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A new favourite side-dish/dip, called Muhammara, from Falestin, one of our favourite books of 2020, the year we did nothing but cook! This is such a handy thing, good with pitta breads but also as a delicious side dish. We served it with lamb and rice.

Roasted red pepper and walnut dip – Muhammara – serves 4

  • 110g walnut halves
  • 6-7 red peppers (1kg)
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or 1 tsp of regular chilli flakes)
  • 35g panko breadcrumbs
  • 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Add the walnuts and roast for about 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Increase the temperature to 220C fan. Put the peppers onto a parchment-lined baking tray and toss with 1 tsp of oil. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until completely soft and charred. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the skin, stems and seeds.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, tomato purée and spices and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Remove from the heat and tip into a food processor with the roasted peppers, panko breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and some black pepper. Blitz for about 30 seconds to get a coarse paste. Add 90g of the walnuts and pulse again briefly, just to break the walnuts down a bit. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Roughly crush the rest of the walnuts with your hands and sprinkle these over with the parsley.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

A truly delicious veggie main. Perhaps best made by someone else if you would prefer not to see the amount of cream and butter involved. It’s cold outside, and we really didn’t feel like a salad tonight.

Wine Suggestion: A homely, oaked chardonnay is our choice. In our rack both the Rustenberg from Stellenbosch and the Domaine Ventenac in Cabardes are vying for attention. The latter won out tonight, but it could have gone either way. Nice to have choice.

Potato, leek & blue cheese pie – serves 6

FOR THE POTATO TOP:

  • 1kg large potatoes, peeled (use a variety good for mashing)
  • 175ml full-cream milk
  • 100g unsalted butter

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 4 leeks, sliced into 3cm rounds
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 50g plain flour
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 180ml double cream
  • 150 frozen peas
  • 100g blue cheese, crumbled into small chunks
  • a small handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Start with the topping. Cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces, not too small. Put into a large saucepan and just cover with cold water, season with salt. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes, then return to the warm saucepan and leave to steam for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently heat the milk and butter together in a small pan until the butter has melted.

Start mashing the potatoes, then gradually add the hot milk and butter mixture. Keep mashing until well combined and smooth. It will seem like you have too much milk and butter but keep going. Season well with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Next make the filling. Put a large pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, half the thyme leaves, 25g of the butter and the garlic. Add 100ml of water, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and steam until just tender, about 8 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400 F/Gas 6.

Put a colander over a bowl, then drain the leeks in the colander and reserve the cooking liquid.

Rinse the pan and return it to a medium heat. Add the rest of the butter and when melted, stir in the flour and cook for a minute over a low heat. Add the leek and cooking liquid, plus the milk and double cream. Whisk the sauce well until it is thick and creamy, it’s ready when small bubbles are just starting to break on the surface.

Stir in the peas, leeks and half the blue cheese. Add the parsley and lots of salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a dish and level it out. Heap the mash on top but don’t worry about being too neat. Dot the remaining cheese over the top, then sprinkle with the rest of the thyme leaves. Season the top with salt and pepper, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe from Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller, Hardie Grant, Quadrille, 2020.)

We don’t think you can covert sprout haters, but if you do like sprouts, you will love this! Serve with steamed rice.

Wine Suggestion: Albariño is not just great for seafood, its has versatility stamped into its very core and can be used for a good deal of food matching, like this dish here. Tonight’s wine was made by Pazo de Señorans, a distinct favourite in our house. Bone dry but with a lovely creamy core from the 5-6 months on lees.

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours – serves 2-3

  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste, we use the Thai Gold brand
  • 1 green chilli, roughly chopped, then pounded in a pestle and mortar
  • 175ml chicken stock
  • 450g Brussels sprouts, cut in half, blanch in boiling salty water for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and refresh under cold running water
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, if you use dried ones you need to soak them in some warm water before using
  • ½ tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 20 Thai basil leaves, regular basil will do if you can’t get Thai
  • 1 large red chilli, roughly chopped, then pounded in a pestle and mortar

Heat a wok over a gentle heat. Pour in 110ml of the coconut milk, then add the green curry paste and the green chilli and mix well.

Next, add the stock, the rest of the coconut milk, Brussels sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, fish sauce, half the basil leaves and the red chilli. Stir constantly over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce boils and foams up. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring all the time to avoid splitting, for about 10 minutes. The sprouts should be tender and the sauce slightly thickened.

