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We love pretty much anything with miso. This miso chicken roasted on a bed of sesame pumpkin is an excellent combination.

Wine Suggestion: We’re on a sherry so for this dish we pulled La Gitana Manzanilla out to find if it worked and were delighted to find it really does. If you have a Manzanilla/Fino to hand give it a go, otherwise find a textural Chardonnay which balances the flavours with an extra stalkiness and more time in bottle.

Sticky miso chicken on sesame pumpkin – serves 3

  • 1.5kg pumpkin, thinly sliced (we used crown prince)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve

FOR THE STICKY MISO CHICKEN:

  • 95g white miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 60ml mirin
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  • 6 skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets

Heat the oven to 240C/fan 220C/gas 9 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Toss the pumpkin slices in a large bowl with the olive oil, sesame seeds and a good pinch of salt. Spread the pumpkin out over the baking tray and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

To make the chicken, put the miso, sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar and brown rice vinegar into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken and toss to coat, then set aside.

After 20 minutes, top the pumpkin with the chicken fillets and pour over any remaining marinade. Roast for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Sprinkle over sliced scallions, coriander leaves and sesame seeds to serve.

(Original recipe by Donna Hay in Olive Magazine, Christmas 2020.)

This is a delicious soup recipe from Cooking by Jeremy Lee. Make it on a cold day when you don’t have very much else to do, it takes an age but tastes amazing. You need to soak the beans the night before.

Chestnut, bacon, bean and pumpkin soup – serves 6

  • 2 small onions
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 smoked ham hock or diced smoked pancetta
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • a small stick of rosemary
  • a small handful of thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • a big pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 250g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in lots of cold water
  • 1 small pumpkin or a wedge of pumkin, roughly 1kg
  • 250g vac-packed chesnuts
  • Parmesan and good extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Peel and cut the onions, celery and carrot into chunky pieces. If using a smoked ham hock cut it into small cubes.

Warm the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan and add the pork, herbs, garlic, chilli flakes and vegetables. Stir well, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat, stirring occaionally, for roughly 1½ – 2 hours. If your ring is hot they may take a bit less time than this to become soft and caramelised. The idea is to cook them as slowly as possible until you achieve this then proceed with the recipe.

Drain the beans and rinse under cold water until it runs clear. Put the beans into a saucepan with lots of cold water and bring the boil over a high heat. Drain well and lightly rinse, then tip them on to the vegetables and cover with 4-5cm of water. Bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for at least an hour or until the beans are tender. Don’t be tempted to stir the soup while the beans are cooking, you want them to hold together.

Heat the oven to 180C and roast the pumpkin whole for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until soft and fudgy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then remove the seeds and skin. Purée the cooked pumpkin and add to the cooked beans.

Chop the chestnuts coarsely and add them to the soup, then gently reheat. Take care when stirring to keep the beans as intact as possible. Season well with salt and black pepper.

Serve in warm bowls with lots of grated Parmesan cheese and drizzled with your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from Cooking by Jeremy Lee, 4th Estate, 2022.)

Soy Sauce Chicken

Happy Chinese New Year and all good fortune in the year of the rabbit. We celebrated with this simple version of a classic, super tender chicken with a delicous sauce.

Wine Suggestion: If you feel like a white, go for a Marsanne like Andre Perret’s VdP version from the Northern Rhone. That’s what we did.

Soy sauce chicken – serves 4

  • 1kg chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 4 scallions, 3 cut in half, 1 finely slice on an angle, to serve
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 240ml light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • steamed jasmine rice and steamed greens to serve

Season the chicken with salt and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok, then add the 3 halved scallions, ginger, star anise and bay leaves. Toss for about 5 minutes until fragrant.

Pour in the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, 2 tbsp of the sugar and 480ml of water. Turn the heat up to hight and bring to the boil.

Slide in the chicken thighs, skin side down, in a single layer. Add more water if need to just about cover the chicken.

Turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 35 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and leave until cool enough to handle, then remove the bones and slice. Arrange on a serving dish.

Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid and discard the solids. Put 150ml into a small pan and put the pan over a medium heat. Just before it boils, add the cornflower mixture and 1 tbsp brown sugar. Remove from the heat once it’s at a nice thickness (you can add a bit more of the reserved cooking liquor if it gets too thick – you want it coating the back of a spoon).

Pour the sauce over the sliced chicken and sprinkle over the sliced scallion. Serve with jasmine rice and lots of steamed greens.

