Bread rolls with porridge base made of toasted oats and ale or stout. Definitely one of the all-time top 10 breads. The ale and the porridge base make them moist and they stay fresh for a good few days.
The dough for these sweet apricot buns is very versatile. Try spreading it out, focaccia-style, in a baking tray and topping with fruit and crumble. Try putting lots of dried fruit on top, folding in half or rolling and baking into a strudel.
Aubergine parmigiana in homemade tomato sauce, with mozarella, Parmesan and basil - the classic. It's a delicious standalone dish but also a good side to a steak.
Banana muffins with dried mango and pineapple chunks. This is a good cake mix – the best, the banana cake. I honestly can’t recall where the recipe comes from.
Homemade beef burgers in Hokkaido milk buns. Burgers crown the list and I think the secret really is in that slice of gherkin that a burger should be topped with. Joking aside - good minced beef has lots of flavour and sometimes, but sometimes, it can beat an average steak for me.
Sea bream baked in a herby salt crust. WARNING: there will be mess. You might end up with the kitchen covered in salt chipping merrily off the crust while trying to chisel in. You may well be serving scraps of fish gone cold.
Breton butter biscuits, rich with extra egg yolks, made with beurre de baratte. Almost a shame to bake with it – but since I propose that the biscuits below are the best in the world, it’s only fitting that they should be made with the best butter.
Crispy smoked bacon with a mustard and brown sugar glaze. Talk about moreish – this glazed bacon makes the most moreish nibble in the world.
Bulgogi, Korean marinated grilled beef wrapped in a lettuce leaf. This is the ultimate fast food: wholesome and no-carb and no-salt! And a fusion version: instead of loading the grilled meat into lettuce leaves, pack them into pitas, top with lettuce and sauce and you can have an Asian/Middle Eastern experience.
Caraway and parmesan pain de mie - soft crusted sandwich loaf with fantastic flavour. Pain de mie means a soft crust loaf, ideal for sandwiches, and it’s traditionally baked in a loaf tin closed with a lid.
Carrot cake - what a classic! Staple in every respectable old-fashioned English tea room, and in those quaint eateries that line up puddings on the counter, under the glass cloches, and the choice you get is invariably victoria sponge, cheesecake and carrot cake.
Cauliflower cheese with spices, garlic and creamy sauce. Interesting thing about comfort foods is that they usually tend to be quite bland. I guess when it's cold outside or you're feeling a bit down you don't fancy stimulating senses too much.
Cheese scones don't rise as imposingly as fruit or plain scones – the cheese weighs things down after all considerably, so they will be a bit squatty and wonky. You might shirk from the idea of using diced cheese rather than grated...
Cheddar and spring onion torpedo rolls. So we’re talking here about a cheese sandwich ready baked – cheesy bread. I dare you not to devour one of those torpedoes straight from the oven. I dare you to keep them in the house longer than a couple of days.
The best cheese fondue, smooth as velvet and comforting as a blanket. This tastes absolutely fantastic. And so it should – it’s Heston’s recipe from the book ‘Heston Blumenthal at home’.
Chicken saltimbocca - thin escalopes of chicken fillet layered with sage leaves, parmesan and prosciutto ham. Saltimbocca means ‘jump in the mouth’ and it does. Classically made with veal escalopes hammered down thin.
Chocolate cake with apricot filling and chocolate ganache. So what’s special? It’s chocolaty all right, but it’s got a whisper of apricot jam which was made to be in a marriage with chocolate, it has dark chocolate ganache...
Chocolate genoise cake with layer of raspberry buttercream and whipped chocolate ganache frosting. I can wholeheartedly recommend that combination for a birthday or a non-birthday cake. It can be prepared in stages.
Classic Caesar with chicken, bacon, Parmesan croutons and anchovy dressing. Anyway – nice and not too anchovy dressing, best ever croutons, meaty fresh lettuce and good quality roast chicken.
Crispy tobacco onions - they had me at first bite. There weren’t too many bites to follow because the Former Onion Hater took care of most of the bowl. They go best with steak, chops and burgers – but you might just polish them on their own given a chance...
Fennel and gorgonzola fettucine - I love pasta. I could eat pasta every day, if it only didn’t contain carbs. Since it does (hell, what other reason it tastes so good?), it’s an occasional treat.
Fish pie topped with a crispy layer of sliced potatoes. Use the best fish you can, not just sad offcuts from the bottom of the freezer. The combination of ingredients is anyone’s flight of fancy and I have stuck to the classic selection: haddock fresh, haddock smoked, salmon and prawns.
Five spice duck is an excellent dish. The duck is nice and pink (or so it should be to my liking, feel free to cook it a bit longer) and one good size fillet serves two easily.
Pizza margherita with ham, made in a frying pan, the perfect homemade from scratch. It can be a real treat and not just a takeaway easy option, if you follow a few simple rules.
Gateau Breton, Breton butter cake is unlike any other cake I’ve tried, the crunchy crust quite short and dense but not as crumbly as shortcrust. It melts in your mouth and has a lovely flavour from all those egg yolks and butter. It can be filled with jam...
