Recipes - Mains

Here you will find a veritable panoply of main course recipes ranging from simple to complicated, meat-fest to vegetarian, all submitted by local residents over the last few years.

If you have a useful addition to make to this blog, please submit your recipes by clicking the button below.



Cassoulet of Huss (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)
Cassoulet is usually a delicious combination of haricot beans and preserved goose, spiced sausage and a variety of other meats. Nevertheless, in Breton cooking fish and beans are both important ingredients and it is not unusual for them to be eaten together. This recipe is loosely based on one devised by Fernand Chambrette, former chef and Directeur at La Varenne Cookery School in Paris and whose speciality is fish (La Cuisine du Poisson, Flammarion 1984). He recommends using fresh white haricot beans though we seldom have much choice but to use dried in England.

I have included Huss in the title of the recipe, which is also known as rock salmon/dogfish. His recipe uses monkfish and salted pork, while I feel that smoked haddock and salt cod, as well as the Huss substitutes well.

  • 5oz organic smoked haddock
  • 1¼lb filleted huss
  • 12oz dried white haricot beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • Bouquet garni, salt and pepper
  • 15-20 small onions ½oz butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Flour and olive oil for frying
  • Tomato concassé (skinned de-seeded and chopped) from 2lbs tomatoes (or one tin of quality tinned chopped tomatoes with a bit of extra puree)
  • Finish
  • Dry white breadcrumbs
  • 1oz melted butter
  • Chopped parsley

Soak the beans in coldwater overnight. Drain and put in a large pan with the onion and carrot (chopped into two or three bits) and the bouquet garni.

Cover generously with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until the beans are soft – about an hour. At the end, season with the salt and pepper.

Peel the small onions and put in a single layer in a small saucepan with the butter, sugar and a pinch of salt under sufficient water to cover. Bring to the boil, uncover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water has evaporated and the onions are soft and lightly glazed.

Poach the smoked haddock Remove any skin and bones and flake the fish. Cut the Huss fillets into pieces 21/2 inches long dust with seasoned flour and fry in hot olive oil until lightly browned.

Drain the beans and reserve the liquid, discarding the carrot, onion and bouquet garni. In a buttered casserole, mix together the two types of fish, the beans, the tomato sauce and the onions. Use a bit of the reserved liquor if this looks too dry.

Scatter breadcrumbs on the top and dribble over the melted butter. Put in a hot oven (Gas 6/400/200degrees) for 15 minutes until the crumbs are lightly browned, sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve with a green salad.


Kenneth Kendall's Favourite Fish Pie
You can make this with whatever fish you want to or like, but prawns should always be raw, not frozen, or they will be rubbery.

Skin and chunk your fish into bite-sized bits and put to one side. There is no point in cooking your fish separately as it will cook perfectly well once all the ingredients are in the dish. Why cook it twice?

Now prepare the potato topping:

Peel, chunk and boil some King Edwards. They make good mash. While they are boiling, finely chop some leeks and soften in butter in a saucepan with seasoning. Mash the potatoes and add the buttery leeks.

Make a mild cheese sauce by melting butter and adding flour to make a roux, thinning with milk off the heat.

Boil the mixture for a few moments to take away any of the taste of the flour. You can't do this once you have added the cheese. Melt in your grated cheese. You will need a thick sauce because the fluid from the fish and the spinach will naturally thin it.

Stir in a bag of spinach, which will wilt in the sauce, and add your fish and put it all in an ovenproof dish. Put your leeky potatoes on top and grate a little more cheese over the top.

Bake until golden brown.


Quick Bags of Salmon
1 salmon fillet per person

Lay a square of tinfoil out on a flat surface and slightly grease with a little butter or oil. Put the fillet on top of the foil. Season fillet with a little black pepper. Place your choice of flavouring on top of the fish. Join sides of foil together to make a bag and place on a baking tray and cook in oven 160F for about 15 - 20 minutes. Or BBQ over a medium heat for 10 minutes.


Fresh herbs and lemon:

Mix up 1 tbsp olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and a handful of fresh, chopped herbs like parsley, tarragon or chives. Add a little pepper and rub all over the fish. If you are out of herbs a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon will work.

Or Garlic Butter:

Blend some softened butter with finely chopped garlic and herbs. Wrap in foil and put in fridge. When firm add a couple of knobs to each fish bag.

Or Pesto:

Two good teaspoonfuls of Pesto placed on top of the fillet.

Or Tomato and Ginger:

Heat half a bottle of passata in a pan, grate in a thumb of ginger and add salt and pepper and a good pinch of sugar. Mix it all up, simmer for a few minutes and add to the fish bag.


Salmon and Samphire Pancakes (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)
Makes twelve pancakes

  • For the pancakes
  • 60z. self-raising flour
  • 1 whole egg and one or two yolks (depending on the size of the eggs)
  • 13 fl. oz. Milk and water (mixed)
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Filling
  • 1 lb cooked salmon or other bone- and skin-free fish
  • 4-6oz. Samphire (available at Waitrose spring/summer;spinach, cooked chopped drained and dried is a good alternative)
  • Velouté sauce
  • 2oz. butter
  • 11/2oz. flour
  • 1pt fresh fish stock
  • 5 fl oz creme fraîche or whipping cream
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Finish
  • 11/2-2oz grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1oz. butter

Combine the pancake ingredients into a smooth batter and leave for an hour. Then make the pancakes. Pick over the samphire to remove any woody stalks and blanche in boiling water for two minutes. Then refresh under the cold tap to bring the colour back. Flake the fish. Fill pancakes with salmon and samphire, roll them up and put them side-by-side in a buttered ovenproof dish.

A Velouté sauce is a white sauce made with stock rather than milk: veal, chicken or fish depending on the dish.

Warm the fish stock. Separately, melt the butter and work in the flour bit by bit until you have a paste. Whisk in the stock, off the heat , until all is combined and reduce with the lemon juice until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste. Add the cream or crème fraîche before pouring over the pancakes.

Grate the cheese over the top and pop them in the oven till the cheese is nice and bubbly, when they will be heated through.


Sea bass and braised fennel (serves 2-4)
This is a marriage made in heaven, provided that there is enough fish, and the fennel remains firm and unwatery.

  • Four small (300g) or two large (500g) fish, gutted and descaled
  • Three fennel bulbs
  • Grated zest of an orange
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ glass white wine
  • 4 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 190deg C/gas mark 5. Cut off the tops and stems of the fennel bulbs. Set the tops aside. Halve the bulbs and cut the halves into six wedges. Place the fennel in a large roasting tin with the orange zest, fennel seeds, oil, wine and salt and pepper. Mix together well, cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes.

Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff with the fennel tops and bay leaves. Lay the fish on top of the part-roasted fennel bulbs and return to the oven for 20-25 minutes until the fish is done and the fennel is tender.