(Original recipe by Thy Lundkvist in BBC Good Food Magazine, January 2022.)

We’re clearing out in January, rather then dieting. This recipe used up the last of a side of smoked salmon and its simplicity is perfect.

Wine Suggestion: We think Verdicchio is under-rated as a grape and for food combinations like this where you have a creaminess, combined with some Omega fatty acids and citrus zest it is the business. Tonight our choice was Sartarelli’s Tralivio which balances fruit weight with an almost saline minerality.

Tagliatelle with Salmon and Mascarpone – serves 4

  • 400g tagliatelle
  • 200g smoked salmon, snipped with scissors into short strips
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 20g soft butter
  • zest of 1 lemon, plus more to garnish
  • a few sprigs of dill, snipped

Cook the tagliatelle in lots of very salty water until al dente.

Meanwhile, tip the salmon strips into a large warm serving bowl along with the mascarpone, butter and lemon zest. Add a ladleful of the pasta cooking water to loosen it all to a cream, then taste and add salt if needed.

Drain the pasta, reserving some water, then tip into the bowl with the sauce and toss gently, adding more cooking water if needed. Serve sprinkled with the dill and some more lemon zest.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Penguin: Fig Tree, 2021.)

Stewed Cabbage

Don’t judge this just by the look as it just looks like well cooked cabbage … and it is … but we’re addicted. Lifted to another level by the vinegar, this is our new favourite side.

Stewed Cabbage – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 60g pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 1 small Savoy cabbage or half of a large one (about 600g)
  • 2 heaped tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Put the oil, onion and pancetta (if using) into a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add some salt if you are not using pancetta. Cook gently, without browning, for about 15 minutes until soft.

Slice the cabbage into wedges and remove the tough core. Shred the leaves finely and rinse in a colander. Add the wet cabbage to the pan, then the butter, and stir for a few minutes until the butter melts. Stir through the vinegar and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for 60 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionlly, until completely soft and wilted. Add a splash of water if it looks dry at any point.

Season to taste with salt and serve.

(Original recipe from Stagioni by Olivia Cavalli, Pavillon, 2022.)

We love the colour of this dish – a delicious bowlful of goodness.

Wine Suggestion: This demands a simple, earthy red like Morisfarms Mandriolo, a Sangiovese dominant wine from the Maremma on the Tuscan coast. The Moris family have lived on their farm for over three hundred years and their gentle care and organic approach to winemaking comes from their love of the land. A thoughtful wine.

Risoni di Cavolo Nero – serves 2

  • handful of hazlenuts
  • 150-200g cavolo nero
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • garlic
  • 2-3 anchovies in oil
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 700ml home-made chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ lemon
  • 240g orzo
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone
  • finely grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 150C fan.

Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 15 minutes, then set aside.

Strip the cavolo nero leaves from the stalks, then roughly chop the leaves and rinse them in cold water. Discard the tough stalks.

Put the oil, garlic and anchovies in a pan and heat gently for a few minutes until the anchovies have melted. Add the chilli and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the cavolo nero and cook for 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Discard the garlic and transfer to a blender. Add a splash of stock and a squeeze of lemon juice, then blend to a smooth liquid.

Put the rest of the stock into the same pan and bring to the boil. Add the orzo and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been absorbed by the pasta, add a splash of water if it drys up too soon. Add the green purée and cook for another 2 minutes – you are looking for a risotto-type consistency. Finely grate in the zest of ½ a lemon and stir in the mascarpone. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed.

Serve with the toasted hazelnuts crumbled on top, some finely grated Parmesan and a good drizzle of your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from Stagioni by Olivia Cavalli, Pavillon, 2022.)

Perfect dish for nights when you’ve little energy – dinner for two in ten minutes and lots of flavour.

Wine Suggestion: A warmer climate Shiraz/Syrah is our choice as you need the juicier fruit, but nothing too jammy please. Tonight a glass of the Wolftrap Red from Boekenhoutskloof in South Africa. Mostly Shiraz but with a touch of Mourvèdre and Viognier it has the fruit to counter the harissa heat, and a balance that doesn’t overwhelm the food.

Tagliatelle with mushrooms and harissa – serves 2

  • 150g tagliatelle
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp harissa paste
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Bring a large pan of very salty water to the boil, then cook the tagliatelle according to the timings on the pack.

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes or until starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the scallions and continue to cook for a couple of minutes or until softened. Stir in the harissa paste.

