Shortbread bars with date, orange and cinnamon filling. Sadly - this won't be about All Bar One, speed dating or trendy wine places. Shame, I know, but then I don't know much about speed dating, in fact haven't dated much at all recently.
Deli bread - slices beautifully, moist and flavoursome thanks to the addition of onions and mashed potatoes. This is a perfect loaf for salt beef or pastrami sandwiches. Chop up some gherkin on top and mazel tov!
Deli style rye bread with caraway seeds, great for sandwiches and excellent for toasting. Leave out caraway if you don’t like it!
Easy Danish dough, homemade apple and raspberry filling. So what you are supposed to do is simply mix the butter a bit with yeasty flour and some liquid, leave it in the fridge and then roll out once or twice.
Easy kouign amann, butter pastry from Brittany. My recipe is a cheat’s kouign amann, easier to make and not quite as calorific as the traditional Breton pastry
Ebi fry, Japanese style breaded and deep fried shrimp with tonkatsu sauce. Ebi-furai can fortuitously be pronounced ‘ebi fry’ and that’s what it is: shrimp fry. It’s not katsu - I’ve spent some time around various websites featuring katsu, tonkatsu and such, only to find that there is no ebi katsu.
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.
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.
Feta saganaki with caramelised figs. Saganaki is a Greek dish of anything cooked and served in a small skillet, cheese saganaki the most popular.
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.
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.
Fougasse au Roquefort - flat bread with blue cheese, quite like focaccia. Fougasse can be salé or sucré,with lardons, olives, both, Roquefort – or covered with a thick layer of crisp, almost caramelised sugar. All strictly Provençal.
Pain the campagne, sourdough bread made with wheat starter. Sourdough starter I find fickle – I know it can live for ever, only refreshed every now and then, but my best results have been with fresh, four days old leaven so that’s the approach I suggest here. Veteran sourdough makers though – please use whatever wheat starter you have on the go.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Golden Gate bridge rolls - white sourdough bread rolls, crusty and chewy. Now since approximately 2005 I have not bought a loaf of bread in the shop unless in high emergency or to measure up competition. But I saw and fancied some perfectly square and smooth, pale golden bread rolls they had there and of course: ‘I wonder how they are made?’
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.
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
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...
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.
Haloumi burgers with roasted pepper, aubergine and onion. I love the cheese. Gorgeously rubbery, gooey but not dissolving, tasting of nothing much at all, it must be the mother of processed cheese. I bet the founders of Kraft Foods were Cypriots.
Hamantaschen - cute triangular biscuits with poppy seed or fruit filling, made traditionally for Purim. Eaten at Purim, the Jewish holiday commemorating the defeat of evil vizier Haman in ancient Persia, who planned on killing all the Jews in the Persian Empire. His plans came to naught thanks to the hero Mordecai helped by the Queen Esther. Haman hung from the gallows, having allegedly had his ears cut off.
Hasselbacks - baked potatoes, almost sliced into fries, creamy inside, crispy and scorched on the outside. Isn’t it irresistible to call them Hasselhoff? Easier to make than it sounds, the only caveat is they take longer to cook than you’d have thought.
Hazelnut ricotta cake, with poppy seeds and an apricot jam and grated chocolate topping. A grownup cake - none of that bish bash mix-everything-together nonsense: you have to separate the eggs...
Hokkaido milk bread made using the tangzhong method. Hokkaido milk bread is also the basis for the best breadcrumbs in the world, panko.
Cinnamon honey buns glazed with butter and honey, made from sourdough. Sure enough, honey buns recipes galore out there. And the most interesting fact about them is that they seem to be much valued prison currency and I’m not using any slang here.
The best hot cross buns with proper piped crosses and honey glaze. I start baking them in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on, and I probably bake up to 50 in a season! Because there’s nothing better for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun.
Hot cross buns with raisins, dried apricots and citrus peel. Try this – by all means. It’s still a good bun and none you can buy in the shops are a patch on it. They keep rather well and only on the third day had to be toasted a little.
Hungarian flourless hazelnut cake with buttercream filling. This is a fantastically nice cake that incidentally happens to be flourless, just so, and anyone will completely love it, gluten-shy or not.
Island buttermilk cake: no eggs, no butter, just fresh berries and the magic ingredient - buttermilk. The cake originates from Cranberry Island Bakery in Maine which sadly is no more. Huge shame as their defunct Facebook page also shows some divine whoopies.
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