Some recommend serving with a sprinkling of parsley. I have seen sea bass served with an upright sprig of rosemary stuck in it, which has been set alight and is smouldering. Brilliant touch.


Sue Goodwin's Salmon Loaf
1 tbsp oil

  • 1lb cooked salmon
  • 1lb tomatoes, peeled blanched and chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 8 cocktail pickled gherkins, thinly sliced
  • 2 fl oz double cream
  • 5 coarsely chopped hard boiled eggs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp black pepper
  • ½ oz gelatine
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 10 fl oz mayonnaise

Grease a 2lb loaf tin with the oil.

In a large bowl combine the flaked fish, eggs, tomatoes, gherkins, parsley, salt & pepper.

In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, cream, lemon juice and dissolved gelatine.

Stir this mixture into the salmon mixture and combine well.

Spoon mixture into tin and smooth down well with the back of spoon. Place in fridge for a minimum of two hours until firm. Run knife round edge of tin and turn out onto a plate.

You can make this the day before without any risk, and I think it tastes even better.




Jerusalem Artichoke and Venison Stew (La cuisine de Jacqueline)
Jerusalem artichokes are a member of the sunflower family and grow to enormous heights and can be used as a screen (although rather untidy) whilst their nutty, knobbly roots are swelling with pride below the soil, ready later on for the winter harvesting. Jerusalem artichokes make wonderful soup and the following recipe is a delicious stew for winter suppers in the kitchen. I have used venison here but beef could be used instead.

  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1 lb stewing venison (or beef skirt)
  • 1 tbs seasoned flour
  • 1 tbs oil
  • Fresh thyme sage & rosemary tied in a bundle
  • 8 oz (225 g) Jerusalem artichokes
  • 4 oz button mushrooms
  • 10 fl oz red wine
  • Dumplings
  • 4 oz self-raising flour
  • 2 oz suet
  • Salt
  • Cold water
  • 2 tbs fresh herbs

Fry onions in oil until soft. Toss meat in flour, cook quickly in oil until browned and sealed – set meat aside.

Deglaze the pan with water. Replace meat and add vegetables wine and herbs. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1-11/2 hours on Gas mark 5, 180C/375F.

To make the dumplings bind the ingredients together with water. Divide into six and place on top of the stew. Bake in the middle of the oven for half an hour (add more watrer to the stew if ir is too dry or too thick).


Crunchy Topped Pheasant
Brace of pheasants, or one pheasant and a chicken

  • 1 glass of white wine
  • ½ pint of chicken stock
  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 glasses of milk
  • a dash of cream
  • ½ lb streaky bacon
  • 8 oz fried breadcrumbs

Roast pheasants with wine and chicken stock for 30-40 mins. When cool, pull apart and cut into pieces. Grill bacon and cut small. Strain liquid the pheasants were cooked in. Make a bechamel sauce with the milk and strained liquid, add a dash of cream and season well.



Diet Coke Chicken
This is an exceptional discovery! I should think kids will love it.

It comes from the trendy 5:2 diet recipe book, courtesy of Claire Cowking. While this version suggests chicken, either turkey, pork, veal, prawns or white fish would do equally well, I’m sure. These quantities serve 3-4 calorie conscious diners!

  • 1 onion peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 green pepper seeded and cut into bite sized bits
  • 300g skinless chicken breast
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 tbps Worcestershie sauce
  • 200g passata
  • 330ml can diet coke
  • Seasoning

Fry the onion over a medium heat until soft and then stir in the crushed garlic and heat for another minute. Add the carrot and pepper to the pan and soften the lot for a further couple of minutes.

Stir in the diced chicken, five spice and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, for another three minutes.

Pour in the passata and diet coke and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick, and adding a bit of water to loosen if necessary.

Serve with something which will soak up all the delicious sauce.


Gill Ford's Chicken with Tarragon and Cider. Serves Four
Preparation: prepare 20 minutes; cook 50 minutes 

  • 500 ml bottle of Leckford Farm Cox's Apple Vintage Cider
  • 8 Chicken Thigh Fillets
  • 2tsp Bart Ground Allspice
  • 40g butter
  • 2 Cox's apples, cored and cut into wedges
  • 250g Chestnut mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 15g pack fresh tarragon, finely shredded
  • 4tbsp double cream

Place cider in saucepan, bring to boil and simmer until reduced by half.

Rub chicken thighs on both sides with allspice and a little salt.

Melt half of butter in large, deep-sided frying pan or saute pan with lid, and fry apple wedges and mushrooms until golden. Drain with slotted spoon and place on plate. Keep warm.

Melt remaining butter in pan and fry the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until lightly browned. Pour in reduced cider and bring to boil. Lower the heat and cook gently covered for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.(Can be cooked in oven 180F for 30-40 minutes.)

Return apples and mushrooms to pan with tarragon and cream. Season to taste and heat gently for 5 minutes, before serving with piping hot mashed potato.


Hannah's Chicken leftovers
Cut up your chicken leftovers and put them in the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour in a tin of chopped tomatoes, and squeeze some puree over the top. Make a white sauce including single cream. Fry onions, bacon and mushrooms up together. Do the bacon before the mushrooms, or the bacon won't brown. Add this to the sauce. Cook some pasta, fusilli or penne are best, add it to the sauce and pour the lot over the chicken. Mix it all up, grate some cheddar over the top and shove it in the oven for 20 minutes to heat through properly. Don't use multicoloured pasta. The green and orange bits don't seem to cook as well, and don't taste right. Give this to the kids on a Monday night, with a salad if they'll eat it.


Ramsden Fridays Chicken Basque (with thanks to Delia Smith)

  • 3½ pound chicken - cut into pieces, salt and pepper
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves - chopped
  • 5 oz chorizo, skinned -- cut into ½″ slices
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh herbs - chopped
  • ½ cup pitted black olives - halved
  • ½ large orange, cut into ½″ wedges - peel on


Start off by seasoning the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Next, slice the red peppers in half and remove the seeds and pith, then slice each half into six strips. Likewise, peel the onion and slice into strips of approximately the same size. The dried tomatoes should be drained, wiped dry with paper towels and then cut into ½″ pieces.

Now heat 2 tbsp olive oil in the casserole, and when it is fairly hot, add the chicken pieces - 2 or 3 at a time - and brown them to a nutty golden colour on both sides. As they brown, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels, using a slotted spoon. Next add a little more oil to the casserole, with the heat slightly higher than medium. As soon as the oil is hot, add the onion and peppers and allow them to brown a little at the edges, moving them around from time to time, for about 5 minutes.