Add the rest of the basil, season to taste and serve with steamed rice.

(Original recipe from Cook, Grow, Nourish by Darina Allen, Kyle Books, 2017.)

Persian Granola

There’s not many treats to be had at the moment, so we recommend treating yourself at breakfast with this delicious granola recipe by Yasmin Khan. We like it with yoghurt and roasted quinces.

Persian granola – makes a large jarful for a few breakfasts

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 150ml date molasses or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g jumbo rolled oats
  • a large pinch of sea salt
  • 25g sunflower seeds
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 35g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 35g flaked almonds
  • 50g dried fruit (optional), we used dried cranberries but you could use any dried fruit or a mixture

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3½

Mix the oil, date molasses or maple syrup, honey and vanilla extract, together in a small bowl. 

Mix the dried ingredients, except the flaked almonds and the dried fruit, together in a large bowl, then pour over the sticky mixture and stir well to coat. 

Divide the mixture between two baking trays and pat down with a wooden spoon. 

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, then remove and stir through the flaked almonds. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Keep checking though as it can burn easily. 

Leave to cool on the trays, then stir through the dried fruit if you’re using. It will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar. 

(Original recipe from The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2016.)

This soup uses all store cupboard ingredients. You do need fresh coriander but we regularly have an almost full bag of this in the fridge and are happy to have this soup idea to use it up. We make soup almost every week in the winter months and this is definitely one of our favourites. The recipe is from Ottolenghi Simple where they suggest leaving it rough, which we did, but you can blend until smooth if you prefer.

Curried lentil, tomato & coconut soup – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150g red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 25g coriander stalks, roughly chopped, plus 5g picked leaves to garnish
  • 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

Put the oil into a large saucepan and put over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry for 8 minutes, stirring often, until soft and caramelised.

Add the curry powder, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger and keep frying for another 2 minutes, stirring all the time.

Add the lentils, stir through for a minute, then add the tomatoes, coriander stalks, 600ml of water, 1 tsp of salt and a lots of black pepper.

Pour the coconut milk into a large bowl and whisk gently until smooth. Set aside 4 tbsp to garnish the bowls, then add the coconut milk to the soup. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 25 minutes, until the lentils are soft abut still holding their shape. Add a bit more water – 100-150ml – if the soup is too thick.

Divide the soup between warm bowls and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and some coriander leaves.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth, Ebury Press, 2018.)

We have a 7 year old at home who is usually very good at eating pretty much anything we put in front of her. Recently though, she’s gone a bit fussy and very plain in her requests. We’re remaining calm and trying to cook some kid-friendly food to coax her back to her adventurous self. Served with salad and garlic bread, the dish was scraped clean.

Wine Suggestion: Youthful, Italian reds are the order of the day, be it a Sangiovese or Montepulciano, or tonight’s choice of Barbera from Pico Maccario in the Piedmont.

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni – serves 6

  • butter for greasing the dish
  • 18 cannelloni tubes (you can use a few more if you have extra filling and enough room in your dish)
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 300ml chicken stock or veg stock
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 60g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 500g spinach leaves, chopped
  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg

Make the tomato sauce first by heating the oil in a saucepan, then adding the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cook gently for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the stock, tomatoes and tomato purée, then season well with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer, stirring now and then, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling by heating the oil in a large pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the spinach and cook over a high heat for a couple of minute until completely wilted. Cool slightly, then stir in the ricotta, nutmeg and plenty of seasoning.

Purée the tomato sauce in a food processor, then stir in the chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.

Grease a large ovenproof dish in which the cannelloni tubes can lie in a single layer.

Spoon the filling into the cannelloni tubes. Two teaspoons works best for this; 1 to spoon the filling into the tube, and use the opposite end of the other spoon to push the filling down into the tube.

Arrange the filled cannelloni in the dish, then cover with the tomato sauce and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, then serve with extra Parmesan on top.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, DK, 1995.)

We’re not buying any meat or fish this January, it’s not veganuary, but just an effort to be a little frugal at the start of the year. We also want to make sure we use up all the odds and ends in the freezer. We’ve been making lots of Korean dishes but they tend to focus on meat or fish, so we decided to give some winter veg the Gochujang treatment. Serve with some sticky rice.

