Sunday, 27 February 2011

Roasted winter vegetables

Cooked by Maxine, during coaching (see The Cookery Coach)

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm slices
6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks (leave the ‘tails’ about 3cm long)
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons runny honey

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Place all the veg in a large ovenproof tray. Pour on the oil, and toss the veg so it is coated. Sprinkle on the thyme, and a good twist of salt and pepper. Pour over the honey.
Place the tray, uncovered, in the oven for 45-60 minutes. Check after 30 minutes, and turn the veg so they brown evenly. Don’t worry about brown edges – they’re the best bits. Remove when the veg is nicely toasted, and tender.

Stuffed hearts

Cooked by Maxine, during coaching (see The Cookery Coach)

6 lamb hearts
1 mix of stuffing (see recipe)
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
500ml beef stock (see recipe)
1 tablespoon beurre manié (see recipe)

Soak the hearts in a large bowl of salted water for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
Remove the hearts from the salt water. Trim off any tubes with scissors, and snip the inside of each heart so it becomes one cavity. Rinse the hearts, and place on a large plate. Fill each heart to the top with stuffing mix.
Place the chopped carrots, onion and celery in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Nest the hearts down into the veg, so the hearts stand up with the stuffing upwards. Pour the stock into the casserole dish, around the hearts. Bring to the boil on the hob. Seal the casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid (use foil under the lid, to get a good seal) and place it in the oven for 3 hours.
Transfer the casserole dish to the hob, over a low heat. Remove the hearts to a warmed serving dish. Crush up the veg a bit, with a fork. Add half of the beurre manié and stir. Let the sauce thicken. Add more beurre manié if necessary. Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Strain the sauce over the hearts, and serve.

Almond tuilles

Made by Maxine, during coaching (see The Cookery Coach)

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g egg whites (weighed*)
100g plain flour
15g ground almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Line two baking trays with buttered non-stick baking paper.
In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the egg white, a little at a time, beating it into the mixture. If the mixture starts to split, add a tablespoon of the flour. When all the egg white is added, fold in the flour and almonds. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Drop small teaspoons of the mixture onto a baking sheet, and smooth each biscuit to about 2mm thick (ovals or circles) with a palette knife.
Bake each tray for 6-9 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Leave the tray to cool for one minute, then remove the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
A 100g mix makes about 20 tuilles.

*However many egg whites you have, just weigh them and then use equal weights of each other ingredient. For example, if you have 4 egg whites ‘left over’ from making crème brûlées, and the egg whites weigh 122g, just make a mix with 122g of each ingredient.

Smoked mackerel pâté

Cooked by Maxine, during coaching (see The Cookery Coach)

3 fillets smoked mackerel
200g soft cheese (cream cheese, soft goats’ milk cheese...)
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Put the cheese in a large bowl, and break it up with a fork. Take each mackerel fillet, remove the skin and break it up into small pieces, removing any bones. Add the mackerel and  half of each of the other ingredients to the cheese. Stir to combine.
Check the taste of the pâté. Add more seasoning, chives and/or lemon juice, until you get the perfect balance of flavours. Too much depends on how strong your fish and cheese are to be able to give precise quantities. Serve chilled.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


3 tablespoons oil (light olive, or vegetable)
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
1kg lean beef mince
200ml red wine
3 tins chopped plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
900ml white sauce (see recipe)
Salt and pepper
300g grated hard pale cheese (cheddar is fine)
2 boxes dried lasagne sheets
200g grated parmesan

