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This recipe by Gill Meller has to be one of the nicest things you can do with a turnip. By turnip we mean the large, orange-fleshed variety that some call swedes. We’re so busy cooking new things that we rarely do things again, but we’ve made an exception for this dish already. It goes without saying that you should use top quality sausages!

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs the comforting, warm spices of a Southern Rhone red with a good dollop of Grenache, some Syrah and possibly other varieties thrown in. Given the festive season we opened a bottle of Les Palliéres Racines Gigondas. Made by the Brunier’s of Domaine Vieux Télégraphe this is velvety and deep; a real treat.

Turnip with fried sausages, green peppercorns & Parmesan – serves 2

  • 1 turnip (or swede), cut into 2cm cubes
  • top quality sausages
  • 50g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g Parmesan, grated
  • 2-3 tsp green peppercorns in brine

Bring a large pot of salty water to the boil. Add the turnip and cook until tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add a little bit of oil, then add the sausages and cook slowly until well browned on all sides and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Don’t be tempted to speed up this process.

When the turnip is tender, drain and leave in a colander to steam. Put the pot back over a low heat and add the butter and cream. When this is bubbling, return the turnip to the pan. Mash the turnip until smooth, then season generously with black pepper, salt and most of the Parmesan.

Spoon the turnip onto a platter, pile the sausages on top, scatter over the peppercorns and sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan.

(Original recipe from Time by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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We don’t need to convincing to eat turnip but it is even more delicious with crispy bacon, onions and heaps of black pepper.

Turnip with bacon & onions – serves 4 to 6

  • 900g turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 50g smoked bacon, diced
  • 50g butter

Steam the turnip for about 10 minutes or until tender. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and gently sauté the onion and bacon until the bacon is crispy and onion starting to colour. 

Roughly mash the turnip with the butter, then season with salt and lots of black pepper. 

To serve, put the turnip into a warm dish and sprinkle with the bacon and onions. 

(Original recipe from Nevan Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook)

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Inspired by a clip we saw of Marcus Wareing while browsing online one lazy Sunday. Dead easy, we wish we’d discovered this method before and will be doing this from now on. The trick is getting the moisture out of the potatoes, and the result is crusty potato with a moist soft centre. We served with barbecued bacon and poached eggs.

  • Potatoes for two people – we used three medium ones
  • a small onion or shallot
  • butter

Peel and coarsely grate the potatoes. Spread out on a tray and sprinkle with salt.

Coursely grate the onion.

After a few minutes put the grated potato into the middle of a clean tea towel and twist up over a sink. Squeeze out all the liquid – make sure it’s dry.

Mix grated potato and onions in a bowl and season generously.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat and when hot add the potato mix. Use a spoon to flatten out into a circle and then push the sides inwards to shape and form into a cake. Fry until starting to form a crust; you’ll need to lift an edge and peak to find out.

Place a plate the same size as the rosti on top of it and turn the pan over holding the plate as well. Slide the rosti back  into the pan, now crusty side up. Put generous lumps of butter around the cooking rosti. Fry this side until crusty underneath too.

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We had to try this idea from Gill Meller’s book Gather in order to use some dulse flakes from Aran Islands Seaweed. The dulse flakes give a smoky umami flavour to the dish. It takes a while in the oven but it otherwise very simple and tastes even better if made in advance, as stews often do. We served with creamy mash, cabbage and turnip for a hearty Sunday lunch.

Wine Suggestion: A dish that needs a suitably rich red wine to match; one where the rich fruit has high levels of anthocyanins and phenols in a ripe framework. The Altosur Malbec from Tuppangato (the highest part of the Mendoza area) in Argentina came out of the rack and its blackberry, blueberry and plum flavours with brambly, rich tannins was an ample choice.

Beef shin with dulce – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g beef shin, sliced thickly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • ½ a glass of red wine
  • 2-3 tsp powdered smoked dulse (we used dulse flakes, see note above)
  • 300ml chicken stock or water

Heat the oven to 120C/Gas 1.