Wine Suggestion: The sommelier’s secret weapon: Quinta Soalheiro’s Allo. Light and fresh, but with fruit, texture and depth to stand up to any dish. The earthy, iodine kale and spicy flavours just work with this wine.

Korean Winter Veg Stir-fry – serves 2

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • a small clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • a small bunch of long-stemmed broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into batons
  • 100g greens, we used purple kale but any kale or cabbage will be good, remove any thick stalks and shred
  • 4 scallions, 2 chopped and 2 cut into 4 cm lengths
  • ½ tbsp sesame seeds

FOR THE GOCHUJANG SAUCE:

  • 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin or rice wine
  • 1 tbsp honey

To make the gochujang sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

Heat a large wok over a high heat, then add 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until softened, a couple of minutes.

Add another tbsp of oil to the wok, then add the broccoli, carrot and longer pieces of scallion, continue to stir-fry until slightly softened.

Add the sauce and the kale and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. The sauce should be sticky on the vegetables and everything piping hot.

Serve the veg over sticky rice and sprinkled with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

(Original recipe from My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce, Murdoch Books, 2018.)

Beef Phở

This will clear the sinuses and it’s delicious too. Nice and easy, tasty, and very handy for midweek.

Beef Phở – serves 2

  • 750ml strong beef stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 2 red chillies, sliced
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • a bunch of scallions, sliced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 100g flat rice noodles
  • 200g fillet steak, thinly sliced
  • a handful of beansprouts
  • coriander leaves
  • lime wedges
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha sauce

Bring the stock, garlic, ginger, half the chilli, star anise, cinnamon and half the scallions to the boil for 15 minutes. Strain and discard the solids, then bring back to the boil. Season with the fish sauce.

Meanwhile, pour a kettle of boiling water over the noodles and leave to soak for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse.

Divide the noodles between warm bowls. Add the steak and beansprouts to the simmering stock and remove from the heat, they will cook in the residual heat. Spoon over the noodles and add the rest of the scallions, chilli, some coriander and lime wedges. Serve with hoisin and sriracha.

(Original recipe by Anna Glover in Olive Magazine, Christmas 2015.)

Pulled Lamb Shawarma

This was our last feast of 2020, the year that we cooked more than any other. It helped us to have a shared interest and something to entertain us in the evenings when we couldn’t do anything else. We miss sharing our food with friends and family but we’re hoping it will return before too long. We served this with Muhammara (a roasted red pepper and walnut dip), sumac yoghurt (see below) and a rice dish. You need to start a day ahead and in fact it works well if you cook the whole thing in advance and reheat to serve. 

Wine Suggestion: A gem of a discovery in 2020 after reading an article by Jancis Robinson was the Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro. A vibrant and exciting red from Náoussa in Greece this grape we’ll be exploring more as we found it had elegance, hints of Mediterranean sunshine and gentle, middle eastern spices.

Pulled lamb shawarma – serves 8

  • 3 onions, 1 roughly chopped and the other 2 cut into wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, 1 cut in half horizontally, and 8 cloves from the other roughly chopped
  • 25g piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 20g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2-2.5kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
  • 700ml chicken stock
  • ½ a lemon
  • salt and black pepper

FOR THE SUMAC YOGHURT:

  • 200g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 60g tahini
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sumac

Make the spice paste by putting the chopped onion into a food processor with the chopped garlic and ginger. Pulse until finely minced, then add the parsley and spices. Pulse for another few seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the sides, then add the vinegar, oil, 2¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Pulse again to form a coarse paste, then transfer to a non-metallic container that can hold the lamb. 

Pat the lamb dry and pierce all over with a small, sharp knife. Put the lamb into the dish with the spice paste and coat generously in the mixture, so that it is covered on all sides. Cover with foil and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. 

Take the lamb out of the fridge an hour before you start cooking so it comes to room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 140C fan. 

Put the onion wedges and the halved garlic bulb into the centre of a large roasting tray and pour over the chicken stock. Sit the lamb on top of the veg, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and continue to bake for another 90 minutes, increasing the temperature to 160C for the last 30 minutes. The lamb should be very soft and come away easily from the bone. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then shred the lamb directly into the pan juices. Transfer the lamb with the pan juices, onions and garlic cloves to a large serving bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice.