After that add the garlic, chorizo, and dried tomatoes and toss these around for a minute or two until the garlic is pale golden and the chorizo has taken on some colour. Next, stir in the rice, and when the grains have a good coating of oil, add the stock, wine, tomato paste, and paprika. As soon as everything has reached a simmer, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add a little more seasoning, then place the chicken gently on top of everything (it’s important to keep the rice down in the liquid). Finally, sprinkle the herbs over the chicken pieces and scatter the olives and wedges of orange in among them.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over the gentlest possible heat for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the rice is cooked but still retains a little bite. Alternatively, cook in a preheated oven at 350 for 1 hour.

Serves 4.

Note “The delicious combination of chicken and rice, olives and peppers is typical of all the regions of the western Mediterranean, but to my mind this Spanish version, with the addition of spicy chorizo sausage and a hint of paprika, beats the lot. My interpretation of it also uses dried tomatoes preserved in oil to give it even more character. This recipe will provide a complete supper for 4 from the same pot - it needs nothing to accompany it!”


Sue Hill's Chicken basque
Serves 4-6

  • 3½ lb chicken jointed (or buy joints separately)
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 1 very large or 2 medium onions
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2-3 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 oz chorizo sausage, skinned and cut into ½ inch slices
  • Brown basmati rice measured to the 8 fl oz level in a glass measuring jug
  • 10 fl oz chicken stock
  • 6 fl oz dry white wine
  • 1 level tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 oz pitted black olives halved
  • ½ orange, peeled and cut into wedges
  • Salt & pepper

Season chicken joints well with salt and pepper. Slice the red peppers in half and remove the seeds, then slice each half into six strips. Peel the onion and slice into strips approximately the same size. The dried tomatoes should be drained, wiped dry and then cut into ½ inch pieces.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in the casserole and when it is fairly hot, add the chicken pieces two or three at a time. Brown till and nutty golden colour on both sides. As they brown remove them to a plate lined with kitchen paper using a draining-spoon. Next add a little more oil to the casserole, with the heat slightly higher than medium. As soon as the oil is hot, add the onion and peppers and allow them to brown a little at the edges, moving them around from time to time for about 5 minutes.

After that add the garlic, chorizo and dried tomatoes and toss these around for a minute or two until the garlic is pale golden and the chorizo has taken on some colour. Next stir in the rice and when the grains have a good coating of oil, add the stock, wine, tomato puree and paprika. As soon as everything has reached simmering point, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add a little more seasoning, then place the chicken gently on top of everything (it is important to keep the rice down in the liquid). Finally sprinkle the herbs over the chicken pieces and scatter the olives and wedges of orange in among them.

Cover tightly and cook over the gentlest possible heat for about 50 minutes – 1 hour or until the rice is cooked but still retains a little bite. Alternatively cook in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4 350F for 1 hour.


Jen's Chicken Curry Pasanda (adapted from Curry Frenzy)
Serves four.

Add curry powder and one large onion finely chopped to pan with 3tbs of olive oil and simmer until onion is soft. Add 6 boned chicken thighs - or equivalent - to pan and coat with onion and Pasanda powder - 2mins. Add can of coconut milk and 4 tsp of garlic and tomato puree. Simmer on a very very low heat - no bubbling - for an hour. Leave to cool down. Add small carton of coconut cream and 2tbs of ground pistachio nuts and reheat slowly (no boiling). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook until chicken hot. Serve.

This is a bit different from the packet as I do not add the ginger, sugar or wine ( garlic could be left out as well). I leave the wine out as with cream it can curdle if you are not careful and anyway it is unnecessary - and I prefer to drink it. Remember the packet recipe is per person as well. Double cream could be used instead of the coconut milk and/or cream, but it isn't quite so good I feel.


Ping’s Sunday spicy roast chicken (see Ping’s rice in Mains: Veg)
Ping Coombes won Masterchef a couple of weeks ago, as surely most devotees hoped and assumed she would. Here is one of her recipes:

  • 1 medium chicken
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 2 green chillies
  • A small knob of ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1tbsp olive oil

Blitz all the spices in a blender to a smooth paste and to prevent this becoming too watery, add a little olive oil. Rub the chicken in oil and rock salt and leave at room temperature for five or ten minutes.

Now rub the paste all over the chicken and leave in the fridge overnight if it is for the next dayt, or for 30 mins at room temperature (or less if it is a very hot day). The longer you leave it, the spicier the meat will be.

Cook for 90 mins at 180degrees (slightly less in an Aga), and half an hour before the bird is done, pour over a can of coconut milk.


Sue Hill's One pot Chicken with Red Onions, Potatoes and Rosemary
Serves 4

  • 2 red onions cut into wedges
  • 550g waxy potatoes, either baby or old cut into small pieces
  • 2 garlic bulbs separated into cloves, but not peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • about 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 8 chicken joints (any sort) rubbed with sea salt to crisp the skin

Spread the vegetables and garlic in a single layer over the base of a roasting tin so that they will crisp and brown beautifully. Season, pour over the oil and balsamic vinegar and add the rosemary leaving some sprigs whole and stripping the leaves off the rest. Toss the vegetables with your hands and tuck the chicken joints in among them. Bake for 45 minutes at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 until cooked through.

Transfer everything to a big platter or take to the table in the roasting tin. Serve a green salad on the side.

Courtesy of Diana Henry.



Cooking Curiosities – La Cuisine de Jacqueline (March 2013)

In light of the horsemeat scandal, I thought I would share with you a few cooking curiosities:

Paris Christmas Day 1870

  • Menu
  • Stuffed Donkey’s Head
  • Roast Camel a l‘Anglaise
  • Jugged Kangaroo
  • Roast ribs of Bear with Sauce Poivrade
  • Haunch of Wolf with Sauce Chevreuil
  • Truffled cat/rabbit

This menu, accompanied by exquisite wine, was not a case of French cooking gone berserk but born of sheer necessity. It was served at Voisin, then the most chic of Paris restaurants on the 99th day of the Siege of Paris. Under siege by the Germans, Paris faced starvation: beef and lamb were non-existent; horsemeat was being sold under-the-counter as a delicacy. Fish was snatched from the Tuileries ponds and sold in the fish market.

While Parisians became adept at cooking up their starving pets, lavishly flavoured with spices and wines, Monsieur Deboos, a leading Paris butcher, had the idea of buying up the Paris Zoo. It was not cold-blooded opportunism on his part that led to his cornering a rare and profitable market, there was simply nothing left to feed the animals, so many of these unfortunates turned up on his butcher’s block. Let us profoundly hope that never again will a country have to turn to its zoos or pets for food.

Horsemeat has been part of the Continental diet for ever. However I have no desire to eat these beautiful animals and find their abuse within the British food chain disgusting.

