Lumberjack date and apple cake with caramelised coconut topping. Try as I might, I can’t trace the origin of lumberjack cake or why it is called thus.
Mac n cheese with leeks in cheesy béchamel sauce - the ultimate comfort food. Kraft introduced the quick and ready mac in a box in the 1930s during the Great Depression. But if you want to be posh you can call it pasta Mornay.
Macarons basques - or mouchous - are different than the Parisian variety, they are both more crunchy and more chewy, no cream filling there but presented individually and looking quite rustic compared to their descendants of central France.
Smooth mango ice cream without eggs, churned in an ice cream maker. Make sure the fruit is as ripe as it can be; apart from the insufficient sweetness, unripe mango smells a bit off-putting.
Maple shortbread bars with almonds and pistachios. I like nuts but pecans and walnuts are probably my least favourites so I replaced them with what I like best: almonds and pistachios.
Matcha and white chocolate creamy eggless ice cream. More ice cream; this time it’s the creamiest, softest ice cream as claimed by Heston Blumenthal, published a good many years ago in one of the weekend supplements.
Meatball casserole with courgettes, red peppers and tomato sauce. So okay, wait until you’ve made so many meatballs for one dinner you’ll have a pile left over for a casserole for another.
The best meatloaf baked with a maple syrup and mustard glaze. Meatloaf is a gorgeous dish, the mince just needs plenty of fillers. Try making it with pure meat, it won’t work – crumbly to oblivion and not very flavoursome. Whack more Parmesan into it than you think is feasible*. Fry an onion and add in. Pour in some soured cream, crème fraiche or indeed milk and you’re in business. T
Meringue kisses: pink coloured mini meringues, filled with white and dark chocolate ganache. It’s not all fun making them though – meringue has the tendency of going its own ways, clinging to everything but the inside of the piping bag.
Mexican rice, arroz rojo, with peas and carrots. Pilaf is a cooking method and Mexican rice is cooked that way. It’s basically giving the rice a head start in hot oil with aromatics of choice, before you deluge it with water, stock or milk and leave to its own devices for half an hour or so.
Mini sausage rolls made with cream cheese pastry and pork and mushroom filling. Party food – or a perfect snack. The filling can be fashioned out of cooked or raw meat – using leftover Christmas turkey, Sunday roast chicken or pork, or raw meat like here.
Pan fried monkfish bites in spicy coating, with mushroom sauce and chorizo slices. They have this thing on Saturday Kitchen television programme where guest celebrities specify their food heaven and hell.
The best, darkest, gooey-est chocolate cake ever – so I’ve called it Morticia’s cake. A bit of effort involved, separating eggs and folding the batter carefully but the end product is pure Addams Family.
Classic Greek moussaka with potato slices and minced lamb and beef meat sauce. I love moussaka – my weakness for minced meat reveals itself in all kinds of dishes, moussaka (non-veggie) included.
Muffins with orange curd and chocolate ganache filling. Muffin mix is dead simple, I’ve made this mix with blueberries, raspberries, chocolate, orange zest and it works. Orange curd was organic and not too sweet – what could go wrong?
Wild or exotic mushroom ragu, perfect to serve over pasta or gnocchi. It is, truly, a masterly recipe and the addition of tomato ketchup a stroke of genius.
Moules marinières with cream, fairly standard, but this recipe has a tiny twist. The usual spiel is to cook mussels with wine, take them out and then add cream – what a waste of time. I added the cream beforehand, turned up the heat full whack and threw the shells in...
Corn tortilla chips nachos with homemade beef chilli, corn and cheese. Nachos are an obscenely cunning trick of how to turn eating crisps into a full meal.
Oatmeal biscuits, the healthiest cookies, sprinkled with pinhead oats. They are gluten-free and only contain three spoonfuls of sugar. Definitely good for your gut with all the fibre, but oatmeal apparently also lowers bad cholesterol levels while providing bags of nutrients.
Oatmeal raisin cookies, buttery, chewy and delicious. I recently realised I’ve been obsessed with oats. Porridge and I go back to before anyone else was interested in cooking oats first thing in the morning.
Oatmeal and banana smoothie with chia seeds, dairy and gluten free but not free of taste. Briefly – the epitome of what I usually sneer at. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free.
These cereal and dried fruit bars make fantastic breakfast. You can have a scrambled egg. Boring, I know, but so good for a weight-loss-régime (no bread just egg – harsh!). You can have cereal or my favourite combo...
'Porridge' bread made on a base of oats, honey and seeds. I call it ‘porridge bread’ because you soak the oats with the seeds the night before. The starter sitting around overnight gives the bread great flavour. And the honey makes it extra tasty.
Old fashioned apple cake with brown sugar frosting. We used to have two apple trees in the garden: one eating, one cooking, fruiting every other year each, in alternative years – a perfect arrangement.
