Fresh green asparagus cooked gently with butter, served with some shavings of parmesan. Cook them simply. Don’t overcook; they need to have a bite. They love butter, not too high heat, a squeeze of lemon and some parmesan.
Raw asparagus salad with lemon and olive oil dressing. This is a simple salad and of course you can choose not to bother with the peeling, but it makes for a good contrast of textures. The dressing marinates the asparagus a bit and the Parmesan complements them nicely. As fresh green shoots as you can get – and it’s spring by the mouthful!
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.
Baked fennel with tomatoes and plums: three ingredients and what a burst of flavour. It makes a good vegetarian lunch or an interesting side for meat or fish.
Perfect crunchy chips oven baked then twice fried. I am not an expert on chips, the only method of preparing potatoes that I’m not terribly keen on.
Baked maple and balsamic shallots, whole shallot onions roasted with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
Mixed raw and cooked beetroot in tangy dressing. As all things dark red or purple, beetroot is incredibly rich in nutrients especially when eaten raw.
Broad bean and smashed pea bruschetta with herbs and garlic and a drizzle of olive oil is a starter, lunch or appetiser to kill for. And new beans need just 5 minutes to cook!
Broccoli and Stilton soup, the easiest and tastiest - and no blender needed. Blended soup is my pet hate, worse than mushy peas or smoothies (though mind: purée - justified; milkshake - okay).
Broccoli cheese spiced up with anchovies and Cayenne pepper, an excellent alternative to cauliflower cheese.
Fresh raw broccoli salad marinated in oriental dressing. Broccoli has come a long way since being served to twelve year old me in the shape of whole boiled head, tasteless and mushy.
Crispy roasted brussels sprouts and blanched sprout tops with almonds. They need to be salted and peppered about twice as much as an amount you think sensible.
Brussels sprouts cooked with fennel and caraway seeds and coated in crushed walnuts, parmesan and breadcrumbs. For a vegetarian option of course leave out the bacon. The fennel and caraway seeds add flavour.
Simple buttered spinach sauteed with thinly sliced garlic. My favourite way of preparing spinach is the simplest: wilted, buttered and then buttered again. It must be fresh, picked off stems, young and tender leaves only. It’s so, so good I can have it on its own, and every other day.
Vietnamese cabbage and prawn salad with nuoc mam dressing, layered on baked brown rice. The best salad bowls are a/ Asian and b/ contain cabbage.
Caramelised fennel slices sautéed in a pan with maple syrup and white balsamic vinegar. The best way of cooking fennel, it makes an exquisite side dish, or a lovely starter served with a chunk of crusty bread.
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.
Roasted cauliflower parmigiana, cauliflower slices, parmesan and mozzarella layered with simple tomato sauce. A good veggie dish which actually tastes much better than you’d think.
Celeriac gratin - thinly sliced celeriac baked in cream, garlic and Gruyère cheese sauce. Adding cheesy sauce to most veg transforms them into something delishhh so celeriac gratin will work even for people not that keen on the knobbly brute.
Oven roasted celeriac steak with sweet potato chips, vegetarian bliss with no meat substitutes in sight. And it’s made vegan with a simple tweak. Who needs Quorn?
Fresh chanterelles sautéed in a little butter, piled on thick slices of toasted bread, make lunch, starter or a snack fit for gods. Scottish or French chanterelles, sunny yellow wild mushrooms, are autumn’s best.
Chunky ratatouille with chicken pieces, a perfect wholesome and easy one-pot meat-and-veg dish braised in the oven. And it’s just as nice on the following day!
Homemade coleslaw recipe with lightly fermented vegetables. This is Tom Kerridge's coleslaw recipe with light and healthy yoghurt and lemon dressing.
Slow roasted tomato confit. It brings out the flavour hidden deep when it comes to those plasticky looking imported fruits. It’s a slow job – the longer the better. They should still retain their shape but become very soft and quite a bit darker in colour.
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.
Savoury courgette wheat and rye bread with Parmesan, it is perfectly good for slicing, buttering, and turning into ham sandwiches.
