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Family Recipes

Three girls cooking

These girls aren't in our family (unfortunately), and our kitchen is now a one-cook-at-a-time size... but the spirit is right!

Here are some of our family recipes. Most of them have a Mediterranean connection, and most of them are very easy.

You can find lots more recipes (and translate between English and American) using the links in the right hand panel.

Enjoy!

  • Notes on Ingredients
  • Parmesan cheese. This, for us, means freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, although nowadays we often substitute Grana Padano which is very similar and less expensive for us. We buy this in a wedge-shaped block, and grate it as we need it.
  • In order to avoid the cheese going stale and hard if you don't use it quickly, a good tip is to cut it into a number of chunks as soon as you buy it, put the chunks not needed immediately into a sealed plastic bag and freeze them. The size of each chunk will depend on how much you want to grate at any one time; we find that a chunk about the size of your top thumb joint (but a bit thicker) is about right for two people. Such a chunk defrosts very quickly - only 10 minutes or so is needed.
  • Garlic. I generally crush garlic with salt. I used to use the bottom of a mug and the flat end of a wooden mallet's handle, but now I am more refined and use a small pestle and mortar! It's best not to slice it except in special cases e.g. mixing it with lemon zest and parsley to sprinkle over meat in an Osso Bucco - normally, crush it by some means. (By the way - it's easier to peel a garlic clove if you give it a smart tap with something hard first.)
  • Instead of garlic cloves, for some recipes I am now using garlic-infused olive oil (see below).
  • Saffron. The most expensive spice in the world by weight, it actually isn't expensive to use because only a tiny amount is needed - just a few threads at a time. Crush it well using a pestle and mortar, and rinse out the mortar with any liquid (e.g. chicken stock) that is part of your recipe and use the rinsings in your recipe to capture all of the flavour.
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here.
  • Balsamic vinegar. I discovered this magical ingredient quite late in life. It comes in a variety of grades, for a variety of purposes. Roughly there are three kinds: very thin and runny, which we don't use, medium grade, which has a definite body to it but still flows easily, and the thick stuff used for decorative and other purposes. We use medium grade. In England a good medium grade should cost around £6 for a non-organic 250 ml bottle, which lasts quite a long time. Waitrose currently produce two almost identical-looking bottles, one organic and one non-organic. The organic one is slightly cheaper than the non-organic one, oddly enough, but that's because it is of lower grade (you are paying for the "organic" label).
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here.
  • Extra virgin olive oil. This should have a greenish tinge and have at least a slightly peppery flavour - the words "extra virgin" on the label do not guarantee a good oil! The price of a good one depends on the olive growing season, and the supermarkets can sometimes provide surprisingly good quality oil for around £4 a litre or even less. It's worth doing some research, price is not necessarily a good guide to quality. (There are olive oil fanatics who talk about it like wine, and go to great lengths to track down the best... but I am not in that league!)
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here.
  • Basil-infused olive oil. We get this from Waitrose. A little goes a long way! I often toss pasta in about a tablespoon of it after draining the water, which gives it a nice fragrance, especially good if the pasta has a tomato-based sauce. It's also great drizzled over fresh tomatoes in a salad.
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here. If you want to make it yourself (we haven't so far), or if you want to make any other herb-infused oil, try here.
  • Garlic-infused olive oil. We get this from Waitrose (it can be very dangerous to make it at home, see note below). A little goes a long way! This is great drizzled over fish such as sea bass, or added to other oil in salad dressings or when roasting potatoes, or for making soft-centred garlic croutons. Also, instead of adding a knob of butter to peas or carrots, try stirring them with a tablespoon of garlic-infused oil instead - it produces a very nice result!
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here. If you want to make it yourself (we haven't so far), be careful - read these warnings about botulism poisoning first!
  • Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil make a great salad dressing. One classic Italian salad is made using chicory (slightly bitter) and red capsicum (bell) peppers (slightly sweet). The slight sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and the peppers offsets the bitterness of the chicory. Add the balsamic vinegar to the salad first, a relatively small sprinkling if it's good stuff, toss, then add the olive oil - maybe four or even five times the amount of the vinegar (although everyone's taste is different). Include a small dash of basil-infused olive oil if you like. We freely adapt this classic salad, adding mixed leaves, pitted black olives, or whatever takes our fancy!
  • Chicken stock is easy to make for soups. After a roast chicken dinner I just put the carcase (minus left-over stuffing) together with a bay leaf, a pinch of salt, some black peppercorns and usually a few odd carrots, an onion or stick of celery that I might have in the fridge (halving each one), into a large saucepan, add three and a half pints of water (to make about two and a half to three pints of stock - adjust depending on the strength you want), cover, bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for about three and a half hours.
  • Next day when it's cool I strain through a sieve into a smaller saucepan which goes in the fridge with a lid. Any suitable container would do. Before putting it in the fridge, I carefully spread cling film / food wrap over the top of the liquid and up over the edge of the container.
  • When it's thoroughly chilled and I'm ready to make soup, I remove the cling film (which pulls off most of the solidified fat on top of the stock), then lift off any remaining fat with a perforated straining spoon - one with a very shallow, large round bowl with small holes is ideal. Leaving the fat in place until now keeps the air off the stock and it will stay usable many days in the fridge, or it can be frozen.
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes come in many varieties. The sort that I buy from Waitrose in a packet need to be rehydrated by soaking for half an hour in warm water, then rinsed and drained, before being used for anything (or else they will taste very salty and be a bit tough). If being used in antipasti, they can then (after rehydrating) be marinated for at least 20 minutes in extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, capers and optionally chillies.
  • ** More information about this ingredient will be found here.
  • Tomato purée. There isn't anything to say about this except to have a little laugh at myself. For years and years, whenever I opened a new tube of purée, I would hunt about for some sharp-pointed implement to pierce the foil. Only late in life did I discover that the screw cap has a sharp bit at the top for this very purpose - all I needed to do was reverse the cap, turn it, and the job was done! Duh...

Proper Minestrone with Pasta (Serves 6, with a bit left over)

This soup (a substantial meal in itself) takes me about 2 hours and 40 minutes to make from start to finish. Although the elapsed time is quite long, not much more than half an hour in total is spent at the chopping board or stove, so there's plenty of time to get on with other things (or just put your feet up).

This is my adaptation of Delia Smith's Minestrone recipes, with added cooking notes for my own benefit.

It freezes well.

Picture of minestrone soup

Ingredients:

  • 2½ pints of good stock (chicken or veg) - in my case, made previously as described here
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced crossways (for wide sticks, slice longways first)
  • 2 medium carrots, or small carrots weighing about 6oz (170g), sliced crossways
  • A medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • About 14oz (400g) of trimmed leeks, finely sliced
  • About 3-4 oz (100g) of smoked bacon (I use smoked back bacon), finely chopped
  • A 400g (14 oz) tin of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice
  • About a third of a small mug of macaroni (or fusilli pieces each snapped in half) - quantity isn't critical
  • A large clove of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • About 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • A tsp of dried basil (or a little more finely chopped fresh basil)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, but we usually use the cheaper Grana Padano) for serving

The following sequence is aimed at minimizing elapsed time.

Start by preparing just the celery, carrots and onion.

Then put a large saucepan on to heat at a medium setting (about 5 out of 9 on our stove), adding the extra virgin olive oil.

While that's heating, finely chop the bacon. (I buy the bacon in a 300g pack nowadays, cut all the slices together crossways into three equal-sized chunks, wrap two of the chunks in clingfilm and put them in the freezer for future use.)

Fry the chopped bacon in the oil until it is somewhat crispy. While that's going on, crush the peeled garlic with sea salt in a pestle and mortar.

When the bacon is cooked enough, add the prepared onion, stir, then the prepared celery and carrots, the tinned tomatoes and the garlic. (I reserve some of the tinned tomatoes to rinse out the mortar to get the last of the garlic and add these also.)

Add some freshly ground pepper, stir again, cover, and turn the heat right down to let it all sweat for 20 minutes, stirring once about half way through.

Once that's started, put the stock on to heat. The aim is to have it just boiling in 20 minutes. Then prepare the leeks and get the macaroni or fusilli ready for later.

When the 20 minutes is up, add the just-boiling stock and the basil, stir, cover, and continue simmering for an hour. There's nothing else to do during this time!

After the hour is up, turn the heat up somewhat (about 3 out of 9 on our stove) and add the prepared leeks and the pasta bits. Stir and cover. After about 10 minutes turn the heat right down again, and continue to cook for a final 30 minutes.

Shortly before the time is up, grate the parmesan (I don't do this earlier as I like it really freshly grated).

Adjust the seasoning if necessary. (I use a few tsp of salt to crush the garlic with, so I often don't need to add any more later, and the parmesan will add some more salt also.)

Serve!