Place a very large pan on the hob, over a low heat. Finely chop the onion and garlic, and fry gently in the oil until glossy but not brown. Add the mince, and continue to fry gently until all the meat is grey (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
Turn up the heat to high, and add the red wine. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes, to reduce the liquid in the bottom of the pan by about half. Add the tinned tomatoes, oregano, tomato puree and ketchup. Stir, bring to the boil, and add a good twist of salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
Make a ‘triple mix’ of white sauce (see recipe) and add the grated cheddar to it. Stir, and allow the cheese to melt.
Check the mince filling for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
To assemble the lasagne – take a very large, rectangular, ovenproof dish. Mine is as large as I can get in my oven – 35x25x5cm. You may need two or even three smaller dishes, if you don’t have a huge one. Put a third of the mince filling in the bottom of the dish(es). Add a single layer of lasagne. Repeat another twice, finishing with pasta on the top. Pour over the cheese sauce, easing it down through the gaps in the pasta with a knife. Try to get it all in. ‘Plump up’ the lasagne, to expel air, and add some more sauce. Lift the corners, and sneak in a little more.
Cover the dish(es) with foil, and place in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven.
*Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the lasagne, and return it to the oven (uncovered) at 200C for 15 minutes (or 180C for 30 minutes, if it’s cold when it goes back in for its second cooking time).
*Note: Lasagne needs to be cooked twice, to be perfect, so it’s better if you can allow it to cool completely (or even put it aside overnight) before its second cooking. If you put it straight back in the oven, it will end up a little runny. If you let it cool then re-bake it, it will be drier and the flavours will have matured. Italians always bake their lasagne twice, the second time is often in the pizza oven, in single portions. An Italian friend (and great cook) told me that good lasagne should be “like blankets on a bed, not newspapers in a puddle”.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


1 plain sponge cake (or a packet of sponge or ‘boudoir’ fingers)
300ml very strong cold coffee
100ml marsala or amaretto
500ml double or whipping cream
2 cartons mascarpone cheese
40g icing sugar
100g grated dark chocolate (or 50g cocoa powder)

Get a large rectangular serving dish, about 10cm x 20cm and 5cm deep. Line the bottom with sponge. In a bowl or jug, mix the coffee with the marsala/amaretto. Pour ¾ of it over the sponge, ensuring all the bits are soaked equally.
In a large bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks are obtained. Add the mascarpone, breaking it up with a fork and mixing gently into the cream. Add the icing sugar, and the remainder of the coffee mix. Stir gently. Spoon this topping into little piles on the sponge, and spread it carefully, making sure you don’t drag bits of sponge up. Place in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Sprinkle with chocolate/cocoa and serve. Make sure you don’t turn your back on the table, or there’ll be none left for you.

Rice pudding

150g pudding rice
75g white sugar
1L milk
50g butter
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
500ml double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
Place a large casserole (with a tight-fitting lid) on the hob, over a medium heat. Add the rice, sugar, milk, butter and nutmeg. Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally. Put on the lid (sealing it with a double layer of foil, if it’s loose) and transfer to the oven for 2 hours.
Check after 1½ hours. The pudding should still be quite runny. Add more milk, if necessary. Don’t stir it if you want a good skin.
10 minutes before time, remove the lid (and foil) and add the cream. Again, don’t stir it if you want a skin. Return to the oven for the last 10 minutes.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Boiled rice

375g basmati rice
750ml cold water
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 50C.
Place a large saucepan on the hob, over a high heat. Add the rice, water and salt. Bring to the boil, stirring only once. Put a lid on the pan, and place it in the oven for 15 minutes. Set your timer.
When the timer reminds you, check the rice (by parting it with a spoon) to see if all of the water has been absorbed by the rice. If not, return it to the oven for another 3 minutes, and check it again. The rice is perfect when all the water has been absorbed.
You can make boiled rice, using this method, for any number of people – just use equal volumes of rice and water, and adjust the salt accordingly. One portion is about half a coffee mug of rice (or more, if you like a lot of rice).
If you want to pimp your rice, add (before boiling) four cardamom pods, half a pepper and half an onion (finely chopped, and fried in a little oil until glossy), 50g sultanas and 1 teaspoon of turmeric (or a pinch of saffron, if you have some).

Fish pie

1 fillet of smoked haddock (un-dyed)
1 medium fillet of salmon
1 large fillet of white fish (cod, haddock, coley, whiting...)
300ml milk
Salt and pepper
Bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
500g floury potatoes
50g butter
50ml double cream
Milk, as required
Salt and pepper
12 king prawns (fresh or coooked)
100g frozen peas

