Winter is over, and we're now seeing the last of the British apples, so I like to give them a final outing with this simple but effective recipe.
Serves six as a starter
salt and pepper olive oil 6 wood pigeon breasts 3 Crispin apples 100ml balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp butter mixed salad leaves
Rub the salt, pepper and olive oil on to the pigeon breasts. Core the apples and cut them into 1cm thick slices, retaining the skin. Set these aside. In a saucepan, simmer the balsamic vinegar and sugar for ten minutes, until it has reduced.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with half of the butter and cook the pigeon breasts for two minutes on each side. Then remove them from the pan and allow to rest for five minutes. In the same pan that you cooked the pigeon, cook the apple slices with the remaining butter until it turns golden brown (when it has caramelised).
Put the mixed leaves on to a plate. Slice the pigeon breasts and alternate with the apple slices on top of the mixed leaves. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup and serve.
SPRING LAMB WITH ROSEMARY SPRING VEGETABLES
Four hours might seem a long time to have the oven on for roast lamb, but it is worth it for the very tender results. You could use a slow cooker instead.
Serves four to six
1 joint (approximately 1kg) Scotch lamb shoulder, boned and rolled 1 glass red wine 1 sprig rosemary (plus extra for the vegetables) 1 sprig thyme 1 clove garlic 2 litres lamb or chicken stock (enough to cover the joint) salt and pepper 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly 1kg cabbage, leeks and broccoli
Preheat the oven to 375°/190°C/gas mark 5. Heat a heavy-based saucepan and brown the lamb all over, then transfer the joint to a deep roasting tray. Mix together the wine, herbs, garlic, stock and seasoning and pour over the lamb. Cover it with foil and bake for four hours.
Remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes (wrap it in foil to retain the heat). Transfer the remaining stock from the lamb into a saucepan and reduce it until only about a quarter is left. Stir in the redcurrant jelly and set aside to pour over the lamb at the end.
Shred the cabbage and leeks finely and break the broccoli into small florets. Bring 250ml of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of butter. Put the broccoli in first, then the leeks, and for the last minute add the cabbage (cooking for a total of four minutes). Add a teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary to the vegetables at the end to complete the spring flavour. Drain the vegetables and place a big spoonful on each plate.
The lamb should be very tender, so it needs to be carved carefully into slices about 2cm to 3cm thick - to keep it together. Put the lamb slices on top of the vegetables and spoon on the sauce.
BANANA STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
This is a real old-fashioned pudding, with chopped banana added to give it a novel twist.
Serves four to six
For the pudding
170g butter 180g soft brown sugar 2 small eggs 180g plain flour 12g baking powder 200g chopped banana
For the sauce
250g soft brown sugar 140ml double cream 65g butter
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and sugar a baking tray or two round sponge tins. Cream the butter and sugar together, then slowly add the eggs. Gently fold in the sieved flour and baking powder, then add the chopped banana. Scrape the mixture into the tin(s) and bake for ten minutes, then turn the oven down to 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for a further hour.
While the pudding is baking, make the sauce. Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. Take the pudding out of the oven, pour the sauce over it and serve.