Brian's Easy Tomato & Basil Soup (Serves 6, with a bit left over)

This is a very easy low-effort recipe that can be made in well less than an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pints of good stock (chicken or veg) - using my home made stock this leaves about 1 pint over for something else
  • 3 x 400g (14 oz) tins of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice
  • Two cloves of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • A medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • A bunch of fresh basil leaves (at least 12 leaves, more is good), one leaf per person reserved, the rest coarsely chopped
  • About 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • About 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (adjust quantity to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the stock on to heat, while preparing the onions and garlic. As usual, I suggest crushing the garlic with a few tsp of sea salt in a pestle and mortar.

In a large saucepan fry the garlic and chopped onion gently in the oil, until the onions just start to go brown.

Turn off the heat, add all the other ingredients, except the seasoning, reserved leaves and the balsamic vinegar, to the saucepan and stir well.

Pass all the contents of the saucepan through a through a food processor or blender until smooth. The air added by fine blending should give the soup a creamy texture. (I find this easy to do in several batches, transferring each batch to another saucepan.)

Heat the soup slowly until simmering, adding seasoning and balsamic vinegar to taste.

Simmer gently for a short while (10 minutes is plenty), serve with the reserved basil leaves as floating decoration.

Enjoy!

Brian's Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (Serves 6-8)

This is a sort of up-gunned tomato soup (adapted considerably from a BBC recipe) - one of our favourites. It freezes well.

For a relaxed cooking session, allow an hour and three-quarters for preparation and cooking, although you may well be able to do it in less time than that!

  • Please Note!
  • This recipe can turn into an awful lot of work if the peppers aren't carefully chosen. Try to pick peppers of a good size and not tightly curled at the stalk end. An approximate “box” shape is ideal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints of stock (chicken or veg)
  • About 4 red capsicum (bell) peppers, depending on size - a good quantity weighs about 650g, or about 1lb 7oz - quartered lengthwise and de-seeded
  • Two cloves of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • A large potato, peeled and diced
  • Two onions, peeled and coarsely sliced
  • A few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Two 14 oz tins of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with a few tbsp of tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For croutons or accompaniment:
  • Sliced ciabatta (or French) bread
  • Pesto

Put the stock on to heat.

Line a large roasting tin with aluminium foil - it needs to be big enough to take all of the quartered red peppers in a single layer. Allow enough foil to overlap the edges of the roasting tin (for later).

Pre-heat your grill to its maximum setting.

Cut the red peppers lengthwise into quarters, or even narrower strips, de-seed them, and cut off any bits that curl under. The aim is to get strips of pepper that are as flat as possible, with no skin “tucked under”. Then lay them skin-upwards in a layer in the lined roasting tin.

Grill the red peppers until the skins are well and truly black - this takes about 20 minutes on our stove.

While the peppers are grilling, prepare the garlic, potato and onions.

When the peppers are well blackened, remove the roasting tin from the grill, spread a layer of foil over, and seal well around the edges of the pan (or to the edges of the foil that was already there) making it as air-tight as possible. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes.

When cool, remove the skins under cold running water - if they don't come off very easily, the skins weren't blackened enough!

Slice the peeled peppers quite roughly - just to make the pieces a bit smaller.

When you have peeled the peppers, or just before doing this if you're in a hurry, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and sliced onions for about 5 minutes until softened, then add the diced potatoes and fry for another minute or so.

Add the tinned tomatoes, the tomato purée if used, the peeled peppers and the hot stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the diced potatoes are tender.

Pass the mixture (perhaps in several batches) through a food processor or blender until smooth, return to a pan and bring back to a simmer.

Add salt (if the stock you used wasn't already salty), a generous amount of black pepper, the balsamic vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and serve!

We like this with ciabatta bread slices spread with pesto, or you can toast the slices and use them as croutons.

Jacquie's Rocket & Potato Soup (Serves 4 as a generous starter)

A contribution from my sister! It's very easy, and only takes about an hour from start to finish.

Having enjoyed it at her house, I now make it myself and can really recommend this one.

Not having a garden, I buy a small (55 g) bag of rocket and a large (170 g) bag of watercress from Waitrose, which when added together work very well. I have also just made it with two 145g bags of watercress, rocket and spinach salad (on special offer from Waitrose), which gave really excellent results.

Ingredients:

  • A litre (a bit less than 2 pints) of good stock (chicken or veg). Quantities aren't that precise.
  • For this much liquid you'll need quite a lot of rocket - roughly a colander full - cleaned and roughly chopped (if you're growing it, and it's bolted, add the flowers as well). (If you don't have a garden, see Brian's notes above).
  • An onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 or 4 average-sized potatoes, peeled and diced - or use new potatoes which don't need peeling, adjusting the number depending on size
  • Olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Clove or two of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • Seasoning
  • Fromage frais (optional)

Put the stock on to heat.

Fry the onion in some oil, then add the garlic.

Toss the diced potatoes in the oil to soften slightly.

Add the cleaned and roughly chopped rocket to the pot and stir with other ingredients briefly.

Add stock and seasoning and bring to boil. bubble for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked but still intact. (Might be handy to keep some stock back if it's to thick - or have a spare cooked potato if it's too thin!)

Give it a bash in the food processor and voila! Soup. Add some fromage frais if you feel like it (I don't).

Other strong green leaves would work too - e.g. spinach. Or go wild and try dandelion or nettle.

Brian's Sea Bass "Alla Casa" (Serves 2)

This is a recipe that reliably produces results that I would be happy to be served with in a good restaurant, for very little effort. It is one of my few successful attempts to replicate something served to me by a proper chef!

It can be made less expensively by substituting trout fillets for sea bass fillets.

Sea bass fillets with capers thyme chopped black olives lemon wine

Two small sea bass fillets with toppings and a little garlic-infused olive oil, wine and fresh lemon juice, ready to be wrapped

Ingredients:

  • Two sea bass fillets or trout fillets - totalling about 220-250g (or half a pound) - the weight can vary a lot depending on the size of the fillets! The recipe is best with sea bass but is almost as good with trout, which is currently much less expensive in the UK. You could buy a whole fish and do the recipe with that, or get the fishmonger to fillet the fish for you.
  • A few tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil (also from Waitrose), if you can get it - otherwise normal olive oil and garlic crushed in salt
  • About 6 pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons of capers, roughly chopped
  • Lemon thyme or ordinary thyme, fresh or dried
  • The grated zest and the juice of a lemon
  • A few tablespoons of white wine - anything you'd be happy to drink with this meal, but not a sweet wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C, or 150 degrees C for a fan oven.

Line a shallow baking tin, or other suitable shallow container, with aluminium foil, with enough extra foil so that you can fold it over and encase the fish in a sealed foil parcel.

Lay the fillets in the foil.

Season with salt (sea salt, ideally) and freshly ground black pepper.

Grate the zest of a lemon over.

Sprinkle fairly generously with thyme (stripped from the stems if fresh, but add the stems as well).

Sprinkle with the chopped olives and capers.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil over. Alternatively, use ordinary olive oil - no need for extra virgin, but OK if that's what you have - and sprinkle over with crushed garlic. (The infused oil works much better in this case, if you can get it.)

Pour in a few tablespoons of white wine and the juice of the lemon.

Fold over the aluminium foil and seal the edges very carefully all round, leaving air space inside the foil parcel.

Bake the fish parcel in the oven for about half an hour.

This is nice served with spinach and saffron rice. For this recipe we use salad spinach in a bag and microwave it - salad spinach is tender enough to eat raw, so only microwave for about one minute per 100g of spinach. Pour the juices from the foil parcel over the spinach before serving.

Petit pois (small peas) make a good alternative to spinach, particularly if you stir the peas with a tablespoon of the garlic-infused oil (instead of butter) before serving.

Another vegetable that goes very well with this dish is small leeks, cut into small sections, seasoned with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg and cooked slowly in butter in a saucepan with a lid for about 15 minutes.

Sue's Easy Salmon Fillets in Foil (Serves 2)

This is a wonderfully easy and reliable recipe that produces great taste for almost no effort. The unlikely combination of simple ingredients has to be tried to be believed!

For a really low-effort meal we often serve it with Marks & Spencer's potato croquettes, also cooked in the oven, and microwaved greens like petit pois or broccoli - or try serving it with Brian's Parmentier potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • Two salmon fillets (we get ours from Marks & Spencer, which in 2018 often has an offer of 6 fillets for £10)
  • A few tablespoons of non-from-concentrate orange juice
  • A few tablespoons of butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C, or 150 degrees C for a fan oven.

Line a shallow baking tin, or other suitable shallow container, with aluminium foil, with enough extra foil so that you can fold it over and encase the fillets in a sealed foil parcel.

Lay the fillets in the foil.