Place a very large frying pan (with a lid), or a large saucepan, on the hob over a high heat. Add the 3 fillets of fish, milk, a good twist of salt and pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, put on the lid, turn off the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Put the potatoes on to boil. When boiled, mash them with the butter and cream. Add milk until the mash is quite soft and smooth. Season with a good twist of salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Remove the fish from the milk, to a plate. Make a white sauce with the flour, butter and strained milk (see recipe). While the sauce is cooking, remove the skin and any bones from the fish, and break it gently into flakes and chunks.
In a large oven dish, place the prawns, peas, sauce and flaked fish. Mix around, to distribute evenly. Pipe* or spoon the mash over the mixture, in a layer. Fork the top into peaks (for that lovely crunchy topping).
Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and sizzling.
*For a DIY piping bag, take a large plastic sandwich bag. Fill it half full of mash, twist the top closed. Holding the top closed in one hand, cut a corner off the bag with your other hand (using scissors!). Gently squeeze the bag, with the hand holding the top, guiding the pointy end of the bag with your other hand.

Crème brûlée

Made by Maxine, during coaching (see The Cookery Coach)

500ml freshly made real custard (see recipe)
100g sugar (soft brown or caster)

Divide the custard between 6 ramekins. Put them in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Remove the ramekins from the fridge. Sprinkle sugar all over the surface of each. With a blowtorch, burn the sugar. It needs to melt completely, and go brown (with black bits) but not be burnt all over. That’s the skill.  Put the brûlées back in the fridge for 15 minutes.
You might need to make 12, so you can practice on the first six (and eat them, to make sure they’re OK). You can brown the sugar under a very hot grill, but it won’t work as well and isn’t as much fun.
For variety, put some fruit in the bottom of the ramekins before you add the custard. I like stewed rhubarb or gooseberries (made a little less sweet than normal), or fresh raspberries.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bread and butter pudding (thanks Mum)

50g butter
Half a loaf of stale white bread
150g butter (or more)
100g dried fruit (mixed, currants, raisings, sultanas, whatever)
2 eggs
150g caster sugar
250ml double cream
250ml milk
½ teaspoon nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 160C
Butter the bottom and sides of a deep oven dish, about 20cm x 10cm. Slice the bread, and butter one side of each slice. Use up all the butter, and add more if you run out. Cut the slices into quarters, as triangles.
With the triangles pointy side up (so you’ll get nice crispy ‘peaks’), arrange them in the dish, starting at one end. Put a bit of dried fruit between each row. If the dish is a bit big, lean the triangles back a bit so the dish becomes full.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl, and add the cream, milk and nutmeg. Beat again. Pour the custard over the bread, scraping out any sugar left in the bowl. Leave the pudding to stand for 5 minutes, squishing it occasionally so the bread soaks up the custard.
Place the pudding, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with custard (see recipe).
For a seasonal Easter treat, replace the bread with 10 sliced hot cross buns, and use chopped dried apricots as the fruit.

Potatoes dauphinoise

50g butter
500g new potatoes (sliced thinly – no need to peel)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
200ml double cream
200ml milk
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Take a 10cm square (or similar size but different shape) ovenproof dish, and butter the bottom and sides. You may as well use up the butter. Spread a thin layer of sliced potatoes over the bottom. Add a thin layer of onion and a few slices of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat, finishing with a (neat) layer of potatoes. Pour over the cream, and as much of the milk as you need so you can see milk through the gaps in the potato layer. Cover the dish with foil, and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the foil, and return the dish to the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
If you like, you can sprinkle the top of the potatoes with grated parmesan, before the last 15 minutes of cooking, but I don’t think the dish needs cheese.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


300g breadcrumbs (not the ones that you buy– put stale bread in a blender)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons herbs* (fresh or dry, whatever you have)
50g dried fruit, chopped, or grated apple* (whatever goes with the herbs you chose, and the meat)
1 egg
Salt and pepper
Hot, but not boiling, water
25g butter

Place the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs and fruit in a bowl. Add the egg, and a good twist of salt and pepper. Mix. Add enough hot water, mixing while you do, so the mixture starts to clump together but doesn’t become sticky. Stop mixing. Let it stand for 5 minutes, so the bread soaks up the liquid.
Grease a suitable oven tin. The mixture needs to form a layer 2-3cm thick. Spread the mixture into the tin, but don’t press it down too firmly. Just enough to level it out and get rid of any big air pockets. Dot the top with bits of the butter.
Place in the oven with your meat or whatever. The oven temperature isn’t critical, whatever your oven is already set at will be OK, but keep an eye on the stuffing. It needs to be browned, but not burned. About 20 minutes at 220C, to 40 minutes at 150C should be enough.

