Sophie Grigson’s Recipes for National Trust Theatre

Sensationally Seasonal:

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Crab Mayonnaise with Fennel & Cucumber

Braised Pork Chops in Milk

Deliciously Dairy:

Semolina Gnocchi with Sizzling Cheddar and Spinach

Cod with Welsh Rarebit Crust

Avocado Ice Cream with Strawberries

Vietnamese Shaking Beef
Serve with Viceroy IPA
Serves 3-4

500g sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 tablespoons rapeseed oil


2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tablespoon caster sugar


Juice 2 limes
2 green chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

To serve:

100g of small salad leaves
½ cucumber, cut into batons
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
a handful of soft herb leaves – basil, mint, chives, coriander, dill etc.

Toss the beef with the marinade ingredients.   Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.   Mix together the salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes and arrange either on a large serving dish or on individual plates.

Heat half the oil over a high heat in a wok or large frying pan.   Add half the beef, spread out to give a single layer, then let it cook for 1 minute without moving.   Now shake the wok from side to side to turn the cubes, then let the beef cook for another minute.   Repeat once more, until the beef is toasty brown on the outside.     Scoop the beef out and straight into the dressing.  Repeat with the remaining meat.    Toss all the meat together, then pile it onto the salad, with all the dressing.   Scatter with herbs, and serve.

Crab Mayonnaise with shaved fennel, cucumber and tarragon
Serve with Traditional Dry Cider
Serves 4

300g white crab meat
100g brown crab meat
1 fennel bulb
1 cucumber
juice 1 lemon
rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

For the tarragon mayonnaise:

Leaves from 2 sprigs tarragon
1 egg
juice ½ lemon
1 tablespoon very hot water
300 ml rapeseed oil

First make the mayonnaise.  Pour boiling water over the tarragon leaves, leave for 1 minute then drain.   Run under the cold tap and press out excess moisture.   Break the egg into the processor and add the tarragon, and salt.   Run the blades and spoon in 1 tablespoon very hot water.   Now add the lemon juice, then keeping the motor running, pour in the rapeseed oil in a steady stream.   Check that the mayonnaise is thick and voluptuous.   If it is still a bit sloppy, turn on the processor again and trickle in a little more oil, until you reach the right consistency.   Now taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed.   Keep cool until needed.

Now for the cucumber.   Working lengthways, peel off half the skin.  Cut the cucumber in half, lengthways, so that each half has an equal share of skin on, skin off cucumber.   Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then slice the cucumber thinly.   Pile into a bowl and sprinkle with salt.   Mix well, massaging the salt into the cucumber.   Set aside.

Trim off the base and the tough stalks of the fennel.   Discard out layer of fennel if it is damaged or looks particularly tough.   Using a mandolin if you have one, slice paper thin.   If not, cut in half and slice as thinly as you possibly can.

When you are ready to serve, drain the cucumber, toss with the fennel, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, a few dashes of rapeseed oil, and a little salt if needed.

Arrange a handsome mound of salad on each plate.  Top with white crab meat, and spoon a dab of brown meat on the side.   Add a socking big spoonful of tarragon mayonnaise, and serve.

Braised Pork Chops cooked in Milk, Italian Style
Serve with Viceroy IPA
Serves 4

4 meaty pork chops
a good knob of butter
a splash of rapeseed oil
1 onion, sliced
6 fresh sage leaves
400-500 ml milk
salt and pepper

Don’t trim any fat off the pork chops!  Pre-heat the oven to 150C/130 Fan/Gas 4.

Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a heavy based frying pan.   Add the onions and fry gently until golden.   Scoop out of the pan.   Now brown the chops on each side.   Check the pan – if the butter has burnt on the base, then transfer the chops to a clean heavy pan.   If the base is good, then don’t bother – it will taste better for all the delicious brown goo on the base.

Add the onions to the pork, together with the sage leaves, salt and pepper.   Pour in just enough milk to come level with the upper surface of the chops.   Bring up to the boil then transfer to the oven, two thirds covered with a lid.   Leave to cook gently for 1 hour, then check and see how the pork is doing.   Turn the chops over, and add a little more milk if the mixture is looking dry.   Return to the oven for another 45 minutes, until chops are exceedingly tender and the milk has caramelised to a tempting brown.

Life out the chops, and whizz sauce and onions together with a hand-held liquidizer.   Simmer for a few more minutes to thicken, then taste and adjust seasonings.   Serve with the pork chops.


Semolina Gnocchi, with Sizzling Cheddar and Spinach
Serve with Scotney Pale Ale
Serves 6

For the gnocchi:

1 litre milk
250g semolina
50g butter
50g grated Parmesan
1 egg
freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

To finish:

300g Mature Cheddar, derinded and crumbled or grated
2 handfuls young leaf spinach

Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Put the milk into a pan and bring up to the boil. Just as it begins to boil, pour in the semolina in a steady stream. Cook for 4-5 minutes, beating constantly to prevent sticking, until the mixture is so thick you can stand the spoon up in it. Draw off the heat and beat in the butter, Parmesan, nutmeg salt and pepper. Finally, beat in the egg.