Season with salt (sea salt, ideally) and freshly ground black pepper.

Place small slabs of butter on the fillets.

Pour over a few glugs of the orange juice.

Fold over the aluminium foil and seal the edges very carefully all round, leaving air space inside the foil parcel.

Bake the salmon parcel in the oven for about half an hour.

Serve, adding the juices from the foil. That's it!

Pan Fried Cod With Mediterranean Flavours

This recipe by Alan Spedding (you will find it here) is absolutely delicious and takes a ridiculously small amount of effort and skill (my kind of recipe!).

Thanks to over-fishing, cod is expensive in the UK, but it's worth it. We buy cod fillet from Waitrose.

Instead of the fresh tomato we use several cherry tomatoes, and there is no need to peel or de-seed them for this particular recipe.

Although the recipe says "10 minutes start to finish", you need to start preparations an hour or so before eating, because:

  1. The sun-dried tomatoes may need to be soaked and drained, or the dish will be very salty - see here.
  2. You have to boil some new potatoes ahead of time.

Make sure that the skillet is really hot for the cod.

(Our skillet is one of our most useful cooking utensils. It's a heavy-based non-stick pan, square with rounded corners, with ridges to let the fan drain beneath the meat or fish. We hardly ever use a grill.)

Chicken Provençale (Serves 4)

This is probably the recipe that my family asks me most often to make, which is fine by me since it is really easy! We used to have it on a page torn from a magazine - I forget who the recipe was originally from (it may well have been Katie Stewart). It freezes well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken portions (breast fillet or other)
  • 14 oz tin of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with tomato purée
  • 8 fl oz (bit less than half a pint) white wine - anything you'd be happy to drink with this meal, but not a sweet wine
  • Whole peeled clove of garlic, slightly cracked but not crushed
  • 6 anchovy fillets (salty ones from a tin - don't need anything fancy), finely chopped
  • 6 green olives (stuffed with red pimiento), sliced
  • Herbes de Provence (or a mixture of herbs including oregano, thyme and bay leaf)
  • Olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a flat-bottomed frying pan or paella pan that will take all the chicken pieces in one layer (without too much room left over), fry the chicken pieces in the oil, about 5 minutes a side, until browned. I use a generous amount of oil and then spoon most of it out of the pan when the chicken has been browned.

Add the wine and a generous sprinkling of Herbes de Provence. Let it bubble and reduce for a few minutes.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the whole clove of garlic, a small pinch of salt (you'll be adding more salt later), and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well and turn the heat down so that the sauce simmers gently. Don't cover the pan.

Turn the chicken pieces occasionally and keep them covered with some of the chopped tomatoes in the sauce.

After 15 - 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces, add the sliced anchovies and olives (which will add salt in themselves), stirring well, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. It's important not to overcook the chicken or it will get tough - I generally slice through one of the chicken fillets a little early and make sure it isn't pink.

Remove the whole garlic clove, and serve!

This is nice served with saffron or turmeric rice.

Brian's Chicken Cacciatore (Hunter's Chicken) (Serves 4)

This recipe shares some ingredients and the general method with Chicken Provençale and Sauté of Chicken With Assorted Mushrooms, but the taste is quite different. I threw this together with ingredients that I happened to have in the house, and it turned out fine. There are many other variations, see here! It freezes well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken portions (breast fillet or other - I used modestly-sized breast fillets)
  • 14 oz tin of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with tomato purée
  • A bunch of spring onions, chopped (optional - I didn't have any, but the recipe was still OK without them)
  • A large glass (or a bit more) of white wine - anything you'd be happy to drink with this meal, but not a sweet wine
  • 8 to 12 oz of button mushrooms, halved or quartered into bite-sized pieces (chestnut mushrooms or dark-gilled portobello mushrooms might have been better, but the white mushrooms that I had were fine in this recipe)
  • 3 or 4 oz of smoked bacon, not too thinly sliced, cut into small half-inch squares - I used 3 rashers and kept one rasher for some accompanying roasted asparagus (cubed pancetta is the real thing, but the smoked bacon was perfectly good)
  • Two cloves of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a flat-bottomed frying pan or paella pan that will take all the chicken pieces in one layer (without too much room left over), fry the bacon, garlic and rosemary in the oil for a minute or two over a moderate heat, then add the chicken pieces and give them about 5 minutes a side, until browned.

(If I had been using chopped spring onions, I would have added them to the frying chicken about 5 minutes before the next step.)

Add the wine. Let it bubble and reduce for a few minutes.

Add the tin of tomatoes, a pinch of salt (there's already salt with the crushed garlic and the smoked bacon) and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stir well, cover the pan and turn the heat down so that the sauce simmers gently.

After about 10 minutes, or longer depending on the size of the chicken pieces, remove the lid and add the mushroom pieces, stirring well, and simmer for about a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It's important not to overcook the chicken or it will get tough - I generally slice through one of the chicken fillets a little early and make sure it isn't pink.

This was nice served with saffron or turmeric rice and roasted asparagus (but I'm sure it would go with lots of other things).

Sauté of Chicken With Assorted Mushrooms (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken portions
  • 1 large bunch spring onions
  • 1 tsp fresh, chopped tarragon, or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) chicken stock
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz mushrooms (ordinary large-ish mushrooms with dark gills, or else a mixture of wild mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, as available)
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) double cream or fromage frais or yoghourt
  • 1 dssp cornflour (corn starch)

Put a pint or two of water on to boil (for pouring over mushrooms).

In a sauté (paella) pan or large frying pan, melt the butter in the oil and sauté the chicken over a medium heat until golden on all sides.

Finely chop the spring onions (saving the tips of the green parts for garnish) and add them, with the tarragon, to the chicken and cook for one minute more. Add the chicken stock, season generously and simmer over a medium heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes, turning the chicken twice during this time so that it is cooked right through.

Meanwhile, trim mushrooms, pour boiling water over mushrooms in a colander to clean them - do not peel them. When drained, cut large mushrooms into quarters, slice oyster mushrooms into 1" strips.

After chicken has been cooking 20 minutes, add mushrooms to the mixture, allow to come to the boil and simmer for 3-5 minutes (or a little longer if using wild or shitake mushrooms). Remove the chicken and mushrooms and arrange attractively on a serving dish.

Stir the cornflour into the cream/fromage frais/yoghourt, add the mixture to the sauce and bring to the boil, stirring continuously until the sauce is thick and glossy. Pour over the chicken and mushrooms and serve either with saffron or turmeric rice or tagliatelle-type noodles.

Gourmet addition: soak a few dry Porcini mushrooms in the chicken stock for 15 minutes or so, then fish them out, and add them to the pan when you add the mushrooms.

Mediterranean Pork Chops (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork chops, or boneless pork loin steaks
  • 14 oz tin of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with tomato purée
  • 8 fluid oz chicken stock, fresh or from cube
  • Large green pepper, cut into small thin strips
  • 12 oz dark-gilled mushrooms, cut into chunky pieces
  • Large clove of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Few tablespoons of sunflower oil and extra virgin olive oil

Using a flat-bottomed frying pan or paella pan large enough to take all the pork chops in one layer, heat a few tablespoons of sunflower oil and brown the chops lightly on both sides - this is very quick (maybe 30 seconds each side), you just want to seal them. Remove chops from pan.

Add the garlic and brown gently, then add the chicken stock and the thyme. Allow liquid to bubble and reduce slightly.

Return chops to pan, lower heat, add tin of tomatoes, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, without a lid, turning the chops occasionally and keeping them covered with the sauce. It's important not to over-cook the chops or they will get tough, I generally take one out after 15 minutes and cut through part of it and check the pink has all gone. Remove chops to a warm place when done.

Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan or small frying pan. When quite hot, fry the strips of green pepper until soft and a little brown. Add mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper, continue frying for a few minutes until soft. Turn off heat and leave until needed.

Once the chops are out of the sauce, add the green peppers and mushrooms to the sauce, continue simmering for 10 minutes or so until sauce has thickened as much as you like.

Serve chops with sauce over. Nice served with conchiglie (pasta shells), 2oz per person or more if you are really hungry.

Chicken Tandoori Tamatar (serves 4)

This is a delicious, very low-effort dish. People who hate curries and spicy dishes love this one.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken quarters or chicken breast fillets
  • 1 tbsp Tandoori Blend spice powder, or 2 tbsps Tandoori Blend paste
  • 1-2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 oz butter (to put on chicken when baking)
  • Sauce:
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala spice
  • Two 14 oz tins of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with tomato purée
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp double cream or natural yoghourt or fromage frais
  • Garnish:
  • Parsley (I often don't use)
  • Suggested accompaniment:
  • Chinese noodles (good ethnic mix, this), cooked as per packet, and salad
  • Substitute ingredients:
  • Our supermarket supplies tins of chopped Italian plum tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, which is what we use. Any other good quality chopped tomatoes, minus skins, are OK, but this is a critical ingredient. Don't substitute for butter - but if you must, avoid lo-cal stuff. Don't leave out the sugar. Other chicken joints are OK.