Drain the pasta quickly and not too well, then tip into the pan with the mushrooms. Toss everything together, then serve in warm bowls with the Parmesan sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater, 4th Estate, 2021.)

This dish takes hours and it’s kind of hard to know if it’s all going to plan. We kept the faith and had delicious fluffy rice with tender lamb and carrots and a delicious crust on the buttom. Serve with some Greek yoghurt and pickles.

Wine Suggestion: This works well with an earthier red, either lighter and gentle, or an older richer style with a few years in the bottle. If you can fine Domaine Bargylus from Syria then you are in for a treat. The current vintage we have is 2014 (in 2022) and has beautiful rich core with layers of tertiary, warm spices.

Lamb, carrot & cumin rice – serves 6

  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 700g lamb neck fillet, sliced 1cm thick
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into batons
  • 500g basmati rice

Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in enough oil to cover the base. Sauté the onion until starting to brown at the edges. Stir in the sliced lamb, then add the cumin seeds and other dried spices. Stir to coat the meat in the mixture. Pour in enough boiling water to just cover the meat, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 hours. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes or until cooking. You will need to stir occasionally and add a little more water if needed to stop the meat sticking. Remove from the heat, stir in the carrots and set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over a high heat, fill with boiling water and add lots of salt. Add the rice and parboil for 6 minutes. Empty the rice into a sieve and wash it with cold water until rinsed of starch and cold. Drain well and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Tip into a large bowl.

Rinse and dry the rice pan. Scrunch a large piece of baking paper into a ball, then open it out and use to line the sides and base of the clean pan. Drizzle in enough vegetable oil to generously coat the base of the pan and season the oil with salt.

Add the meat and carrot mixture to the rice, season generously with about 1 tbsp of sea salt flakes and black pepper, then fold together to combine. Gently pile the mixture into the lined pan in a mountain shape. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to to stab a series of holes that go right down to the base of the pan. Wrap the lid in a tea towel, then cover the pan and cook over the lowest possible temperature if using gas and medium-low for electric, for 45-60 minutes. If you have a diffuser for your gas hob you should use it and double the cooking time.

(Original recipe from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2016.)

We’re big fans of a rösti and these spicy butternut versions are great for Sunday brunch with some poached eggs.

Butternut röstis with poached eggs – serves 4

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and coarsley grated
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely sliced
  • 15g dill, finely chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Put the grated squash and the onion into a mixing bowl and add the salt. Mix well with your hand and leave to stand for about half an hour. Tip the mixture into a clean cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then return to the bowl.

Heat the oven to 160C/Gas 3.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil to poach the eggs in.

Line a baking tray with paper and heat a large frying pan over a medium heat.

Add the flour, spices, scallions and most of the dill to the squash mixture and mix well with your hands (gloves recommended). Crack in 1 egg and mix again, adding lots of black pepper. Shape the mixture into 12 small röstis, about 1cm thick.

Heat a good amount of oil in the hot frying pan, then fry the röstis for 5-6 minute on each side until browned and crispy. Keep warm in the oven on the lined baking tray while you fry the rest.

Carefully crack the eggs into the boiling water and poach for 3 minutes.

Put 3 röstis onto each plate, top with a poached egg, a sprinkle of dill and some black pepper.

(Original recipe from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2016.)

Miso Roasted Parsnips

It seems to be miso-roasted everything at the minute, which is ok with us. Here it is with some parsnips.

Miso parsnips – serves 6

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g parsnips, peeled and quartered
  • 60g white miso
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.

Put the oil into a deep roasting tin and stick it in the oven to heat up.

Bring a pan of salty water to the boil and boil the parsnips for 4-5 mintues, then drain and leave to steam dry in the warm pot for about 10 minutes.

Tip the parsnips into a bowl, pour over the miso and maple syrup, and season well. Stir to coat the parsnips in the mixture.

Remove the hot oil from the oven and tip in the parsnips, basting in the hot oil before roasting for 20 minutes. Baste again with the juices in the tin and return to the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes, until golden.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

A rich and delicoius curry recipe by Asma Khan.

Wine Suggestion: We think this dish goes really well with a good Pinot Gris, like the Neudorf Moutere we were tempted to open. Dry, but full of fruit, and dusty, warm spices.

