Bread rolls with porridge base made of toasted oats and ale or stout. Definitely one of the all-time top 10 breads. The ale and the porridge base make them moist and they stay fresh for a good few days.
Perfect apple pie with homemade pastry and apple and raisin filling. I have twisted the classic a little by making sweetened crust but if you use tart cooking apples and not a lot of sugar in the filling, it creates a nice balance.
The dough for these sweet apricot buns is very versatile. Try spreading it out, focaccia-style, in a baking tray and topping with fruit and crumble. Try putting lots of dried fruit on top, folding in half or rolling and baking into a strudel.
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.
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.
Baked figs can be a starter, a dessert or a full lunch or brunch dish, with a bit of nice bread. Trim them and cut a cross in each to about halfway down the fruit. Put them on a baking tray and drizzle with the oil, balsamic and honey. Bake for about 10 minutes...
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 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…
Banana muffins with dried mango and pineapple chunks. This is a good cake mix – the best, the banana cake. I honestly can’t recall where the recipe comes from.
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.
Beet, horseradish and dill cured salmon, it takes only three days and the taste is unparallelled. Beetroot doesn't do much for the taste but the colour is to die for. Next - pork belly!
Salad of cooked and raw beetroot with honey dressing. In the next of my series of how-to-make-hated-vegetables-palatable (see cabbage), let’s tackle beetroot. It never ceases to amaze me that it’s sold ready cooked.
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.
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.
Blueberry flavoured frozen yoghurt, made without ice cream maker. And yes, you can make very good one at home. Here’s how.
Blueberry muffins. The best. The easiest. By all means use frozen berries in the bleak mid-winter. Better that than paying extortionate price of bluebs imported from Darkest Peru. And frozen ones are very well-behaved: they stir nicely into the mix, don’t go mushy like raspberries and retain their shapes.
Blueberry parfait with strained yoghurt and lightly roasted blueberries. My blueberry parfait is uncertain what it wants to be: for some it will be breakfast and others will insist it’s only fit for after dinner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Brown cake - the easiest apple cake with cocoa and spices. I’ve had the recipe for so long I can’t say where it comes from, just a printout without any heading. It must have been one of my first attempts at baking, I liked it so much that one year...
Crispy smoked bacon with a mustard and brown sugar glaze. Talk about moreish – this glazed bacon makes the most moreish nibble in the world.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Cheat's sourdough, with yeast but fermenting over 24 hours. The texture is great, big air bubbles like in the real article and the taste is very, very close. Crusty on the outside, chewy crumb, you might be easily fooled into thinking it’s IT.
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...
Cheddar and spring onion torpedo rolls. So we’re talking here about a cheese sandwich ready baked – cheesy bread. I dare you not to devour one of those torpedoes straight from the oven. I dare you to keep them in the house longer than a couple of days.
Crunchy cheese and black pepper biscuits shaped like buttons. Crisp, peppery, with a hint of garlic. Only the button element arguably redundant, especially that it’s damn difficult to make these biscuits perfectly round and stay round whilst baking. I found the recipe in Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard.
An omelette is such a lovely dish and can take on such different forms that it’s easy to forget it’s just egg. Spinach omelette. Ham and cheese. Just cheese. Chorizo and beans. Throw in some peppers and potatoes and you have a tortilla.
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’.
Cherry and marzipan cake: a simple buttermilk cake batter with glace cherries and a layer of homemade marzipan. Result: stunning. Just try. And don’t you DARE use shop bought marzipan!
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.
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