Preceding day: Stab chicken pieces with a sharp knife to let the marinade get in. Mix the lemon juice, tandoori powder and salt to a paste (not too runny), rub paste well into all sides of chicken, leave 24 hrs in refrigerator (cover with clingfilm or food wrap to stop smell spreading!)

You can substitute Tandoori paste from a jar for the Tandoori powder and salt - but you might still want to add a little lemon juice.

When ready to cook: Pre-heat oven to gas Mark 6 (200 deg centigrade, 400 deg fahrenheit).

Place chicken on an open baking tray. Put a knob of butter on each piece of chicken. Cook in oven about 40 min if using chicken quarters, less time for smaller chicken breast fillets. Baste occasionally with juices from the chicken.

While this is going on, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in large frypan or sauté pan which is big enough to take the chicken pieces later. Add salt, sugar, tomatoes. Cook uncovered over a very low heat for about 15-20 min. Add Garam Masala powder. Simmer for another 10 min (or until thick but not too dry).

Remove chicken from oven, add chicken to the sauce in the frypan. Continue to cook the chicken in the sauce over a very low heat for 10-15 minutes depending on size of chicken pieces, turning occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in cream or yoghourt or fromage frais (not too thoroughly if you like it to look pretty). Add parsley and serve.

Good served with Chinese noodles and salad. Toss Chinese noodles in the juices from the baking tray before serving.

Brian's Easy Leftover-Chicken Supreme (Serves 2)

This is a very easy recipe for using up leftovers from a roast chicken (if you would like to make a “real” Chicken Supreme then you'll find many recipes here).

I serve it on white rice cooked in chicken stock - preparation and cooking can be done while the rice cooks.

Ingredients:

  • 150g (or a little less) of chicken left over from a roast, torn into small pieces with gristle, bone and skin removed
  • 3 thin rashers of good quality unsmoked back bacon, chopped
  • A very small onion, or half of a medium onion, sliced thinly and then sliced again crossways (don't chop!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste in a pestle and mortar with sea salt
  • 100 ml of chicken stock (reserved from the chicken stock used to cook the accompanying rice, and strengthened with an additional half chicken stock cube)
  • 200 ml of single cream
  • Few tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Before you start, get the accompanying rice going - see here if you want to use my rice recipe.

Dissolve half a chicken stock cube in the 100 ml of chicken stock, in order to strengthen it.

About 15 minutes before the rice is ready, fry the chopped bacon in the olive oil over a medium heat (about 6 out of 9 on our stove) until the bacon fat starts to run.

Add the garlic and onion and continue to fry until the bacon and onion are golden.

Add the leftover chicken pieces, stir in the chicken stock and the cream, and heat through. Adjust seasoning as required.

Serve on the rice.

Chicken Parmigiana

This is a recipe that looks so good that even though I haven't tried it yet I am including it for future reference!

The recipe will be found here.

Brian's Version of Delia's Lemon Chicken Sauce (serves 4)

Delia Smith has a very nice recipe for Chicken With Lemon Sauce.

This is my lighter version of the sauce (a lemon flavoured gravy), without giblets or cream.

I use it with a roast chicken, prepared as in Delia's recipe and stuffed with a quartered lemon. It's quick and easy and can all be done while the roast chicken is relaxing.

For the stock cubes, use a good quality organic make such as Kallo if you can.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz butter
  • Grated zest of a lemon, and its juice
  • Half a pint (10 fl oz) of hot stock, made with half a chicken stock cube and half a vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp of plain flour
  • The juices from the roast chicken (which is now relaxing), with most of the fat spooned away

Make the stock (it needs to be hot when you use it).

Grate the lemon for its zest, then juice it. Add the zest and juice to the stock.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat (about 6 out of 9 on our stove). Quickly stir in the flour, a bit at a time, until you have a smooth paste. Then slowly but steadily add the hot stock plus the lemon juice and zest. It will "curdle" but keep stirring quickly as you add the stock and all will be well.

Add the juices from the roast chicken, turn down the heat a bit, and keep the sauce bubbling for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

The result is an easy, foolproof gravy with a nice tang to it.

Brian's Easy Gourmet Roast Chicken Stuffing

OK, I'm exaggerating a bit here! This recipe is certainly easy because I don't bother with a chopped onion, which adds a relatively large amount of work for relatively little benefit, but the only "gourmet" quality about it comes from picking the right sausages!

Ingredients:

  • About 8 oz of the best pork sausages you can lay your hands on, e.g. one of the gourmet varieties that you'll find on Waitrose's butcher's counter. This is usually 2 large sausages or 3 small ones.
  • Grated zest of a lemon, and its juice.
  • 2 oz of natural bread-crumbs.
  • Salt (just a little) and freshly ground black pepper.
  • A sprinkling of herbs (e.g. rosemary or sage) if the sausage doesn't already have herbs.

Grate the lemon for its zest, then juice it.

Slice the sausages length-wise and remove their skins.

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients in a bowl, using your fingers. If they don't mix easily then add a little more lemon juice.

You're done!

Veal Cutlets Gourmand (Costolette di vitello all ghiottona) (a.k.a. Spaghetti Pork) (serves 4)

I adapt this recipe to use pork fillet instead of veal.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces pork fillet, or 4 boneless pork loin chops or pork medallions
  • 1/2 cup butter (this recipe is not the same without real butter!)
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced (I use more) - avoid the tasteless small white mushrooms, I like large-ish ones with dark gills
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) coarsely chopped cooked ham - not smoked, and not too salty (I use more)
  • 1 small black truffle (Perigord) sliced (I haven't used this yet - perfectly good without it, but who knows? - I now use some dried Porcini mushrooms which I soak in the beef broth for about 15 minutes before starting)
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup beef broth or beef stock
  • Flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Dry bread crumbs (crumbled "triscottes" are good)
  • Spaghetti (1/2 lb to 1 lb depending on appetites)

Put water to boil for spaghetti.

Trim meat, pound to flatten slightly.

Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the mushrooms, ham and truffle until wilted. Season with a little salt and pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and add beef broth. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, salt, pepper and lightly flour the meat. Dip them into egg, then into bread crumbs, and brown on both sides in 3 tbsp of the butter heated to frothing in a large frying pan. Lower heat and cook for 15 minutes, less if thin, turning occasionally.

While meat is cooking, cook spaghetti al dente. Drain and rinse with hot water.

Toss spaghetti with remaining butter. Heap spaghetti in centre of large round platter. Arrange cutlets around the edge. Spoon over with mushroom, ham and truffle sauce.

Alternatively, if you fry the meat in a nice-looking sauté pan, remove pan from stove, allow to cool a bit, move cutlets to edge of pan, pile spaghetti in middle, toss the spaghetti in the butter which is still in the pan, spoon sauce over the top, and serve in the pan.

Brian's Tuna With Orange & Lime Sauce and Pasta Twists (Serves 2)

This is a poor approximation of something I once had in an Epping wine bar. The rotten chef wouldn't tell me the recipe, so here is my attempt to recreate it. It's nothing like the original, but ain't bad!

Ingredients are for two people:

  • 8 oz Fusilli pasta (pasta twists)
  • 1 or 2 small tins tuna, drained (I use tuna in brine, the chunkier the better, the restaurant was using tuna that I suspect didn't come in a tin) - alternatively, on special occasions use fresh tuna steak (or swordfish, or even butterfish). As yet another alternative, Waitrose have recently started providing 225g jars of hand-prepared Albacore Tuna fillets in oil, which are really excellent for this recipe - one jar is enough for modest appetites.
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, or half a 14 oz tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
  • The grated zest and the juice of two sweet, juicy oranges
  • 1/3 a large wine glass of dry or dry-ish Italian white wine (optional, but include if you can) - cheap Soave, Orvieto or Verdicchio are all good, but avoid any sweet wine. Basically any white wine you'd be happy to drink with this supper is fine.
  • The grated zest and the juice of 2 small limes - alternatively use 1/4 wine glass of well diluted lime cordial
  • Heaped tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (my ghost will haunt anyone who uses stuff out of a jar - frozen fresh parsley will do at a pinch)
  • Small sprinkle of balsamic vinegar
  • Small sprinkle of soy sauce
  • Small sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce
  • Few tablespoons of olive oil, from the tuna jar or can if it came in oil
  • Few chopped pitted black olives
  • Few capers
  • Seasoning to taste (very little required)

If you use fresh tuna, cut it into eating-sized fingers and fry for a minute or so on all sides, just to brown them. Set aside.