Heat the oil in a heavy flameproof casserole. Season the beef shin well with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides until it takes on a really-good colour all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, celery and thyme and cook gently over a low heat until the onions are soft but not coloured. Return the meat the pan, then add the wine, dulse and stock or water and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cover the casserole with a lid and place in the oven for 4-5 hours, or until the meat falls apart easily. Season to taste and leave to rest for 25 minutes before serving with mash and other veg.

(Original recipe from Gather by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2016.)

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These are great for midweek, quite big, so they filled us up and tasted really good with the spicy yoghurt dip, some salad leaves and lemon. They are quite therapeutic to make too, or at least we thought so.

Wine Suggestion: A classic dish like fish cakes needs a classic match and Domaine de la Chauviniere’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie was our choice.

Fishcakes with ras el hanout and dill – serves 4

  • 600g floury potatoes, cut into even chunks
  • 300g skinless and boneless white fish
  • 300ml milk
  • 2½ tsp ras el hanout
  • zest of 2 lemons, plus 2 tbsp juice, and wedges to serve
  • small packet of dill, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 85g dried breadcrumbs, we used Panko
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 300g natural yoghurt
  • 100g bag of salad leaves, to serve

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, cover with cold salty water, bring to the boil, and cook for 18-20 minutes until cooked. Drain and leave to steam-dry in the pot, then mash.

Meanwhile, put the fish in another saucepan and pour over the milk and about 100ml of water, just to cover. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and leave aside with the lid on to finish cooking. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and flake into large chunks with your hands.

Mix 2 tbsp of the poaching liquid into the mashed potatoes with 2 tsp of ras el hanout, the zest of 1 lemon, dill and seasoning. Carefully mix in the fish, trying not to let it break up too much further, you want nice chunks. Shape the potato mixture into 8 large fishcakes, keep them quite flat so they’re easy to brown. Dip each fishcake into the beaten egg, then the dried breadcrumbs to coat.

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. Add the fishcakes and fry on each side for about 5 minutes over a medium heat. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t brown too much. Transfer the frying pan to the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until piping hot.

Meanwhile, mix the yoghurt with the rest of the lemon zest, 2 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp ras el hanout and seasoning. Serve the fishcakes with salad, spiced yoghurt and lemon wedges.

(Original recipe by Katy Gilhooly in Good Food Magazine, December 2015.)

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We are forever cooking too much rice and this is our favourite way to use it. It’s also an excellent recipe for using up odds and ends in the fridge.

Nasi goreng with poached eggs – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red chillies, shredded
  • 4 shallots or a small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 250g pack of ready-cooked rice or leftover cooked rice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Asian chilli sauce, plus extra to serve – we use sriracha
  • a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 eggs, poached, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan or wok.

Cook the chilli, shallots, garlic, carrot and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Mix the brown sugar with and the chilli sauce until dissolved, then stir through the rice. Stir in the coriander.

Divide the rice between two dishes then top with a poached egg and another drizzle of chilli sauce.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, December 2012.)

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We cooked this fish from Falastin on a Saturday night for our 7 year old, who gets to sit up and have dinner with us at the weekends. Jono’s not too keen on fish skin so I warned him to make sure that Orlaith didn’t see him taking it off, or she wouldn’t eat it either. Orlaith announced very quickly that the skin was the best bit – that’s my girl! Crispy skin is the key and this cooking method delivers it to perfection. Even Jono ate the skin!

Wine Suggestion: A very left-field suggestion tonight, but with some logic: the Herdade de Portacarra Manda Chuva. This is a Blanc de Noirs – a white made from a red grape. In this case Sangiovese which is the logic; this grape works superbly with tomatoes. Interestingly this is from Setubal, in Portugal, and by making a white it makes a great match for both fish and tomatoes.

