Clockwise from top left: Starfish made of seafood; Mackerel with fermented ganxet beans; White asparagus with mullet bottarga, demi-glace sauce, cauliflower purée, elderflower, apricot and hazelnut (no comment on the appearance); Calcots – fermented, charcoal-grilled and crispy – with eel, fava bean sauce, aioli and bay jelly If I’m really honest it wasn’t the prospect of the day’s tasting that got me out of bed at 4.20am to go to Spain for the day: it was lunch. If I say Gir
The Bollinger Lunch was, as you can imagine, a rather nice fixture in the calendar until it was dropped a couple of years ago. Searching for the positive, the only thing you could say was, well, who’s got time for lunches like that anyway? The answer was given by the wine writers who warmly welcomed the invitation to this year’s revival of the lunch at The Beaumont in London last week. I found I had the time. The latest vintage from Bollinger, La Grande Année 2007, served at
This is archetypal winter food – thick and warming. It’s filling enough for a simple mid-week lunch and delicious enough for a dinner party, especially with the optional booze.
Serves 6 25g unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped, or 2 bay leaves 500g chestnuts, peeled
I litre of hot chicken stock
220ml crème fraiche
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
dry sherry or madeira (optional) Melt the butter in a heavy-based
These are basically pizzas with a polenta pastry crust. The advantage, apart from the fact that the base is deliciously crunchy and short, is that it’s much quicker and easier than pizza dough. I’ve suggested goat’s cheese here, but you can put whatever you like on them, The possibilities are endless: tuna or anchovy and caper berries; artichoke hearts and grilled red pepper; feta and thin slices of aubergine; slivers of garlic, pancetta, chorizo, strips of courgette, pine nu
There’s nothing to this. The tomatoes burst as they cook, creating a sauce while you enjoy your aperitif. Bream with tarragon is magical, but sea bass with thyme and red snapper with rosemary are equally winning combinations. Serve with new potatoes.
Serves 4 4 sea bream (about 450 g each)
5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 leafy sprigs of tarragon
I lemon cut into 12 thin slices and then halved
450g baby plum or cherry tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
This is a breeze to make and looks smart – a pale yellow set-custard studded with cherry tomatoes, although in the picture above I used a smaller dish than usual and the tomatoes are rather submerged. Serve it hot or warm for a summer lunch or as a starter with a leafy salad (including some bitter or peppery leaves or basil) or a fennel salad. You could also serve cold leftovers with the Spanish sauce coming later in the month.
Serves 6 Butter for the dish
1 tbsp extra virg
Herbs and cream cheese slotted in under the skin along the breasts not only flavour the bird but also keep the flesh beautifully moist – and pushing the mixture in is not the fiddle it sounds. Thyme works particularly well, but ring the changes with tarragon, marjoram, dill or sage, being more moderate with pungent herbs such as sage.
Serves 4 For the underskin stuffing
75g cream cheese
2 tsp of thyme, finely chopped if necessary
zest of half a small unwaxed lemon
This is a simple, zingy stuffing for whole fish such as sea bass, bream, red mullet, mackerel or trout or whatever is in season and sustainable. The quantities given are enough for two 600g bass or 4 small trout or mackerel. For the stuffing 70g breadcrumbs
40g dill fronds, chopped
6 spring onions, white parts only, very finely sliced
Zest of 1 unwaxed orange
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper Whole fish (see above) scaled and gutted
Rosemary is perfect with lamb, sage is a triumph with pork, mint brings out the flavour of peas and tarragon and chicken were made for each other. I wouldn’t argue with any of that, but it seems such a waste of herbs to be boxed in with particular pairings. Let me suggest a much simpler approach: choose varieties that you like and which are at their best, rather than sticking rigidly to formulas. I also want to put in a plea for using more fresh herbs at the last minute. It’s
Far be it from me to suggest that anyone should find cooking with wine in Britain off-puttingly expensive, but I do concede that, thanks to our swingeing taxes on alcohol, it can be expensive. The trouble with wine is that once opened, it doesn’t keep, so anything left over has to be drunk (isn’t life hard?) which means that next time you want to cook with wine you have to buy another bottle. This is where, spirits and fortified wines have the edge. Spirits, including liqueur
Pork is cheap, but chops are often so lean (obsessively so in supermarkets) they need remedial treatment to stop them being dry. The tricks here are a coating of honey and mustard and brining the chops before you start – although if you haven't time to brine, the chops will still taste good. You can speed up the brining process by dissolving the salt and sugar in some boiling water and then topping up with ice and cold water. The brine must be cold when you put the chops in.
If the sound of meat and milk sounds odd, remember that pork braised in milk has a impeccable pedigree from both Venice and southwest France, and the lamb and fennel combination is a winner. I’ve had teenagers claiming to hate fennel, then come back for more. You can use any cut of lamb, but the weight, trimmed of fat, needs to be at least 900g. That may not sound much for six people, but it’s a rich dish. Sometimes I buy boned, rolled neck joints and unroll them. A typical p
Another from my Sunday Times recipe series, again very relevant right now - November and the run-up to Christmas are definitely a time when a little bit of scrimping wouldn't go amiss... They aren’t cheap eats in the completely threadbare student sense, but ideas for entertaining on a tighter budget. After all, feeding friends at home is perennially the new going out, isn’t it? They involve cheaper cuts and types of meat and poultry and fewer or less luxurious ingredients. No