Shahi gobi saalan – serves 6

  • 7 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2.5cm piece of cassia bark
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 clove
  • 5 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp ground coriander,
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 750g cauliflower florets, cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 1-2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
  • 6 tbsp ground almonds
  • a handful of toasted flaked almonds to garnish

Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the bay leaf, cassia bark, cardamom pods and clove. As soon as the clove starts to puff up, add the onions and cook, stirring, until starting to caramelise.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute, then add the coriander and chilli powder and cook, stirring, for another minute to cook out the spices. Add a splash of water if it starts to stick. Add the salt and sugar, then pour in the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a slow boil, then cover and simmer until the oil comes to the side of the pan.

Add the cauliflower and stir to coat in the onion mixture. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cauliflower is just cooked. Taste and add more salt or sugar to taste.

Add 1.5 tins of coconut milk and the ground almonds and cook, uncovered, for a few minutes. You want a thick and creamy gravy so only add the rest of the coconut milk if needed. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over to serve.

(Original recipe from Ammu by Asma Khan, Ebury Press, 2022.)

Guisado de Pollo

A Diana Henry recipe inspired by but not quite the same as the Dominican dish. This is perfect for a weeknight despite the long list of ingredients. Most will be in your cupboard and it’s really easy to put together. Lovely bright colours and flavours. This works on it’s own or with some crusty bread or rice.

Wine Suggestion: despite the inclination to go for a richer white, we felt in the mood for a red instead so chose Domaine Gayda’s Cepage Grenache. A brambly, dark red fruited wine with a juicy core and gentle, ripe tannins. We served it slightly cool to great effect and it made a delightful counterpoint to the chipotles (ours were very hot!).

Guisado de Pollo – serves 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 75g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 400g waxy potatoes, cut into 1cm chunks – you can peel them if you like, we didn’t bother
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • a small tin of pineapple in natural juice, drained and cut into small chunks
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tinned chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped, or 3 tbsp chipotle paste (reduce if your chipotles are very hot)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 jalapeño chilli, halved lengthways and deseeded
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a small bunch of coriander, chopped, to serve

Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large casserole and fry the chicken in batches until browned on both sides. It doesn’t need to be cooked through at this stage. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the chopped pumpkin and potato to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until starting to colour. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion and pepper to the pan and cook until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic cand cumin and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in the pineapple, tomatoes, sugar, chipotles, thyme, chicken stock. Season and bring slowly to a simmer.

Cut the chicken into thick strips, then add to the casserole along with any juices from the plate. Add the potatoes, pumpkin and the jalapeño. Stir gently then leave to simmer for 25 minutes without a lid. Give it a stir now and again. It’s ready when the vegetables are soft and the sauce thickened.

Add the capers and lime juice and season to taste. Stir in the coriander and serve.

(Original recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2015.)

It’s never really too late to make your Christmas cake, though if you’re organised and have done it in October/November you’ve got longer to “feed” it. To be frank, I always have the best of intentions to make one early but never seem to get around to it until the very end of November or sometimes a week or two before the big day.

This version is fruit and booze rich, plus it has the added bonus of warm spices and stem ginger which makes it feel like a good hug alongside a mid-morning coffee.

We’re not big on icing, so when we’re ready to eat it I just glaze it with a spoon or two of apricot jam melted on the stovetop with a teaspoon or two of water. You can put blanched almonds on top for decoration if you like at this point. Sometimes we skip this stage too and just dig in.

Note: when looking for candied peel look out for the best you can find as it really makes a difference and you’ll get great flavours without them being too sweet and confected. This year our friends in Cavistons had whole candied oranges and clementines that we just couldn’t go past.

A warm and spicy Christmas cake

  • 200g of the best candied peel you can find
  • 800g mixed dried fruit (we used blueberries, raisins and cranberries this year, but quite often have currants in the mix too)
  • 150ml dark rum, plus extra to feed
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 orange, zested & juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 balls of stem ginger (in syrup), drained and chopped
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the peel and dried fruit into a large saucepan with the rum, butter, sguar and citrus zest and juice. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and heat until the butter has melted. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150C/130C fan/Gas 2.

Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of brown paper (or newspaper) around the outside and secure with string.

Tip the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and spices into the saucepan with the cooled fruit and syrupy liquid, then add the stem ginger, eggs and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon until there are no floury bits.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top and bake on the middle shelf for 2 hours until cooked through. Remove from the oven, poke holes into the top with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp rum, then leave to cool completely in the tin.

When the cake has cooled, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap in fresh parchment and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp rum every fortnight, up to four times, but don’t feed it in the final week if you plan on icing or glazing it as you need the surface to be dry.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Who doesn’t love meatballs. There’s at least one person in this house who would have them every week. This recipe by Olia Hercules makes heaps to help with that problem.