Seared sea bass with lemon & tomato sauce – serves 4

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 4 tsp fish spice mix (to make: 2 tsp ground cardamom, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp turmeric)
  • 8 sea bass fillets, skin on, lightly scored and halved widthways at a slight angle
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped, including seeds
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed in a food processor until smooth
  • 1 ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 20g dill, roughly chopped
  • 25g coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 150g datterini or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ a lemon, very thinly sliced into rounds

Combine 2 tbsp of oil, 2½ tsp of fish spice mix, 1 tsp of salt and a plenty of black pepper together in a shallow dish. Add the fish pieces, turn to coat and set aside while you make the sauce.

Put 2 tbsp of oil in a large sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring now and then, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add 1½ tsp fish spice mix and the tomato purée and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, two-thirds of the dill and coriander, the stock, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce is thick and rich. Keep warm on a low heat.

Toss the little tomatoes with 2 tsps of oil. Put a large frying pan on a hight heat, add the tomatoes, and cook for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until charred all over. Add the lemon slices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Add this to the tomato sauce along with the remaining herbs and keep warm until ready to serve.

Wipe the frying pan clean and put over a medium-high heat with 1½ tsp of oil. Add a quarter of the sea bass fillets, skin side down, press them gently if necessary to stop them curling. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and browned, then flip the fish over in the pan. Cook for another 30 seconds, then transfer to a warm plate. Repeat until all the fish is cooked.

Divide the sauce between 4 plates and top with the sea bass. Sprinkle over some coriander leaves to serve.

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

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Here’s a quick fix for midweek. Really tasty and super simple to put together, so you can focus on your online shopping.

Wine Suggestion: Go for an earthy Tempranillo that hasn’t got too much extraction (big tannins!) but still has nice fruit. A Rioja Crianza should give the right balance, some blackberries and strawberries, some tannins but not too much, and only a touch of spices that develop with age. Our choice tonight the Paco Garcia Crianza.

Pork and Paprika Rice – serves 2

  • 2 pork chops, trimmed of fat
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 200g paella rice
  • 100ml dry sherry
  • 400ml stock
  • 200g tin butter beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Rub the pork with the paprika and season generously.

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, then fry the pork chops on one side, until browned, then turn over and add the onion and tomato purée. Fry together for 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice, then add the sherry and cook for 1 minute before adding the stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is just cooked.

Add the beans and parsley, season well, then stand for 5 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, November 2013.)

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We’ve been making a soup most weeks. This one is from The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater. Suitably seasonal.

Cauliflower and leek soup with toasted cheese – serves 4

  • 3 medium leeks, discard the coarse part of green leaves and roughly chop
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg cauliflower, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (we use Marigold Swiss Bouillon powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10g parsley leaves
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 100g of cheese, something that will melt, we used Gruyére

Warm the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and cover, then cook over a low heat, until the leeks are soft but not browned. 

Add the cauliflower to the softened leeks. Stir briefly, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the bay leaves and a little salt, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until soft. 

Process half the soup in a blender until very smooth. Add a handful of the parsley to the rest of the soup and blend this batch to a thick, rough texture. Mix the two together and season with salt and black pepper. 

Spread sourdough with a little butter or oil and toast under a hot grill. Turn the bread over and cover the other side with thick slices of cheese, then return to the grill until melted. Divide the soup between bowls and float the cheesy toasts on top. 

(Original recipe from The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate, 2017)

 

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Romanesco has a short season so it’s a grab it when you can sort of vegetable. This means we usually just steam it but we came across this veggie curry recipe by Tom Kerridge and it was the perfect weeknight bowl of goodness.

Wine Suggestion: This works with lighter whites like the La Piuma Pecorino from Italy, but can see it working with so many other whites. Balanced, easy fruit, medium bodied and with enough texture, like Italian whites tend to have, except for Pinot Grigio.