J W-L 1st March 2013


Boeuf au Randolph
Readers will know of the extensive damage to the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, caused by fire. It emerges that the cause was overenthusiastic addition of brandy during the flambéing of a Beef Stroganoff. Here is the recipe, appropriately named:

  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 150g/5oz white mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 11/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 110ml/4fl oz beef stock
  • 500g/1lb 2oz beef fillet, cut into strips
  • 150ml/5 fl oz brandy
  • 200ml/6fl oz soured cream
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a frying pan until hot, then add half the butter. When foaming, add the onion and fry until just softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato puree, mustard and paprika, and cook for a further minute.

Add the beef stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat a separate frying pan and add the remaining butter. When foaming add the beef and fry for 2-3 minutes until browned on both sides.

Add the brandy and carefully allow to flambé in the pan.

Make sure there are no flammable materials above the pan!

Add the soured cream to the onion and mushroom mixture.

When the flames have subsided, add the beef to the soured cream and onion mixture and cook for one minute. Season to taste and add the parsley.


Cottage Pie
"This great-value family favourite freezes beautifully and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser"

Happily, these are the words with which the BBC recipe for Cottage Pie begins. When I was young, there was no question of my mother buying frozen ready-made meals. On Monday or Tuesday most weeks, depending on the size of the week-end joint, out would come the mincer, and that night we would have Cottage pie or Shepherds’ pie. We used Cottage for beef and Shepherds’ for lamb, but this is apparently a modern distinction.

This weekly tradition, now largely lost, may soon make a comeback, so here is the old-fashioned recipe. Mincers, incidentally, are still readily available:

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1oz butter or dripping
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1lb raw or cold roast beef, minced
  • 1 level tbsp flour
  • ¼ pint (125ml) beef stock or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½lb (750gm) freshly boiled potatoes
  • 1 ½oz (39gm) butter
  • 2 tbsp hot milk
  • Beaten egg for brushing


Heat butter or dripping in saucepan. Add onion and fry gently until pale gold. Add meat and fry a little more briskly until lightly brown, breaking it up with a fork all the time. Stir in flour then blend in stock or water.

Bring to boil and simmer for five minutes, stirring. Season well with salt and pepper and transfer to a greased dish about 2in (5cm) in depth.

Mash potatoes finely with butter then beat in milk. Season and then spoon over the mince. Brush lightly with beaten egg and then cook in the cente of the oven for 30 minutes.

You can do almost anything to this basic recipe: add frozen peas, marmite, Worcester sauce, or carrots to the mince and leeks, nutmeg, horseradish or what you will to the potato. Personally I think that adding red wine begins to make this most English of meals all too foreign, so I recommend it with ketchup, Branston pickle, or both.


Ernest Hemingway's Favourite Hamburger Recipe
The other day I went to a well-known pub a few miles away and ordered a hamburger. I was told there was no choice as to how it was cooked (I thought we had grown out of this nonsense). The meal which followed was actually pretty good and better than expected, but inevitably, the patty of meat that arrived was rubbery and grey. I regard this as a hanging offence. 

Here's a proper recipe for hamburger »


Granny's Steak and Kidney
Serves 4-6


  • 2-3lb topside of beef
  • 4-6 lambs' kidneys
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 1/2oz. Dripping
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • Mixed herbs
  • Marmite
  • Seasoning to taste
  • Bought puff pastry

Some people prefer to soak lambs' kidneys in milk before cooking. I do not find it necessary for this dish. The secret to the remarkable taste is the marmite. There is absolutely no point in making your own puff pastry.

Make more than you need and freeze half!


Remove all fat from the beef and cube. Cut out the tough white core of the kidneys with a sharp knife or scissors if you didn't get a butcher to do this for you. Don't worry if little bits are left, this isn't an exam.

Melt the fat in a heavy pan and soften the onion with the bay leaves.

Add the meat and cook slowly until juices run and the meat is almost covered, then sprinkle on the flour and stir well. Scrunch in the stock cube and add marmite, mixed herbs and seasoning.

Cook slowly in the oven (Simmering oven if an Aga) for 1 ½-2hours or longer if you like, adding water if necessary and gravy browning or Worcester sauce if you feel the need.

Transfer to pie dish and let it cool. You can freeze it at this point if none of the original ingredients were frozen.

Cover with puff pastry and cook for 25-30mins or until brown.


Torness Cottage Lamb Curry (courtesy of Andy Varde)

I grew up with an English mother and Indian father, which made the food when I was growing up very interesting indeed! Our Sunday lunches would alternate between a traditional roast, and a curry, all of which as children we lapped up. The recipe here was one of my particular favourites and the ingredients are easy to get hold of except for one which can be substituted, although I recommend you try to get hold of the proper stuff. The difficult ingredient is the Bolst's curry powder, which is available at some delicatessens or online at Amazon or The Asian Cookshop, among others. It is also worth getting the powdered spices reasonably fresh, as if you use a jar from the back of the larder you bought in 1975 you lose a lot of flavour! This recipe is a really easy 'from scratch' curry made in one pot (do not be put off by the long list of ingredients) and the smell while cooking is fantastic. Serve with rice and chutneys you like.

You will need a large heavy based casserole dish with a lid.


  • About 1 kg Lamb (shoulder is best and save time by asking the butcher to cube and trim for you)
  • 2 medium onions, quite finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • One 2cm piece of Root Ginger finely chopped
  • 1 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 small tin Tomato Puree
  • 6 Cloves
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 3 4cm sticks of Cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons of Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh Coriander to garnish if you want

Whole Spices

  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin Seed (Jeera)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seed (Sarso)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Fenugreek Seed (Methi)

Powdered Spices

  • 1 Tablespoon Bolst's Curry Powder (Recommend Mild but choose Medium if you like, Hot not recommended)
  • 1 Heaped Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 1 Heaped Teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1 Heaped Teaspoon Turmeric (Haldi)

Bone and Cube the meat into bite sized chunks if the Butcher has not already done so.

Heat the oil in the casserole dish. Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger and all the spices in the 'Whole Spices' list and fry gently until the onions are soft and golden.

Add the meat and stir well. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add about 2 teaspoons of salt (less if you like but check to taste as you go), all the spices in the 'Powdered Spices' list and stir well again. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Tomato Puree, Cloves, Bay Leaves and Cinnamon Sticks and about 300ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.


Ian Walton's "Some Like it Hotter" Sausage and Potato Casserole
This recipe is based on a Waitrose recipe which also includes peas, as below. If you want Ian's version, leave out the peas, which he forgot. It takes about an hour to prepare and cook, and the quantities below serve four. Ian halved and cooked 120 sausages and added lots of extra Worcestershire sauce.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 454g pack of 8 Free Range Hampshire Breed Pork Sausages
  • 227g can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 500 g baby new potatoes, halved
  • 300g frozen Garden Peas

Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and onions over a low heat for 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Twist each sausage in the middle and cut in half to make 2 small sausages, add to the pan and brown them on all sides.

