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Your butcher should be able to get you beef short ribs if you ask, and the trick is slow-cooking. All that fat will ensure they become meltingly tender and the meat will literally fall off the bones. This dish takes a while to cook but there’s not much effort required and the result is worth it.

Wine Suggestion: This dish requires a serious, powerful red with a good structure. Tonight we had a youthful 3 year old Chateau Puygueraud from the Côtes de Francs, Bordeaux. A merlot, cabernet franc, malbec blend it was appropriate but all judged it too young and a little forceful. However a Domaine des Roches Neuves ‘Marginale’, Saumur-Champigny from 2015 brought by our friends proved to be the wine match we were looking for. Cabernet Franc from the Loire this cuvée showed the class of being the best selection of the best vineyards in a powerful, great vintage. All parts integrated but still in it’s infancy. A good match tonight, and we are all sad we don’t have any more in our cellars to see this in 10 years time too.

Braised beef short ribs with butter beans & figs – serves 4

  • 2 onions, roughy chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 green chillies, roughly chopped, no need to discard the seeds
  • 6 beef short ribs (about 1.5kg),trim off any big pieces of fat at the edges but don’t worry about being too particular with the rest, it all renders down into the rich sauce
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 10 cardamom pods, roughly bashed open with a pestle and mortar
  • 1½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5-6 large plum tomatoes, two-thirds roughly chopped and the rest roughly grated and skin discarded
  • 100g soft dried figs, roughly chopped into 1½ cm pieces
  • 700g jar butter beans, drained
  • 30g chives, very finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 300g regular spinach, discard the stems and roughly tear the leaves

Heat the oven to 165C fan.

Put the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Dry the short ribs with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large ovenproof saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Fry the ribs in batches until well coloured on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add the onion mixture to the pan along with the star anise and cardamom, and cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring now and then. Add the tomato purée, ground spices, chopped tomatoes (don’t add the grated ones yet), 1½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper and cook for another 4 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften.

Add the short ribs and 1.1 litres of water, bring to the boil, then cover and put into the oven for 3 hours, stirring a few times.

Add the figs and cook for another half hour, or until softened. The meat should now be very tender.

Meanwhile, put the butterbeans into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then drain. Stir in the chives, 2 tbsp of oil, the lemon juice and plenty of pepper.

When the beef is ready, take the ribs from the pan and pull the meat off the bones. Discard the bones and set the beef aside.

Heat the sauce and stir in the spinach, it should wilt in a few minutes, then add the grated tomato and remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauce over a large platter and top with beans and beef.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

This is a rather unconventional method but it does work, and the resulting dish is perfect comfort food for a cold day. The za’atar pesto is a good addition to cut through the richness and the feta provides creamy nuggets. A crazy but good idea from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Wine Suggestion: A crisp white with body and texture is called for here to help cut through rich layers and stand up to the complex flavours. Domaine Ventenac’s Cassandre waas our choice and a very happy match indeed. Vermentino from Cabardes in the south of France, this comes from vineyards that have cooling breezes and a little altitude to give it depth of flavour as well as a scintillating freshness; finishing with a slight nutty twist that gave the pesto an extra lift.

Middle Eastern mac n cheese with za’atar pesto – serves 4 to 6

  • 300g dried cavatappi or fusilli pasta
  • 600-700ml whole milk
  • 65g unsalted butter, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
  • 75ml double cream
  • 150g mature cheddar, roughly grated
  • 180g Greek feta, roughly crumbled
  • 45g shop-bought crispy onions or shallots

FOR THE ZA’ATAR PESTO

  • 1 large lemon
  • 3 tbsp za’atar
  • 20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 40g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

Put the pasta, 600ml of milk, 350ml of water, the butter, garlic, turmeric, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down the heat and cook, stirring now and then, for 8-14 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the sauce thickened. You can add the extra 100ml of milk if you need it thinned a bit.

Turn the heat to low and stir in the cumin, cream and cheeses. Stir until the cheddar has melted.

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Finely grate the lemon to get 1½ tsp of zest. Peel the lemon, cut into segments and roughly chop. Put the lemon and zest into a bowl.

