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Bill Collison of Bill's Café in Exeter waves goodbye to winter

PUBLISHED: 16:27 19 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:11 05 April 2013

Recipes taken from Cook Eat Smile, Bill's the Cookbook, published by Saltyard Books

Recipes taken from Cook Eat Smile, Bill's the Cookbook, published by Saltyard Books

Spring can be a bit of a tease. So desperate are we to wave goodbye to winter that, at the slightest hint of warmer days, we're out there freezing in shorts, trying to have picnics and rushing to the garden centre.

Bill Collison of Bill's Caf in Exeter waves goodbye to winter

With the Easter bunny, comes the Bills Caf spring bounty of edible delights

Spring can be a bit of a tease. So desperate are we to wave goodbye to winter that, at the slightest hint of warmer days, were out there freezing in shorts, trying to have picnics and rushing to the garden centre. But while we may be ready to throw open the windows and let the show begin, the good earths bounty is still tucked up in bed and, like a teenager, will not be roused before its good and ready.And yet it may feel like the dog end of winter, but the sap is rising, roots are stretching and theres a whole lot of growing going on out of sight, and so, with buds and shoots to help us keep the faith, we wait. And while we wait, we get busy making plans for Easter and eating outside and out come recipes for warmer days. Its a good time to make edible treats, ready to give as gifts at Easter time, and indulge in fresher flavours.And while were busy planning and making, slowly and thankfully, spring starts to deliver. Whether its broad beans and asparagus, young salad leaves or rhubarb, the evenings grow lighter, the garden bursts into bloom, and were off.

Slow-cooked lamb and beans

This is a great weekend dish as it needs barely any attention once its in the oven. It cooks quietly in the background for four hours or so while you get on with your day. Its also great for stretching to feed a party should one turn up with the addition of more beans or some potatoes tucked in to bake alongside the roast.

Serves 6

1 shoulder or leg of lamb, bone in, approx. 2.2kg
1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 leek, peeled and sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced2 large parsnips, peeled, cut in half and sliced
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus extra to garnish
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 x 400g tin of chopped plum tomatoes
300ml red wine
300ml lamb or chicken stock
2 x 400g tins of cannelloni or flageolet beans, rinsed and drained
2 bulbs of garlic, halved, to roast for garnish (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1Preheat the oven to 150c/fan 130c/gas mark 2.
2 Season the lamb with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then slice half the garlic cloves into quarters, make incisions in the lamb and stuff the garlic quarters in. heat the olive oil in a large roasting tin, put the garlic-studded lamb in the oven and get it good and brown on all sides, probably about five minutes on each side. Remove the lamb and set aside.
3Place the remaining garlic cloves, the chopped vegetables and the rosemary and thyme in the roasting tin and brown them over a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
4 Add the tomatoes, wine and stock to the roasting tin and bring to a simmer. put the lamb on top, skin side down. cover the dish with foil and place it in the oven for two hours.
5Take the roasting tin out of the oven and remove the lamb. Stir the beans into the tomato-vegetable-stock mixture, then put the lamb back on top, skin side up this time, and replace the foil. Return the roasting tin to the oven for a further hour. After 45 minutes, remove the foil, add the garlic halves and cook everything for another 30 minutes.
6Take the roasting tin out of the oven, remove the lamb and leave it on a board to rest, loosely covered with foil, for 2030 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the excess fat from the roasting tin: tipping it gently will allow the film of fat to pool in the lowest corner, making it easier to spoon off. Season the beans and vegetables and stir in a handful of chopped parsley and most of the lemon zest. Serve topped with the lamb and garnished with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, the remaining lemon zest and parsley and with the roasted garlic halves, if youve included them.

For more recipes -

Lemon Curd

Chocolate Swirl Meringues

Recipes taken from Cook Eat Smile, Bills the Cookbook, published by Saltyard Books


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