The joy of Chicken Tikka Masala Pie

At this time of year, nothing beats a cosy tavern with steamed up windows, a roaring fire and hearty food. ‘Gastropubs’ have come under some justified criticism over the years: trying too hard to be restaurants and with prices to match, pricing out their former loyal clientele. Too many regular pubs meanwhile are happy to serve microwaved food or, as is the fashion nowadays, mediocre Thai cuisine. Pub or gastropub, the most successful food offerings at a good watering hole are often the pies. With any luck there will be options: picnic pies with hot water crust pastry (Crystelle from Bake Off recently produced a good-looking curried chicken and potato terrine

Marble cake: why this retro bake deserves a revival

Marble cakes are a simple concept, but such a satisfying bake, with that delightful reveal when you cut into the cake and expose the hidden pattern. They are made by dividing the base cake batter, and adding colouring or flavouring to one part of it, and then mottled by dolloping light and dark batter alternately into the same cake tin. They were a feature of my childhood, but feel a little passé now, which is a shame, as they’re well worth your baking energies. I think it’s time to bring them back. Now, many marble cake recipes will simply use a basic pound cake recipe, and introduce a couple of

The fireside dishes to feast on this bonfire night: from baked apples to nachos

There’s never been a better year to celebrate Bonfire Night. Late night, outdoor, responsible fun to enjoy now that there’s precious little else to do after 10 p.m. Plus it’s surely therapeutic to remind ourselves that while things are currently a little tough going and hosting a dinner party in your home is an act of high treason, the country had its fair share of problems in 1605 too. Round-the-fire cooking isn’t the same as barbeque cooking: utensils are at a minimum; heat control is down to a wing and a prayer. This is ‘chuck it near the heat and pray the kids won’t go hungry’ cooking. So here are

How to make Osso Bucco: a slow-cooked stew from Lombardy

I must have written thousands of words about my love of stews, braises, and slow-cooked dishes, but osso bucco must be one of my longtime, unchanging favourites. Osso bucco comes from the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, and is made from braised veal shanks. It’s a cut that not only benefits from, but really needs, a low slow cook, bathing in stock and booze, until the meat is tender enough to be broken apart with the edge of a fork. The dish name literally translates as ‘hole in the bone’, which quietly points to the magic of the dish (or, you could argue, misses it entirely). Inside that hole is,

Chicken forestière: a deeply autumnal dish

I have always been a bit of a stew-pusher; it tends to be my answer to any of life’s dilemmas, culinary or otherwise. Friends coming round? Stew. Cold and dark outside? Stew. Feeling sad? Stew. To be honest, it doesn’t matter whether or not the weather demands it, I am always in the mood for stew. I’d eat mince and dumplings in June, a slow-cooked sticky oxtail ragu in high Summer. But once Autumn arrives, and my obsession is legitimised by the cold and the dark evenings, there’s no stopping me. In our household, it’s casseroles from now until Spring. I struggle to think of something more comforting and cosy

Carbonnade à la Flamande: give your stew a Flemish makeover

‘Casseroles,’ Julia Child wrote to her long-term penpal Avi DeVotos, ‘I even hate the name, as it always implies to me some god awful mess.’ On this, Julia and I are in full agreement: I have a real problem with the word ‘casserole’. And ‘stew’ for that matter. Both of them sound so unappetising, so school dinners. But Child and I are also aligned in our hypocrisy, because actually, deep down, I love a casserole, as long as you call it anything else. Like me, despite her vocal opposition to the casserole, Child loved bourguignons and carbonnades, coq au vin and poulet poele à l’estragon, and wrote about them with

Curry can be guilt-free (if you know how to make it)