Put the za’atar, coriander, garlic, pine nuts, a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and 3 tbsp of the oil into a food processor, then pulse a few times to get a coarse paste. Add to the lemon and stir in the remaining 3 tbsp of oil.

Transfer the cheesey pasta to a large serving platter, dot all over with the pesto and top with the crispy onions.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

Our daughter is a gyoza addict and luckily we have a good local Japanese restaurant. She would order three or more portions if we let her. So in order to avoid bankruptcy we’ve decided to start making them ourselves. They are actually very straightforward, and helped immensely by shop-bought gyoza wrappers and a little gyoza folding gadget.

The wrappers keep in the freezer and defrost in an hour at room temperature. Just put them in the fridge afterwards until you’re ready to make the gyoza.

Chicken & Shiitake Gyoza with Miso Lemon Dipping Sauce – makes about 30 gyoza

  • 300g chicken thigh fillets, quartered
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 8 water chestnuts, finely choped
  • 3 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp sake or mirin
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 30 gyoza wrappers
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp pale miso
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Pulse the chicken thighs in a food processor until minced, then tip into a bowl.

Add the mushrooms, water chestnuts, soy sauce, ginger, sake/mirin, scallions and cornflour. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, then mix together well with a metal spoon. You can leave the mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

Mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.

Line a large tray with non-stick baking paper and have a bowl of water handy.

Put a gyoza wrapper into your gyoza maker, floured side down, and put 1 tbsp of the filling in the middle (you can and should use a piping bag for this). Dip your finger in the water and lightly run it round the edge of the wrapper. Close the gyoza maker and squeeze tight to seal. If you don’t have a little machine, you can look up how to fold them on youtube.

Heat a large frying pan with a lid over a medium high heat. Add ½ tbsp sesame oil, then place the gyozas into the pan, you will probably have to do 2 batches. Leave them for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms have turned golden, then add 40ml water and cover with a lid. Cook for another 2 minutes until most of the water has evaporated, then remove the lid. Drizzle over another ½ tsp of sesame oil and allow to crisp up for about 30 seconds.

Remove from the pan and serve with the dipping sauce.

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

Sometimes we get a notion for steak and chips, so pull out the barbecue and crank up the oven. Béarnaise sauce is the perfect companion, not particularly hard, it just needs a little attention and you must never let it get too hot.

Wine suggestion: Another Greek classic, the Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro which plays a nice balance of being effortless and ethereal alongside a deep core of powerful, elegant tannins.

Béarnaise Sauce

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tarragon vinegar
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 bushy tarragon sprigs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 150g butter, cut into small dice

Heat the vinegar, tarragon, peppercorns and shallot in a small pan. Bring to the boil and reduce until there is about 1 tbsp left, then strain and set aside.

Put a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water and make sure it isn’t touching the water. Add the egg yolks and mustard, then whisk in the reduced vinegar. Slowly add the butter, a cube at a time, whisking each time until smooth. You can turn the heat off about half way through. We like to stir-through a little chopped tarragon at the end but it’s up to yourself. Keep warm over a pan of warm water while you cook your steak.

A simple fish dish for weeknights, and something a bit lighter before the feasting starts.

Wine Suggestion: A delight with a light, playful Riesling like Korrell’s Slice of Paradise from the Nahe in Germany, or Pikes Traditionale from the Clare Valley.

Grilled trout with Asian dressing – serves 2

  • 300g Charlotte potatoes
  • 2 skinless trout fillets
  • Thai basil or regular basil, to serve

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, remove the woody outer leaves and finely chop
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped

Boil the potatoes in salty water until tender, then drain and slice thickly, lengthways.

Season the trout, then grill for 3-4 minutes.

Arrange the potatoes onto plates and top with the trout. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and spoon over the top, then garnish with basil leaves.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, November 2014.)

A perfect lunchbox dish, keeping our December weekdays cheery.

Fried halloumi with oregano, orzo & pesto – serves 4

  • 350g orzo
  • 15g oregano, leaves picked
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g halloumi, sliced
  • 200g plum cherry tomatoes, halved
  • handful black olives, chopped
  • 140g tub fresh pesto

Bring a pan of salty water to the boil and cook the orzo according to the pack instructions.