Romanesco, corn and coconut curry – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 500g romanesco, cut into florets
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 350g tin sweetcorn, drained
  • 200g frozen peas
  • a handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, finely sliced
  • cooked rice, to serve

FOR THE FRIED PANEER:

  • 225g paneer, cut into cubes
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a wide, deep frying pan. Add the cumin seeds and sizzle for a few seconds, then add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Turn the heat down, then add the ground spices and stir for 1 minute, then add the romanesco and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the veg stock and half the coconut milk and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the paneer. Put it into a bowl and mix with the turmeric and salt. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the paneer and cook until browned, 5-8 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Add the rest of the coconut milk to the romanesco and stir in the sweetcorn, peas, fried paneer and half the coriander. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Serve scattered with the chilli and the rest of the coriander.

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

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We love cavolo nero and it was so good in this simple pasta dish. No cheese and you won’t miss it as this has a really deep, savoury flavour.

Wine Suggestion: The beauty of this dish is the immediacy and simplicity, so a young red with joyful fruit as you’ll find in Beaujolais is perfect. If you find yourself in Nouveau season then hunt out a good bottle from a quality producer. We’re a few weeks out but had a bottle from Domaine Chasselay still hanging around and it was joyful.

Orecchiette with anchovies, cavolo nero and caramelised onions – serves 2

  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 200g orecchiette
  • 4 anchovies in olive oil, drained and cut into pieces
  • 100g cavolo nero, discard the woody stalks and shred the leaves

Fry the onions in a little oil and butter over a medium heat until golden and caramelised, about 30 minutes. Don’t rush this stage as you want proper caramelisation. If they start to stick, just add a splash of water.

Meanwhile, boil the orecchiette in lots of very salty water according to the timing on the pack. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain it.

Add the cavolo nero and anchovies to the onions and fry for a couple of minutes until the anchovies have melted and the cavolo nero has wilted. Add a little more butter if the onions stick. Tip in the drained pasta and a splash of cooking water. Season well and toss to coat.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, November 2016.)

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This is very rich and luxurious, and needs a sharp salad to go along with it. Nigel Slater’s addition of basil sauce is a great idea and makes a super tasty dish.

Wine Suggestion: We suspect a good Nebbiolo would work with this but in the absence one in our rack tonight we chose Domaine Jamet’s Cotes du Rhone. Made from 100% Syrah in the Northern Rhone it still has a hint of richness and spice as if it has a Gigondas influence but also the earthy, leather spice of the North. 

Mushroom lasagne with basil and cream – serves 6

  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • a thick slice of butter
  • 10g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 750g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • a good handful of chopped parsley
  • 5 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan, plus an extra 3 tbsp for the top
  • 150ml double cream
  • 750ml béchamel sauce (Nigel suggests you can use ready-made for this but if you want to make your own we’ve included a recipe below – a pint should be plenty).
  • 350g fresh lasagne sheets (dried can be used either)

FOR THE BASIL SAUCE

  • 60g pine nuts
  • 50g basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan

To make a pint of béchamel sauce, melt 2oz of butter in a medium-sized saucepan, then stir in 2oz of plain flour and cook for a minute or two. Gradually add a pint of full-fat milk, stirring continuously and only adding a bit more when the previous bit has been absorbed. Keep stirring until all of the milk has been added and the sauce comes to a simmer and thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a deep frying pan, then add the onions and garlic and cook gently for about 20 minutes, or until softened and translucent.

Meanwhile, cover the dried porcini with warm water – no more than 100ml – and leave to soak.

To make the basil sauce, whizz the pine nuts, basil, garlic, some olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor. You need enough oil to form a sloppy paste. Alternatively you can crush the garlic with a little salt in a mortar, then mash in the basil, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil.

Stir the sliced mushrooms into the onions and partially cover with a lid. Leave to colour and soften, then add the dried mushrooms with their soaking liquid, the parsley, 5 tbsp of Parmesan and the cream. Season well with salt and black pepper, then simmer until the mixture has reduced and thickened a bit.

To assemble the lasagne, take a large casserole dish and spread a few tbsp of the béchamel over the bottom. Cover with a layer of pasta, then half the mushroom filling. Add another layer of pasta, then a second layer of mushrooms. Top with a final layer of pasta, then spread over the basil sauce. Cover the top completely with the rest of the béchamel and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 180C/Gas 4 for 50 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

(Original recipe from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate, 2005.)