Add the tomatoes, stock, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, potatoes and seasoning and bring to the boil. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Cover and bake in the oven for 50 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, stir the peas into the dish, cover and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Check seasoning and serve.


Ramsden Fridays: Moroccan lamb tagine (Serves four)
This is the BBC recipe served at the first Ramsden Friday, and devised for the BBC by Antony Worrall Thompson. We used cold pressed rapeseed oil instead of Argan.

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1½ tbsp paprika
  • 1½ tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 x shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into 5cm/2in chunks (about 1.1kg/2½lb meat in total)
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp argan oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 570ml/1 pint tomato juice
  • 2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 115g/4oz dried apricots, cut in half
  • 55g/2oz dates, cut in half
  • 55g/2oz sultanas or raisins
  • 85g/3oz flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
  • 600ml/1 pint lamb stock
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Place the cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss together with half of the spice mix. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of argan oil in a large casserole dish. Add the grated onion and the remaining spice mix and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes so that the onions are soft but not coloured. Add the crushed garlic for the final 3 minutes.

In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides then add the browned meat to the casserole dish. De-glaze the frying pan with ¼ pint of tomato juice and add these juices to the pan.


Muntjac Ragu with Fresh Tagliatelle
Not many people realise you can eat Muntjac. The meat is dense and flavoursome. It can be treated like lamb in lots of ways as it is delicious both pink and slow cooked. It holds its texture very well makes a wonderful winter feast. Use fresh dried tagliatelle.

Serves 4


  • 1 Muntjac haunch, boned and diced
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 4 sticks Celery, diced
  • 2 glasses Red Wine
  • 100ml Fresh Chicken Stock
  • 2 tins Chopped Italian Tomatoes
  • 10 sprigs Thyme
  • 1 tbsp Redcurrant Jelly
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 tsp Tomato Paste
  • Salt & Pepper


The great thing about this recipe is that it cooks overnight and the meat doesn't need searing first, so it can be thrown together and left alone. Sauté the vegetables until soft then throw in all the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good stir, then put a circle of greaseproof paper over the liquid and follow with a tight fitting lid. Put in a low oven 130c for 8 hours.

In morning, check the seasoning, give a good stir. The ragu can be frozen or re-heated from this point when ready to serve. Mix well with the tagliatelle before serving to coat it with the sauce. Shave lots and lots of good quality parmesan over before serving with a drizzle of good virgin olive oil.

At the end of cooking, sprinkle a little more Garam Masala and Chopped Coriander if you like.


Pork Medallions in Marsala and Mushroom Sauce
When not roasting, men cook meat with alcohol and cream.

Pork tenderloin can easily go wrong. Buy good meat and let it dry before cooking, or you end up par-boiling it, whatever you are trying to do. The olive oil helps the meat brown before it tightens up.

Serves 4

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) pork tenderloin, cut into 8 thick slices
  • 200g (7oz) chestnut mushrooms, halved
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) Marsala wine
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) hot chicken stock
  • 150ml (5fl oz) double cream
  • 3tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
  • 40g (1½oz) salted butter
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • For the potatoes
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) baby new potatoes
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Small bunch of chives, finely chopped

Put the new potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with some boiling water from the kettle, add 2tsp of salt and cook for 10 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the medallions of pork for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the meat to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Add the chestnut mushrooms to the frying pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Put the pork back into the frying pan with the mushrooms and pour in the Marsala. Allow to bubble for about 2 minutes then add the stock and cream. Stir in the chopped tarragon and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and return to the same pan, stir in the butter, lemon zest and chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper.


Roasted Sausages with squash, pancetta and chilli
If you go to Blenheim Horse Trials, the chances are that you’ll come away with a pack of sausages and the chances are that, if you work it out, these are the most expensive sausages you’ll ever buy. With the supermarkets full of squash, Hallowe’en being on the horizon, there’s a great opportunity to enjoy your expensive investment to the full. This Sunday Times recipe serves four, takes fifteen minutes to prepare and 45 to cook. Some advocate onion gravy with sausages at all times. Personally, I can’t stand it.

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, bashed in their skins
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • Good pinch dried chilli flakes ½ tsp fennel seed
  • 8 pork sausages
  • 2 sall squashes (eg acorn) or half a larger one (eg butternut) peeled and cut into wedges
  • 700 g potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces and parboiled
  • 100 g pancetta or streaky bacon

Heat the oven to 200C. Pour the oil into a roasting tray and heat for five minutes. Swish around the garlic, fennel, chilli and rosemary, to release the flavours. Add the sausages, squash, and spuds and toss in the oil. Roast for twenty minutes, turn and roast for a further ten. Add the pancetta and roast for a further ten minutes, or till the potatoes are supercrisp, and the squash, sausages and pancetta are golden.



Broad Beans (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)

But since he stood for England

And knew what England means, 

Unless you give him bacon

You mustn't give him beans.

This is part of G.K. Chesterton's poem The Englishman in which he asserts that there should be no cake without ale, no wine without nuts, and no bacon without beans, Broad Beans, not baked beans, which, as any schoolboy will tell you, are good for the heart.

Boiling bacon with broad beans is old practice. Broad beans were a basic European foodstuff before the discovery of the New World, and of runner beans, green French beans and so on. It is from Broad Beans that we get the term beanfeast, or Beano. Generations of children would be appalled to learn that the home of their favourite comic heroes owes its name to a green vegetable.

Broad beans are either Longpod (8-10 beans) or Windsor (shorter and fatter, 4-6 beans). The Windsor bean types have better flavour, though the yield is obviously smaller; quality rather than quantity.

Broad Bean Salad

  • 12oz. Broad beans (shelled weight)
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2-3 sprigs of mint
  • Half a cucumber
  • Punnet of cherry tomatoes (could include yellow)
  • 6 spring onions (sliced)
  • 4 oz. Greek Feta (or goat's cheese)

Boil the beans until tender. Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped mint and pepper. Quarter the cucumber lengthways and then slice across. Quarter the tomatoes. 

Drain the beans and skin them.

Add them to the dressing. Stir in the other vegetables and crumble in the cheese.

P.S. Broad beans make an excellent soup with potatoes, onions, a light stock and some chives to decorate.

Cheese and Tomato souffle

Serves 2

4 large eggs, pinch english mustard, 30g parmesan grated, 60g mature cheddar,250g cherry tomatoes, salt & pepper

Heat oven to 200c/180c fan or top right of Aga

Separate eggs into 2 bowls. Add to yolks, parmesan, mustard, S&P, and most of the cheddar.

Whip up eggs whites to form soft peaks.