To make the sumac yoghurt, put the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, the sumac and ¼ tsp of salt into a bowl and whisk well to combine.

Serve the lamb with the yoghurt alongside. We served with a rice dish and a dip but you can also serve with pitta breads, sliced tomatoes, red onions and herbs – a lamb shawarma sandwich.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.) 

Leeks usually end up in a soup or supporting other ingredients in a pie or something, but they are the star of the show in this veggie main course dish by Gill Meller. Here they are cooked in olive oil with orzo pasta, lemon, rosemary, parsley and cheese and it is most certainly a “leek dish”. By all means serve as a side dish too if you like. 

Wine Suggestion: We chose a wine to lift the winter mood; with friendly fruit, a nutty and stony twist and hints of sunshine – the La Sonrisa de Tares. A Godello from Bierzo which brought a smile to our faces.

Leeks with Orzo, Lemon & Herbs – serves 4

  • 200ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 leeks, sliced into 1cm rounds
  • 250g orzo pasta
  • 100g pecorino (we used Parmesan), finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 450ml vegetable stock
  • 125g mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 190C/170 fan/375 F/Gas 5.

Put a large, wide, heavy-based casserole over a low heat. Add the olive oil and when it has warmed, add the garlic and rosemary. Allow the garlic to sizzle for a minute or so, then add the leeks, orzo, half of the grated pecorino, the chopped parsley and the lemon zest. Season generously with salt and pepper and stir gently but try not to break the leeks up too much.

Pour over the vegetable stock, then stir again and use a wooden spoon to push the leeks down into the stock. Tear over the mozzarella cheese and scatter over the remaining pecorino. Season the top with some flaky salt and extra black pepper, then bake for 35-45 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed and the top is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving with a bit more pecorino if you like.

(Original recipe from Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller, Hardie Grant: Quadrille, 2020.)

We know it’s not broad bean season, but frozen broad beans are right up there with frozen peas as an excellent frozen veg and so we eat them all year round. This is a recipe from Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules and the perfect side dish for fish (or indeed fishfingers if you’re avoiding the shops!). It’s different from our usual potatoes as we tend to add lots of Irish butter, we didn’t miss it here, though we did spread some on the potato skins – it would be a shame to waste them!

Crushed potatoes with broad beans – serves 4 as a side

  • 350g baking potatoes, skins on
  • 50g streaky bacon
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 150g frozen broad beans
  • 50g crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Bake the potatoes for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200C and cook for 40 minutes to 1 an hour, until completely soft inside. You don’t need the skins but this method will give perfectly crispy skins that you can eat with a bit of butter and salt while you finish the dish.

Meanwhile, heat a splash of vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat, add the bacon and fry until the fat starts to release. When it starts to crisp, add the scallions and cook for a few minutes to soften.

Cook the broad beans in a pan of salty boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain.

Scoop the warm potato out of the skins and put into a saucepan over a very low heat. Add the beans and crush until smoothish, but still with a bit of texture. Stir in the crème fraîche and dill, then season generously with salt and black pepper.

Spoon the bacon and its fat over the dish and serve.

(Original recipe from Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020.)

Turkey Ragù

Something to help with the bag of cooked turkey which you might have sitting in the freezer. You can also make this with any leftover cooked meat or a mixture would be good.

Wine Suggestion: finish off the red wine you used to cook with this, ideally a Chianti, or similar made from Sangiovese. It doesn’t need to bee too complex, but good fruit and balance is a must.

Turkey Ragù – serves 6

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 200ml Chianti or similar Italian red wine
  • 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
  • 400g leftover turkey or other cooked meat, roughly chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large heavy casserole on a medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, leek, celery, rosemary and bay leaf. Cook for 20 minutes, or until softened, stirring often.

Turn the heat up to high, pour in the wine and let it cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, breaking them ip with a spoon. Half-fill each empty tin with water and pour into the pan. Add the meat and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes or until thick. Season to taste, and stir in some good olive oil to finish.

Serve with pasta, rice, polenta, baked potatoes or crusty bread.

(Original recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, Penguin Random House, 2016.)