While pasta water is heating, heat the olive oil and cook the tomatoes in it for a few minutes (if using cherry tomatoes, you can remove the skins using tongs at the end of the cooking time).

Add the rest of ingredients except the tuna, keeping some parsley back. Season to taste.

Simmer gently for 30-45 minutes without a lid, reducing the liquid to about a quarter of what you started with.

Add the tuna about 10 minutes from the end, or when you put the pasta on, being careful not to break up the tinned tuna too much into flakes.

Serve with the pasta! Sprinkle with some extra chopped parsley if you like.

Brian's Quick Tuna Spaghetti With Cherry Tomatoes (Serves 4)

This is a quick and easy recipe, great for when you get home and don't feel like doing much cooking. It may be quick (about 35 minutes from start to finish, or about 10 minutes longer than it takes to bring a large pan of water for the pasta to the boil, whichever works out greater), but it's still tasty!

As with many simple recipes, the quality of the ingredients (even the tinned tuna) makes a big difference to the final result. For example, it's worth paying more for the best cherry tomatoes if you can. If the tinned tuna has a cottony texture then try a different brand! The best tinned tuna I have found so far is Glenryk's premium tuna steak from the Maldives, which our Waitrose used to stock.

Ingredients for 4:

  • 3-4 oz spaghetti per person, or even more, depending on appetite
  • 3 or 4 200g tins of tuna in brine, depending on appetite - keep some of the brine
  • 3 or 4 handfuls of small, sweet cherry tomatoes, halved (not peeled)
  • A few glugs of white wine (optional, but include if you can)
  • Heaped tablespoon fresh chopped parsley - frozen chopped parsley or even dried parsley flakes will do at a pinch, but they are not as good
  • Sprinkle of balsamic vinegar (good if you have it)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Few chopped pitted black olives
  • Few capers
  • 6 anchovy fillets (salty ones from a tin - don't need anything fancy), finely chopped
  • Seasoning to taste (very little required) - including a few drops of Tabasco per person if you like a warm taste

Drain some of the brine from the tins of tuna. Keep about half of the brine for use later (there should only be a few tablespoons of it).

While the pasta water is heating, heat about 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the halved tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until the tomatoes form a thickish sauce - the actual quantity of sauce should be quite small at this point.

I generally remove the tomato skins with tongs and a wooden spoon at this point as soon as they are well softened.

Add a glug or two of white wine and the saved brine, which will thin the sauce - the sauce will eventually return to the thickish consistency when the cooking is finished.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the tuna (i.e. the chopped olives, capers, chopped anchovies, Tabasco, parsley), keeping some parsley back. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, reducing the liquid.

Add the tuna about 10 minutes from the end, or when you put the spaghetti on, being careful not to break up the tinned tuna too much into flakes. Add a little more liquid (water or wine) if you need to.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, drain and quickly return the spaghetti to its pan (try to avoid draining the spaghetti too thoroughly). Toss the spaghetti in the pan with some extra virgin olive oil (or some basil-infused olive oil, which gives a nice fragrance) and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the spaghetti with the tuna sauce on top! Sprinkle with some extra chopped parsley if you like.

Brian's Quick Lemon Sardines with Linguini (Serves 4)

This is even quicker and easier than my Tuna Spaghetti recipe (but with quite a different taste). It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.

I use tins of "Sardine al Limone" from Waitrose, but any good quality tinned sardines in oil will do.

Ingredients for 4:

  • 3oz linguini per person, or a little more, depending on appetite
  • One tin of "Sardine al Limone" from Waitrose per person (or 3 tins between 4 people), drained (keep the small lemon pieces)
  • 2 handfuls of small, sweet cherry tomatoes, halved (not peeled) - this is not as many as in my tuna recipe
  • A few glugs of white wine - any wine you'd be happy to drink with the meal
  • Generous sprinkles of dried thyme and oregano
  • A combination of extra virgin olive oil and lemon-infused olive oil
  • Few chopped pitted black olives - not as many as in my tuna recipe
  • Few capers - not as many as in my tuna recipe
  • Seasoning to taste (very little required) - including a few drops of Tabasco per person if you like a warm taste

Drain the tins of sardines (don't discard the small lemon pieces if using the Waitrose tins).

While the pasta water is heating, heat about 3 tablespoons of the combined olive oils in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the halved tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until the tomatoes form a thickish sauce - the actual quantity of sauce should be quite small at this point.

I generally remove the tomato skins with tongs and a wooden spoon at this point as soon as they are well softened.

Add a glug or two of white wine, which will thin the sauce - the sauce will eventually return to the thickish consistency when the cooking is finished.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the sardines (i.e. the chopped olives, capers, Tabasco if required, oregano and thyme). Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, reducing the liquid.

Add the drained sardines (and the small lemon pieces from the tins), breaking them into not-too-small pieces. Add a little more liquid (water or wine) if you need to.

Cook the linguini al dente, drain and quickly return the linguini to its pan (try to avoid draining the linguini too thoroughly). Toss the linguini in the pan with some of the lemon-infused olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the linguini with the sardine sauce on top!

Brian's Fusilli Pasta With Chicken, Mushrooms And Artichokes (Serves 4)

This is an easy recipe with lots of variations. The use of cherry tomatoes is exactly the same as in the previous recipe. It takes about 35 minutes from start to finish, or about 10 minutes longer than it takes to bring a large pan of water for the pasta to the boil (whichever works out greater).

The recipe uses a jar of artichoke pieces; how long you need to cook these pieces will depend on the artichokes! If you eat one from the jar and it's already tender then you don't need to really cook them at all, just heat them up - otherwise fry them at the same time as you fry the chicken. All will become clear!

Ingredients for 4:

  • An aubergine (egg plant), cut into slices about a quarter of an inch thick, and each slice cut in half or cut into quarters depending on size
  • About 2-3 oz of dark-gilled mushrooms per person
  • 2 oz fusilli pasta per person, or a little more, depending on appetite
  • A jar of artichoke pieces in olive oil - the olive oil in the jar will be used for cooking
  • 4 small chicken fillets, or 2 large ones, sliced into strips about half an inch thick and a few inches long
  • 3 or 4 handfuls of small, sweet cherry tomatoes, halved (not peeled)
  • A few glugs of white wine (optional, but include if you can)
  • 1 tbsp of crème fraîche, or fromage frais, or greek yoghourt
  • 1 tbsp of green pesto sauce, or more or less according to taste (start low)
  • Seasoning to taste - including a few drops of Tabasco per person if you like a warm taste

Put the pasta water on to heat.

Sprinkle the slices of aubergine (egg plant) with salt to draw some of the moisture. After a while, pat dry with kitchen towel. Then cut into halves or quarters, depending on size.

Put the mushrooms gill-side down in a colander, pour boiling water over them to clean them up a bit (don't peel). Cut them into spoon-sized pieces, roughly similar size to the pieces of aubergine (egg plant).

About 15 minutes before you think the pasta water will be boiling, heat the olive oil from the jar of artichokes in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the chicken strips quickly to seal them on all sides, but not to turn them brown.

If the artichoke pieces aren't tender enough to eat from the jar, add them with the chicken and fry the artichoke pieces and the chicken together.

After a few minutes, spoon out any excess oil, leaving a few tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add the halved tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, also add the aubergine pieces (and the artichoke pieces if not already added). The mushroom pieces can go in a little later.

After a few minutes, when the tomatoes have reduced to a sauce, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.

Add a glug or two of white wine, which will thin the sauce - the sauce will eventually return to the thickish consistency when the cooking is finished.

Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Continue to simmer gently until the aubergines and mushrooms are soft and the chicken strips are no longer pink in the middle - this should only take a few more minutes. If this happens before the pasta is ready, turn off the heat under the pan and leave it.

(If you don't like tomato skins, it's much easier to remove them towards the end of the cooking time with a pair of tongs than to peel them up front. Personally I'm quite happy to leave the skins in, as with these particular tomatoes they are usually not thick or tough.)

Just before serving, stir in the crème fraîche, or fromage frais, or greek yoghourt, and the small amount of green pesto sauce.

Meanwhile, when the pasta water is boiling cook the fusilli al dente, drain and quickly return the pasta to its pan (try to avoid draining the pasta too thoroughly).

Mix the pasta and all the other stuff together, and serve!

You will discover that there are plenty of variations, e.g. you can add "petit pois" frozen peas and/or subtract the aubergine or mushrooms or chicken. Have fun!

Brian's Fresh Egg Tagliatelle With Sautéed Broccoli, Garlic and Toasted Pine Nuts (Serves 2)

This is low-effort, inexpensive and healthy recipe. I put it together after seeing something similar (no doubt better!) being cooked in one of the Inspector Montalbano TV episodes, with the broccoli part slightly adapted from this recipe.