*Try different combinations. Apple and sage, apricot and rosemary, prune and mint...


500ml milk
200ml double cream
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar (or use vanilla sugar, and miss out the vanilla below)
3 teaspoons cornflour

1 vanilla pod (or half a teaspoon of vanilla extract)

Place a saucepan on the hob, over a medium heat. Add the milk, cream and vanilla, and bring to simmering (but not boiling) point
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Remove the vanilla pod from the pan (if used), and strain the milk and cream over the egg mixture, whisking all the time (you may need a friend for this, as it requires 3 hands).
Return the custard to the pan, and heat gently, stirring with a small whisk or wooden spatula until the custard is the thickness of double cream. This may take up to 15 minutes, but it's worth it. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


300ml milk
100ml water
10g butter
A bay leaf
5 peppercorns
500g smoked haddock (natural, not dyed) in whole fillets
2 tablespoons light olive (or vegetable) oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons curry powder (just use your favourite)
500g basmati (or any white, long-grain) rice
1.2L water
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper
200g mushrooms, sliced
200g frozen peas
Three hard boiled eggs, sliced

Place a large frying pan (with a lid) on the hob, over a high heat. Add the milk, water, butter, bay leaf, peppercorns and haddock. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat, put on the lid, and let it stand while you do the rice.
 Place a large pan (with a lid) on the hob, over a medium heat. Add the oil and onion, and gently fry until the onion is glossy but not brown. Add the curry powder, and fry for 1 more minute. Add the rice, water and cardamom pods. Bring to the boil, stir once, put on the lid, then turn the heat as low as it will go and leave the pan without stirring for 12 minutes. If your hob won’t go really low, put the pan in an oven at 50C. Set your timer.
Remove the haddock from its liquid to a plate, remove and discard the skin, then flake the fish into a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid into a jug or bowl, and put aside.
When the timer reminds you, check the rice (by parting it with a spoon) to see if almost all of the water has been absorbed by the rice. If not, leave it another 5 minutes. Add the fish, and the peas. Replace the lid, and let it stand on the heat (or back in the oven) while you make the sauce. If all the water has been absorbed, just turn off the hob/oven.
In a small saucepan, over a medium heat, make a white sauce (see recipe) with the butter, flour, and the liquid you cooked the fish in. As soon as the sauce thickens, add the sliced mushrooms and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Find a really big plate, or an oven dish. Fork the kedgeree once, to mix, and arrange over all the plate/dish. Pour the sauce down the middle of the kedgeree, from end to end, and arrange the sliced egg in a line on top of the sauce. Serve straight away. Get someone else to do the washing up.


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped (or half a can of chopped tomatoes)
300g paella rice
1L chicken stock
A pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper
100g frozen peas
12 mussels, in their shells, cleaned and rinsed
6 smallish langoustines, or 12 king prawns (unpeeled, either of them)

In a saucepan, warm the stock. Add the saffron to the stock, and remove from the heat to stand.
Put a large frying pan on the hob, over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, and gently fry the onion and pepper for 5 minutes until glossy but not brown. Add the chicken and garlic, and brown the chicken very lightly.
Add the tomatoes, rice and ¾ of the stock. Add a good twist of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer very gently (uncovered) for 20 minutes. Don’t stir it! Add a little more stock, if necessary, to prevent the paella sticking.
Add the peas and both shellfish, and gently cover with the paella. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if required, then serve. Share out the goodies carefully, or there’ll be a fight.


½ a stale white crusty loaf
1kg very ripe tomatoes (halve them, and remove the pips)
1 cucumber
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
500g ice cubes
200ml really good olive oil

Tear the loaf into chunks, flash each chunk under running cold water, then put each piece into a large bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes, while you chop the veg.
Chop, and add to the bowl, the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and garlic. Add the vinegar, and a good twist of salt and pepper. Stir, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Blend the whole lot to a puree, adding ice cold water or ice cubes if it’s too thick. You can do this in an ordinary blender or liquidiser, in batches, or with a ‘wand’ blender. The soup should be smooth, but not stodgy.
Refrigerate in the bowl, or a large jug, for at least half an hour. Check the seasoning, and add more salt and pepper as required. Before serving, add the olive oil. Swirl it across the top of the big bowl, or the serving bowls.

