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.
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...
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Soft cookies made with condensed milk, with added chocolate chips and cranberries. These things are truly disgustingly nice (there should be a Disgustingly Nice category on Fiend, don’t you think?), unbelievably easy to make and keep, if you let them.
Côte de bœuf seasoned with dry mustard, seared in a pan and roasted in the oven. Côte de bœuf is basically an enormous rib-eye steak with the bone in.
Creamy chicken with leeks and mushrooms - this is a chicken dish matrix. Chicken template. Chicken archetype. Basically, you can chuck in any vegetables and seasoning you like or think will go with chicken and cream (which is just about EVERYTHING)...
Croquants aux amandes, French almond cookies. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if these cookies should be crunchy or gooey. ‘Croquant’ suggests the former, meaning precisely that, but I found the ones baked a bit less nicer.
Crunchy, melting in the mouth biscuits, a bit like Fox’s Crunch and Creams only better. Crunchy is good when it melts in your mouth and tastes of butter and sugar - which is basically what the biscuit is made of.
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.
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.
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.
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
Grilled red mullet brushed with anchovy and coriander butter. It is not frequently that the smaller the fish the better it tastes, bones becoming too much of a key player usually, but it’s completely the case with red mullet.
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.
Italian yoghurt cake, or torta allo yogurt, or torta 7 vasetti. Also known as gâteau au yaourt in France. Lovely and moist, fragrant with lemon zest.
Lazy bread: no kneading, no shaping but still a good flavour. It’s a good option when you’re feeling particularly lazy, that’s why I called it lazy bread.
Lebkuchen - soft, honeyed cookies, similar to gingerbreads. Lebkuchen are of German provenance, invented by Franciscan monks in the 13th century.
Leek and potato soup, homemade is the best. Soup is the easiest, cheapest and quickest thing to cook at home. Especially if you are a proponent of Soup With Bits, like me – you won’t need a blender.
Lemon posset, the easiest and the loveliest dessert, served with crunchy biscuits. Posset in medieval times was a spiced, rich milky-wine concoction, served probably more often as a remedy than a dessert. They did mix their drinks in the olden days didn’t they?
Linguine with smoked salmon and homemade pesto - and lots of parmesan. This recipe uses, admittedly, fancy pasta from Carluccio. But to be honest, any good quality linguine will do, even if not sexily stripy pink, yellow and green…
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
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...
No knead bread is a good start for breadmaking deniers. I’m only going to ask you one question: have you got a cast iron casserole? If the answer is yes, you’re in business. This bread can be the first you’ve ever made.
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.
Orange macaroon cake with dessicated coconut and orange liqueur. This is a glorious cake. Just the right moisture (wet), orange flavour fantastic (no, can’t be less), and slightly chewy on account of the coconut.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Penne pasta with chanterelles and pied-de-moutons, and plenty of parmesan. A very simple dish – good ingredients don’t need elaborate processing, and fresh wild mushrooms are as good as it gets.
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