Picture of tagliatelle with broccoli and toasted pine nuts

For relaxed preparation, I suggest that you start 45 minutes before you want to serve, although there is little work involved and you can do it faster.

Ingredients for 2:

  • About 250g or 9oz of fresh egg tagliatelle (I buy it in larger bags from our local Tesco Express, and freeze unused portions for later use)
  • 2 tbsp (or a little more) of pine nuts (pine kernels)
  • A good-sized head of broccoli, so that you end up with at least ½lb of cut florets when the stalks have been discarded or kept for something else
  • A large clove of garlic, peeled and well crushed with salt
  • A few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tbsp of butter

Separate broccoli into florets. Remove and discard stems and stalk, or keep for other use. Cut large florets into smaller bite-sized pieces.

Part-cook the broccoli, about three-quarters of the normal time, so that they are still bright green and a little crisp. I do it in our microwave in a covered pyrex bowl with a tbsp of water added, about 3½ minutes for 8oz of florets (not an exact science!).

While that's going on, peel and crush the garlic with some salt (ideally sea salt). For this recipe the garlic needs to be well crushed - as usual, I use a small pestle and mortar.

Put the part-cooked florets to drain very well. I use some kitchen towel to get them really dry.

While the broccoli is draining, toast the pine nuts to a dark golden brown (not black!), stirring constantly - I use a hot skillet. Decant for later.

About 15 minutes before you want to serve, heat the water for the fresh tagliatelle, and when boiling salt the water lightly before cooking the tagliatelle - it will take only 3 minutes or so, or 4 minutes if you are using it out of the freezer.

Heat the butter and oilive oil in a frying or sauté pan, and fry the crushed garlic gently until it just begins to turn colour. Then add the pine nuts and broccoli, toss for a few minutes, and season to taste.

Divide the drained tagliatelli onto warmed plates, add the deliciously-smelling contents of the frying or sauté pan, and serve!

  • I have never been a big Tesco fan, but our local corner-shop Tesco Express is starting to impress me with its improved quality and variety of offerings, still with low prices.
  • For example, two of their 400g Fresh Egg Tagliatelle packs, currently costing £1 each if bought together, do us for three good meals.
  • More tagliatelle recipes here.

Brian's Bolognese Sauce (Serves 4-6)

This is Brian's version of Bolognese sauce (which we usually have with spaghetti, but also great in lasagne and with other pasta).

It isn't intended to be the authentic version, but I actually prefer it to the authentic one. It freezes well.

Spaghetti Bolognese

  • Tip:
  • This recipe is better if the onion is as finely chopped as you can make it.
  • I top-and-tail the onion, halve it then peel it, then finely slice each half with a very sharp bread-knife, keeping the slices together, then turn them through ninety degrees and slice again. Using a thin, very sharp knife like this also doesn't make the eyes water so much!
  • For some reason the sauce isn't quite the same if you use a food processor to chop the onion.

Ingredients:

  • One and a quarter pounds (560g) of best minced beef (if the minced beef exudes any liquid when fried, find another butcher!)
  • Two 14 oz tins of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice, or else supplement tinned tomatoes with tomato purée
  • A medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • Good sprinkle of "Italian Seasoning", or mixture of oregano, thyme etc. to taste (Waitrose's "Italian Seasoning" also contains some paprika and is something of a magic ingredient for this recipe)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp's each of balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, one tbsp of soy sauce (adjust to your taste!)

Fry the garlic in the oil until it starts to turn colour.

Add chopped onion and fry until soft, but not brown.

Turn heat up quite high, add minced beef and mix and stir briskly until completely browned.

Turn heat down and add the rest of the ingredients (i.e. tomatoes, herbs, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce) and seasoning.

Simmer gently with lid on for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take lid off and simmer gently for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sue's Stuffed Peppers with Brian's Bolognese Sauce and Rice (Serves 2)

This is a nice easy one suggested by my spouse. The only thing that I found a little tricky was the timing!

Ingredients:

  • 2 good-sized bell/capsicum peppers (red, orange or yellow) halved and cleaned out
  • About 2 ladles of Brian's Bolognese Sauce (see recipe above), or your own sauce!
  • About 2 ladles of cooked rice (I used Brian's Turmeric or Saffron Rice made with 3 fl oz of rice and a little less than 6 fl oz of chicken stock)
  • A small handful of crumbs made from Black Olive Crackers, or other crackers
  • A small handful of grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)

If you already have bolognese sauce available, start cooking about 70 minutes ahead of serving time. If you're preparing a fresh batch of my bolognese sauce, then start that at least one hour and 40 minutes ahead of serving time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) or 200°C (normal).

Cook the rice, so that it will be ready at least 25 minutes before serving the meal.

While this is going on, halve and clean out the peppers. Heat up the bolognese sauce if it isn't being freshly made. Mix the crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese together.

40 minutes before serving, put the empty halved peppers on a preheated tray in the oven to roast.

When the rice is done, mix the rice and the hot bolognese sauce together.

25 minutes before serving, fill the part-roasted peppers with this mixture. Sprinkle the crumbs/cheese mixture on top. Put the filled peppers back in the oven and continue to roast until serving time.

That's it!

Brian's Quick Penne Pasta "La Pistache" (Serves 4)

This is a very quick and easy pasta dish that I threw together when we were on holiday in a wonderful rented place ("La Pistache") near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France.

It provides a lot of taste for very little effort, and would be perfect for camping, self-catering or any time that you don't want to work too hard.

The dish is ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

The cold meats came from an antipasti/sandwich variety pack that we bought in the local Intermarché supermarket, but any similar meats will do, and the quantities are not critical. The quality of the meats is critical, though.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 thin slices of dry-cured ham - Bayonne ham or Parma ham or similar "prosciutto crudo" - about 80-90g - cut into thin strips a few inches long
  • 4-6 thin slices of a mild French or Italian sausage (e.g. Lyon sausage or mild salami or anything you'd be happy to serve thinly sliced with antipasti, except chorizo) - about 40-50g - cut into thin strips a few inches long
  • 4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • A large handful of pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • About 1lb (450g) of Penne pasta, according to appetites

While the pasta water is heating, slice the meats and chop the olives.

About the time that you add the penne to the boiling pasta water, fry the garlic in the oil until it starts to turn colour.

Add the sliced meats and fry for a few minutes, stirring to separate the slices, then add the chopped olives. Continue to fry until the meats are slightly crispy but still limp.

Drain the pasta, mix with the other ingredients, and serve with a nice salad.

(If you are interested, you will find a photo-blog of our holiday based at La Pistache here.)

Sue's Vegetarian Pasta Bake (Serves 4)

Sue generally doesn't use recipes or weigh ingredients when she puts a meal together, so the ingredients and quantities are always a little variable!

This particular meal has a very nice texture, as well as being very tasty.

You will need an oven-proof baking dish (or dishes), e.g. the enamelled cast-iron kind produced by Le Creuset, as well as a reasonable-sized frying pan. The baking dish(es) need to be of a size to take all the ingredients in a layer at least 3" deep.

Ingredients:

  • For the topping:
  • A 150g packet (say 5 oz) of Marks & Spencer Black Olive Crackers - alternatively other savoury crackers, but these were really good
  • About 2 oz of grated mature cheddar cheese (Sue used Matured Devon)
  • A few pats of butter
  • For the underneath part:
  • 2-4 courgettes (zucchini), sliced cross-ways into pieces about 1/4" thick
  • About 8 asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into about 2" lengths
  • About 12-16 oz of penne pasta (small pasta tubes), depending on appetites
  • About 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A 14 oz tin of Italian chopped tomatoes in rich natural tomato juice
  • About 6oz of the same grated cheese as used for the topping
  • A glug of wine (white, preferably, but other colours would probably do) (optional)
  • A few tablespoons tomato purée (optional)
  • A good handful of pitted black olives, halved or quartered (optional)
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Herbes de Provence (or a mixture of herbs e.g. oregano and thyme)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to about 190 degrees C, or 160 degrees C for a fan oven.

While the pasta water is heating, slice the courgettes, lay on paper towel and sprinkle with salt to extract some moisture. Halve or quarter the pitted olives if using them.

Fry the courgettes in the oil to colour them slightly, remove them to the baking dish.

Fry the asparagus and the halved cherry tomatoes in the oil for a few minutes (asparagus first, add tomatoes a little later). The asparagus and tomatoes should be softened but not completely cooked. Then add the remaining ingredients (tin of tomatoes, Herbes de Provence, optional glug of wine, optional halved or quartered pitted olives, optional tomato purée) to the semi-cooked asparagus and cherry tomatoes in the frying pan.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, stir well, and remove from the heat.

While this is going on, cook the pasta "al dente", drain and add to the baking dish.

Add 6 oz of the grated cheese and the contents of the frying pan to the courgettes and pasta which should already be in the baking dish. Stir well.

