Peach jam with a hint of vanilla, easy to make and very flavoursome. Peach jam fools everyone. You think (well, I did) it doesn’t even exist or at most belongs with those quaint outlandish preserves made by niche artisan hipsters in tiny quantities, like courgette or banana.
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.
Penne pasta with chanterelles and pied-de-moutons, and plenty of parmesan. A very simple dish – good ingredients don’t need elaborate processing, and fresh wild mushrooms are as good as it gets.
Homemade pesto - the classic with basil and a hint of garlic. Grab a handful of pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan, grate some parmesan, tear up a lot of basil leaves and that’s it – you’ve embraced the Italian in you.
Plain scones with pineapple flavour, soft and light. There is no butter in the mix and pineapple juice instead of milk. It turns out you can make scones pretty much out of anything.
Easy pita bread, ready in an hour. Pita is very gratifying because you eat bread, but so thin and not a lot of it that you can pretend you’re having a no-bread salad.
Plain scones, or biscuits as they are known in America. This version has cheese in it but a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and some cinnamon will make a decent sweet version.
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.
Hawaiian poke bowl with yellowfin tuna, seasoned with shichimi togarashi. Originating from Hawaii, it’s a salad/starter/appetiser of raw fish, sliced (which is what ‘poke’ literally means in Hawaiian).
Pork and mushroom stroganoff: perfect for when you want to cook an easy but special dish and can’t afford to spend a small fortune on the ingredients.
Potato salad with pancetta and asparagus, delicious warm or cold. I’m really not sure what the deal with the ‘only three ingredients!’ recipes is. Or only four or five for that matter - the authors of those seem to take pride in putting together as few foodstuffs as possible
Potatoes boulangeres, potato slices baked with stock, onions and a little butter. A simple side of potatoes boulangeres is traditional with beef bourgignon.
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…
A classic pound cake also known as quatre-quarts or madeira. You don’t need to frost or layer it, there are no raisins thrown into the mix, no chocolate goes near it and the only adornment should be a discreet dusting of icing sugar - or a lick of good jam.
Prawn pasta bake with frozen prawns and a handful of spinach. I seem to be cooking just one pasta dish all the time: boil the noodles, throw a handful of greenery into the boiling water by the end, drain the lot and stir in some cheese/sauce/butter.
Provolone pasta bake with homemade tomato marinara sauce. The star of this show is provolone. It’s an Italian cheese which comes in dolce or piccante variety, made from cow’s milk and granted DOP designation.
Pumpkin bread spiced with cinnamon and cloves, with walnuts and cranberries. I’ll say it very quickly: pumpkin bread is good. Very much the thing to do with this tin of puree knocking about the cupboard.
Breakfast quesadillas with avcado, mushrooms and bacon. Now quesadilla is my perfect toasted cheese sandwich as I’ve only just realised. It ticks all the above boxes plus one huge box on top of that: there’s no bread.
Italian beef ragu; pasta sauce with beef and pork mince, soffrito and tomato sauce. The amount of about 3-4 tablespoons of the sauce per person gives the perfect balance between Italian sparsity and British overload.
Raisin cake with a hint of spice, baked in a round Bundt tin. A bucket cake, this, well and truly. Bucket cake, if it needs reminding, is a concoction created by throwing things into a bucket and stirring them around a bit.
Homemade raspberry jam. I used to think that to make jam you need tonnes and tonnes of fruit and it takes hours and hours of boiling the stuff in huge pans, with lots of splattering and covering the kitchen with sticky gunk – NO.
No churn raspberry ripple ice cream made in five minutes with three ingredients. Does having ice cream about three times a year justify spending three hundred quid on a Gaggia or SubZero ice cream maker, even assuming I had that cash floating about idle?
Simple and easy ratatouille. Purists of French cooking – look away now. I know, I know – cook each kind of vegetable separately, then put all together in a baking dish and stick in the oven. So yes, I agree that this is a completely unorthodox version.
Roasted cauliflower florets with togarashi seasoning and a grating of Parmesan. Roasted cauliflower is very, VERY tasty. Go freehand on it: butter, parsley and parmesan are as good as gochujang, ginger and sesame oil.
Cheat's sourdough, with yeast but fermenting over 24 hours, with added rosemary and seeds. The taste beats no knead. The texture is fantastic every time. If you have a clay cloche or a cast iron casserole – a no brainer and will come out crusty as anything.
Salmon, broccoli and courgette baked with creme fraiche, mustard and dill. One pot wonder – courgettes and broccoli will do for veg, and if you really need a filler, return those spuds into the equation. Tasty. Very tasty.