This is a genoise sponge cake with mascarpone and blueberry filling. Before my last birthday (oh yes, I make my own birthday cake in this house, no respite for the wicked) I thought I’d make something restrained. Elegant.
St. Louis gooey butter cake made from scratch, with the best gooey buttery topping. The gooey butter is sold as breakfast pastry and there are two variants, fiercely defended by the respective factions. One: ready cake mix and a cream cheese topping sounds lovely and easy but the yeast base and buttery sugary goo on top appeals to me with the force of the original.
Hazelnut ricotta cake, with poppy seeds and an apricot jam and grated chocolate topping. A grownup cake - none of that bish bash mix-everything-together nonsense: you have to separate the eggs...
The best hot cross buns with proper piped crosses and honey glaze. I start baking them in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on, and I probably bake up to 50 in a season! Because there’s nothing better for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun.
Hungarian flourless hazelnut cake with buttercream filling. This is a fantastically nice cake that incidentally happens to be flourless, just so, and anyone will completely love it, gluten-shy or not.
Japanese milk bread rolls made with tangzhong: a starter cooked like roux, with flour and milk. The roux, or tangzhong, is then mixed with the rest of more ordinary ingredients; proved, shaped and baked in rolls or loaves, whose heel, incidentally, is made into panko.
Lamb and feta pastillas with harissa dip. Great way to use leftover roast. Chicken, beef or pork can be happily eaten cold the following day, lamb – not as much, especially fattier cuts like shoulder. So unless you’re hardcore and want to mince them, season and stuff into dumplings or ravioli, this is the way to go.
Lemon drizzle cake with poppy seeds. The kind of cake that can make you hum when eating it. It’s the one-slice-is-never-enough cake. It’s the how-come-there’s-none-left? kind of cake. And it’s easy, easy-peasy, even my nephew could whip it up.
Lemon, polenta and almond cake, moist and crunchy. It’s also gluten free and while that’s incidental in my books, it could be a top asset in others’.
The best meatloaf baked with a maple syrup and mustard glaze. Meatloaf is a gorgeous dish, the mince just needs plenty of fillers. Try making it with pure meat, it won’t work – crumbly to oblivion and not very flavoursome. Whack more Parmesan into it than you think is feasible*. Fry an onion and add in. Pour in some soured cream, crème fraiche or indeed milk and you’re in business. T
French onion soup with toasted bread slices loaded with cheese. The best thing to eat on a cold winter’s day is soup. Something so comforting about a good bowl of soup – better than a stew, much better than a salad and it even beats cheese on toast – sometimes. Not that much beats cheese on toast in my view.
Steamed whole sea bass oriental style, with coriander and spring onions. Wok’s shape makes it possible to simply prop up a plate against the sides so it’s beautifully suspended over the water, no rack or even steaming basket needed.
King Oskar II cake - almond macaron style cake filled with buttercream. Apparently they sell them in Ikea, frozen, and tasty to boot, alongside the meatballs and pickled herring. I adore Swedes and Swedish food but detest Ikea.
Parker House rolls, created in the famous Boston hotel, are soft and buttery. They look a bit like Pacman and infuriatingly open up whilst being baked. Very, very nice though – all that butter doesn’t go in there for nothing.
Penne pasta bake with leeks and mushrooms. There is only one dish that’s nicer than pasta and that is pasta al forno, lasagne is clearly the tops – but it’s a bit of a chore. You can have a pasta bake the easy way.
Cake with soft fruit and streusel topping. Don’t you just love cake recipes which say ‘throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well’? This is just that kind of recipe. I must have made this cake about a thousand times, varying the fruit.
Slow roasted pork belly glazed with soy sauce, honey and black bean paste. A bit like gammon, it should ideally be boiled first or - like I’ve done - steamed in the oven under a foil tent. Only the last hour or so the proper roasting should take place.
Filled pasta cooked potsticker style: fry-steam-fry, with a handful of frozen peas and some shaved Parmesan thrown in. egone, boring boiled tortellini with boring pesto and cream - it’s now a Chinese-Italian fusion. Quite a bit of historical justice - after all Marco Polo allegedly stole the idea of pasta off the Chinese…
Prawns with stewed tomatoes. The other night I went out for dinner (a respite from all this cooking, shooting and Fiending) and had a very decent red mullet served with tomato and raisin stew. The stew was simply AMAZING.
Whole roast duck with a spice rub and honey and dark soy glaze. This one is cooked through but not overdone, moist and flavoursome thanks to the honey and the spices, and very tender.
Roast chicken rôtisserie style, with potatoes cooking beneath, the best outside a French village market. The ultimate salivating lunchtime temptation. Such a match made in heaven: chickens browning and crisping evenly and the spuds underneath, basting in the glorious fat, shaken about every now and then.
Incredibly tasty famous San Francisco sourdough bread - baked using two different methods. The recipe comes from ‘Baking with Passion’ by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington.
Slow roasted shoulder of lamb - how slow dare I cook it? I got this lamb shoulder and I was very tempted to cook it at gas mark 1 (140C/275F). But had a vision of getting on to 7 in the evening, lamb still not done...
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