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Jono's easy Christmas Cake

Actually it is Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cake but it has been made by Jono so many times … either with loads of time to spare, or as a last minute “I haven’t done the Christmas Cake!” rush. It always seems to come out as hoped. We do mean to try new recipes but end up doing this each year as it works with whatever dried fruits we have to hand. A good chance to clear out any that have accumulated in the cupboards during the year. 

Not being fans of marzipan and icing, we tend not to ice our Christmas cake, preferring to glaze it with apricot jam and decorate with nuts and/or glacé fruits, or just leaving it as it is. 

Wine suggestion: a little glass of Oloroso sherry never goes astray when baking this … it’s suitably Christmassy. This year it was the Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana’s Oloroso Faraon, a dry style but with a rich roundness and gentle spices.

Jono’s Christmas Cake

  • 775g best-quality mixed dried fruit – use up anything you have
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 250g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 x 250g tin sweetened chestnut purée
  • 125ml dark rum
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

To decorate:

  • 4 tbsp smooth, good quality apricot jam
  • 150g assorted glacé fruit, blanched almonds or pecans

Line the sides and bottom of a deep 20cm round cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper. Make sure this is higher than the tin. Then wrap a double layer of brown paper, as used to wrap parcels, around the outside of the tin and tie with string. Try and make the paper layer double the height of the tin to help the cake to cook slowly. 

Put the dried fruit, butter, sugar, chestnut purée, rum and orange juice and zests into a large wide saucepan and bring gently to the boil, stirring. Simmer for 10 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.

Add the beaten eggs, flour, baking powder and spices to the fruit and stir to combine. 

Carefully pour this mixture into the prepared tin, then bake for 1¾-2 hours. The top of the cake should be firm, dry and cracked a little. Test if done with a skewer, if it comes out clean then the cake is done. If some uncooked cake still clings to the skewer then return for a few more minutes until done.

Once cooked use the skewer to pierce the cake all over the top and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of extra rum. This gives the cake an extra boozy layer of flavour. Most of this alcohol evaporates off, but if you want to skip this step feel free.

Put the cake onto a cooling rack and remove the brown paper. When the cake has completely cooled, remove it from the tin and wrap well in greaseproof paper and tin foil. 

If you want to glaze the cake, put the apricot jam into a saucepan and add 1tbsp of water. Heat gently, stirring to make a sticky glaze, then take off the heat to cool. 

Brush the top of the cake with the apricot glaze, then decorate with fruit and nuts. Paint with a second coating of apricot glaze to give a shiny finish. 

(Original recipe by Nigella Lawson)

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This is a recipe by a Ballymaloe graduate now based in Chicago, Jared Baston. The chicken ends up really tender with super crispy skin. Serve with some plain steamed rice. We tried this because Jono couldn’t resist the black garlic that they’ve started to stock in our local veg shop. It’s staring at us every time we open the fridge so you can expect more black garlic recipes in the coming weeks!

Wine Suggestion: From our friend Amy came a bottle of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, the Chasselay ‘la Marduette’. A little unusual as it spents 7 days resting in a barrel before bottling unfiltered, unfined and unsulphered and it was pure joy. You get the fresh, bright fruit of just fermented wine and it is what Nouveau is all about. An added benefit it was great with the chicken. We know this is a moment in time, but for every other moment choose a medium bodied, fresh fruited Gamay or Grenache.

Jared’s Black Garlic Chicken – serves 6

  • 1 chicken, cut into 12 pieces, we just used chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 black garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • ½ tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
  • 3-4 scallions, cut at an angle, to serve
  • steamed rice, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, then transfer to a large casserole or roasting tray, skin side down – you want it to fit on one layer.

Whisk the sunflower oil, garlic, black garlic, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, honey, hoisin sauce, and Aleppo pepper together, then drizzle over the chicken pieces and toss to coat.

