The no-rush cook. Oh, & my winning ‘Come Dine With Me’ dish!

PREP TIME: 30 mins
COOKING TIME: 4 – 5 hours
IDEAL FOR: family meal, crowd pleaser

Come Dine With Me

I was obsessed with this programme when it first came out.

Every Sunday during winter, I used to put my fire on in my London flat and curl up to watch it.

It was a brilliant concept with the food being central to the evening but not the only thing that swayed how guests would score their host.

You had to pull out of the bag; great food (on all courses), fantastic hosting, atmosphere and lastly entertainment.

Basically, everything it takes to have a successful dinner party.

‘Friends’ meets ‘Come Dine With Me’

One day while in a pub with friends, chatting and laughing about some of the evenings they’d recently screened, we had the genius idea of doing a ‘Come Dine With Me’ evening ourselves.

We decided that we’d do it over the entire winter months, rather than a week, like the show.

To eat 3 courses every night in succession was too much plus we all had full time jobs to manage.

The rules were the same; send your menu before the evening itself, provide 3 courses, entertainment of some sort and everyone had to score the evening at the end.

We all put in £20 quid each so the prize money was a grand total of £200.

Our Come Dine With Me (CDWM) was made up of 5 couples (friends/couples).

So, we pulled names out of a hat for the order in which we’d take our turn.

And so, it began

Who knew a fun idea would become SO competitive!

To cut a long story short, every CDWM evening was actually brilliant.

The effort put in was incredible (v.competitive bunch).

And even though my friend and I were (definitely) considered the underdogs, we managed to pull it out of the bag three good courses.

Slow-cooked Lamb shank being the star of the show.

What was amazing about each of the 5 evenings, was that no two evenings were the same.

And what I learnt from this silly, fun idea from a session born in the pub was…

  • How food can bring us altogether
  • How much people appreciate it when someone cooks a special meal
  • How food can help create a different atmosphere – intricate food can make for a more sophisticated evening, Mexican can create a more casual and vibrant evening etc
  • And finally, how hard it is to be a host (it takes a lot of work).

Oh, and did I mention, we won the £200 quid!!

The under dogs claimed the day!

Lockdown-Come-Dine-With-Me (L-CDWM)

Delicious beef and ale ragu with a nice dark Big Boy Stout to sip alongside

And so, we’ve resurrected CDWM (or newly named, L-CDWM) in our household.

We have a 16 yr old and a 20 yr old who’ve become more interested in cooking.

Every week they’ve taken a turn to cook an evening meal. It’s been fab.

But the stakes just got higher as it was suggested we all do a L-CDWM evening.

A fiver goes into the pot from each household member.

I was up first and went for the low and slow cookBeef Shin and Ale Ragu.

It was a win with the slow-cooked lamb shanks so why switch tact if you took Gold once before?!

I cooked it outside in our wood oven – one of my secrets to success – it adds a bit of smokiness.

And a friend of mine from North Atlantic Craft Beer sent me some La Debauche Big Boy Stout to try out.

It’s a seriously full-bodied stout infused with chillies, which added a lovely depth of flavour to the dish and was the perfect accompaniment.

So the result… I scored a strong 24 out of 30.

I think I’ve got this in the bag ;)…

Watch this space, two more meals to be served up in this comp.

The tension is palpable.

Beef shin and ale ragù

A slow cooked beef shin which is great for crowds or freezing for family meals.
Course Main Course
Keyword crowd pleaser, family meals
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings 10 people
Cost ££


  • Casserole dish


  • 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 kg higher-welfare British beef shin slices
  • 40 g butter
  • 500 g soffritto mix or you can just do a mirepoix – see TIPS
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 750 ml dark ale I used La Debauche Big Boy stout
  • 2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 litre good-quality beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Serve with…

  • Mashed potatoes or cooked pappardelle pasta


  • Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
    Heat a little oil in the casserole over a medium-high heat. Season the beef, then add to the casserole in batches. Fry until golden all over then remove and place on a plate.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding a good splash of water and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any stuck-on bits, then pour into a jug and set aside.
    Heat the remaining oil and butter in the pan, then add the soffritto mix and the garlic with a pinch of salt.
    Cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until softened and starting to colour.
  • Add the tomato paste, anchovies and mustard and stir.
    Pour in the ale and bubble for 4-5 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, beef stock and reserved deglazing mixture.
  • Return the meat to the pan, stir, then bring to a simmer.
    Cover and put in the oven to cook for 3 hours.
  • After 3 hours, remove the lid, stir, then cook uncovered for 1-1½ hours more until the meat is fall-apart tender.
  • Remove the meat from the sauce (or I did it in the casserole dish), shred using 2 forks, discarding any cartilage that hasn’t melted.
    Put the pan over a medium heat and bubble gently for 15 minutes to reduce.
    Return the meat to the pan (if you removed it), stir in the Worcestershire sauce, then taste and season.
  • Serve with mash or stirred into pasta, topped with parsley.


Cook Blog Share

I’m linking this to CookBlogShare