Monday, 14 February 2011


2 tablespoons lard or light oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
1kg stewing beef, cut into 2cm chunks (or 6 lamb neck chops, left whole)
3 tablespoons plain flour
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250ml stock (see recipe)
200 ml bitter or lager
Bouquet garni (some parsley stalks, thyme, bay leaf, tied to a celery stick with string)
100ml double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
Place a large casserole dish on the hob, over a medium heat. Melt the lard. When it sizzles, add the onion and pepper. Fry gently until glossy but not brown.
Put the plain flour, salt and pepper into a plastic bag. Add the chunks of meat to the bag, and shake the bag to coat the meat in flour. Remove the meat from the bag, and pat off any excess flour. Keep the flour in the bag for later.
Remove the veg from the casserole dish, leaving the oil behind, and put the veg in a bowl. Add the floured meat to the casserole dish, and fry until browned. Tip in the seasoned flour from the bag, and fry for 2 minutes more. Add the paprika, tomatoes, stock, beer and bouquet garni. Return the veg you put aside, bring to the boil, and cover the casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. If your lid’s a bit loose, put a sheet of foil under it and crimp the edges to form a seal. Put the goulash in the oven for 2-3 hours.
Remove the goulash from the oven, remove the bouquet garni, stir in the cream, check the seasoning and adjust by adding salt and pepper.
This is great with some dumplings (see recipe) added 20 minutes before the end. Flavour the dumplings with a teaspoon of caraway seeds, or a small chopped chilli.

Leek and potato soup

50g butter
4 leeks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 medium floury (mashing) potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
1.5 litres white stock (see recipe)
60ml double cream
Salt and pepper

Put a large pan onto a medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan and, as soon as it sizzles, add the leek and onion. Fry gently, until glossy but not brown. Add the potato, and stir, to coat in the oil. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
If you want a chunky soup, remove half of the vegetables to a bowl. Blend the soup. Return the reserved vegetables, if you took some out. Place the pan back on the hob, turn the heat back to medium, and add the cream. Stir, and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, as required. Bring back to a simmer, but do not boil.

Tortilla (Spanish omelette)

3 tablespoons olive oil
50g smoked bacon, chopped into bits, or lardons (optional)
500g new potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
2 medium onions, chopped
6 eggs
Salt (one twist if you used the bacon, 2 or 3 if you didn’t)

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the bacon, if you’re using it. It makes a big difference to the flavour, but you might be vegetarian). Add the chopped potatoes and onion, and fry gently for 15 minutes until the potatoes are golden and tender.
Add the eggs and pepper, and stir once to combine all the ingredients. Keep cooking gently until the omelette is firm. Sprinkle the salt on top (NEVER add salt to eggs before cooking, as they’ll go rubbery). You can brown the omelette under the grill, if you like.
Flip the omelette out onto a plate, and serve warm with a bit of rocket and fresh mayonnaise (see recipe). It’s also nice cold, but doesn’t re-heat.


2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 egg yolks
100g butter, at room temperature and cut up into 1cm cubes
Salt and pepper

Put the vinegar and water into a pan, and boil hard until reduced to about I tablespoon. Cool slightly.
Put the egg yolks in a basin, and stir in the reduced vinegar. Place the bowl over half a pan of hot water (NOT boiling) so the water doesn’t quite reach the bottom of the bowl. Heat gently, stirring all the time with a small whisk. As the egg yolks start to thicken, add a cube of butter and continue stirring while it melts. Repeat until all the butter is used up.
The resulting sauce should be almost thick enough to ‘peak’. Remove the bowl from the pan before the sauce gets too thick.
Serve the sauce warm, not hot, with asparagus.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Coq au vin