Meanwhile, mix the oregano in a small bowl with the oil and brush some over the halloumi.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the halloumi for a few minutes on each side or until golden.

Drain the orzo and mix in a large bowl with the tomatoes, olives and pesto, then season. Divide into lunchboxes, then top with the halloumi and drizzle over the rest of the oregano oil.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Coronation Chicken

A tasty Saturday lunch. The leftovers were also popular with a few men who had been to a rugby match on the Saturday night.

Coronation chicken – serves 4 for lunch or in sandwiches

  • 300g cold cooked chicken
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 60ml chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp tomato purée
  • 25g sultanas
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney
  • 125g mayonnaise
  • 50ml Greek yoghurt
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp toasted flaked almonds

Shred the chicken, discarding any skin and bones.

Heat the oil in a small pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 3 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add the curry powder and fry for a minute, then add the chicken stock, bay leaf, tomato purée and sultanas. Cook for 5 minutes until the stock is well redcued, then stir in the mango chutney. Stir well, remove the bay leaf and leave to cool.

When the onion mixture is completely cool, add the mayonnaise, yoghurt and lemon juice. Stir in the chicken and coriander.

Serve in sandwiches, on toast, or with salad leaves, and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein At Home, BBC Books, 2021.)

Parsley Sauce

We know how to make parsley sauce but this version is definitely better. The milk is infused for an hour with grated carrot, onion, celery and bay – a game-changer!

Parsley Sauce

  • 1 carrot
  • ½ onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml full cream
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • lots of parsley – about 100g of leaves when stripped from the stalks, chopped

Grate the vegetables and put into a saucepan with the bay leaf and milk. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about an hour. Strain out the veg and bay leaf.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk until you have smooth sauce. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick you can thin with a little more hot milk.

Stir the parsley in just before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.

(Original recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Collins, 2001.)

This is a great alternative chilli for those not so fussed on red meat. Serve with rice, feta, coriander, sour cream, steamed rice, tortilla chips and lime wedges. Add the chipotle with caution, the brand we used was very hot!

Wine Suggestion: Given the heat this needs a juicy wine to match. If you’d like a white some Pinot Gris would be great, however tonight we felt like a red and so opened an Altosur Malbec made by Finca Sophenia in the wonderful Gualtallary area of Mendoza. Stony and super-high altitude freshness and yet expressive, perfumed and juicy, brambly fruit.

Chicken & Black Bean Chilli – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp chipotle in adobo or 1 tsp chipotle paste (if using chipotles in adobo check how hot they are)
  • 350g passata
  • ½ chicken stock pot
  • 400g tin black beans, drained but don’t rinse!
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • rice, feta, coriander, sour cream, steamed rice, tortilla chips and lime wedges – to serve

Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a shallow casserole dish with a lid. Add the onions and cook gently for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the chicken and turn the heat up to medium. Add the garlic, a small pinch of sugar, the oregano, cumin seeds and seasoning. Cook for a couple of minute, then add the chipotle and cook for another few minutes. Add the passata, 100ml water and the stock, then bring to a simmer.

Cover and cook for 40-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the chicken is tender. Shred the chicken with two forks and mix through the sauce, then stir through the beans and the liquid from the tin. Simmer for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and squeeze in the lime juice.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

We loved this dish! Bursting with flavour and the perfect wintery side salad. The leftovers were also good the next day. You can use capers instead of anchovies if you prefer.

Wine suggestion: This dish works really well with a good, dry Chenin Blanc. Our current favourite is Bernard Fouquet’s Domaine Aubuissieres Vouvray Silex Sec. Dry and full of yellow apple fruits and layers of texture, while remaining discrete enough to allow the sprouts and parmesan to come through.

Brussels sprout and Parmesan salad with lemon dressing – serves 4

  • 700g small brussels sprouts, trimmed, leave 500g whole and thinly shave the rest
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 60ml lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 anchovies in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 60g Parmesan, 20g roughly grated and the rest cut into shards – a veg peeler will do this nicely
  • 120g kale leaves, discard the stems and thinly shred the leaves
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 20g basil leaves
  • 70g blanched hazelnuts, well toasted and roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 220C fan.

