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.
Financier cakes, French almond biscuits made with brown butter are deliciously moist, light and tender, quite similar to madeleines and really easy to make.
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.
Five spice shrimp with greens and crispy noodles. This is different to your usual stir fry: it’s a warm stir fried salad. The crispy noodles are totally optional: you can do soft noodles or no noodles.
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 is a lovely way of cooking one of the more boring vegetables. Fondant - most often potatoes - are cooked in both butter and liquid. They should be cut in a very fancy way, in a shape of little barrels, then placed in a pan into foaming butter.
Old fashioned molasses cake? Think again – this one has fresh grated ginger added for the zing, and you don’t even need an electric mixer to make it.
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.
Fruity, nut free mince pies made from scratch: the best shortcrust pastry and delicious fruit filling. I never used to like mince pies until I made them at home. The fact is that all shop-bought pies, even the posh, fancy, Hestonised and overpriced numbers taste mainly of too much orange peel and too much booze. As much as I’m the last person to complain about too much booze, I like to keep it separate from cakes. And orange peel is usually nasty, unless you make it yourself (I don’t) or spend quite a bit more money than even Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients charge.
Scones are tricky. Scones are a thing of beauty if you get them right. I have had several goes at them before Dan Lepard came to rescue with his recipe from Short & Sweet – The Best of Home Baking.
Christmas fruit cake - lighter in colour and in taste but still rich and full of raisins, berries, apricots, figs and almonds. It keeps very well but needn’t be made weeks ahead of Christmas – tastes best when it had been standing for a couple of days.
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.
Galette des rois, an elegant treat for the night of Epiphany, or any other time during the twelve days of Christmas. There are some lovely traditions associated with the galette: a ‘fève’ is hidden inside the cake - a tiny china figurine or an almond - and the lucky person to find it (and not choke on it) is crowned a king or queen for the carnival.
Galettes made with buckwheat flour (gluten-free), with a classic topping of ham, cheese and a few spinach leaves. Galettes are pancakes – only better. The hardcore version has them fried only on one side, toppings put on top (as you would with toppings), and the sides only nonchalantly folded over.
Roast ham 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.
Baby new potatoes, Jersey Royals if you can get them, poached in oil with lemon slices and garlic cloves. It’s almost blasphemous to cook them other than in plenty of water and serve other than with a little butter and salt. But this is absolutely gorgeous and actually brings out the flavour even better. They are not at all greasy.
Homemade garlic bread with dough made from scratch. You don’t have to. You can buy your French stick. But just think how many calories you’ll burn doing all the kneading?
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.
Garlic fried chicken marinated in buttermilk. If I was a KFC fan, I’d be really happy with this garlic fried chicken. Of course it’s a southern American classic, but they tend to fry chicken on the bone.
Garlic mushrooms with parsley - simple and delicious. Mushrooms are an excellent source of protein and fibre. Season them generously and fry them with garlic - so tasty just with a chunk of bread. This is a suggestion for a lovely side dish.
Garlicky runner beans in butter and Parmesan. Nobody likes to admit they were wrong. It’s in human nature I guess – nobody knows their stuff better than we do ours.
Gâteau Basque, the traditional butter pastry from the Basque region. The pastry is awfully rich, buttery and heavy, like a posh relative to shortcrust. Easy to put together, especially that, unlike shortcrust, it doesn’t need chilling in the fridge
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...
General Tso’s chicken with the best hot and sour sauce; a two bowls - one wok wonder. Serve over plain rice or noodles, no sugar added!
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.
Israeli couscous salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers and feta cheese. Couscous is not a plant: it’s processed grain, whacked to shape of tiny or slightly bigger crumbs/lumps.
Latkes with roasted apple topping, crispy fried shredded potato pancakes traditionally eaten for Jewish Hanukkah. I like to make one giant latke for brunch, topped with crème fraiche and tart roasted apples.
Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and walnuts, baked in tomato sauce. This is not a quick weeknight dish: the pasta shells need to be pre-cooked unless you pour in floods of really watery tomato sauce – which you don’t want to do as drowning the pasta will dilute the filling.
Ginger cake with candied ginger pieces, jam filling and maple syrup icing. I always thought ‘gingerbread’ referred only to cookies until I saw the cranberry gingerbread cake in NYTimes Cooking.
Soft and chewy double ginger cookies. Ginger is quite amazing in its versatility, a bit like lemons, you can add it to both sweet and savoury dishes and if in sensible quantities, it’ll improve them.
Soft molasses and ginger cookies coated in coarse sugar are a cross between gingerbreads and ginger nut biscuits. And yes, you can substitute black treacle for molasses.
Quick and simple glace cherries recipe: make your own candied fruit. They will last for a couple of weeks in a jar. Joking, of course – they’ll never last that long…
Gooey butter bars with raisins and almonds, made from scratch on an Italian pasta frolla shortcrust base. Bars, slices, squares, whatever you call them, are almost like a bride who needs something old, new, borrowed and blue.
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.
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.
Homemade granola, easy and healthy with just the fruit and nut mix you like; only waiting for milk, yoghurt or fresh fruit. Take back control of your breakfast!
Focaccia with olive oil, fresh grapes and crumbled blue cheese. I am not quite sure why grapes are not popular as cake ingredients. All summer berries, cherries, stone fruit and apples get to play, jumping into soft sponge, orderly marching onto tarts, drowning in runny clafoutis and sweating gently underneath crumbles
Beans and tomatoes, blanched green beans served with sautéed tomatoes cooked with green chilies. A match made in heaven, green beans and tomatoes are for me the classic summery dish.
Green beans with Parmesan cream. The dish makes an elegant side; serve it over rice for a veggie main and throw in slices of cooked chicken for the meat option.
Grilled sea bream with balsamic marinade. Whole fish is much more fun – you have to gut it (which smells) and scale it (which covers the WHOLE place in invisible crap), unless you’re boring and ask the fishmonger to do it for you.
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...
Quick grilled lamb neck fillet marinated overnight in rosemary, mint and honey. Buy it cheap, cook it quick - beats the pricey lamb chops or steaks.
Grilled lobster with flavoured butter, and how to boil, crack and split a lobster. Let me tell you: this is a seriously challenging endeavour. First off, to procure one: live lobsters don’t just perambulate along supermarket shelves, ready to be picked up and scanned through the till.
Grilled mussels with savoury breadcrumbs and crumbled black pudding. It’s blood. Mixed with fillers, more often than not cereal of some kind, less often chopped up offal; encased, sausage way, into a length of gut.
Grilled radicchio salad with Parmesan. Radicchio loses its bitterness when attacked with heat, salt and acid so that’s what I’ve done to make it collapse in a delicious heap.
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