It is time to think about salads. Good healthy food and local produce are the basics. This salad makes a great starter – then get creative. Puy lentils have a greeny, slate-grey colour and definitely the best flavour. You may have to go to a health-food shop to find them, but you could use canned puy lentils, which require no cooking. I like to make this salad a little while before I need it, so all the flavours have time to soak into the lentils.

It is hard to beat leg of lamb on a Sunday. Here it is fragrantly spiced before being baked for over four hours. The flesh will be almost soft enough to part from its bones with a spoon. I normally love my lamb rose-pink and juicy, but this recipe is absolutely delicious. Just think of the smell of the quietly roasting lamb teasing everyone! It will be well worth the wait.

Happy cooking



Lentil salad with spinach, cherry tomatoes and red onion

Serves six to eight as a starter

225g (8oz) puy lentils, washed

1 bay leaf

1 tsp red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, peeled

pinch of caster sugar

1 large red onion, finely chopped

50g (2oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

175g (6oz) baby spinach leaves

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp Donegal rapeseed oil

100g (4oz) goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf, vinegar, one garlic clove and the sugar. Season to taste and cover with 1.2 litres (2 pints) of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are just tender but still holding their shape.

2. Drain the lentils well, discarding the bay leaf and whole garlic clove. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool completely.

3. Finely chop the remaining garlic clove and stir it into the lentils with the red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, balsamic vinegar and oil. Season to taste and stir well to combine, then carefully fold in the goat’s cheese or feta. Cover with clingfilm and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop. Divide among plates to serve.

Spiced slow roast leg of lamb

Serves six to eight

4 large garlic cloves

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

½ tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

4 tbsp Donegal rapeseed oil

2.3kg (5-6lb) leg of lamb

juice of 2 lemons

1kg (2¼lb) waxy potatoes (such as organic Nichola), halved

5 fresh bay leaves

Mint yoghurt:

250g carton Greek yoghurt

juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

pinch of ground cumin


2 tsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp Donegal rapeseed oil

150g (5oz) baby spinach leaves

15g (½oz) bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked off and roughly chopped

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced

225g (8oz) mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cucumber halved lengthways, seeded and thinly sliced

75g (3oz) black Kalamata olives, stoned and quartered

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Crush the garlic and one teaspoon of salt in a mini blender, or you could use a pestle and mortar. Add the lemon rind, paprika, cumin, herbs and a good grinding of black pepper, then crush to a smooth pulp. Stir in two tablespoons of the oil. Using a sharp knife, create lots of holes all over the lamb, and then rub in the paste, pushing it deep into the holes. Transfer the lamb to a large food bag (a turkey bag is the perfect size) and pour in the lemon juice. Place in the fridge to marinate overnight.

2. The next day, take the lamb out of the fridge about one hour before you want to cook it. Preheat the oven to 160oC (325oF/gas mark three). Lay two long pieces of parchment paper on top of two long pieces of foil – one widthways, the other lengthways to form a cross. Tip in the potatoes and toss in the rest of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring up the sides of the foil and create a pile of the potatoes in the middle, then pour over the marinade from the lamb and tuck in the bay leaves. Sit the marinated lamb on top of the potatoes and scrunch the foil together tightly to enclose the lamb completely. Carefully lift into a roasting tin and roast for 4½ hours, until the lamb is meltingly tender.

3. Remove the lamb from the oven and increase the temperature to 220oC (450oF/gas mark seven). Unwrap the parcel and scrunch the tin foil and parchment paper under the rim of the tin, then baste the lamb with the juices and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, until browned. Remove the lamb from the tin and wrap in the foil and set aside to rest. Turn the potatoes over and return to the oven for another 30 minutes, then season with salt.

4. While the potatoes are cooking, mix together the ingredients for the mint yoghurt in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Combine the red wine vinegar, oil and some seasoning to make a dressing for the salad. Toss together the remaining salad ingredients, adding the dressing at the last minute just before you are ready to eat. Shred the lamb from the bone and arrange on warmed plates with the roasted potatoes and some dressed salad. Add a spoonful of the mint yoghurt to each one to serve.

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