Two of the misconceptions surrounding curry that it consistently struggles to shrug off are one, that it is unhealthy, and two, that it is difficult to make at home. I’ve always found both perplexing. Turks and Persians must be similarly bemused given the reputation of their archetypal food, the kebab. Yes the late night version, carved from a rotating trunk of greasy lamb with a mini chainsaw and then covered in garlic mayo, is a calorific car crash. But kebab as it was meant to be – meat simply grilled over charcoal and served with rice and salad – is perfectly healthy every day food. And yes a curry house

Jamón Croquetas: an oozing Spanish entrée

Being deeply unchic and uncosmopolitan, for a long time I assumed that croquetas were the same as the croquettes of my childhood: potato-based, probably a bit bland, and almost certainly coming from a bag that lives in the freezer. We’d often have them served with roast ham and cider sauce and green beans, as part of a main meal. To be fair to me and my culinary shortsightedness, the two bear strong similarities: both are breadcrumbed and fried or baked, soft within, and similarly shaped and sized. But, to my mind, croquetas are several levels above the French/English potato variant. Of course, Spanish croquetas don’t contain potato at all. The

Tres leches cake: a soaked pudding straight from Latin America

I confess, the idea of a tres leches cake did not initially appeal to me. A dry sponge soaked in a variety of tinned milks sounds, at best, like bland nursery food and, at worst, tooth-achingly saccharine. ‘Milky’ has never been one of the words that I hope to see in connection with anything other than ‘coffee’ or ‘Way’. But I saw it likened to trifle and curiosity got the better of me – and I’m so glad it did. Actually, a tres leches cake is not terribly like a trifle at all, although I can see where the comparison came from. Soaked puddings are nothing new, and that’s really

Watercress soup: the lunch that keeps on giving

I’m normally averse to leftovers: it’s not a trait I like in myself. I’d far rather be able to eat the same thing for days on end, especially when it’s seasonal veg, or an enormous, hearty stew that I’ve spent ages making. It’s a sensible way of cooking: healthy, seasonal, cheap, time-saving. But I’m easily bored, and the best laid plans of mice and men the night before, clingfilmed or tupperwared up, no longer appeal the following lunchtime. I end up parcelling those thoughtful, carefully prepared dishes onto my husband and plumping instead for so-called novelty in the form of toast, or a sandwich. For some reason, soup is the

How to spice up your summer barbecue

Summer barbecues open up a wealth of opportunity for culinary exploration. Here are four tips for taking your barbecuing to the next level, followed by three of my recipes to try for yourself: lamb cutlets with asparagus, garlicky prawns and the delightfully colourful Pepper Piedmontese. Each of these dishes have been paired with wine chosen by Andrew Peace so that you can bring out the very best of those barbecue flavours.  Choose your charcoal wisely Food cooked over an open fire has a different flavour altogether than food cooked on the stove or in the oven. For the best flavour use sustainably sourced British charcoal which burns longer so you’ll use less

Al fresco dishes to serve outside

We have all become rather used to socialising outside. Thanks to the pandemic, for perhaps the first time in our national history, al fresco dining has become the norm well outside of the summer months. We shivered under wraps for the last nine months only to finally be allowed to socialise indoors once more just at the moment when we’re all keen to light up the barbecue and enjoy the warmth outdoors. Nothing compares to the pleasure of a lunch or dinner en plein air in the summer months. It sharpens the appetite and provides happy opportunities for people or garden watching when the conversation bores. Sometimes you can even

Madeleines: the miniature French cake that majors on flavour

In one sense, a madeleine is simply a small cake. In fact, it’s an extremely classic cake, made with the genoise method. But there’s more to a madeleine than that: the proportions of madeleines, their miniature nature and scalloped shape, mean that they have a perfect contrast between their slightly sticky, almost crisp outside, and impossibly light and soft interior. Traditionally they are made with browned butter, which does what browned butter does best, bringing depth and complexity to a straightforward sponge. The dark muscovado and honey in the recipe elevate these little sponges from a miniature cake into something really special. The holy grail when madeleine making are those