Line a tray with baking paper and add the whole sprouts, 2 tbsp of oil, ½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper, toss to combine. Roast for 18 minutes, stirring halfway, until well browned and cooked through, then leave to cool.

Meanwhile, put the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, anchovies, grated Parmesan, 3 tbsp of oil, ¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into the small bowl of a food processor and whizz until smooth.

Put the kale, the shaved sprouts, the dressing, ¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into a large bowl and toss with your hands, massaging the leaves gently. Leave to soften and wilt for about 10 minutes.

Add the onion, basil, chopped hazelnuts, Parmesan shards and roasted sprouts to the bowl and mix to combine. Turn out onto a platter to serve.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

You can start cooking this the day before, the flavours will improve and your home will smell delicious. Serve with fresh tagliatelle and grated Parmesan.

Wine Suggestion: find a rich red with some stuffing to stand up to the richer flavours. A touch of acidity and a good grip of tannin will also help. Ideally you’ll finish the bottle used to cook with, as we did tonight; Cline’s Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi in California. Heady, brambly and with juicy tannins.

Italian slow-cooked lamb ragu – serves 8

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.2kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3.5cm cubes
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 celery sticks, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 400ml red wine
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500ml lamb stock
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

Put on the oven to 170C/Fan 160C/Gas 3.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large casserole over a high heat. Season the lamb and brown in batches, then remove to a plate and set aside.

Add another tbsp of oil to the pan, then add the onions and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook for a further 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and anchovies.

Add the wine and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the base of the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce by half, then add the herbs, lamb stock, tomatoes and browned lamb. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

Transfer the casserole from the oven to the hob, remove the lid and stir, then simmer gently for 1 hour to reduce and thicken. Remove the large herb sprigs, then shred the lamb with two forks and season.

Serve with pasta and Parmesan.

(Original recipe from Tom Kerridge’s Fresh Start, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2018.)

Mung Dal

There has been a packet of mung dal in our cupboard for quite some time now which is really the only reason why we made this lovely dish from Meera Sodha’s East. We’re definitley tempted to buy another packet so we can make it again. Serve with steamed rice.

  • 300g mung dal
  • 250g vine tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 big garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 long green chilli, very finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Put the mung dal, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, tumeric, chilli flakes, 1 tbsp of oil, 4 curry leaves and 1.25 litres of water into a large saucepan. Put the pan over a medium heat, with the lid ajar, and bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Give it a stir now now and again. It’s ready when soft and quite thick, then stir in the salt.

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat until smoking hot, then add the mustard and cumin seeds, the chilli and the rest of the curry leaves. The leaves should crisp and the seeds start to pop after about a minute, then remove from the heat and pour over the dal. Stir to mix, then sprinkle over the coriander and serve.

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

Salmon en Croûte

We can’t tell you how incredibly simple this is to make. If we’d known we would have made it many times before now. You can even make it earlier in the day, ready to bake when needed which is useful when having guests. The salsa verde in the middle is an excellent addition. Lovely served with roast baby potatoes and a green salad.

Wine Suggestion: With the pastry and salmon this needs a white with a good amount of body, but not necessarily heavily oaked given the salsa verde running through each bite. We’re fans of good Vermentino and for this we opened the Poggio ai Ginepri Bianco which from the Tuscan coast, made by Tenuta Argentiera. Vibrancy, depth and a juicy body wrapping a mineral core.

Salmon en croûte – serves 6

FOR THE SALSA VERDE:

  • 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 x 350g salmon fillets, skinned and pin-boned
  • 375g pack all-butter puff pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp mlk

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Make the salsa verde first. Put the herbs into a small food processor and whizz to finely chop. Add the garlic, anchovies, mustard, egg yolk, and black pepper, then whizz until smooth.

Put a salmon fillet onto a board and spread with the salsa verde. Set the other fillet on top to make a rectangle.

Cut two-thirds of the pastry from the block and put the remaining piece in the freezer. Put the pastry onto a piece of lightly floured baking parchment, then roll out until large enough to completely enclose the salmon. Put the fillets in the centre and brush the pastry with the beaten egg (keeping some for later). Fold the pastry over the fish and pinch the edges together to seal. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours ahead.