Wine Suggestion: great with a simple Sangiovese with bright and slightly crunchy fruits and a good wack of tannins. Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Vernaiolo is our standby and doesn’t hide behind oak, rather celebrates the joy of fruit. The added joy is the smooth tannins this wine brings despite the potentially awkward Sangiovese grape; they have a great feel for getting the balance right even with a bouncingly youthful cuvee.

Olia’s Meatballs – Sugo Della Mamma – makes 30 meatballs

FOR THE MEATBALLS:

  • 60g stale sourdough bread with crusts (or dry out 80g of fresh bread chunks in the oven)
  • 250ml hot whole milk
  • 20g parsley, very finely chopped
  • 400g beef mince
  • 400g pork mince
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 100g Pecorino/Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • ¼ nutmeg, finely grated

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • up to 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised but left whole
  • 800g tomato passata or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • a couple of sprigs of basil
  • Tagliagelle, pappardelle or orecchiette, to serve

Put the bread into a bowl and pour over the hot milk. Leave for 5 mintues then press the bread down to make sure it’s all soaked. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.

Mix the mince, egg, bread and soaking milk, grated garlic, parsley, cheese and nutmeg together. Season well with 1 tbsp of sea salt and lots of black pepper. Use your hands to mix it all together really well.

Wet your hands and shape the mixture into about 30 golf-ball sixed meatballs.

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil for the sauce. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned on a couple of sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

If you need more fat you can add the extra 2 tbsp of oil, then add the bruised garlic and cook for a few minutes to infuse the oil, then remove and discard.

Add the passata or tomatoes to the pan, then fill the jar or tin with 200ml water and add that with a generous pinch of salt. Cook over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce and cook for 15-20 minutes at a gentle bubble. Add the basil sprigs for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Cook the pasta, then roughy drain so a little water remains. Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, ladle over the sauce and meatballs and gently stir to combine.

Serve with extra grated pecorino.

(Original recipe from Home Food by Olia Hercules, Bloomsbury, 2022.)

Ixta Belfrage’s book, Mezcla, is full of genuinely new dishes with lots of flavour combinations that we’ve never tried before. These mushroom noodles are a great example. We used a mix of oyster mushrooms and ceps which worked well, but oyster mushrooms are definitely the way to go here. You can make the sauce ahead of time if you like.

Wine Suggestion: It’s not only mushroom season, but it’s Beaujolais Nouveau week too, so we had the luck of matching this dish with a bottle from our friend Chris. The Lapalu Beaujolais Villages Nouveau was smooth, dark fruited and earthy.

Oyster mushroom noodles – serves 2 as a main very generously

  • 200g fresh medium egg noodles (if you have dried egg noodles, cook them first)
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest and 2 tbsp juice
  • 10g chives, finely chopped
  • 10g dill, picked from the stems
  • créme fraîche or sour cream, to serve

FOR THE MUSHROOMS:

  • 400g oyster mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp fine salt

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp caraway seeds
  • 1¼ tsp fine salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 500g chicken stock or veg stock
  • 2 ½ tsp English mustard
  • 5 tbsp double cream

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C.

Tear the mushrooms in half. Line a large baking tray with parchment, add the mushrooms, oil and salt and toss with your hands, then spread out over the tray. Roast in the oven for 22-25 minutes, stirring halfway, or until golden-brown and starting to crisp at the edges. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the butter, oil, onions, caraway seeds and ¾ tsp of fine salt into a large sauté and put over a medium heat. Gently fry for about 12 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and caramelized. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, you are looking for deep golden-grown but not burned or crispy. Remove half the onions onto a plate and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minutes, stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the stock, mustard, cream, ½ tsp of fine salt and lots of black pepper to the pan with the onions. Stir, then add half of the roasted mushrooms. Return to a medium heat and cook for 4 minutes. Stir the noodles into the sauce and cook for 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and the noodles are hot.

Stir in the lemon juice and half the herbs. Transfer to a warm platter and top with the rest of the herbs, the lemon zest and the mushrooms and onions that you set aside before. Spoon over some crème fraîche or sour cream and finish with olive oil and black pepper.

(Original recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2022.)

My friend Antoinette made me this a few years ago after seeing the recipe in the Guardian. Nigel Slater has since published it in A Cook’s Book and it’s still good. Super simple but do go to town on good sausages.

