Lamb and Wild Plum Stew with Rosemary Bread

This is more of a wintery recipe than a spring one, but I can never resist a lovely big bowl of stew! The rather fabulous Fox Gourmet Foods gave me some of their products to try, including the Red Grape, Plum and Cardamom Jelly, and as soon as I tasted it, I could imagine it in a gooey lamb casserole with bacon and mushrooms. The jelly and the plums add a gorgeous fruity depth to the meaty flavours, and the light and fluffy homemade rolls mean you can soak up every last drop.

1 large onion
2 fat garlic cloves
About 300g diced lamb
About 200g bacon lardons
2 large handfuls of button mushrooms
2 or 3 plums, depending on size
A small glass of red wine
2 pints of Bisto or something similar
2 large spoonfuls of Fox Gourmet Foods Red Grape Jelly
Dried rosemary
Dried thyme
A couple of bay leaves
For the rolls:
1 and ¼ tsp yeast
600g strong white flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 and ½ tsp salt
350ml water
Dried rosemary
Butter and coarse sea salt, to serve

Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are (the dough recipe makes about 8 rolls)

The secret to a really good stew is giving it plenty of time to simmer, so try and allow an hour at the absolute minimum – I usually go for two or three hours. Start by peeling and dicing the onion and garlic, and get it sizzling in a large pan with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Once the onion starts to soften, add the lamb, bacon lardons, and a sprinkling of rosemary and thyme.

When the lamb has lost its raw pink colour, turn up the heat and pour in the wine – there should be a bit of a sizzle and a lovely smell. While the wine cooks down, roughly chop the mushrooms and plums (no need to peel them, just give them a wash), and make up your gravy powder with cold water. Allow about one and a half tablespoons of powder for each pint.

Once the wine has reduced a bit, add the gravy, mushrooms, plums, red grape jelly, and the herbs, bring the stew to a simmer, cover and leave for at least an hour. If you can't get hold of the red grape jelly, try a big spoonful of plum jam.

While the stew is cooking, you can make the rolls (although of course, you can also make them in advance if you prefer). I have to admit, I used my trusty breadmaker to prepare the dough, but you can easily make it by hand. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a scraper, scooping it around the edge of the bowl to pull the ingredients into the centre. Once the mixture has come together, you can transfer it to a clean worktop and knead until you’ve got a silky elastic dough. Sprinkle a little more flour if you need it but try not to add too much. Then place the dough in a clean bowl and put somewhere warm to rise for about an hour.

Once the dough has risen, prepare two baking trays with a little bit of olive oil – use a pastry brush to spread it over the surface. Split the dough into eight rolls and lay out on the trays, and then return to the warm spot to rise again – after about 30 minutes, they should have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan). When the rolls are ready to go in, brush the tops with a little bit of milk and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse sea salt, then pop them in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.

When the timer goes, the rolls should be golden-brown and smelling delicious. Serve straight away with plenty of butter and a big bowl of rich and gooey stew, and wash down with a glass of red wine – yum.