Philippa James visits New Season, Chorley

PUBLISHED: 11:04 13 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:31 20 February 2013

New Season albondigas (meatballs) served with rice

New Season albondigas (meatballs) served with rice

Cookery editor Philippa James meets a couple who are bringing a taste of the exotic to Chorley

Sometimes a little gem can completely pass you by; such is the case with New Season, in St Thomas Street, Chorley, somewhere Id been meaning to try for ages. The business has undergone several re-incarnations under the same management, that of married couple, Amir and Samantha Sheikh, in the last seven years.

It originally opened as a daytime coffee shop, doing takeaway sandwiches, the once-a-month bistro nights, drawing on Pakistan-born Amirs many travels working in Spain, France, Lebanon, and Italy, proved so popular that they gained a drinks licence, and the evenings moved, first to every Saturday, and now over seven days a week, with an amazing range of Moroccan, Eastern and Mediterranean influences on an ever-changing and eclectic array of world tapas, Arabian mezzes and European based meals.

Sam said: It is a very sociable way of eating, often a table of four will
order twelve, or more dishes, along with some wine, and spend the evening chatting over delicious food, that is cooked to order, so theres no being rushed off the tables.

Sam, originally a branch and project manager for a bank, is now juggling being mum to three young children (who are already showing interest in the kitchen) with the businesss administration, and making all the desserts for the restaurant, while Amir concentrates on the cooking, front of house and the marketing.

As I sat in a pretty courtyard, surrounded by vines, an olive tree, and dangling wisteria, Amir popped out from a kitchen, already busy at only noon, to ensure I was aware that much of their produce is sourced locally - from Chorley Market, with meat from Clarksons in Leyland, and a trip every Thursday to Bolton Market for fresh fish.

As we chatted, it became apparent that times have not always been so buoyant, Sam spoke of desperate times and dire financial straits when they had to re-mortgage their house to keep the business going and added that without the encouragement of a great team of staff and wonderful customers, many who have become friends, she feels they would have Given up and gone under.

When Amir went on a weeks pilgrimage back home two years ago, I decided it was do or die time, said Sam. I got friends to cut up my pashminas for wall hangings, and chefs to paper the new Moroccan-influenced dcor in a bid for survival by offering something a bit different.
A new Turkish-born manager, Reg, came with multiple skills, gained not least from working on the QE2, including cocktail-making from fresh ingredients not pre-mixes, a remarkable knack for recalling customers and their preferences, and the ability to DJ with the best of them.

It is no wonder Regs passion for all that he does seeps out to the customers, many of whom book the whole venue, as recently for a masquerade ball, where a baby grand piano and saxophonist were also shipped in!

Offering anything from a fixed price lunch for less than four pounds,
to a gourmet full-blown banquet, New Season ( has certainly pulled it around, in spectacular fashion; at weekends booking is essential.

From Sam describing their seven years of day and night slog, to hearing of Amirs new 16 acre garden project in Pakistan slowly taking shape, it
looks like this delightful couple have finally got the work-life balance
about right, too.

New Season albondigas (meatballs) served with rice

With a Spanish, and slightly Cajun influence, these simple-to-make meatballs are a tasty treat, anytime

Ingredients for meatballs

1kg lamb mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
inch fresh ginger, peeled, and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 free range egg, beaten
teaspoon roasted cumin (Pop the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan, under a medium grill or in the oven until you can smell them toasting and releasing their flavour)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon plain flour


1. Pre-heat oven to 240c/gas mark 9
2. Mix all of the above ingredients together, except the flour, which you sprinkle over once everything else is combined. Mix well, to bring it all together, then put to rest in the fridge for ten minutes.
3. Take the mixture out, divide into 12 portions, and roll each one into a ball, placing onto a baking tray.
4. Cook for 15 minutes, then put to one side for a few minutes, to rest, covering lightly with foil.

Ingredients for the sauce

1 red onion, finely chopped
a red, and a yellow or orange pepper, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons vegetable stock
A tin of plum tomatoes, finely chopped
A little oil


1. Saute all the sauce ingredients together, except the tomatoes, in a little oil, over a gentle heat, until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and warm through. Add a little water if the sauce thickens too much.
2. Put the meatballs into the sauce and re-heat for about five minutes or until hot. Serve with boiled rice.

Note. The smaller the chillies, the hotter they are; do remember to wash your hands, thoroughly, after handling them.

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