Cook the chicken for 20 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 230C/gas 8 and cook for a further 10 minutes. Baste the chicken with pan juices, turn over so the skin-side is facing up and cook for another 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven heat to 180C/gas 4 and cook until the chicken is cooked through, another 10-20 minutes, basting occasionally.

Remove the chicken pieces to a warm serving dish. Deglaze the pan juices with a little water and reduce until syrupy. Season to taste, then pour over the chicken pieces. Garnish with the scallions and serve with steamed rice.

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

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If you like ham and parsley sauce, you will love this! May come in handy in a few weeks time.

Smoked ham, cheese & parsley toasts – serves 6

  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 225ml full-fat milk
  • 50g Cheddar cheese, grated, plus extra for grilling
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 thick slices of good-quality bread, buttered on both sides
  • 6 large slices of smoked ham (or regular ham if you like)

Heat the grill to medium.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, when it bubbles, add the flour and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two , then gradually add the milk, stirring continually. Keep stirring until all the milk has been added, the sauce comes to the boil and starts to thicken. Add the cheese, mustard, chives and parsley. Stir for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, then season well and set aside.

Lightly toast the buttered bread on both sides and then put under the grill. When lightly toasted on both sides divide the ham between the toasts, then spoon over the thick sauce and scatter with a handful of finely grated cheese. Return to the grill and cook until the sauce is bubbling and turning golden. Serve on hot plates.

(Original recipe from Time by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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We were offered two dead wild ducks a few weeks ago, feathers and all. Our friend Niall kindly dealt with the feathers and delivered a bag of fresh duck breasts and legs to our door. Lucky us! We minced the duck meat with a bit of pork fat (you could use duck skin too if you have it) and made these burgers seasoned with Rick Stein’s pepper mix, which we’re looking forward to seasoning all sorts of things with. We bought the dried chillies in a Mexican food shop but you should be able to get them online too. Best served with fries.

Wine Suggestion: Choose a medium bodied red with refined tannins for this dish. Despite the Mexican chillies in the spice mix this is a very French inspired meal, one you might easily find on holiday there. So for this we chose our favourite, the Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny “Tuffe”. Cabernet Franc from the Loire at it’s best and a good match.

Duck burgers – serves 4

  • 800 duck meat (breast, leg or both), plus about 100-150g fat and skin if you have it, or some pork fat
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Rick’s peppermix (see below)
  • 80g cheese e.g. Comté or Gruyère, cut into slices
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 2-3 tsp grainy mustard
  • a large handful of rocket
  • 1 tsp walnut oil (or just use good olive oil)
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced (we’re not so keen on raw onion in our burgers so we cut the onion into chunky slices, rub with some seasoning a little oil and barbecue on soft and charred)
  • 1 dill pickle, sliced (we used cornichons)
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 2 tbsp mustard mayonnaise (mix a little Dijon mustard into good-quality mayonnaise)

FOR THE PEPPERMIX:

  • 1 chipotle chilli, seeds removed
  • 1 pasilla chilli, seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp white peppercorns
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp salt

Make the peppermix by blitzing all of the ingredients together in a spice grinder. Store in a jar and use to season other things, it’s great on a steak.

If there is fat on the duck, pull it off and mince the meat with about 100-150g of fat and the skin (we didn’t have fat and skin so we added a bit of pork fat instead). Season the mince with the salt and 1 tsp of the peppermix. Damp your hands a bit and make four burgers. Cover and leave them in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up.

You can cook the burgers on a hot barbecue or if you prefer to cook indoors a griddle pan or non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Cook the burgers for a few minutes on each side, then add a slice of cheese to each, turn of the heat and leave to sit for a minute to let the cheese melt.

Lightly toast the buns and spread the cut surfaces with grainy mustard. Dress the rocket with a little walnut oil or good olive oil.

Serve the burgers on a bun topped with onion, cornichon/dill pickle, tomato, mustard mayonnaise and rocket. Serve with fries.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France, BBC Books, 2019.)