Salmon and potato dish cooked under the grill - let’s try to tackle fish like it wasn’t fish. Like it was chicken – only slightly different colour. The recipe below is dead – FIENDISHLY – easy, cooks in ten minutes and the only prepping involved is boiling potatoes.
Salmon fillet cooked with oyster sauce and brown sugar. Oyster sauce is a weird and wonderful thing that makes boring food suddenly taste fantastic. Simple green vegetables, boring broccoli and beans, get a sudden oomph when drizzled over with a bit of that pungent salty gunk, and a spoonful of sesame oil.
Baked salmon pâté with tarragon and chopped gherkins. Fresh salmon marinated in soy sauce and honey is turned into flavoursome pâté in this simple recipe.
Salmon fillets with blue cheese topping baked in foil parcels. Easy – fiendishly easy cooked like below, just stick some blue cheese on it, wrap in foil and sling in the oven for ten. And you can even call it fancy: en papilotte!
Baked salmon fillets in maple syrup, soya sauce and garlic marinade. Salmon is pretty versatile and can happily take various treatments – see my recipes for steamed salmon and baked with potatoes. With all the cooking techniques I find the timing is the trick.
Salt and pepper halibut, seared in a flash. Halibut used to be my all time favourite fish. But now it's apparently overfished, not sustainable and it just makes you feel plain bad eating it. So it's a rare treat for me. But I've noticed it doesn't taste as lovely as it used to. So I've figured - cook it as quick as I can...
Salted caramel ice cream: three ingredients, no churning, just a bowl and a whisk needed. Make it without salt – it will be one of those ‘only 2 ingredients!’ shticks. Add less salt if you’re keen but sensitive to the taste; a
Homemade spiced sauerkraut, dead easy, can be made in small quantities. I should be talking all about raw and fermented so I’m side-tracking. Recipes abound, everyone is fermenting like crazy and the reports of all those good bacteria doing wonders to our guts are making poor old sauerkraut blush.
Scallop ceviche with citrus juice and fresh plums. Contrary to what you might think, a dish of raw fish is actually a pretty common thing.
Pan fried scallops with pancetta and spiced Napa cabbage. This dish has all my favourite tastes combined: it’s salty and sweet and spicy and sour.
Sea bass fillets baked in a creamy spinach sauce. Spinach is rich in iron and has lots of vitamins C and K. Great stuff. And another good thing about it is that prepared as below, it keeps the fish succulent and moist even if you use defrosted fillets.
Takeaway-style sesame noodles with spring onions and beans, served with chopped peanuts and cucumbers. These are plain, vegetarian, sesame flavoured, takeaway-style noodles with peanuts, cucumber and beans.
Classic shortbread made in the easiest way, flavoured with lemon and sprinkled with sugar. Short. Crunchy. Melty. A spray of crumbs when broken. Sugar covered.
Sicilian pistachio cookies are delicious, meltaway biscuits easily made gluten free. They are about the second best thing you can do with only egg whites, nuts and sugar. Up there with madeleines, financières, said macarons, tuiles and croquants.
The best chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting. Now what we’ve got here is a shortcut to the best birthday cake ever.
Chinese smashed cucumber salad with chilli, garlic and sesame oil. Cucumbers, the skinniest member of the gourd family of portly melons, squashes, pumpkins and marrows is technically not a vegetable but fruit.
Snickerdoodles, butter cookies with cinnamon coating. Make them with kids so they roll the dough balls in sugared cinnamon like dung beetles. Also tempting to add choc chips – but then you’d turn the funky snickerdoodles into plain old choc chip cookies which would be a shame.
Sourdough no knead white bread on starter made with pineapple juice. Very tasty bread – next time I’ll add some wholemeal or even whole grain flours for a sharper taste.
Monkfish tail fillet cooked in a curried sauce with ginger and saffron. The fish are basically a tasty tail (a bit like lobster tail, hence probably the comparisons) attached to an enormous gaping mouth.
Fiery bacon, spiced but still cool cucumber and mild new potatoes in a warm salad. The bacon and cucumber salad on its own will make a great spicy snack or starter - I’ve thrown new potatoes in to a/ dampen the fire a bit and b/ make it into a main course.
Chocolate cake with dark chocolate topping and spider web white chocolate drizzle. The cake is so easy to make it’s embarrassing – but excellent for the kids to be engaged.
Oven baked spinach and mozzarella balls, a fantastic side or appetizer. It’s the signature dish of my favourite chef and he often makes them for a starter. His are fancier and frequently involve bacon which is never a bad thing. I
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