Using a metal spoon fold egg yolk mixture into whites carefully.

Put frying pan over heat, add butter and oil and when foaming add cherry tomatoes. Swirl around until slightly blistered. Add egg mixture, after 30 secs take off heat and put on floor of oven, Aga, having sprinkled the top with remaining cheddar. Cook for 10 mins or until risen and golden.

Serve with salad

Cheesy spuds

This recipe is reprinted from a Ramsden Newsletter going back over thirty years.

Choose large potatoes, if possible of uniform Size. Peel these and and lay in turn on the table close against the edge of a chopping board about ½" thick. Take a sharp knife and slice the potatoes crosswise from end to end every ¼" but not completely through, the board preventing the knife from cutting more than 2/3rds deep. Now, by gently bending the potato back you can open the slices. Fill the cracks with butter and grated cheese, sprinkle the whole with grated cheese and bake.

Mega Roasted Vegetable Ciabatta (La Cuisine de Jacqueline, from Aga Carte Recipes, Peter Hughes, Machynlleth, Wales)

This is a wonderful dish for lunch or an outdoor picnic. The secret of its success is to weigh it down in the fridge. It can be eaten cold but I prefer it warm. It is crunchy and wholesome. Use coarsely grated gruyere instead of brie if preferred.


  • 1 Ciabatta loaf, cut in half, lengthways
  • 2 tablespoons red or green pesto
  • 1 small aubergine
  • 3 sun dried tomatoes snipped finely
  • Half a head of fennel thinly sliced
  • Half an onion thinly sliced
  • 4 oz (100g) chestnut mushrooms
  • 4oz (100g) brie (thinly sliced)


2 tbsp oliver oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp caster sugar, 1 tsp red or green pesto, salt & pepper, freshly torn basil leaves.


Mix all dressing ingredients together. Slice aubergine lengthways and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the aubergine in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Add mushrooms, fennel and onion together and grill for about five minutes, until cooked.

Remove some of the soft dough from inside the ciabatta and spread the insides with pesto.

Sprinkle the dressing over the base of the ciabatta. Layer the aubergine, fennel, onion tomatoes and brie slices. Sprinkle seasoning between the layers. Put on the top half of the ciabatta and press down, wrap in clingfilm or foil and pout in the fridge, weighed down, for 40 minutes.

When required, roast for ten minutes and serve with the salad of your choice.

Fennel and prosciutto gratin

A great craze, such as sea bass and fennel, can make one forget that a vegetable can have other companions and can stand on its own feet. Here’s a gratin to go with anything! (serves 4)

  • 4 medium fennel bulbs
  • 125g (about six slices) of parma ham
  • 500ml double cream
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • 25g salt
  • Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Slice the base off the fennel bulbs and then cut them into eight wedges. Arrange in an ovenproof dish. Tear each of the ham slices in two, scrunch them up and fit them round the fennel. Add seasoning but remember the ham is already salty. Pour over the cream so the wedges stick through here and there. Mix garlic parsley and butter into the breadcrumbs, scatter over the fennel and bake for an hour.

Gurkha potatoes (Jenny Sutcliffe)

  • Potatoes - parboil and skin. when cool, chop into cubes.
  • Mix together tsp of each:
  • mustard seeds
  • green chilli
  • cumin seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • garlic
  • garam marsala
  • ginger - fresh if possible

Fry cubes of potato in olive/sunflower oil on medium heat until starting to brown. Add spice mix. In last few minutes add a knob of butter and season to taste. sprinkle a good handful of chopped coriander leaves over when dish is cooked.


Add 3-4 de-cored and chopped tomatoes and/or spinach leaves with the butter.

PS cauliflower can be done by the same method.

Jen's Roast Watermelon

It was yummy. Watermelon must not be too ripe and should be de-seeded as much as possible and cut into large chunks - small avocado size. Put a little olive oil in base of pan add watermelon chunks close together, sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and paprika. Cook in medium oven for about 30 minutes - till it looks a bit like roasted peppers. Sprinkle over one tbs of balsamic (white) vinegar (I'm sure other types would work I've just never tried them ? sherry vinegar?. Reserve any excess juice to make the meat or fish sauce. Serve with lamb, duck etc, but I'm going to try it with a Mediterranean cod dish next.

Rhubarb added at the end to a slow cooked shank is good a well.

Marinated Jersey Royal Salad with Sausages

I've been asking around for recipes for Jersey's, but the consensus seems to be: boil a little, butter a lot and maybe some fresh mint. So, here's a TV chef recipe:

  • 8 plain or herb sausages (I prefer leek)
  • 600g (1 1/2lb) Jersey Royals, washed and scrubbed
  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onions, sliced (white will overpower)
  • 1 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
  • Large pinch sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp grainy mustard
  • Handful each of chives and parsley, chopped

Preheat the grill. Pierce the sausages and grill until golden and cooked through (or stick them in the bottom of the Aga for 40 mins). Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 mins (not too long!). Drain. Heat 1tbsp of oil and sauté the onions until soft. Add the vinegar and sugar, cover and continue cooking for a few minutes until the onions have lightly caramelised. Chop the potatoes and add back to the pan, stirring through the remaining oil, mustard, onions and herbs. Season and serve with the sausages and more mustard.

Ping’s Lemon and Cardamom Rice (see Ping’s chicken in Mains:Meat)

  • A cup and a half of jasmine rice
  • The rind of two lemons
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • A pint of chicken stock (use your usual method for balancing amounts of rice and liquid)

Heat up the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and cook till they start to pop. Add the lemon rind and cardamom and gently fry to release the flavours.

Pour the rice onto the spices and mix up well, and then add the stock till it is an inch above the level of the rice. Cook over a medium heat till bubbles start to form on the surface of the liquid.

When the rice has started to absorb, put a lid on and steam for thirty minutes (top left of the Aga) till the rice is fluffy.

Root Vegetable Mash

My wife hates mashed potato, no doubt a hangover from school lunches. Here is an alternative:

  • 1 small celeriac
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium swede
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • A grating of nutmeg

Parsnips are deliberately excluded as these should ideally be roasted as a separate offering. Delicious!

Chop all the vegetables into small cubes andplace in a pan of cold water. Gently boil for 20 mins until cooked through. Drain and allow to steam in a colaner for a few minutes, to get rid of as much water as possible. Mash, adding the butter, milk, cream, and nutmeg (or horseradish if serving with beef, mustard if serving with pork, or mint if serving with lamb).

Season to taste and serve.

Tanya Hill's creamy potatoes

Peel your potatoes and slice thinly, but do not put in water, as you want to keep the starch for thickening your sauce.

Put half milk and half double cream in a saucepan with a knob of butter. Heat slowly, and when the butter has melted, add the potatoes and season with salt, pepper and as much nutmeg as you enjoy.

