’m led by the seasons,” she says. “I listen to my body and the countryside around me.”
Together, this husband and wife partnership – the farmer and the cook – are on a mission to tell the “whole story” of food’s journey from the farm to the plate.
“I like cooking for people and I like sharing my love of food. Ultimately, maybe I’m just greedy.”
More information can be found on the Bluebell Farmhouse Kitchen website.