Make the topping by mixing together the crumbled crackers and the rest of the grated cheese. Add to the top of the baking dish, with a few pats of butter on top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about half an hour.

The World's Simplest (Tasty) Pasta Sauce

If you are tired and hungry and you want a quick, tasty, effort-free pasta sauce that doesn't come out of jar, it's hard to beat this one.

The sauce is made by simply combining ingredients with the cooked pasta, so the recipe is really for a complete meal rather than just the sauce.

The ingredients are for a single person (which is when it is most often needed in our house), multiply up as required, feel free to adjust quantities to taste.

Ingredients (per person):

Cook the pasta al dente in a lot of salted water, drain, return pasta quickly to its saucepan.

Add all the other ingredients (no salt necessary) to the pasta (my sister adds a little butter also), and toss well.

Serve!

If you use exactly the ingredients as stated (the quantities don't matter so much) then you will have one of the tastiest (and cheapest) quickly cooked meals for the very least effort that I know of. Other suggestions always welcome!

Brian's Leftover-Lamb Risotto (Serves 4)

We buy a large leg of lamb to roast, and usually have plenty left over to make a lamb risotto a few days later. It is best if the cubed left-over meat is marinated for 24 hours, but a few hours in the marinade is better than nothing. Also, when we originally cook the lamb we use Delia Smith's recipe for lamb baked with herbs in foil, which results in a very succulent, tasty roast.

I use Basmati or American Easy Cook Long Grain rice, but you can use your favourite risotto rice if you like a creamy texture.

This is an easy, one-pan recipe.

Ingredients:

  • For the marinade:
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp wine (any colour)
  • 2 tbsp oil (sunflower, rapeseed, or olive)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp water
  • For the risotto:
  • Left-over lamb joint, meat trimmed of fat and cubed
  • A medium onion, finely chopped
  • A red capsicum (bell) pepper, cut into short slices
  • Half a pint (10 fl oz) of rice
  • A little less than a pint (20 fl oz) of strong-ish vegetable stock - I use 2 good quality stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric (mild yellow spice) (optional, adds colour and a bit of fragrance)
  • 8 oz (at least) of dark-gilled mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces, scalded with boiling water (not peeled)
  • 8 oz of frozen peas (petit pois) or fresh whole sugar snap peas
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

At least a day ahead of the meal (ideally) make the marinade. Put all the marinade ingredients in a tall glass, cover with cling film / food wrap and shake well. Put the cubed, trimmed lamb pieces in a suitable container and pour the marinade over. Cover the container and leave in the refrigerator for as long as possible. (The marinade, once used, is going to end up in the risotto - don't throw it away!)

Make sure that the vegetable stock is hot, before you begin.

In a large frying pan or paella pan (which must have a lid), heat the extra virgin olive oil using a moderate heat (about 6 out of 9 on our stove), and fry the chopped onions until soft and transparent but not brown. Add the red pepper pieces a few minutes after starting to fry the onion.

Add the rice and turmeric, continue to fry gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, until all the rice has absorbed some of the oil.

Add the rest of the ingredients, i.e. the vegetable stock, the meat and its marinade, the mushrooms, the peas, the balsamic vinegar and some seasoning. Stir, cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Give the ingredients a stir, re-cover the pan, and continue to simmer gently for another 10 minutes (approx). Add some more stock or boiling water if all the liquid is absorbed before this time (it shouldn't be).

Check that the rice is cooked - carry on for a few more minutes if necessary.

Serve!

Brian's Turmeric or Saffron Rice (Serves 2)

This is the method that works reliably for me - but only with Basmati rice, not American Long Grain "Easy Cook" rice which takes less time but doesn't give quite such good results.

Although you don't need to do much work, plan to start the rice at least 40 minutes before serving.

Ingredients:

  • Basmati Rice - 5 Fl oz or 200ml for two people - measure by volume rather than weight
  • One good chicken stock cube for two people (or one vegetable stock cube for accompanying red meat)
  • 1 tsp of turmeric powder, OR just a few threads of saffron well pulverised with a pestle and mortar (saffron is especially good with sea-food and chicken - it's expensive but you only need a tiny amount, don't expect a strong yellow colour)
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Rinse the rice well in a sieve, under running water.

Boil exactly twice the volume of water compared to the volume of dry rice, and add the stock cube(s) and a pinch of salt. Dissolve well. You don't want to do this too early as the stock should be hot when added.

In a large or wide saucepan with a lid, start to heat the drained rice over a moderate heat (about 5 out of 9 on our stove), immediately add the turmeric or saffron, and stir only once.

Add the stock, again stir only once, put a lid on the pan, and wait a few minutes for the stock to just start to simmer. While you are doing this it is a good idea to rinse out the mortar with a little of the stock and add this back to the pan, if you are using (expensive) saffron. You will extract a surprising amount of extra flavour and colour!

Then turn down the heat to lowest setting, stir just once more, cover the pan, and leave for 15 minutes before checking. When most of the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat under the pan and leave covered for another 15 minutes.

The rice should be fluffy, not at all sticky, and ready to serve!

Barbecue Marinade (Reader's Digest)

Picture of barbecue grill

Image from The Guardian's BBQ section

This has always been our favourite BBQ marinade for meat and kebabs (our favourite kebabs being a mixture of cubed lamb neck fillet, pineapple chunks, small mushrooms and pieces of red capsicum pepper).

I assemble the ingredients in a straight glass, and I don't worry about exact quantities so long as the first 4 ingredients are more or less equal in volume.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (I use freshly-squeezed)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato juice (I use 1 tbsp tomato purée plus 1 tbsp water)
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine (can also use dry rosé wine)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce

Cover the glass with cling film / food wrap and shake well. Pour over the meat (or over the prepared kebab ingredients) at least a couple of hours before cooking, preferably overnight in the fridge.

Barbecue Sauce (Reader's Digest)

This has always been our favourite BBQ sauce for meat and kebabs (our favourite kebabs being a mixture of cubed lamb neck fillet, pineapple chunks, small mushrooms and pieces of red capsicum pepper).

Ingredients (combined in a bowl):

  • 1 tsp chilli powder (I don't use)
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp wine or tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ¼ pint beef stock or water (I just use a few tbsp of water, but I also add some syrup from the tin of pineapples if using those for kebabs)
  • Tabasco sauce to taste (most of the spiciness will disappear when the food is grilled)

Brush the sauce over the kebabs (or whatever) as they are turned on the grill.

Lots of barbecue recipes...

...will be found here!

Toulouse-Style Sausage & Mash (Serves 2 or 3)

This is so easy that it is more of a meal suggestion than a recipe.

What makes this a bit special are the delicious Toulouse-style sausages, ready-made with smoked bacon, red wine and garlic, and the gravy to go with it.

Ingredients:

Cook the sausages in your favourite way - personally I like roasting them in an oven (preheated to about 200 degrees C, or 180 degrees C with a fan oven) for about 35 minutes, sitting on a wire grill in a roasting tray with a piece of aluminium foil underneath to reduce cleaning effort.

Serve with the gravy and mashed potatoes and your favourite hearty vegetables.

Perfect for a cold winter's day!

Brian's Saucisson Sec Gravy (Serves 4)

This is very similar to my Lemon Chicken Sauce, without the lemon but with thin, finely diced saucisson sec. We get the saucisson sec from Waitrose but any thinly-sliced sausage of similar quality will do.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz butter
  • Half a pint (10 fl oz) of hot stock, made with a good-quality vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp of plain flour
  • Half to three-quarters of a 70g Unearthed French Saucisson Sec pack from Waitrose, or any thinly-sliced saucisson sec of similar quality, finely diced

Make the stock (it needs to be hot when you use it).

Finely dice the saucisson sec (I find it easier to slice it lengthwise in thin strips as it comes out of the pack, and then slice across it).

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat (about 6 out of 9 on our stove). Fry the finely diced saucisson sec in it for a few minutes.

Then quickly stir in the flour, a bit at a time, until you have a smooth paste. Then start to add the hot stock, also a bit at a time. It will "curdle" but keep stirring quickly as you add the stock and all will be well.

Keep the sauce bubbling for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Jamie Oliver's Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli

This delicious, hearty dish was first made for me by my younger daughter - it isn't just blokes who will appreciate it!

Its ingredients include fennel seeds, chillies, coarse Italian sausage and wine... just to give you some idea.

The recipe will be found here.

Sandy's Wild Caught Salmon & Dill Pasta Salad

This excellent recipe (and the photo below) is from my North Carolina friend Sandy. It serves 2 (or at a stretch 3) people as a main course, or 4 people as a side.

I have made a few notes on the quantities, just for my own benefit, and have added a suggestion for a variation.