Stir over a gentle heat. The liquid will draw the starch from the potatoes and thicken. When the sauce is like thin custard, pour the contents of the pan into an ovenproof dish and bake in a hot oven for 30-45 mins, or until cooked.

Spiced Pumpkin and coconut casserole (from Waitrose cook book, courtesy of La C de J)


  • 500gm shallots
  • 1½kg pumpkin or squash
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 fennel bulb (chopped)
  • 3 red peppers (deseeded and roughly chopped)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tbs Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tbs chopped thyme
  • 1 vegetable stock cube or 1 ½ pints fresh vegetable stock
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 400gm can chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml single cream

Place shallots in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for two minutes. Rinse in cold water, peel away the skins and leave whole. Cut pumpkin or squash in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut away the skin and chop the flesh into 2-3cm chunks.

Heat the oil, add fennel and shallots, fry for 6-8 mins and lift to a plate. Add peppers to oil and fry for 10 mins, stirring until softened and slightly browned. Make sure the colour in the peppers comes up as this confirms the sweetness and flavour will come out. Return shallots and fennel to pan, add garlic, Cajun seasoning, pumpkin and thyme.

Crumble in the stock cube or add the stock, with the coconut milk, and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cover and cook for 45 mins, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the cream and leave to stand for ten minutes.

Serve with Naan bread and rice with chickpeas.


Italian Garden Lasagne (La Cuisine de Jacqueline – from Mary Berry)

Enough for eight

  • 3 tbps olive oil
  • 1½ large onions, chopped
  • 1½ lb button mushrooms
  • 3 fat cloves crushed garlic
  • 1½ oz plain flour
  • 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 or 3 courgettes
  • 1½ tsp caster sugar
  • 1½ lb whole-leaf spinach (cooked, drained and chopped)
  • 8 oz pre-cooked lasagne (dried or fresh)
  • Sauce
  • 4-5 fl oz milk
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • A few black peppercorns
  • 6 oz butter
  • 4½ oz plain flour 11/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Finish
  • 12 oz mature cheddar, grated

Infuse the milk, bayleaf and pappercorns. Bring to the boil and cool.

Heat the oil and fry the onion till soft, then ad the mushrooms, courgettes and garlic. Sprinkle all this with the flour and blend it in. Mix in the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and sugar, bring the lot to the boil and then remove from the heat.

Melt the butter for the sauce and work the flour in to form your roux. Blend in the infused milk bit by bit, off the heat and stir in the mustard. Reduce to the required consistency if necessary.

Spread one third of he tomato courgette and mushroom mix over the base of an ovenproof dish and then a layer of spinach. Season. Lay lasagne sheets over this and go on alternating toll the mixture is used up. The top layer must be pasta.

Now pour over the sauce and the grated cheese and pop the whole in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Oliver's favourite carbonara

There are masses of variations in the making of spaghetti carbonara. This is the only recipe in our house the kids have asked to take away with them. 500gm fresh spaghetti is assumed to feed four.

Cut as much smoked streaky bacon as you want into small squares and cook separately. Thicker slices from the butcher are best, cooked till almost crunchy. To half-a-pint (275ml) of runny double cream, in a small circular bowl, add three egg yolks, and as much ground black pepper and grated nutmeg as you like. Cook the pasta and drain. Stir cream and eggs into the pasta while it is hot. You'll need a rubbery spatula as the pepper and nutmeg get left behind. That's also why the bowl is round. Return to the heat briefly and continue stirring while the cream and eggs cook. Half a minute or a little more. Serve and sprinkle the bacon on top so people can stir it in if they want to. Serve with a salad if they'll eat it.

Penne alla vodka

With January soon over, those who signed the pledge can look forward to the resumption of normal service, and may be encouraged by this offering:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2x400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp double cream
  • 125ml vodka
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 280g penne pasta (70g/head)
  • Parmesan (optional)

Let’s be honest, the quantities are a bit optional. I would certainly allow more pasta/head and more puree (and probably more cream) but do you want my figure?

Add the oil to a large pan and fry the onion gently for 8-10 mins or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and puree and slowly cook the sauce for about 30 mins until reduced, thickened and rich.

Stir in the double cream, vodka and basil, and cook out for a further ten minutes. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Cook the penne in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Four minutes should do it. Drain and add to the sauce and serve it from the saucepan to save the washing up.

Add more basil and grated parmesan once you have plated up.

Penne bake for (before or) after the cinema

These quantities serve 2-4, depending on what you serve the dish with and how hungry you are! Most of the ingredients are from jars or tins, so make it with what you have.

Empty a 250ml can of sweetcorn and a 185gm tin of tuna in oil into a sieve, so the tuna can drain. To this add a heaped tbsp of capers, a handful of chopped dry pitted olives, three or four sliced sweet piquant peppers (you buy them in a jar at the supermarket) and some chopped fresh yellow and orange peppers.

Boil cook and drain 250gm penne pasta, and stir the tuna and corn mix into this. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover with the grated cheese of your choice, and then add sliced tomatoes.

You can leave the whole thing to one side while you go to the movies, and heat for 15 mins on your return, while you make a salad. This works just as well with leftover chicken.


Summer risotto (fresh herbs and summer vegetables (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)

  • 2 tabs. Olive oil
  • 4 courgettes (thinly sliced) or, or with fresh peas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 350gm Arborio rice
  • 1-2 litres vegetable stock
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh mint
  • 100gm feta cheese

Heat the oil in a wide pan and add the sliced courgettes. Fry over a medium heat for five minutes. Add garlic and seasoning and cook for a another minute, then add the rice and cook for one further minute until the rice is coated with the oil. 

Bring the stock to the boil and gradually add to the rice a ladleful at a time, stirring until each amount is absorbed. Continue until all the stock is added and the rice is creamy and just tender. This will take 15-20 minutes. 

Off the heat, stir in chopped herbs and cubed feta and leave to rest for a couple of minutes. Season and serve.




Coronation sauce

Magazines and colour supplements are full of complex Coronation sauce recipes. This simple mixture is as good as any. Just put some mayo, not salad cream, in a bowl, and add mango chutney, curry powder, ground black pepper and sultanas. Stir together (tasting as you go, of course). To make it less oily and a bit runnier, add a little (only a little) milk. This sauce goes brilliantly with shredded cabbage and carrot, or penne pasta, as well as the more traditional shredded chicken leftovers.

Gooseberries (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)

Gooseberries, like apples, are either sour cookers or sweet eaters. The translucent, large, yellow red and pale green gooseberries are ambrosial eaten raw, but don't survive heat and sugar. The smaller tart green cookers are more common and do need cooking. The flavour defies the boundaries of sweet and savoury cooking. The French connect the gooseberry with oily fish and call it groseille a macquereau – mackerel currant. Gooseberry sauce is good with smoked fish or duck.

