The secret to making mint chocolate chip ice cream

It used to drive me mad that, whenever my husband and I would go out for dinner, no matter how fancy or lowbrow the place, he would always ignore the puddings on offer in favour of a single scoop of ice cream. He can overlook crème brûlées, lemon meringue tarts, sticky toffee puddings – even eschew a cheese plate – if ice cream is a possibility. It just always seemed quite a boring choice to me – you can keep a tub of ice cream in your own freezer, or maybe get a cone on the beach. Why would you plump for something so simple (so boring!) when there were

Potatoes Dauphinoise: a rich dish made for sharing

There’s no getting away from the fact that potatoes dauphinoises is a rich dish. It’s a celebration of richness, of creaminess, and of carbs. If you recoil from richness, or are the first person at the table to bring up calorie counts, potatoes dauphinoises is probably not the dish for you – and frankly, any attempts to lighten it, or slim it down are misguided. But if you can resist bronzed slabs of thin, tender, perfectly cooked potato, with a garlic-infused creamy sauce bubbling up around the edges, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. Dauphinoises hails from the historical Dauphiné region in South-East France; the region dissolved in

The art of arancini

As I write this, I am wearing a thick jumper and sitting under a blanket, having just put the heating on. Earlier, rain fell on our skylight so heavily, the dog jumped up as if we were being invaded. I changed my schedule this morning so I could bake, just to take advantage of the oven’s warmth. It certainly doesn’t feel like sunny days are in our near future. I’ve read that the last year has felt warped time-wise, that it’s been hard to form memories that stick in the usual way, because we don’t have the events, the change in daily routine, the hooks onto which we peg our

How to mix up your spring salad

Almost anything can constitute a salad. Yes dictionaries variously describe salad as cold, consisting of raw vegetables, and featuring a dressing, and often these things are true – but not always. For there are warm salads, salads with grains or seafood, and salads where the pairing of ingredients is so precise and perfect – think pear and Roquefort – that not even a dressing is required. For me what is essential about a salad is freshness and piquancy; it must be vibrant and sprightly. If you need a rule of thumb though, to use when constructing your salads, think in terms of leaf, grain, protein, and dressing. So an assembly

Rum baba: a boozy, make-ahead pudding

The rum baba sits somewhere between a cake and a pudding: made from an enriched, yeasted dough, full of butter, called savarin, which is like a very dry brioche. It isn’t quite as enriched as brioche and, after baking, it can be left to stale, and dry out further, which means that when it’s soaked in the sweet boozy syrup, it will drink up even more. Savarin dough can be used to make enormous bundt cakes, often decorated with fresh cream and fruit, but I have a soft spot for the individual baba. Once soaked, they are squidgy and extremely alcoholic – put it this way, I wouldn’t want to

Cinnamon buns: a true treat for the breakfast table

Cinnamon rolls never used to grace my breakfast table. First of all, they struck me as the sweetness equivalent of drinking a triple espresso first thing: it might seem like a good idea at the time, but the crash that accompanies it is surely inevitable. And secondly, I was certain that to be the sort of person who can put cinnamon rolls on the table at breakfast time, you must be immensely practical, organised and competent – and tied to the kitchen. And that’s simply not me. Happily, neither of these things are true. While cinnamon rolls are sweet – if you don’t have at least a little bit of

Spaghetti puttanesca: turn your leftovers into something special

If you’ve heard a story about puttanesca it is likely that it translates as whore’s spaghetti – that it was born in the brothels of Naples’ Spanish quarters, a favourite of the prostitutes who worked there, for its quick, cheap and easy nature. But – ah, isn’t it always the way? – the truth is perhaps a little more prosaic. The word puttanesca is indeed derived from the Italian for prostitute (‘puttana’), but the same word is also used as a catch-all profanity, an Italian ‘crap’. In this vein, the dish would come to mean ‘any old crap’ pasta. This makes sense, because puttanesca is a true store-cupboard dish, made