75g chopped bacon or lardons
175g sliced mushrooms
16 peeled button onions/shallots
10g butter
2 tablespoons vegetable (or light olive) oil
1 jointed roasting chicken (or 12 thighs)
4 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons plain flour
450ml red wine
150ml chicken stock (see recipe)
Bouquet garni (some parsley stalks, thyme, bay leaf, tied to a celery stick with string)
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Put a large casserole dish on the hob over a medium heat. Fry the bacon, onions and mushrooms in the oil and butter until lightly browned. Remove them from the casserole dish, to a bowl, leaving behind the oil and butter.
Fry the chicken until browned. Pour over the brandy and set light to it. When it goes out, remove the chicken to the bowl, again leaving the oil.
Add the flour to the casserole dish, and stir. If there’s not enough oil to moisten the flour, add a little more. Cook for 2minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine and stock gradually, stirring while the gravy thickens. Add the herbs, and a good twist of salt and pepper. Return the veg and chicken to the casserole dish and stir. Cover tightly and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. Great with mashed potato (the coq, not the bouquet garni).


Half a pig’s head (yes, really), ear and brain removed
Bouquet garni (some parsley stalks, thyme, bay leaf, tied to a celery stick with string)
6 peppercorns
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 stick celery
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Extra salt and pepper
2 hard boiled eggs

Wash the head thoroughly, and soak it in a bucket of salted water (20g per litre) for 1 hour.
Place the head in a large pan with the bouquet garni, peppercorns, chopped vegetables and salt. Cover with water. Bring to the boil, skim off the foam, cover the pan and simmer very slowly for 3 hours.
Remove the head and put it on a plate. Strain the liquid, and throw away the bits. Rinse the pan, and return the liquid to it. Skim off the fat, then boil the stock hard to reduce it by half.
While the stock is boiling, pick the meat off the head and cut it into 1cm cubes. Peel the tongue and cut it into 1cm cubes. Season the meat with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Slice the eggs, and place slices in an overlapping line along the bottom of a loaf tin. Pack the meat in firmly. Add some reduced stock, almost up to the rim of the loaf tin. Place a brick wrapped in tinfoil on top of the brawn, to press it, and refrigerate overnight.
To remove the brawn from the tin, take the brick off (!) and dip the tin into hot water for a few seconds (without getting water in the brawn, of course) and tip it out onto a plate or board. Serve in slices, with a side salad and bread and butter.

All in one fruit cake (thanks, Mum)

225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
I teaspoon baking powder
100g soft tub margarine (yes, really!)
100g soft brown sugar
225g mixed dried fruit (or sultanas and raisins, if you hate mixed peel)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line and grease an 18cm cake tin.
Sift the flour, spice and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth. Put into the tin and bake for 1¾ hours. Turn out to cool on a wire rack. That’s it. Really.


1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon salt
A twist/pinch of white pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
150ml vegetable oil (or light olive oil)

Put the egg yolk in a small food processor (or bowl, if you’re feeling brave) with the mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and lemon juice (or vinegar). Whisk/blend, adding the oil in a fine stream (if you’re using a blender) or drop by drop (if you’re doing it by hand) until the mix thickens. If there’s still some oil left, add a little warm water and that will slacken it. Keep going until the oil is used up.


250g dried haricot beans (or 2 tins, if you really must cheat)
250-500g lean boned and rolled shoulder of lamb*
500g onions
25g lard
200ml white wine
50ml pastis (Ricard, Pernod, etc.)
250g streaky bacon, not smoked, in one piece (not sliced – ask your butcher)
600ml brown stock (lamb* or chicken – see recipe)
Bay leaf
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on how much you like)
100g garlic sausage (not chorizo – get French stuff from the deli) cut into 1cm cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley stalks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Soak the beans overnight, if using dried. Follow the instructions for soaking on the packet.
Put a large casserole dish over a medium heat. Melt the lard. Finely chop the onions and fry gently until soft but not brown. Add the wine and pastis, and boil for 2 minutes. Add the pieces of lamb and bacon, stock, drained and rinsed beans, bay leaf, whole garlic cloves, sausage, parsley, and a good twist of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover tightly, and simmer very gently for at least 2 hours. You can leave it longer. If you prefer, you can put it in the oven at 120C.
Remove the casserole dish from the heat. Lift out the meats onto plates. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper, if necessary. The sauce should be the consistency of single cream. If it’s a bit thick, add some boiling water. If it’s a bit thin, boil it with the lid off to reduce it.
Remove the string from the lamb. The meat should pull apart with 2 forks. Break it into nice chunks and strips.
Pat the bacon dry with a clean tea-towel or kitchen roll, and cut it into 1cm cubes. Heat the olive oil in a very hot frying pan, and fry the bacon cubes until brown. Return the lamb and bacon to the casserole dish, heat through and serve.