Cook a handful of gooseberries in a little water – sweeten lightly. Remember to keep the acidity as a foil to rich fish or meat. Sieve the fruit, heat this puree and whisk in a knob of unsalted butter. Do not let it boil.

Ramsden (Wild Garlic) Pesto (with thanks to Kathy Slack at


To quote from The Ramsden Village Story:” The preferred interpretation of ‘Ramsden’ is ‘valley where the wild garlic grows’ from the Anglo-Saxon hramsa meaning wild garlic and denu, a valley”.What more appropriate then, than the following?

A staple ingredient at this time of year. Perfect for daubing on roasts, stews, pasta, risotto (as above), this recipe will lift almost any dish and will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 3 tbsp pinenuts
  • 2 small handfuls wild garlic
  • good glut of decent olive oil
  • Salt

Whizz all the ingredients up in a processor. Dribble in more olive oil until you have a loose mix. If the wild garlic seems a bit fiery, temper the zing with a little lemon juice and a bit more salt. You can also increase the pine nuts which will mellow things out a bit if needed.

Raspberry and whisky sauce

Cranachan is one of the great Scots puds, and combines oats, honey, cream, raspberries and whisky. The key to its wonderful taste is the mixture of the whisky and fruit. Why not save yourself a lot of trouble? Just warm raspberries in a saucepan with a little icing sugar, to draw the juice, and splash in some whisky. This will work as well on pavlova as on duck breasts.

Tarragon Mousseline

Cold beef at Christmas is a huge relief from turkey and ham. If you’re bored with Branston and hate horseradish, try this.

  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 stalk tarragon
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 75g whipped cream

Put the vinegar in a pan with the tarragon stalk and simmer until reduced by half. Sieve into a bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk until foamy (an electric whisk is fine). Whisk in the butter little by little.

Allow to cool, stirring, then fold in the cream and chopped tarragon.

Tomato Sauce (these quantities are enough for spaghetti for six)

Make lots and freeze it, then use the sauce as a base for more exotic adaptations:

  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped (optional!)
  • 800gm tinned chopped tomatoes
  • Lots of torn up basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a high-sided pan and then add all the finely chopped vegetables. Fry until soft, about ten minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Tip in the tomatoes and simmer for quarter of an hour.

Remove from the heat, stir in the basil ,and season. Seve or let cool and freeze in portion controlled bags.

Arrabiata: add fresh or dried chilli;

Puttanesca: add finely chopped anchovy fillets, roughly chopped black olives and drained capers;

Siciliana: to arrabiata add prawns, anchovy fillets, raisins and pine nuts;

Al Tonno: add chilli flakes, lemon zest and tinned tuna.

Green Tomato Chutney

This has not been a good summer for outdoor tomato ripening, so there is plenty of green fruit around:


  • 175g/6oz light brown sugar
  • 150ml/5fl oz white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2cm/¾in piece fresh root ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 125g/4½oz sultanas
  • 600g/1lb 5oz green tomatoes, quartered

Preparation method

Heat the sugar in a frying pan until the sugar melts and caramelises. Add the white wine vinegar, shallot, garlic, ginger, chilli, sultanas and green tomatoes and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until the chutney has thickened and you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan so that it leaves a channel behind it that does not immediately fill with liquid.

Spoon the chutney into sterilised jars.

John Hook's Three Fruit Marmalade

  • 4 ripe lemons. ( Use unwaxed ones if you can find them but it's not essential.)
  • 2 sweet oranges, halved.
  • 2 grapefruits, washed.
  • 3.4 litres ( 6 pints ) water.
  • 2.7 Kg ( 6 lbs ) sugar.

This should make 10-15 jars, depending on the size of the jars you have.

1. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and oranges and pour into a preserving pan, reserving the pips pith and peel. Peel the grapefruit, removing and reserving the skin and the white pith. Roughly chop the grapefruit flesh, reserving any pips and pith. Add the grapefruit flesh to the pan.

2. Shred all the peel into pieces about half and inch by one eighth of an inch. If it is very pithy try to trim off some of the pith. Add the shredded peel to the pan with the water. Tie all the pith and pips in a piece of muslin and add to the pan.

3. Simmer gently for about an hour and a half by which time the peel should be quite soft and the contents of the pan reduced by half. Allow the liquid to cool. ( I usually resume activities the next day!)

4. Remove the muslin bag from the pan and squeeze all the liquid from it back into the pan. This gooey substance contains most of the pectin which sets the marmalade.

5. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring until disolved. Then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15 or 20 minutes, until setting point is reached.*

6. Remove from the heat and remove any scum. Leave to stand for 15 minutes, then stir to distribute the peel. Pot in sterilised ( dishwasher will do!) pots and cover in the usual way.

* To check for setting you can either use a modern gadget from a 'Cook Shop' or simply have a saucer in the freezer. When you suspect setting point has been reached dribble a few drops of liquid onto the cold saucer. Leave for a minute and run your finger over the surface. If 'ridges' are formed, it has set. If not, wait and try again!

Mark Phillips’ Classic Apple Chutney

No, not that Mark Phillips. This one is the joiner and carpenter who has been working around the village. Without exception, I have found home-made chutneys a disappointment by comparison with Branston until now. This is so simple, but it is just superb. Mark also makes blackberry jelly and elderflower jelly.

makes 2 litres approx.

  • 1½ kg Gala apples peeled and diced
  • 750 g light Muscovado sugar
  • 350g raisins
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2tsp mustard seeds
  • 2tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1tsp salt
  • 500ml cider vinegar (pickling vinegar will do)

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat then simmer uncovered to reduce, stirring frequently for 30-40minutes, or until thick. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Transfer to sterilised jars and seal.

Pear Mincemeat (La Cuisine de Jacqueline)

This Canadian pear mincemeat uses very ripe or over-ripe pears which often go too long in your fruit bowl and collapse into a brown mush. These are ideal for this mincemeat (or you could use apples). Here I use the original American cup measurements:

One cup equals 225gm or 8 fl oz. Quantities in this recipe can be halved or quartered.

  • 1 cup each currants and sultanas
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • Grated rind of one orange and one lemon
  • ½ cup (packed tight) light brown sugar
  • 2 tbs ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 lbs pears (peeled cored and chopped)
  • ¼ cup brandy or rum

Combine all the ingredients except the alcohol. Brig to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove cover and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring continuously or the mixture will catch on the bottom of the pan and begin to burn.

Stir in the alcohol and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Place in sterilized jars or in freezer boxes (freezing seems to help the flavour and maturity, and note that the alcohol prevents hard freezing, as well as bacterial deterioration)