Quick, crowd-pleasing snacks for the big game

Until this week I don’t think my mother had ever in her life watched a football game. Wednesday changed that, marking the start of her new-found frenzy and puns about England’s ‘Sterling effort!’ (to squeals of laughter from her female friends gang). Now they’re in a state of hysterical excitement and are busy planning their match day. Football really is coming home. With nobody – including mum – minded to spend all day slaving away in the kitchen, food for Sunday’s game needs to be quick, easy and ideally unhealthy. Here are some ideas. Baked cheese A baked brie or camembert – or even better a British cheese like Baron

Gala pie: a dish that deserves an audience

Some dishes are just meant to be shared. I’m not talking about those items you buy on a hangover from the corner shop that sanctimoniously declare ‘meant for sharing’ or ‘share size’ on their passive aggressive packaging (I’ll be the judge of that, cheese and onion crisps and chocolate fingers). I mean something that you’ve invested energy and love into, something which demands to be passed around, praised and enjoyed; something impressive and delicious. A homemade cassoulet. A perfect chocolate cake. A batch of scones. A gala pie. The moment of cutting into a gala pie, and revealing the perfect row of eggs suspended in meat minced by your own

Vichyssoise: a cool soup for balmy days

I have never been a huge fan of cold soup. It has always seemed to me to be contrary to everything good about soup: soup is inherently warming and cheering. It demands large portions and an accompanying doorstep of bread. Who on earth would want to chill it down and serve it in tiny portions – and without bread and butter? Madness! Historically, I have made an exception for gazpacho and salmorejo on the basis that they hail from hot countries, and that they aren’t thickened with dairy. But I drew the line at what I thought of as hot soups served cold. Vichyssoise was doubtless the worst of them: give

Coconut ice: a no-bake treat made for the heat

I don’t know about you, but I find that many of the things I enjoy eating most in the summer, those things I crave when the weather is blazing hot or just plain muggy, still require some level of cooking. Those chilled soups, or sticky ribs, or even ice creams still mean standing over a hob or a barbecue or turning on the oven. Mostly, I embrace it: a hot means to a greedy end. As someone who finds relaxation in baking and cooking, I’m not big into no-bake dishes. I’m willing to turn the oven on if it means soft, baked fruit that I can chill and serve with

Swedish meatballs: a taste of Ikea at home

It’s thought that meatballs were brought to Sweden by King Charles XII. After a disastrous attempt to invade Russia in 1709, he fled in exile to the Ottoman empire. There he fell for a dish very similar to the Swedish meatballs we now know and, when he returned from exile five years later, he took those meatballs back with him. The meatballs grew in popularity and eventually became so closely associated with the country, that they took on the ‘Swedish’ name. But it would be disingenuous to write about Swedish meatballs and not mention that bastion of storage, that flatpack palace: Ikea. It’s no exaggeration to say that Ikea brought

Petits pois à la Française: a sumptuous twist on summer greens

Early summer crops have been delayed in many places this year, thanks to the brutal rain and cold that preceded the recent heat wave, but finally, we’re starting to see tiny tomatoes, baby figs, and the first perfectly formed pea pods bursting into life. Of course, when it comes to seasonal eating, you can argue that it’s best to keep it simple, to allow the produce to ‘speak for itself’ – but, there is little that butter, shallots, and little cubes of smokey, fatty bacon can’t make even better. And that’s where petits pois à la Française comes into its own. The name rather gives it away: it’s a classic

Bourbon biscuits are better home-made

I am a big fan of a tea break. I don’t mean afternoon tea or high tea (although I’m never going to say no to a finger sandwich or a tiny cake), and I don’t mean a mug of tea at my desk or standing up in the kitchen while I do something else. I believe passionately in the restorative powers of just sitting down for fifteen minutes with a mug of something hot and a plate of biscuits. Tea and biscuits have always held an important place in my days. When I was very little, I had a Spot the Dog tea set that, every morning, my mother would