* If you buy the shoulder bone-in, get the butcher to bone and roll it, and give you the bone to make stock (see recipe). You can use a whole chicken, or 4 duck legs, instead of the lamb.


3L fresh mussels, in their shells
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
200ml dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
200ml double cream
Salt and pepper

Put the mussels in a large colander or bowl, and cover with water. Trim the straggly ‘beards’ and scrub away any mud or weed. Discard any mussels that are open, and don’t close when you tap the shell. Drain the mussels.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the oil. Fry gently, until glossy but not brown. Turn up the heat. Add the mussels, wine and half the parsley. Bring to the boil and put the lid on the pan. Turn down the heat, but keep up a good boil until all the mussels are open. 3-5 minutes is all you need.
Add the cream, warm for a minute but don’t boil again. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in bowls, with the remaining parsley sprinkled over the top.

This is nice as a starter, with plenty of crusty bread to dip in the sauce.

White sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
300ml milk
½ teaspoon salt (miss this out if it’s a sweet sauce)

This is a foolproof method. Melt the butter over a medium heat. As soon as it sizzles, add the flour (and salt) and stir with a little whisk. Fry gently for 2 minutes, stirring. Add all the cold milk at once. Continue stirring with the whisk until it thickens. Add a little more milk if you want the sauce thinner.
This is what’s known as béchamel sauce.

To this basic sauce you can add:
·         Cheese (for cauliflower cheese etc.)
·         Chopped parsley (to serve with fish or ham)
·         A teaspoon or two of mustard (to serve with chicken or roast meat)
·         Brandy (to a sweet version, for your Christmas pud)

If you’re making a soufflé, let the basic savoury sauce cool a bit, then stir in 2 egg yolks. This will help the soufflé to stay ‘up’.


When you are roasting anything, put the following in the bottom of the pan (under the meat):
1 large onion, sliced or chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
I stick celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, whole
250ml water, wine or beer

When you remove your roast from the oven, take it out of the roasting pan and set it on a plate (under foil) to rest.
Put the roasting pan on the hob, over a medium heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add another 250ml of wine or beer. Scrape the pan (known as de-glazing) to loosen all the stuck bits. Reduce the liquid until it’s sticky.
Stir in a tablespoon of beurre manie (see recipe) then add boiling water gradually, stirring all the time, to the preferred consistency. Simmer for 5 minutes (to get rid of any floury taste).
Add a tablespoon of whatever herbs you like (optional) and a tablespoon of fruit jelly (the stuff in a jar, not the stuff you serve at kids parties). Try cranberry, redcurrant, crab apple, or whatever you have. Check seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl or pan. Keep warm until needed, or refrigerate and re-heat.

Beurre manie

This is a basic – equal parts of butter and plain flour, creamed together with a fork. It’s used to thicken gravy, sauces and stews.

Oaty cookies

These have powdered ginger as their spice, and chopped
crystallised ginger pieces as their 'extra ingredient'

250g softened butter
250g granulated sugar (use white or golden)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence)
1 egg
4 tablespoons milk
125g self raising flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon spice (mixed, ginger or cinnamon)
300g rolled oats (the ones you use for porridge, but not quick cook ones)
Extra ingredients of your choice (see below)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
In a very large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Into another bowl, sieve the flour, salt and spices. Add half the flour, then the egg, then the rest of the flour, to the creamed butter and sugar, stirring to mix at each stage.
Gradually add in the oats, stirring all the time. I know it looks like they won’t all go in, but they will. Have a five minute break, to let the pain in your stirring arm subside. Add any extra ingredients and combine.
Drop tablespoon-sized blobs onto greased baking sheets (or use baking parchment), leaving space between the cookies as they’ll spread. If the mixture is very stiff, just push the cookies down a bit with your finger.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden.

The extra ingredients might include any or more of; chocolate chips, chopped cherries, desiccated (or grated fresh) coconut, crystallised ginger pieces, sultanas, jelly tots, smarties, chopped nuts...
One of my favourites is 200g of desiccated coconut and a squeeze of runny honey.