Heat the oven to 240C/220C fan/Gas 9.

Heat a baking tray in the oven until hot. Brush the salmon en croûte with the leftover beaten egg, then coarsely grate the frozen pastry and sprinkle over the top.

Transfer the salmon and baking parchment to the hot baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and the pastry is cooked. Rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Cover the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute, then remove and put into cold water, then drain. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds, then dice and put into a bowl. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

Serve the salmon in thick slices with the dressing alongside.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry Cooks up a Feast with Lucy Young, DK: Penguin Random House, 2019.)

This is a great side dish for often uninspiring carrots. We served with chicken wings.

Cumin-roasted Carrots with Honey Lemon Dressing & St Tola – serves 4 to 6

  • 750g carrots, cut diagonally into 2½ cm slices
  • olive oil
  • 1½ heaped tbsp cumin seeds
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 100g St Tola, or other soft goats’ cheese
  • a bunch of dill, leaves roughly chopped
  • a good sprinkle of nigella seeds

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Spread the carrots over the baking tray and drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Sprinkle over cumin seeds and season well with salt and peper. Toss to coat, then roast for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Mix the lemon juice and honey together until the honey dissolves. Drizzle this over the carrots and toss to coat, then roast for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly sticky.

Transfer the carrots to a serving plate, crumble over the cheese, then sprinkle with dill and nigella seeds.

(Original recipe from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2014.)

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Who doesn’t love a chicken wing? This Nigel Slater recipe is simple but delicious, and somehow makes the chicken taste more chicken-y.

Wine Suggestion: An old favourite that we’ve not had for a while, the Secateurs Chenin Blanc from Swartland came out for this. We love how this grape is so adaptable and works with roast birds so well. Adi Badenhorst, who makes this one, is larger than life and yet guides this wine in a subtle and nuanced way. As he says, it makes itself, which says so much for how well he grows the grapes …

Roast chicken wings with lemon and black pepper – serves 2

  • 12 large chicken wings
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 heaped tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the chicken wings into a roasting dish. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice over, then cut up the shells and tuck them amongst the wings.

Bash the peppercorns in a mortar until cracked into small pieces, not finely ground. Mix the cracked peppercorns with the olive oil, then toss with the chicken and lemon. Scatter over the sea salt flakes without crushing them.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, turning once, until golden and sticky with blackened edges.

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

A simple fish supper for two, but with plenty of flavour; both delicate, fresh and rich.

Wine Suggestion: The higher acidity, fuller body and citrus-minerality of a good Albariño make this a match worth trying. Tonight Quinta Soalheiro’s Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho from their oldest vineyards and partially made in oak really makes a statement. A velvety texture, deep and soulful, long, serious and elegant in the same breath. This wine makes a case for this grape to be considered “noble” and makes a good partner to the fattier fish and vibrant asian acidity, umami flavours.

Grilled trout with Asian Dressing – serves 2

  • 300g Charlotte potatoes
  • 2 skinless fillets of trout
  • a few basil leaves, Thai would be nice but regular will do

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, remove the woody outer leaves and finely chop
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped

Boil the potatoes in salty water until tender, then drain and slice thickly, lengthways.

Season the trout, then grill for a few minutes.

Arrange the potatoes over two plates, then top each with a piece of fish.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and sppon over the fish, and finish with a few basil leaves.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe, Olive Magazine, November 2014.)

A nice bright side dish from Ottolenghi Simple, though we swapped out the dolcelatte for gorgonzola.

Roasted squash with lentils and gorgonzola – serves 6 as a side

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut in half lengthways, deseed and cut into 1cm thick wedges, no need to peel
  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 10g sage leaves
  • 100g Puy lentils
  • 1 large lemon, zest grated to give 1½ tsp, then juiced to give 2 tbsp
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 5g mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 10g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 100g dolcelatte (we used gorgonzola), torn into small pieces

Heat the oven to 220C fan.

Put the squash and onions into a large bowl with 2 tbsp of the oil, the sage leaves, ¾ tsp of salt and lots of black pepper.

Toss well, then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove and rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, half fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the lentils and simmer for 20 minutes, until cooked. Drain, then set aside to cool slightly, then put into a large bowl. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, herbs and 1 tbsp of oil and ¼ tsp of salt.