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We like weeknight dishes that use fresh dill, like this one, particularly helpful as we often have leftover dill from the weekend. We never mind as we just love the lift dill can bring and hate to waste it. Don’t be tempted to turn the salmon too soon, you want nice crispy skin.

Wine Suggestion: A number of Italian whites have a good affinity to fish and capers so we chose a favourite, the Graziano Prá Soave Classico “Otto”. A DOC with a number of standout winemakers like Prá championing the local grape Garganega; green apple, hints of almond, a mid-weight and refreshing, textured finish.

Salmon with capers & dill – serves 4

  • 50g butter, diced
  • 4 x salmon fillets, preferably with the skin on, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice mixed with 6-8 tbsp water
  • 4 tsp chopped dill

Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a couple of knobs of butter and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until crispy and browned underneath, then turn over and continue to cook for a couple of minutes or until cooked through.

Add the capers, the rest of the butter and the lemon juice mixed with water, boil for 1 minute. Season to taste, then transfer the salmon onto warmed plates, stir in the chopped dill and pour over the fish to serve.

(Original recipe by Rachel Allen in BBC Good Food Magazine, November 2011.)

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We made a vat of this last night, which is fine because it is really nice. Still, we’re looking forward to sharing dishes with other people again. Our preferred pumpkin is a Crown Prince but you can use butternut squash if that is what’s available. We served this with a cabbage dish and some roast potatoes but it would be super with sausages or chicken or any roast really.

Pumpkin, mustard & Gruyère gratin – serves 4 to 6

  • a small knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 300ml pot double cream
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • pumpkin, about 1kg prepared weight
  • 100g Gruyère, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and cook gently for 10-15 minutes or until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, put the garlic and half the sage into a saucepan, add the cream and milk and heat gently for 5 minutes but don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes, then throw away the sage and garlic, stir in the mustard and add plenty of seasoning.

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Layer the pumpkin slices, onions, most of the cheese and the cream in a very large baking dish or roasting tray, finishing with a layer of cream and some cheese scattered on top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Uncover and increase the heat to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cook for another 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and completely tender. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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This is a lovely side dish and it was hard not to eat all the roasted Romanesco before it got to the plate. Then you add garlicky tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds … delicious!

We just love the fractal patterened shape of these too. We’ve recently discovered that pomegranate seeds freeze well. Dry them well and spread them over a tray lined with paper, transfer to a bag or tub when frozen.

Roast Romanesco Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranates – serves 4

  • 2 heads of Romanesco cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 4 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 75g tahini
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed

Heat the oven to 200C/180C/Gas 6.

Spread the florets out over a large baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin and allspice. Season with plenty of salt and pepper then toss well to coat.

Roast for 20-30 minutes in the hot oven until tender but firm, give them a toss half way through, then remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

To make the tahini sauce mix the tahini, lemon juice and garlic with 100ml of water in a bowl, until smooth and runny.

Put the tahini onto a serving platter, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.

(Original recipe from Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

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This garlicky bean mash is the perfect match for za’atar coated salmon. An easy dish from Yasmin Khan’s Zaitoun and perfect for a Friday night.

Wine Suggestion: As befitting the easy Friday night we whipped out a Rustenberg Chardonnay from Stellenbosch, South Africa. Despite the class and balance of this oaked Chardonnay it’s relatively inexpensive and one of our standby wines.

Za’atar roast salmon with garlicky bean mash – serves 2

  • 2 salmon fillets with skin on
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 3 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
  • 25g butter
  • 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

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

Place the salmon fillets on a baking sheet, skin-side down. Drizzle with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Spoon the za’atar over the fish to completely coat the surface. Cook in the hot oven for 11-13 minutes or until just cooked through.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, then add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for a few minutes. Add the cannellini beans and some salt and pepper. Warm through, then roughly mash, adding a little water if it looks dry.

Serve the salmon with the mash and a lemon wedge.

(Original recipe from Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

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