Asparagus risotto with Parmesan crackers. Making a good risotto is tricky: the proportion of liquid to rice; when to add on the add-ons; how to score the precise result between tough grains and a slop bucket; whether to use a wooden spoon or a whisk in the absence of the magical girariso and how much butter it REALLY needs.
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.
Oven baked mackerel fillets stuffed with capers and olives. This turned out to be such a fantastic thing that I might give up on my sticky pan-fried fillets and do this whenever I cook mackerel, it’s so good.
Orzo pasta baked in the oven with porcini mushrooms and pancetta. Those Italians! Not enough for them to make pasta in the shape of radiators, ears, bow ties, wagon wheels – they also make pasta that masquerades as rice.
These are baked sardine fillets, with garlic, lemon and basil. I’m a bit fussy about sardines – even though I like the taste, like miniature mackerels, with crispy grilled skin – but the bones! The bones! Now the other day my fishmonger had some filleted fresh sardines...
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.
Beef fillet roulade with porcini mushroom stuffing. The execution could not be easier: if you get a nice middle cut of fillet - but frankly any part will go - all you do is open it up like a book with a sharp knife, spread with the stuffing and roll it up again.
I thought I’d make blanquette de veau with some diced English rose veal from my butcher’s. How haute cuisine and poncey that sounds, eh? Two things have transpired this morning however: one – when I opened my veal vacuumed pack...
Rib-eye steak with green vegetables and blue cheese sauce. Simplicity itself and one of the best dinners you can have. If you’re really shopping for food on the night you eat it then the key thing – bring meat to room temperature – is a bit of a challenge.
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.
Christmas turkey - wonderfully moist, brined for 36 hours, worth every minute of the effort. Some other points worth bearing in mind: don’t cover it. It will steam instead of roasting. But by all means pour some liquid into the tray so it cooks in slightly moist environment.
Bucatini pasta with creamy Alfredo sauce and a handful of peas and spinach. I’m offering the ‘new’ classic with cream and all, rest assured, and have added a bit of greenery to it: pasta with spinach is irresistible.
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.
Fish poached in herby butter, a fantastic way to cook it. The fish is lovely, flaky and slimy, in a good way, not easy to overcook it and it has a lovely buttery flavour. Delishh
Baked Camembert parcel in cornmeal shortcrust with Cheddar and thyme. It is so tasty, pastry made from scratch and all, that if you don’t try it once in your life, you won’t know you’ve lived. T
Cassoulet - the ultimate comfort dish, with duck and pork. Pork belly provided the fat, a little bacon a little smokiness; and I sprinkled breadcrumbs over the casserole as well as the serving bowls.
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 alla Fiorentina with fresh spinach and creamy sauce. I know - it should all be cooked in separate dishes, the chicken cut in escalopes, spinach just tossed with butter, and the sauce should not mix with it. But isn’t life too short to wash three different pans when you can wash just one?
My take on chicken Caesar salad has chicken fried in breadcrumbs and the best dressing. Purists and critics might comment that it’s a Chicken Nugget Salad, not Caesar. So be it. Damn tasty. Might be a hit with kids if you stick to that name.
Chicken chow mein takeaway style, with crispy noodles. What can I say? I adore noodles. I could live on noodles, be it wheat or rice, udon or glass. As long as they are dressed with some decent sauce, a few shreds of pak choi or beansprouts, I’m theirs until the bottom of the bowl.
Chicken enchiladas with green tomato salsa verde. The salsa can be shop-bought, very well, but if you have some green tomatoes – one easy thing to grow in England – you can try from scratch.
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.
Chicken thighs stuffed with chorizo and garlic, cooked under a skillet. The classic version of this performance features a brick – a London brick ideally, handmade and used widely for (you’d never guess) building houses in the first half of the 20th century.
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.
Cod and crisp, herby potato bake. This is awesome – deconstructed fish and chips without the need for vats of boiling oil, batter or the all-permeating smell.
Côte de bœuf seasoned with dry mustard, seared in a pan and roasted in the oven. Côte de bœuf is basically an enormous rib-eye steak with the bone in.