Mince

Growing up in Northern Ireland Jules often had mince and potatoes for dinner. The “mince” was minced beef with carrot and onions in gravy and it was served with boiled potatoes. We saw this recipe recently in a book of ‘British Classics’ where it was served with dumplings. Dumplings definitely did not feature on Jules’ childhood dinner table, so we left these out and served it with champ. A huge hit with the 7 year old and much more economical than many of our other weekend recipes.

Wine Suggestion: Keep it simple and choose a Grenache & Syrah blend like a Côtes du Rhône or similar. Rich enough but generally easy drinking with lovely bramble and spice flavours. Our current “find” is Jean-Paul Daumen’s version which balances this ease with a good dollop of class.

Mince – serves 6

  • 2 tbsp veg oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450ml beef stock
  • a pinch of caster sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion, garlic, celery and carrots for 15 minutes or until softened and lightly browned.

Add the beef mince and cook for another 5 minutes, until it starts to brown. Break the mince up with a wooden spoon as it browns.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, beef stock, sugar and bay leaf. Season with salt and black pepper, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover with a lid if it reduces too much but you want it to be nicely thickened.

Serve with green veg and potatoes.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ British Classics by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2018.)

This is an Anthony Bourdain recipe. It’s a bit full on, like the man himself was, with obscene amounts of garlic, but it all works a treat. We made this with cockles tonight as our local fish shop didn’t have clams and it was equally delicious. If you decide to follow our lead with cockles be careful as they cook more quickly than clams.

Wine Suggestion: A seafood friendly wine, the Dominio de Tares “La Sonrisa” Godello from Bierzo in Spain. La Sonrisa means smile and well named indeed

Linguine with white clam sauce – serves 4

  • 5 dozen clams, soaked in lots of fresh water for an hour or so before cooking
  • 4 tbsp top quality olive oil
  • 12 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, we used chilli flakes, reduce the quantity if you don’t like it too hot
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 450g linguine
  • 3 tbsp butter, cut into a few pieces
  • a large handful of coarsely chopped parsley leaves

Put 2-3cm of water into a large, heavy saucepan, season generously with salt and bring to the boil. Gently transfer 4 dozen of the 5 dozen clams into the pot, cover and steam until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Move them around occasionally with a spoon and remove to a bowl as they open. Don’t throw away the cooking liquid.

When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove them from the shell, collecting as much of the liquor from the shells as possible. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with a cloth into a small bowl.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of very salty water.

Warm the oil in a large, heavy sauté pan, then add the garlic and chilli flakes. Cook over a medium-low heat, until softened but not browned. Add the wine, turn up the heat and reduce by half. Add the reserved liquor from the clam shells and a good splash of the cooking liquid, then the remaining uncooked clams. Cover and cook until the clams have opened. Remove to a warm bowl as they open.

Add the reserved cooked clams to the sauté pan and season with salt and pepper. Add the butter, some of the parsley, and toss until everything is hot.

Drain the pasta, but keep a little cooking water in case you need to loosen the sauce. Immediately add the pasta to the clam pan and toss over the heat for 1 minutes, adding a little of the reserved pasta water if needed. Divide the pasta between warmed bowls and garnish with the parsley and clams in their shells.

(Original recipe from Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.)

The trick, as with all gratin’s, is to slice the vegetables really thinly. Invest in a mandolin, or use your food processor’s slicing blade, and you’ll get even slices that will cook at the same time. This dish has a lovely festive feel to it and would be great as a side dish for roast chicken (or turkey) or a rich casserole. We served just as it was with some steamed broccoli which was good too. 

There was no cheese in the original recipe so feel free to leave it out. We’re still working our way through the cheese mountain in the fridge. 

Creamy vegetable gratin with chestnuts and cranberries – serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

  • 400g potatoes
  • 300g parsnips
  • 300g celeriac
  • 425ml double cream
  • 140ml sour cream
  • 85ml full-fat milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
  • leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • butter, to grease the dish
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 100g cooked chestnuts, sliced
  • a large handful of grated Parmesan
  • a large handful of grated Cheddar/Gruyere

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Slice the potatoes, parsnips and celeriac very finely, use a mandolin if you have one. 

In a large saucepan, mix the creams and milk together, then bring to just under the boil. Add the sliced veg, garlic and thyme and cook gently for 5 minutes. 