Pour onto the lined baking trays and spread out in a layer about 1 cm thick. Leave to cool. Chill for an hour or longer until set firmly.

Pre-heat the oven to 190/200C (Fan 170/180, Gas 5/6). Stamp out circles (or cut triangles or diamonds if you prefer) about 4 cm in diameter. Butter an oven proof dish and scatter a handful of spinach leaves over the base. Arrange the circles over the spinach, in overlapping rows, like the tiles on a roof. Sprinkle over the remaining spinach, then the crumbled cheese. Dot with more butter. Bake until golden brown and sizzling (around 20 minutes). Eat hot, with a big green salad,.

Avocado and Lime Ice Cream
Delicious served sweet strawberries
Serve with a sweet fruity cider
Serves 6

2 ripe avocados
finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 limes
1 x 397g can condensed milk
300 ml whipping or double cream, whipped

Peel the avocados and remove the stones.  Mash thoroughly with the lime juice (or whizz to a puree with lime juice in a processor).   Mix with the condensed milk and lime zest.   Fold in the whipped cream, scrape into a container, and slide into the freezer.

Get the ice cream out of the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

My Mother’s Halibut (or Cod) with Welsh Rarebit Crust
Serves 4

4 halibut (or cod) steaks weighing about 180-200g
30g unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper

For the Rarebit Crust:

225g grated mature Cheddar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5.

Mix the rarebit ingredients together to form a thick paste.   Use the butter to grease a baking dish just large enough to take the halibut steaks.   Arrange the fish in the dish and smear the rarebit mix thickly over each steak.   Bake for around 20 minutes until the fish is just cooked through, and the rarebit is sizzling and browned.  Serve immediately.

Compton Verney Canapés

A big thank you to all at Compton Verney for running such a brilliant Christmas Fair. I only wish I had seen more of it, but I loved my day in the restaurant cooking canapes inspired by the art collections. Here are the recipes:

Picasso: Fried Olives with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Smoked Paprika

pitted green olives
pitted black olives
sun-dried tomato pesto
plain flour
Spanish smoked paprika
lightly beaten egg
Panko breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

Drain the olives and pat dry if necessary. Put a couple of tablespoonfuls of pesto into a piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe a little of the pesto inside each olive.

Pour a couple of centimetres of oil into a small saucepan and heat. While it is coming up to temperature, arrange three bowls by the hob. Put flour, seasoned generously with smoked paprika, pepper and a tad of salt in the first. Beaten egg in the second. Breadcrumbs in the third. Then line a plate with a couple of layers of kitchen paper and place on the other side of the hob.

4 or 5 at a time, roll olives in flour until fully coated. Then coat in egg, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs, making sure each olive is thoroughly covered. Slide the olives into the hot oil, which should sizzle gaily. Cook until golden brown, then scoop out and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Pass round with cocktail sticks to spear the hot olives.

James Booth Higginson’s Cheese, Bread & Beer: Compton Verney Rarebit, Rhubarb Relish
Makes around 30

for the rarebit

225g grated mature cheddar
30g butter
2 tsp plain flour
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp Hooky Gold
slices sourdough bread, toasted

for the relish

200g rhubarb
juice of 5 large oranges
120g caster sugar
40g finely chopped ginger
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
½ tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1 heaped tsp black onion seeds

To make the rarebit, put everything in a saucepan, stir over a low heat until smooth and creamy. Done. It will keep for a week or so in a covered bowl in the fridge. Warm slightly if necessary.

To make the relish, trim the rhubarb and cut into 5 cm lengths. Then cut each piece into very fine batons. Put orange juice, sugar, ginger and spices into a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Now boil hard until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Stir in the rhubarb and cook for a further 2 minutes. Leave to cool.

Spread the rarebit thickly over each slice of toast. Grill until the rarebit is bubbling and browned. Let it cool slightly then cut into fingers. Serve with the relish as a dip.

Giovanni Battista Ruoppolo: Parma Ham, with Sour Cherry & Avocado
Makes 12

4 slices Parma ham or similar, cut into thick strips
12 croustade cases
12 small mint leaves

for the salsa

40g dried soured cherries
1½ ripe avocados
150g very finely chopped fennel bulb
lemon juice
3 sprigs mint leaves
3 halves kaffir lime leaves, very, very finely shredded
salt and pepper

Soak the cherries in a little warm water if necessary, until soft. Drain and chop roughly. Dice the avocado finely, then toss with a little lemon juice. Strip the leaves off the mint and chop finely. Mix with mint, avocado, lime leaves, cherries and fennel. Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, spoon a little of the salad into each croustade case, top with a curl of ham and a sprig of mint.