Angel food cake, light as air and fat-free. It’s like eating cloud. Really sweet cloud. But surprisingly, it can be sliced and layered, filled with cream and fruit and curd without fear of collapsing. What it is basically is a butterless, fatless, egg yolk-less sponge. Airy-fairy.
Scones made with grated raw apple and cheddar cheese. So this is a quick, rewarding, minimum effort recipe for apple cheese scones. They spread, rather than rise skywards, which seems to be the effect of cheese content in pastry.
Cheat's apple strudel with apple chunks and raisins wrapped in sweet tea bread dough. This is a cheat’s recipe. There’s no stretching and stretching and stretching and reading love letters through the dough involved.
Apricot and fig pork stuffing for turkey, duck or game. I like pairing meat with fruit, dried fruit especially, and this stuffing will complement poultry extremely well. If you set out on a challenge of de-boned bird roast this Christmas, it’s a wonderful filling to spread inside the meat, roll and tie it up, roast and serve for the ‘wow’ factor.
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.
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.
Savoury breakfast muffins with bacon, apple and cheese. I adopted this recipe from Nigel Slater who uses ham in his muffins. Say what you will, bacon always wins over ham at breakfast time and these things are meant for breakfast.
Bagels with poppy and sesame seeds - as good as in New York or Montreal. Anyone who knows a thing or two about bread, dough and things yeasty will work out that if you stick a bit of yeast dough into boiling water...
Baguettes made with white French type 55 flour, cold fermented overnight. The best thing for me about holidays in France is going to a boulangerie to get fresh baguettes, coming back proudly brandishing the crusty sticks, pretending I’m a proper French person.
Baked oatmeal breakfast casserole with buttermilk and your favourite jam. Breakfast is so controversial these days that I don’t know if I dare post this recipe under the ‘breakfast’ tag.
Fennel baked with tomatoes and plums - it shows you can do almost anything with fennel. Possibly not boil it, it might be a bit unappetising. But fennel raw is delishhh. Fennel braised is lovely. Grilled. Roasted. Fennel with gorgonzola on pasta – divine.
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...
Banana fried with bacon and a drizzle of maple syrup, a great breakfast on its own or on a toasted slice of sourdough. Let’s be honest: this is not a major culinary discovery. It’s not a new umami, raw fish, salted caramel or cooking things in Coca-Cola.
Banana bran muffins with raisins and cinnamon - perfect for breakfast. Most pastries can be frozen when baked and just cool and they will be good as fresh after an hour on the kitchen top. The only problem is they can never, ever win with the competition from a bacon butty…
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...
Blueberry Victoria sponge cake, with layers of lightly roasted blueberries and whipped cream. Sponge cake, as the name cleverly suggests, is supposed to soak up the filling/syrup/drizzle/jam/cream.
Blueberry buckle cake with wholemeal flour and quinoa and oats topping. That of course refers to the way the topping buckles on top of the fruit in a wavy manner. Very descriptive. I think I’ll adopt it now, especially that the blueberry kind is the most common buckle and that is my firm favourite.
Sweet focaccia-style tea bread topped with blueberries and crumble. Ordinarily, thinking focaccia will bring to mind an image of flat, thin bread decorated sparsely with whatever, preferably savoury, preferably olives.
Blueberry poppy seed cake, easier to make than a pie and delicious warm or cold. It is a pie of sorts or a tart, or flan, with the filling surrounded by a golden brown crust.
Borodinsky rye sourdough loaf - dense, intensely sour, strong on coriander and dark in colour. It takes forever to rise and doesn’t do much oven spring.
Bramble jelly, seedless jam made from wild blackberries. Bramble picking would be the nicest and the most rewarding type of foraging – they are plentiful and in plain view, unlike mushrooms
Couscous with raisins, yoghurt and honey, an excellent breakfast idea. Honey and yoghurt are a must though – in fact, another brilliant breakfast is just plain yoghurt with honey drizzled over.
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.
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.
Yule log, or buche de Noel made with chocolate sponge and chocolate whipped cream filling. This is DEFINITELY the best dessert on Christmas day. It rides onto the table when everyone is in deep gluttonous stupor after third helpings of turkey and just one more last spoonful of stuffing, and suddenly they perk up mumbling ‘this is a bit of all right’ and ‘I might have room for the thinnest slice more’.
Austrian Buchteln, baked jam-filled doughnuts, pull-apart breakfast treats. Some special Sundays my Austrian grandmother would fluff up the dough, butter a tin, find a jar of plum preserve in the larder and magic them out of the oven an hour or so later.
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.
Light and moist scones with buttermilk and raisin, cut into triangles. You can replace buttermilk with yoghurt – but I’d strongly encourage giving a go as it makes for a nice crust and very moist crumb. These are a bit more cakey than the ordinary scones.
Calamari rings pan-fried with chorizo and spring onions. Squid is a cinch to cook, it just needs a gutsy flavour to go with it - like chorizo. My view is this is a match made in heaven.
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.
Carrot cake with a fancy twist - with oranges and pistachios, flavoured with tahini and pomegranate molasses, with cream cheese frosting. Posh carrot cake. Fancy carrot cake. Use your regular recipe 364 days a year but make THIS once for a special occasion.
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.
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.
Challah - rich with eggs, glazed with egg wash plaited festive bread. It is traditionally baked for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, commemorating the manna from heaven to the children of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt.
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...
Cheese biscuits or cheese straws made from Rugelach pastry wrapped around copious quantity of grated cheese. Lethal. Devastating. Deadly little things if you’re watching your weight. You can’t have just one.
Cheese bites made with rugelach pastry, with grated cheddar. Rugelach is the pastry base and it’s the easiest and nicest pastry in the world – just three ingredients, kneaded together by hand or in a mixer in no time at all and can be used in all kinds of products.
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’.
Tasty Christmas stuffing made with minced pork, chestnuts and porcini mushrooms. ‘Stuffing’ – such a misnomer. You should NOT stuff the turkey. It will cook better and quicker all alone, with perhaps just an onion or an apple in the cavity.
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 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 covered and jam filled gingerbread cookies. Lebkuchen are rather indulgent spiced honey cookies and I’ve taken the indulgence to the next level here – by filling them with jam and dipping them in chocolate.
Double chocolate muffins, wonderfully gooey in the centre and a doddle to make. These little things will surely be firm favourites with whoever you make them for, builders or not. Incredibly easy to make it must be said - you needn’t even take care not to overmix like usually with muffins.
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