Wild Salmon Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4oz Fusilli pasta twists, pre-cooked
  • 1½ cups Wallaby organic sour cream, or a good alternative e.g. Crème Fraîche
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I used a little less, see my note below)
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 cup cucumber (diced) (from about a 2" length of cucumber)
  • 1 cup celery(diced) (from about one celery stalk)
  • ½ cup red onion (chopped) (a little over ½ of one of our small red onions)
  • 5 tbsp fresh dill (minced)
  • 2 medium salmon fillets pre-cooked (shredded)

Combine all the ingredients, cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving in order to let the flavours "marry".

Serve!

  • A suggested variation
  • Because I wanted to add a slight tang to the salad, and because horseradish goes well with smoked salmon (but I never tried it with unsmoked salmon), I tried adding a few tablespoons of creamed horseradish sauce (I suggest ¼ to ½ cup, depending on taste), and reducing the quantity of mayonnaise slightly.
  • If this seems wild to you, I should emphasise that I didn't use the strong horseradish that will clear out your sinuses and make your eyes water if you eat a teaspoon of it, but the mild creamy version. I actually took a small portion of the original recipe and tentatively mixed in some of the creamed horseradish sauce to see what the result would be - and to my surprise it was great!
  • You might want to try the same experiment to see if the taste works for you...
  • Also, try a slight dusting of paprika as well.
  • Thanks, Sandy, and Bon Appétit!

Salad Niçoise (Serves 2)

Salad Niçoise

This is a healthy, substantial and delicious meal in itself.

The quantities here are for two people, and can be multiplied as necessary except for the dressing/marinade, whose quantities are the same whether for two to four people (increase after that).

The marinading is best done well ahead of time. Although there isn't a huge amount of work to do, start preparations at least an hour before serving.

I have made a few adaptations to this BBC recipe. You will find many more recipes for this dish here.

Ingredients:

  • For the dressing/marinade: (quantities for 2-4 people)
  • 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar (we use ordinary, but aged might be better)
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions or chives
  • Large clove of garlic, peeled and well crushed to a paste with sea salt (ideally in a pestle and mortar)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (no salt unless you didn't use any with the crushed garlic)
  • For the salad: (quantities for 2 people)
  • A 225g jar of Albacore Tuna in spring water from Waitrose (or similar), or a pan-seared fresh tuna steak, or 1-2 cooked salmon fillets
  • 6-8 baby new potatoes, cooked and quartered lengthwise
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • About 14-16 (50g) fine French beans, trimmed and cooked
  • A few handfuls of mixed-colour salad leaves
  • A piece of chicory, red chicory if available
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • 3 anchovy fillets cut lengthwise into thin strips (traditional but optional - we often don't use as for us they don't add enough for the cost, but in any case don't use with salmon)
  • 8 pitted black olives
  • A few torn basil leaves

Well before the meal, prepare the dressing/marinade. Put all the ingredients in a tall glass, cover with cling film / food wrap, and shake well.

If using the jar of albacore tuna in spring water (which will stretch to 3 people in our family), empty the water out of the jar (I drink it as a health-supplement freebie!), then refill the jar with the dressing/marinade - it will take about half the quantity that you made. Replace the lid and leave until later. You won't need to cook it.

If using fresh tuna or salmon fillets, marinade in a shallow dish for a few hours using about half the quantity of dressing/marinade. Then remove from the marinade and pan-fry to your liking (I use a skillet with no fat). You can also start with salmon fillets that have already been cooked for a previous meal (we often cook 4, keep 2), in which case you don't need to cook again!

About an hour before serving up, if not before, cook the baby new potatoes and the fine beans and prepare the hard-boiled eggs.

  • Some cooking notes that you can probably skip...
  • I do the potatoes and beans in the same saucepan, with enough water to cover the new potatoes. I boil the potatoes first for about 20 minutes, then add some crumpled aluminium foil on top of them to provide a steamer platform out of the water, then add the fine beans which will steam for another 10 minutes or so. I remove the beans, then check the potatoes which might need a few more minutes. As soon as the potatoes are done I plunge them into cold water to stop them cooking further. I quarter them lengthwise when cool.
  • At the same time, or afterwards if not in a hurry, I hard-boil the eggs. As a disciple of Delia, I puncture the blunt end of each egg with a pin to stop cracking, add eggs to cold water, bring to the boil (about 6 minutes for me), and then boil for exactly 6 minutes. I then remove the eggs and plunge into cold water - cooling the eggs rapidly makes them a lot easier to shell. I halve the eggs when cold.

Lay out the salad - I have an oval-shaped platter which works nicely, otherwise a shallow bowl is good (in Corsica I have been served Salad Niçoise in a bowl with vertical sides, with chicory leaves standing up all around the outside edge and the rest inside - that works too!).

Arrange the salad leaves in the middle, with chicory leaves around the edge, pointing outwards or upwards. Add the tomatoes, potato, tuna, beans and (if used) the anchovies. Drizzle over the remaining dressing, then add the eggs, the olives and the torn basil leaves.

Serve!

Brian's “Parmentier” Potatoes (Serves 2)

This is an easy no-peel version of many similar recipes, this one with a Provençale flavour.

We often use it as a healthy alternative to oven chips or french fries, or topped with fried free range eggs with some greens on the side.

Ingredients:

  • Two potatoes with clean thin skins - I use Waitrose's essential baking potatoes which cost only £1.20 per kilo in 2018, but any potatoes suitable for roasting or baking will do - cut unpeeled into approximately 1" chunks
  • Herbs - I use Herbes de Provençe, or rosemary and thyme together, but feel free to experiment!
  • A few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or (better if you have it) garlic-infused olive oil
  • Fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to about 220 degrees C, or 190 degrees C with a fan oven.

Put a flat baking tray in the oven to pre-heat also.

  • A tip...
  • Nowadays I also use a silicone pyramid baking mat to sit on the tray, or in a roasting tin, when roasting vegetables - it saves turning the vegetables, saves oil and makes cleaning the tray or tin much easier.

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into roughly 1" chunks, place in a large-enough bowl (I use a glass pyrex bowl, which is often kept afterwards, unwashed, for microwaving green vegetables in the same meal).

Sprinkle potatoes with salt, swizzle them around to distribute the salt well.

Sprinkle a few tbsp of olive oil (preferably garlic-infused olive oil if you have it) over the potato pieces in the bowl, followed by a generous amount of herbs. Swizzle the coated potatoes around again.

Decant the potatoes from the bowl onto the baking tray (leaving any excess oil behind), place tray in oven, leave for 35 minutes or until they are the way you like. You shouldn't need to have to turn them, especially if you are using the pyramid silicone mat as per the tip above.

Serve!

  • Did you know?
  • This style of cooking potatoes was named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, who made many contributions to nutrition and health in Napoleonic times.

Roman Peas (Serves 4)

This recipe was contributed by Mary Alexander. It's very nice with red meat and dishes with a "hearty" flavour, e.g. a beef casserole or Osso Bucco.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 bacon rashers, finely chopped
  • 12 oz to 1lb frozen small peas (petit pois)
  • Salt, pepper, pinch of sugar

Heat oil in saucepan, and gently brown the onion. Add bacon and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add peas, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

Blueberry and Lemon Curd Sundaes

Click the picture for a particularly fast and easy recipe from Waitrose, made from blueberries, lemon curd, half-fat crème fraîche and ice cream.

Blueberry and Lemon Curd Sundaes

If you don't want a 15-minute break between courses it can mostly be made ahead of time, stopping before you add the ice cream (and remembering to take the ice cream out of the freezer about 15 minutes ahead of using it!).

You will find the recipe here, or a video here, or failing those try here.

Soft-Centred Garlic Croutons, e.g. for Bruschetta

I like garlic croutons that are crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. An easy way to make these is to use garlic-infused olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees C.

Cut slices of French bread, ciabatta, or whatever bread you like to use.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil onto the bottom of a shallow baking tin.

Rub the slices of bread around the tin to coat both sides of the bread with oil.

Leaving the slices in the tin, bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the slices look right to you!

These croutons are great with many things, e.g. Bruschetta, sardines and a Greek salad, or French onion soup.

Rachel's Rarebit

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices toast per person
  • French/wholegrain mustard
  • tabasco sauce (optional)
  • cayenne pepper
  • Worcester Sauce
  • GOOD strong cheddar

Toast bread & pre heat grill.

Spread thin layer of butter and mustard onto toast and arrange grated cheese on top.

Sprinkle worcester sauce, cayenne pepper and tabasco to taste.

Grill until golden brown and bubbling! Yum!!!

(Better than the advert)

If you really want an extra oomf (and you're drinking it anyway) try mixing a wee drab of BEER/ALE into the cheese before putting it onto the bread.  A sort of Rachel Rarebit!!!

Love Rachel

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