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Cottage Pie

This recipe serves 10 so you could make into 2 batches, freezing one for later use.


3tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ kg beef mince
2 onions,3 carrots,3 celery sticks, 2 garlic cloves all finely chopped
3tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 large glass red wine
850ml beef stock
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Few thyme sprigs and 2 bay leaves

For the mash

1.8kg potatoes chopped
225ml milk
25g butter
200g strong cheddar such as Westcombe or Montgomerys – grated
Freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the mince until browned – you may need to do this in batches, set aside as it browns.  Put the rest of the oil into the pan, add the veg and cook on a gentle heat until soft – about 20 mins.  Add the garlic, flour and tomato puree, increase the heat and cook on for a few mins. Then return the beef to the pan.  Pour over the wine and boil to reduce it slightly before adding the stock, add Worstershire and herbs.  Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 45 mins.  By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat.  Season well and discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks.
  2. Meanwhile, make the mash – in a large saucepan, cover the potatoes in salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.  Drain well, then allow to steam-dry for a few mins.  Mash well with milk, butter and three-quarters of the cheese, then season with nutmeg and salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon meat into an ovenproof dish then pipe or spoon the mash to cover.  Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.  Cook at 220C/gas 7 for 25 mins

April, Spring is full on!

Blue skies, sharply focused blossom, sudden heavy showers and the warmth of an April morning. That is spring – absolutely full on, with strong growth from dormant plants now daily changing the colour of our landscape. Nothing can compare with this. It is like the first day of a long awaited holiday, full of anticipation of the season to come. The clocks have now changed with the extra hour in the evening, which means that when I get back from work I can get a few things done so leaving less of a burden for the days off.  Read More

Gardener’s Question Time Event

We held our own version of Gardeners Question time here on 28th March in association with Shaftesbury & Gillingham Tangent Group and in aid of Marie Curie.

Our illustrious panel included Sara Cross of Gold Hill Organic Farm at Child Okeford, garden designer Diana Guy who was BBC Gardener of the Year in 2004, Gavin Cooper of Cranborne Manor and our own Richard Cumming.  The Chairman was Sara Jacson of Melbury Abbas who has spent many years creating a beautiful garden.

The panel were informative, enthusiastic and really interesting, their knowledge and passion for gardening clear.  The audience of nearly 100 thoroughly enjoyed themselves and topics covered included problems with chalky soil, what to do with a clay bank, ideal trees against a south facing wall as well as the inevitable concerns about weeds and wildlife!    There was a long discussion about good gardening techniques in what is expected to be a dry spring and summer.  (If you would like tips about water wise gardening please visit our plant page.)

Chairman of the Tangent Group, Mrs Alison Highnam was clearly delighted with the response to the evening and will confirm how much was raised for Marie Curie at the event in the next few days.

If you would like more information about Shaftesbury & Gillingham Tangent please contact Alison on 01747 838133.

Easter Roast Lamb

A twist on the traditional Easter roasted lamb – your family and friends will love this!

Roast Spring Lamb with Rose Wine and Oranges – serves 6

2 ¼ kg leg of lamb – bone in
75ml olive oil
1tbsp chopped rosemary
2 large carrots, 1 onion, 3 sticks celery all roughly chopped
Small sprigs of rosemary, bay and thyme
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1tsp plain flour
500ml lamb, chicken or veg stock
½ bottle of Rose wine
1tsp redcurrant jelly


  • Preheat oven to 200C/Gas mark 6 and using a small knife, trim away any excess fat from the lamb and place the fat in a roasting tin.  Criss-cross the top and sides of the lambn with a sharp knife, making shallow incisions.  Mix half the olive oil with the rosemary, season and set aside.
  • Place the roasting tin over a medium heat and warm the lamb fat with the remaining olive oil for a few seconds.  Add the lamb and rub the rosemary oil over the top and into the slashes.  Keep turning the lamb over in the hot oil until it begins to colour all over.
  • Tip the vegetables and sprigs of herb into the tin, sprinkle the lamb with a little extra salt and roast in the oven for 50 minutes or until the outside fat starts to brown.  Remove from the tin and turn the temp down to 160C/gas 4
  • Scrape the veg away from the bottom of the tin and turn the lamb over.  Baste with a little of the fat then continue to roast for another 50 minutes.  Test by inserting a metal skewer into the thickest part of the leg;  for medium rare the tip should feel warm to the touch and the juices that run out should be fairly pink.  Remove the lamb to a warmed serving dish and cover with a loose tent of foil.  This will prevent heat escaping and will allow the lamb to relax while the gravy is made.
  • Blanch the orange zest in boiling water for 1 minute until soft then drain and set aside.  Remove the veg from the roasting tin then put the tin on a medium heat and skim away all but 1 tbsp of the fat.  Sprinkle the flour in and stir very well.  Add the wine, stock, orange juice, zest and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the gravy thickens, colours and is reduced by about half.  Taste and season if necessary.  Finally stir in the redcurrant jelly and simmer until melted.
  • Serve the lamb with the hot gravy – enjoy!!

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