Eggs Benedict: Hollandaise sauce made simple

Eggs benedict is, I think, the perfect brunch dish. It combines the best bits of breakfast – eggs, some kind of pig product, a good sauce and bread – with sufficient elegance and composure that it doesn’t feel weird to be eating it after 10am. Although it is the balance of the individual components that make it such a successful dish, that hasn’t stopped restaurants and chefs the world over creating a host of variations. Swap the ham for smoked salmon to turn it into Eggs Royale, or spinach for Eggs Florentine. These are probably the best known variations on the benedict classic, but that’s only the beginning: Eggs Chesapeake

Sticky toffee hot cross buns: the ultimate Easter indulgence

When it comes to cooking, I make no secret of the fact that I’m something of a traditionalist: I like old-fashioned steamed puddings, I like the classic and the heritage. I like blancmange and rice pudding and suet. I am unashamedly unfashionable. I’m not sure whether I chose the Vintage Chef recipe writing life, or whether the Vintage Chef recipe writing life chose me. I just don’t see the point in reinventing the wheel, or injecting unusual flavours and twists just for the sake of it. But, as I look back through recipes I’ve written, Easter has always been my exception: hot cross bun ice cream sandwiches, hot cross bun

Neapolitan pizza in a pan: no fancy gadgets needed

We are lucky to live in an age of domestic culinary convenience: whatever your heart desires, there’s an appliance, gizmo or specific spoon for it. Want to make cakes in the shape of a shoe? Not a problem. Need twenty different ways to crush garlic? Your needs can be met. Looking for a boiled egg, but in the shape of a square? Or a teddy bear, or a duck? Easy, you can make all three. So it seems remarkable that when it comes to effective gadgets or assistance for something as popular as pizza, we’re high and dry. It seems virtually impossible to get your hands on something that will

Fig rolls: this classic biscuit is better home-made

I don’t often find myself longing for the industrial rigours of a factory when I’m baking in my kitchen at home. But as I patted the squiggle of fig paste with wet hands, corralling it into a rough sausage shape I thought ruefully of Charles Roser of Philadelphia and his patent for a fig roll machine. In the late nineteenth century, poor digestion was thought to be the cause of a number of wider ailments and, as with breakfast cereal, biscuits were seen as an aid to digestion – and figs, of course, were a particularly digestion-friendly fruit. Brought over from Britain to America, the fig roll tended to be

Cheering dishes to get you through lockdown

Now that there’s a chill in the air and it’s getting dark at 4pm, it’s time to turn to those comforting winter staples that get us through the bleaker months of the year. And with lockdown 2.0 in full swing, we have never needed these satisfying dishes more: Braised lamb shanks Lamb shanks are one of my favourite cuts to braise. When it comes to meat, braising is great for cooking tougher cuts – like shanks, but also the shoulder, neck and shortribs. It breaks down the connective tissues in the muscles; it’s this connective tissue that makes the meat chewy if cooked hot and fast. If cooked slowly, the

Kitchen techniques to perfect during lockdown

No-one is born knowing how to poach an egg. Indeed, the technique is hardly intuitive: the addition of a little vinegar, whisking the water to create a swirling vortex. Just as golfing enthusiasts barred from hitting the links have resorted to putting practice in their living rooms, a lazy lockdown weekend feels like an ideal time to perfect classic cooking techniques. Here are six to try. Spinning sugar Spun sugar is a guaranteed way of achieving collective ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from assembled guests at your next dinner party. Playing around with burning hot sugar is however the sort of thing that can tip you over the edge should you attempt

Semlor buns: a Scandi treat for Shrove Tuesday

In Britain, we mark the beginning of Lent with pancakes. Although nowadays relatively few of us strictly observe the Lenten dietary traditions which prohibit the eating of dairy and meat in the lead up to Easter, we happily leap on the annual opportunity to eat breakfast for dinner: sales of lemons and caster sugar soar, and we delight in filling ourselves full of pancakes. But pancakes are not the only Lenten final hurrah: the semla bun is the Scandinavian favourite. Following the same logic as pancakes, the buns are designed to eat up the dairy ingredients which would have been prohibited by Lent religious laws.  Semlor buns (semlor is the