Courgette and spinach tian with garlic, pine nuts and cheese. Make a note of the courgette treatment – that’s how this boring vegetable needs to be handled. Squeeze the living daylights out of it and it might just be vaguely tasty.
Zucchini parmigiana becomes here zucchini alla pecorino – let’s stick to courgette gratin, shall we? I like courgette but do agree it needs some oomph to make it less bland and it must borrow flavour from elsewhere – tomato sauce for instance.
Couscous salad with chicken and red peppers - lovely salad. As with most salads, the ingredients may vary – depending on your fancy and the contents of the fridge. I like to add some kind of cooked, warm vegetables.
Creamy chicken with leeks and mushrooms - this is a chicken dish matrix. Chicken template. Chicken archetype. Basically, you can chuck in any vegetables and seasoning you like or think will go with chicken and cream (which is just about EVERYTHING)...
Crispy spicy roasted chickpeas with red peppers and mushrooms. Chickpeas are funny little things - they look nothing like peas to start with but more like little nuts. Why aren’t they called chicknuts?
Curried mussels with saffron and ginger, steamed in light creamy sauce. No, I still don’t like curries. One of the very few dishes that revolt me, out there with mushy peas, kale, barley and any veiny, tendony, gelatinous meat.
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.
Filo pastry snails with mushroom, spinach and cheese filling. The original recipe for these snails calls for feta cheese. It actually calls for roasted fennel instead of spinach but here I think my improvement has worked – spinach in filo pastry is a classic after all.
Classic English fish and chips: crispy chip shop style batter and double cooked chips. I consulted Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for perfect fish and chips in order to produce mine; with the batter sans vodka (we don’t waste spirits in cooking).
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.
Roast gammon hock with plum sauce. Soak it, boil, it, roast it - just like gammon. It likes mustard and honey, it will be so tender you won't need a carving knife. There's a bit of fat and rind on the hock.
Fresh clams cooked with plenty of garlic and white wine. And then – off they go into spaghetti or linguine, or soup or chowder , or just as a splendid dish of little morsels of saltiness with the juices mopped by some good bread.
A warm salad of Purple Majesty potatoes, zucchini and radishes. Dark potatoes are fairly common, but the ones I’d had before would turn ordinary white when boiled. Not these beauties! These are perfectly unique. To start with, the skin is almost completely black and while scrubbed, they reveal to have a thin film covering the tuber - like a second skin or, as I like to think, a veil.
Grilled skinned Dover sole with caper lemon butter. If turbot is the king of fish, Dover sole surely must be the queen. It’s actually easier to cook than turbot, which is big beast and there’s a quandary how to cook it. With sole there’s no problem – simple grilled is the best...
Lamb neck fillet is excellent and cheap. My favourite method of cooking it is to marinate it well, grill two of them for a short spell and slice and divvy between two people. Why can’t I just apportion one fillet per person? Ah, because...
Grilled red mullet brushed with anchovy and coriander butter. It is not frequently that the smaller the fish the better it tastes, bones becoming too much of a key player usually, but it’s completely the case with red mullet.
Oriental grilled trout with creamy spinach and buttered broccoli. Amazing how often my place is like a restaurant – cooking separate things for each person. I shouldn’t put up with it...
Hasselback gratin - potato slices stacked like dominoes, baked in creamy and cheesy sauce. They will have their bottoms cooking in the cheese mix and the tops will get scorchy, crispy, crusty, lacey and all the other lovely adjectives that can be applied to cheese.
Smoked mackerel and prawn kedgeree. Haddock seems too much of a northern fish to go into a dish of Indian of origin so I’ve replaced it with hot smoked mackerel. Breakfast? I don’t know but it’s an excellent lunch dish and a brilliant starter.
Lamb cutlets in herby Parmesan crust. The cutlets are dipped in just egg white, not whole egg wash, so that it’s light and only there to keep the crust in place. The herbs and additions to the crumb are free choice but Parmesan is a must.
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