Good mood food

Lamb cutlets with basil sauce. Food cooked and styled by Domini Kemp and Paul Kavanagh. photographs: dara mac donaill

Lamb cutlets with basil sauce. Food cooked and styled by Domini Kemp and Paul Kavanagh. photographs: dara mac donaill


What foods bring a smile you your face? Will it be these luscious lamb chops or sticky, sweet plum crumble?

My definition of happiness usually involves something delicious on a plate. But then I spend an evening just hanging out with my husband, or an afternoon laughing uncontrollably with my kids or my sister, or a great night out with my best pals, and I start to worry that feeling so attached to something on a plate is all a bit sad when compared to life’s great moments.

Then, however, I’ll end up being fed something wonderful or even grazing on something perfectly matched with a glass of wine, like a bit of bread and cheese, and I’m immediately reminded of that old expression: “There’s no love sincerer than the love of food.” As soon as I nod in agreement with Mr Shaw, I immediately become ashamed of secretly putting a delicious bowl of stew on the same list as my first-born. I may be going to hell for saying such a thing. However, I’m way too smart to admit to such a thing . . . oops!

But a few weeks ago, I was struck down by adult whooping cough, which felt like the worst flu ever, coupled with the most dreadful cough. The worst part was losing all interest in food, only being able to stomach a Lemsip, which became my only salvation.

Normally when I’m sick, my appetite never disappears and time is spent wisely reading every new recipe I can get my grubby paws on. This time, I languished with my cups of sickly sweet medicine, having no desire to eat anything ever again.

It wasn’t until the fifth day, when the antibiotics started working their magic, that I felt the first stirrings of greediness re-appear. The relief! After a few more days, I began fantasising about certain dishes, and what I would cook as soon as I felt better.

By this stage, I started flicking through cookbooks for inspiration, which is where I found the perfect dish. One that would encapsulate happiness on a plate. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It’s the combination of breaded meat, fried in butter until golden and crisp, but still juicy and pink inside, dunked into a delicious emulsion – and eaten without cutlery. Heaven.


4-6 lamb cutlets, French trimmed

Few sprigs rosemary or thyme

Salt and pepper

50g dried breadcrumbs

1 tbsp flour

1 egg

Sunflower oil


You may have to give the bones a little scrape, to get lovely clean bones and a perfectly trimmed bit of lamb on each cutlet. Set the meat aside.

Chop up the rosemary or thyme and mix with the breadcrumbs and season well. If the breadcrumbs are a bit soft or too fresh, you can dry them out in a moderate oven at about 140 degrees/gas 1 for 10 minutes until they are dried out and slightly coloured.

Put the flour on a plate and season it well. Beat the egg in a bowl. Dip the lamb cutlets into the flour and then into the egg and finally the seasoned breadcrumbs.

Heat the sunflower oil along with a good knob of butter and when it is good and hot, fry the cutlets on each side for about five minutes, until nice and golden brown. Serve them on a platter along with the basil sauce.

Basil sauce

1 egg yolk

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tsp Dijon mustard

75 ml olive oil

Splash of anchovy essence, or few squirts of Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Few basil leaves, very finely sliced

Few squirts Tabasco sauce

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with the garlic clove and the mustard. It will form the base to which you slowly whisk in a few drops of olive oil. Continue in a thin stream and you should feel it start to thicken. Add about half the olive oil and then season with the anchovy essence and the red wine vinegar. Then start adding the rest of the oil, which will thicken it up a bit more.

Season really well and add the basil leaves and Tabasco. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you can tone it down by adding 25mls sunflower oil, or more olive oil. You can make this a few hours ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.


Serves at least six

700g plums

160g butter

2 balls of stem ginger (in syrup)

Good pinch cinnamon

Good pinch allspice

175g Demerara sugar

120g porridge oats

50g flour

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

100ml cream

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. Cut the plums in half, remove the stones and place in a saucepan with a good knob of the 160g of butter and saute for about 10 minutes with the ginger, cinnamon and allspice, until they are becoming soft. Then put them in a suitable gratin dish, so they form a decent layer. Sprinkle with two tablespoons of the 175g of sugar.

In another bowl, mix the remaining 140g or so of Demerara sugar with the oats and flour.

Melt the remaining 140g butter and add the syrup and cream. Whisk this and then pour on to the oats and flour mixture. Mix well and then spoon on top of the plums and bake for at least 50 minutes.

You may need to cover the top with tinfoil. Bake until golden brown and then let it sit for a bit before you serve it. Serve with vanilla cream or a blob of vanilla ice cream.

DOMINI RECOMMENDSI recently received a knife in the post - dont worry, it was from a lovely reader, not a stalker. They are from an American company and sold online at One slice and I was hooked. These knives are truly fabulous.

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