Add the roasted squash and onion to the bowl of lentils and gently mix. Transfer to a serving dish, dot with the cheese, drizzle with oil and serve.

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

Sausage Cassoulet

This is a much simplified version of the French classic but very tasty and popular with kids.

Wine Suggestion: something red, juicy and honest, like a good southern French GSM blend, like Roc des Anges Effet Papillon rouge.

Sausage Cassoulet – serves 6

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 sausages
  • 4 large onions, sliced
  • 50g chorizo, very finely chopped
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • a small handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped, to garnish (optional)

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan or casserole dish over a high heat, then brown the sausages on all sides, then remove and set aside. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches.

Add the rest of the oil and fry the onions for a few minutes until turning golden. Stir in the chorizo, tomatoes, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper, then simmer over a gentle heat for 20-25 minutes or until the onions are softened.

Stir in the butter beans, then lay the sausages on top and cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes or unitl the sausages are cooked through.

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with some greens on the side.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry Cooks up a Feast with Lucy Young, DK: Penguin Random House, 2019.)

This is great for using up leftover cooked rice. We also had some leftover char siu pork which was delicious chopped up and stirred through.

Wine Suggestion: This calls for an easy style of Grüner Veltliner, like Forrest Estate’s version from Marlborough NZ. Maybe not quite the same as Austrian versions but very pleasurable nonetheless.

Chinese-style fried rice – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 225g shelled raw prawns
  • 120ml groundnut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 2 large eggs
  • 800g cooked rice, it needs to be cooked at least a few hours in advance
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced, separate the green and white parts
  • 225g cooked ham or pork, diced
  • 225g frozen peas
  • 1½ tbsp thick soy sauce
  • 30-45ml stock

FOR THE PRAWN MARINADE:

  • a pinch of salt
  • 1½ tsp cornflour
  • ½ egg white

Devein the prawns and cut into 2cm pieces. Pat dry with kitchen paper and put into a bowl.

Make the marinade for the prawns by mixing the salt, cornflour and egg white together. Stir into the prawns to coat evenly, then leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Heat a wok until smoking. Add 2 tbsp of the oil, give it a swirl, then add the garlic. As soon as it starts to colour, add the prawns, stirring to separate with a metal spoon for about 30 seconds or until almost cooked and turning pink. Add the Shaoxing wine and as soon as the sizzling calms down, scoop out the prawns and set aside. You will now need to wash and dry your wok.

Lightly beat the eggs with 1 tbsp of the oil and a pinch of salt. Heat a large frying pan until hot, add 1 tbsp of the oil and tip the pan to coat the surface. Pour in half the beaten egg and tip the spread to the edges. When set, turn over and fry for a few seconds on the other side. Remove to a plate and slice into thin strips.

Break up any lumps in the cooked rice. Blanch the peas in boiling salty water for a few minutes, then drain well.

Reheat the wok over a high heat until smoking. Add the remaining 4 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the white parts of the scallions, pour in the rest of the beaten egg, then immediately add the rice. Turn and toss the rice with a metal spoon scooping up the raw egg from the bottom of the wok.

When the rice is hot, add the ham or pork, then stir in the peas and prawns. Finally add the soy sauce and stock, stirring all the time.

Add the green parts of the scallions, then tip out onto a platter and garnish with the strips of egg.

(Original recipe from Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook, by Yan-Kit So, DK, 1984.)

A traditional Galician broth from Claudia Roden’s superb book on Spanish food. Make it after you boil a ham as you will have lots of ham stock to use.

Caldo Gallego – Potato, cabbage & bean soup – serves 6

  • 2 litres ham stock (you can also use chicken stock)
  • 150g smoked streaky bacon rashers, cut into pieces
  • 400g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 250g green cabbage leaves (pointed cabbage or spring greens), cut into thick strips
  • 1 x 400g tin haricot beans, drained

Put the stock into a large saucepan with the bacon, potatoes and cabbage leaves. Bring to the boil,then season. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the beans and warm through for 5 minutes, then serve.

(Original recipe from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, Michael Joseph, 2012.)