Wine Suggestion: go for an easy, central Italian Red, like Umani Ronchi’s Serrano. From the Marches on the Adriatic coast this is a Rosso Conero DOC made from Montepulciano and a touch of Sangiovese. Smooth and medium bodied, but with character, refinement and substance.

Sausages with Chickpea Mash – serves 2 to 3

  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • 6-8 top-quality sausages with fennel
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 25g parsley, leaves picked
  • 4-5 bushy sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
  • 120ml cooking water from the chickpeas

Drain the chickpeas and put them into a large saucepen. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Add the baby leaves and onion, then partially cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Cook the sausages in a pan or under the grill with a little of the oil and the rosemary (we cooked ours on a barbecue).

Roughly chop the parsley and thyme.

Drain the chickpeas and discard the onion and bay leaves but keep 120ml of the cooking water.

Warm the rest of the olive oil in a small pan. Mash the chickpeas with a blender but careful not to over process. Pour in the warm oil and cooking water, then stir in the herbs and sesaon well with salt and pepper.

Thickly slice the cooked sausages and pile them onto the mash, drizzle with some more olive oil if you like.

(Original recipe from A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater, 4th Estate, 2021.)

We love simple ideas like this one for mid-week inspiration. We used ready-made spinach gnocchi, try and find a decent brand if you can.

Gnocchi with mushroom and paprika butter – serves 3

  • 50g butter
  • 400g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 500g pack gnocchi
  • 100ml sour cream or crème fraîche
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat a small knob of the butter in a pan, add the mushrooms and ½ tsp salt, and cook until soft and golden.

Add the rest of the butter, garlic and rosemary, then cook gently for 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and season with black pepper, then keep over a low heat while you cook the gnocchi.

Drain the gnocchi and tip into the mushroom pan. Toss everything together and serve in warm bowls with a dollop of cream, lots of black pepper and some Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, October 2019.)

This is a nice soupy-stew sort of thing. Perfect for cold nights but still with nice fresh flavours.

Wine Suggestion: We went a bit left-field for this dish and look for an aged white Rioja where you get the roundness and poise of an oaked chardonnay but with a slightly softer acidity. Graceful in age the Urbina Rioja Bianco Crianza 2014 was both youthful with melon and citrus fruits, and with a layer of aged, tertiary fennel, aniseed and peach. A joy to know this is the current release from an under the radar winery.

Chicken with leeks & orzo – serves 3

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large chicken thighs
  • 250g leeks, cut into short lengths, wash well to get rid of any grit and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • half a lemon, cut into 2 fat wedges
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 200g orzo
  • 150g frozen peas
  • a small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • a small handful of tarragon, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Heat the oil in a large, deep casserole dish. Fry the chicken thighs until well-browned on both sides, then remove and set aside.

Add the leeks to the chicken fat in the pan and cook over a medium-low heat, with the lid on, for 5 minutes, you want them softened but not browned.

Add the stock and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to the boil, then add half the lemon, peppercorns and 1 tsp of salt. Scatter in the orzo and boil for 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then cover and bake for 35 minutes.

Add the peas, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Add the tarragon and parsley and serve in warm bowls.

(Original recipe from A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater, 4th Estate, 2021)

We served this with steak but it would be nice with other vegetable dishes too.

Pomegranate-glazed aubergine – serves 4

  • 2 large aubergines, peeled and cut into 2.5cm rounds
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
  • a generous handful of salted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Set the aubergine slices onto the baking tray, then brush both sides with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes until cooked through but not browned.

Mix the pomegranate molasses and maple syrup together, then use a pastry brush to brush evenly over both sides of the aubergines, then sprinkle with some flaked sea salt. Roast for another 5-6 minutes or until glazed and sticky.

Scatter with the scallion and peanuts before serving.

(Original recipe from Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Asteer, 2022.)

A roasting tin dinner for busy evenings and when a batch of “very” late season cherry tomatoes land in our lap.

Rosemary & balsmic salmon with tomatoes – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 left whole and needles picked and finely chopped from the rest
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 600g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 small salmon fillets
  • 2 handfuls of rocket

Heat the oven to 220C/200 Fan/Gas 7.

Whisk the baslsamic, olive oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, and seasoning, together in a small bowl.

Tip the tomatoes and beans into a large roasting tray. Nestle in the salmon fillets, then pour over the dressing. Toss gently to make sure everything is coated in dressing.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Give the beans and tomatoes another gentle toss and push down on a few tomatoes to burst them. Scatter over the rocket and serve.

(Original recipe by Anna Glover in Olive Magazine, October 2021.)