Courgette fritters in tomato and paprika cornmeal crust. Why is it such a thing about courgettes every summer? Magazines, blogs and weekend supplements fall over themselves to supply novel ways of utilising courgettes:
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.
Courgette loaf cake or what to do with courgette glut. Let’s be honest here: this is no Great Bake Off contest entry. It’s fairly bland, similarly to the vegetable; will benefit from vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond essence, lemon zest and whatever other flavourings you can think of.
Raw courgette ribbons marinated with lemon and tossed with raisins, almonds, pistachios and nori flakes – a gorgeous courgette salad made without spiralizer but just a vegetable peeler.
Courgette sandwich loaf - tasty, sliceable and excellent when toasted. This is a twist on my onions-and-mash deli bread, a lovely loaf in itself albeit really quite oniony.
Jerusalem artichokes cooked in cream with garlic and tarragon, then baked au gratin style. This dish is supposed to be made with potatoes: sliced thinly, accompanied with herbs and garlic, a bit of onion, a bit of leek and – wait for this – cooked in cream. Literally. Boiled in copious quantity of double cream. Decadent or what?
Creamed corn with blue cheese and fresh ripe tomatoes. Creamed corn in fact is now my number one method of cooking corn and that’s how I’ll continue until the end of the summer and beyond – it’s gorgeous.
Creamy mushrooms, lovely on toast, on pasta or as a side dish, paired with steak. An easy recipe for velvety creamy and garlicky shiitake mushrooms.
Another way to cook cabbage: crispy and caramelised. Brown cooked cabbage, Swedish style, simply fried down and baked, this method turns the vegetable into the perfect side dish.
Crispy and spicy roasted chickpeas with grilled peppers, a wholesome vegetarian lunch or dinner as chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fibre.
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...
Crunchy cabbage salad with chopped gherkins and vinaigrette dressing. Raw shredded cabbage is better than the best lettuce, and this salad recipe is the absolute go-to garnish for tacos, gyros, summer rolls and all dishes that want for a bit of crunchy flavoursome greenery.
New potatoes, lightly crushed to release the flavour, with sour, spicy and herby topping. Just boil them until tender, serve with plenty of butter and some dill – a must, marriage made in heaven. Tarragon or mint as an alternative.
Fennel and orange salad. The best thing about raw fennel is that it’s really a wonderful and versatile background for endless variants. I’ve used orange but any other large citrus fruit will do nicely. Ah well, you can even skip the citrus and just dress it with lemon juice...
Savoury tart with fennel and taleggio filling; a vegetarian version of a classic British pie. My offering to vegetarians who like pies, this is actually better the next day at room temperature, if there’s any left.
Fermented red cabbage with chillies and ginger, Europe’s answer to kimchi. Red cabbage sauerkraut is made exactly like the white but it’s vibrant and a bit more crunchy.
Filo wrapped asparagus with Parmesan are a crunchy, golden, irresistible vegetarian snack or appetiser. Asparagus and filo parcels cigars - a must before the asparagus season ends.
Quick refrigerator pickles made with cucumbers, asparagus and carrot slices. There are some quite peculiar myths concerning food and eating that people believe in.
Fondant carrots cooked in a butter and water emulsion, with caraway and cinnamon. This method of cooking carrots is similar to carrots Vichy, but there you start off with carrots in water, brought to the boil and butter added later.
Celeriac fondant makes a great side dish. Recipes featuring celeriac are usually for mash or puree, but dicing the celeriac root and cooking it in butter brings out the great flavour.
Courgette flowers (fiori di zuccha) in light batter, shallow fried in olive oil with a touch of mint inside each blossom. It’s pan-fried poetry!
Fried sliced mushrooms, cooked in butter and a little oil, perfect for breakfast. Who will argue that the simplest things are the best? You can add all kinds of seasoning to mushrooms, cheeses and creams; you can roast them or grill them or deep fry them; cook them whole or chop them up; have them raw if that’s what you fancy – but nothing beats crisp and golden slices fried in butter.
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