Season generously and spoon half the vegetables into a buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle the cranberries and chestnuts on top and half of the cheese, then add another layer of vegetables and the rest of the cheese over the top. 

Bake for 1 hour or until completely tender. You may need to cover with foil after 45 minutes to stop it browning too much. 

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.)

We ate this in those funny days between Christmas and New Year when you’re fed up eating but still feel you need to make the most of the time you have to cook. We’d had enough of leftovers and were craving spicy food, like this spicy beef stew, which is more like a soup, but with lots of sustenance. The recipe is from Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo, probably our most used book this year. Serve with some sticky rice.

Spicy beef & vegetable stew – serves 4

  • 400g beef brisket
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 10 cloves of garlic, 6 left whole and 4 crushed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 150g shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 leek, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp roasted sesame seed oil
  • 3 tbsp gochugaru red pepper powder
  • 1½ tsp sea salt
  • 10 scallions, halved lengthways, then cut into 6cm strips
  • cooked rice, to serve

Put the brisket into a large pot and cover with 3 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and add the onion and 6 whole garlic cloves. Simmer for 2 hours with the lid off, remove any scum that comes to the top and add water as needed to ensure the beef is submerged.

Transfer the brisket to a plate and set aside to cool. Strain the stock through a sieve into a jug, and discard the flavouring ingredients. When the brisket is cool enough to handle, tear it into bite-sized pieces, discarding any fat.

In the same pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat, then add the mushrooms and leek and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the beef, soy sauce, crushed garlic, sesame seed oil and gochugaru powder. Turn up the heat and fry for a couple of minutes until aromatic. Pour 1.3 litres of the beef stock into the pan (freeze the rest for another dish). Add the salt and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat a  bit and add the scallions. Simmer for 3 minutes, then serve in bowls with some rice if you like.

(Original recipe from Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015.)

We made this on the first of January. We don’t do veggie January or veganuary but after all the rich food of November and December we were looking forward to some lighter dishes and this felt just right; both elegant and light, but full of lovely layers of flavour and textures.

Wine Suggestion: serve this with an umami rich red wine, but one that isn’t too fruity and rich either. If you can plump for an older, good Barolo lucky you, but tonight we were still lucky enough to have Domaine Jamet’s Côtes du Rhône: 100% northern Rhône Syrah with depth and personality, plums and brambles, peppery spice and savouriness.

Shiitake pho with crispy leeks – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus extra for shallow-frying
  • 4 banana shallots, thinly sliced (just use an onion if you don’t have shallots)
  • 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 leeks, 1 sliced the other shredded into long strips
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, very finely chopped
  • 375g fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 6 scallions, very finely sliced
  • 2 litres vegetable stock (vegan if you wish)
  • 200g flat rice noodles
  • a large handful of fresh coriander leaves, shredded
  • 1 lime, quartered

You need a very big pot for this, at least 3 litres.

Heat the oil in the large pot and fry the shallots for 5 minutes. Add the ginger, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick, then fry for another 5 minutes or until starting to colour and stick.

Add the finely sliced leek, chillies and mushrooms, and stir-fry for 8-10 minutes, until softened, then add the soy sauce, half the scallions and the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down very low and leave to simmer. Season to taste with salt.

Meanwhile, fry the shredded leek. Pour enough oil into a frying pan to come up to 1cm up the sides, then heat over a medium flame until very hot. Fry the shredded leek in batches, until crispy and golden, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the pack and drain.

To serve, divide the noodles between 4 large bowls, then ladle the broth on top. Scatter with the coriander, the crispy leeks, scallions and a squeeze of lime.

(Original recipe from East by Meera Sodha, Fig Tree, 2019.)

This is a simple tomato sauce for pasta with a bit of magic from Marcella Hazan that makes it taste special. The sauce is intensely mushroomy and absolutely delicious. We don’t often cook from Marcella’s The Essentials of Italian Cooking but we are never disappointed when we do.

Wine Suggestion: This needs a simple red, but with a vibrant core and a new favourite for this brief is the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero “Serrano”. Mostly Montepulciano but with a touch of Sangiovese this is engagingly easy to drink with ripe cherry flavours and a round and juicy core of fruit; very pleasurable without being too weighty.