Churros: utterly delectable and a doddle to make

This week I decided to bring all the fun of the fair into my kitchen and make churros. Churros are a dough enriched with butter and eggs, that are piped into lengths and fried in very hot oil until crisps and light. There’s nothing quite like the smell of sweet, hot dough, frying. In the days when I used to churn out hundred of doughnuts overnight in our small kitchen for events, I’d crawl to bed in the small hours of the morning, wearing the distinctive perfume of that pastry. There are different types of fried dough all over the world – bombolini, beignets, gulab juman, yum yums, funnel cakes

Lemon meringue pie: a bright pudding for dark days

I often find myself turning to lemon-filled recipes in January. I think it’s something my baking subconscious realises before I do – that cold, dark days require the antithesis, something bright and bold, something cheering. You know what they say: when life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie.  Unlike its austere, pared back French cousin, the tarte au citron, the lemon meringue pie is never going to be a subtle pudding: a lurid, chartreuse centre hidden by big billows of toasted meringue, piled ludicrously, disproportionately, toweringly tall. It quivers and wobbles on the plate, crisp and firm on the outer edge, giving way to a marshmallowy interior. But that’s

Beef stroganoff: rich and punchy when made properly

Beef Stroganoff has had its heyday: terribly popular with both restaurant chefs and dinner party hostesses of the 1950’s to 70’s, I can’t remember the last time I saw it on a menu or dinner table. It’s been relegated to buffet dishes and ready meals, beige and bland, insipid and gloopy. It sits in canteen chafing dishes, or is blitzed in the microwave, until it’s rubbery, grey, congealed. No wonder we don’t think of it fondly. Of course, that’s not how it should be.  True beef Stroganoff is a treat: punchy and rich, with a silky brandy-spiked sauce made from beef stock, sour cream and mustard, covering sautéed onions and

Toad-in-the-hole: don’t judge a dish by its name

The name ‘toad-in-the-hole’ suggests something a little more whimsical (or saucy) than its reality. The origins of the name are spurious and, to be honest, a little tenuous: I’ve seen theories that the hole is a hungry stomach and the toad a ‘substantial meal’, another that suggests the dish resembles the way toads peep their heads out of burrows, and another which attributes the name to a trend in the eighteenth century for live toads to be incased in stone. I confess, I don’t find any of these hugely convincing, In its earliest incarnation it was simply referred to as ‘meat boiled in a crust’ (a strong contender for ‘least

Braised lamb shanks: a sumptuous weekend one pot

Braising isn’t a terribly glamorous way of cooking: you’re not flipping steaks over an open fire, flambéeing alcohol, or shucking oysters. No one is going to gasp at your cheffy technique if you plump for braising. And when you pull the dish from the oven, it may not look any more exciting: no soaring soufflés, or mahogany egg-washed wellingtons. It’s just a jumble of meat and veg in a single dish, cooked until the meat is yielding and the sauce luscious. Braising is pretty unassuming both before and after cooking – but for all its culinary modesty, it packs a real punch. Braising is an old-as-the-hills way of cooking meat

Simple flat bread recipe

Continuing in the vein of the last couple of weeks of Vintage Chef columns, this week’s recipe is designed to make the most of common ingredients, and give maximum reward for minimum effort with these incredibly simple flatbreads. Last week, I wrote about the joy that baking can bring even in adverse circumstances, how it remained a source of solace to me in this brave new world. These flatbreads are joyful (warm, pliable, smoky from the griddle), but when I make them, I tend not to be seeking joy as much as stability. These flatbreads require so little: no yeast, no proving time, no kneading – they don’t even need