French onion soup with toasted bread slices loaded with cheese. The best thing to eat on a cold winter’s day is soup. Something so comforting about a good bowl of soup – better than a stew, much better than a salad and it even beats cheese on toast – sometimes. Not that much beats cheese on toast in my view.
Steamed whole sea bass oriental style, with coriander and spring onions. Wok’s shape makes it possible to simply prop up a plate against the sides so it’s beautifully suspended over the water, no rack or even steaming basket needed.
Osso buco - shin of veal, slow cooked with porcini and tomato sauce. The shin of veal is a delicious cut, actually much better than a lamb shank, equally cheap, cooks all by itself and is a joy to eat – just leave the marrow to me.
Oven baked fish in panko breadcrumbs with baked string fries - a healthier version of fish and chips. The baked fish and chips is all right, plus you’re not stinking out the kitchen or splattering everything in grease and plugging the sink with oil. But don’t expect it to for ever replace your deep fried haddock or cod in crispy batter.
Sea trout fillets oven steamed at low temperature. This works for salmon, trout and sea trout – the last in my experience particularly prone to drying out. Season ad lib, brown some butter and serve with samphire – or green veg if you’re not partial to seaweed.
Overnight oats with homemade yoghurt and fresh fruit, the healthiest breakfast. You don’t have to make your own yoghurt to enjoy this breakfast but it’s so amazingly easy that I challenge you to try.
Baked oyster mushrooms with garlic and blue cheese. This makes almost a sauce – if you want proper sauce, chop them smaller and add more cream. I like to bake them whole though and pile the unctuous, blue cheesy morsels on top of a perfectly cooked steak.
Padron peppers, pimientos de padron, a Spanish dish of blistered padron style green peppers.
Paella mixta, chicken and shrimp with crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan and incomparable flavour throughout. I am feeling quite pleased with myself as I’ve just read that paella is one of the top most difficult dishes to make at home.
Crispy pan-fried fish fillets served with creamed spinach. Skin-on or skinless, anything goes, but skinless will be more difficult to handle. Make sure you dust the where-the-skin-was side with flour. If skin-on, it needs to be properly scaled as the crispy skin is the nicest bit.
Crêpes, or wheat pancakes, with spinach and blue cheese filling. The batter is a doddle to make and it annoys me so to see the dry mix sold in supermarkets. Mix eggs with flour and milk – a toddler can do it, no? The art of pancake is tricky, but the difficulty lies in tools rather than ingredients.
Pan-fried calves' liver with red onions. I don’t get to eat liver and onions too often as I’m the lone offal aficionado in my house. So unless I’m cooking on my own...
Pan-fried wood pigeon breast fillets with orange caramel. I’m sure wood pigeon is much underrated. You look out of the window into your garden, and on seeing those puffed-up, bolshy bullies on the lawn you don’t think ‘FOOD!’
Pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil. I love fresh tomatoes with good quality pasta. The question whether you should buy ’fresh’ supermarket pasta is a moot point – buy dry. Good.
Turnips roasted with thyme, rosemary and parmesan. They get a new line of life with this recipe, zinged with a dash of parmesan and thoroughly cooked through. Now I’m a hater of overcooked veg, but those babies, they need to be tender.
Chunky parsnip fries with spicy seasoning. Let me tell you: my parsnip chips are fried. Fried. In hot oil. Lots of it. And that’s why I call them fries.
Parsnip gratin, baked in a creamy, cheesy sauce with a hint of spice. Another way to zing up a boring vegetable – parsnip gratin. What to do with all those root veg when the sexy ones have all gone out of season?
Pan fried partridge breast fillets with grilled peppers, mushrooms and aubergine. This recipe has the partridge breasts coated in spiced flour and pan-fried for just 4 minutes in total.
Pasta fritta, fried orzo pasta with asparagus, garlic and mint. This really doesn’t require a list of ingredients as the truly essential are three – or two, at a push: cold pasta and fat of some description.
Pasta with crispy capers, bacon and breadcrumbs or pappardelle con pangrattato. Breadcrumbs are an age-old pasta dressing, poor man’s Parmesan. Textures are great here; everything is crispy and crunchy and salty
Pasta with asparagus and lemon butter, served with lots of Parmesan. Three tricks pasta and I’m pleased to announce that this is truly a pasta template, versatile as anything. I give you the pasta with lemon and any veg, plus Parmesan because pasta can’t be without it.
Baked peach with blue cheese and cinnamon crumble. I like a savoury take on a dessert dish. You expect a roasted peach, honey and pillows of whipped cream or mascarpone and here’s blue cheese with its sharp, salty sting.
Peach jam with a hint of vanilla, easy to make and very flavoursome. Peach jam fools everyone. You think (well, I did) it doesn’t even exist or at most belongs with those quaint outlandish preserves made by niche artisan hipsters in tiny quantities, like courgette or banana.
Penne pasta bake with leeks and mushrooms. There is only one dish that’s nicer than pasta and that is pasta al forno, lasagne is clearly the tops – but it’s a bit of a chore. You can have a pasta bake the easy way.
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