Tomato sauce with porcini mushrooms – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
  • 35g butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp pancetta/prosciutto cut in strips, we used cubed pancetta
  • 400g top quality plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted (see below)
  • 450g pasta, we used penne, cooked to serve
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

To reconstitute the mushrooms: soak the mushrooms in 500ml of barely warm for at least 30 minutes. Lift the mushrooms out of the water and squeeze out as much water as possible, do this over the bowl to catch the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms if needed to get rid of any soil, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve the liquid.

Put the shallot into a saucepan with the butter and oil, over a medium heat. Cook until the shallot turns pale golden, then add the pancetta and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the reconstituted mushrooms, the reserved mushroom liquid, salt and plenty of black pepper. Let the sauce bubble at a steady simmer for about 40 minutes, you want the fat and the tomato to separate and the sauce to reduce to a nice consistency. Turn it up and bubble a bit faster to reduce if you need.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Macmillan London Limited, 1992.)

With a few days left before the New Year… when we, like many others are happy to change pace for a bit. For us that means lots of exercise, early nights and healthier food to eat. We don’t go on a diet but after all the excess of Christmas it’s just what we’re craving. All of this means that we have just a few days to get through all the delicious cheese in the fridge. Feel free to play around with the cheeses, we used Cooleeney from Tipperary, but Taleggio or Brie would work too.

Cooleeney & tarragon cauliflower cheese – serves 4 (easily doubled)

  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150g cheddar, grated
  • 50g Parmesan or similar, finely grated
  • 75g Cooleeney (or Taleggio or Brie), sliced
  • 5g tarragon, leaves picked, half chopped, half left whole
  • 1 cauliflower, broken into florets

Heat the oven to 220C/200Cfan/gas 7.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Cook for a few minutes, then gradually add the milk, stirring the whole time, until you have a smooth sauce. Season.

Add the bay leaf, cheddar, Parmesan, half the taleggio and the whole tarragon leaves. Heat gently, stirring continuously, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the sauce thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.

Cook the cauliflower in a steamer for 8 to 10 minutes or until just tender. Put the cauliflower into a baking dish. Add the chopped tarragon to the sauce and pour over the cauliflower.

Dot with the remaining taleggio and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

This pasta dish by Gizzi Erskine certainly packs a punch. Roasted cauliflower is a bit trendy at the moment but we don’t think we’ll tire of it and the additions of preserved lemon, chilli and cream makes a great combination.

Wine Suggestion: The Edetària via Edetana Blanc from DO Terra Alta, near Tarragona in Spain is an old vine Granacha Blanca (70%) with the remainder being Viognier. Wonderfully bright and pure with both an exotic lushness and cream on the palate as well as a blindingly salty, mineral finish. Bravo to the winemakers.

Roasted cauliflower, preserved lemon and chilli pasta – serves 4

  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets, and the inner leaves
  • 100ml olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for roasting the cauliflower
  • 40g rye bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs (we used some stale sourdough which worked perfectly too)
  • 250g ditali pasta, macaroni, mezzi, rigatoni or orecchiette
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 dried chilli, crushed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 200g sour cream
  • 80g Parmesan, grated
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 preserved lemons, pips discarded and skin thinly sliced
  • grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to very hot, about 260C/Gas 10 or as high as your oven goes.

Spread the cauliflower and leaves on a baking tray, drizzle over 1 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. Toss with your hands to coat in the oil. Roast in the hot over for 15 minutes, until cooked through and browned, a bit of charring is fine.

Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and fry until crispy and golden, then drain on some kitchen paper and set aside.

Cook the pasta in lots of very salty water for a couple minutes less than the pack instructions, it will finish cooking in the sauce. Drain, and keep 100ml of the pasta cooking water in case you need to thin the sauce later.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the rest of the oil in a separate frying pan with the garlic and chilli and cook gently for 5 minutes, until softened, then set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks, cream and Parmesan together in a bowl. Put the pasta pan back over a medium heat and stir in the egg mixture, then the garlic and chilli oil, parsley, preserved lemon, lemon zest and plenty of black pepper. Mix for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, check for seasoning and stir through the roasted cauliflower. You can loosen a little with the reserved pasta cooking water if needed. Serve on warm plates with the crispy breadcrumbs sprinkled over and a little extra Parmesan if you like.

(Original recipe from Restore by Gizzi Erskine, HQ, 2020.)