The vintage chef

Tartiflette: a French winter warmer perfect for New Year

Well, Christmas may be complete, but the festivities are far from over: the new year is just around the corner. As we stare down the barrel of the end of the decade, we’re not quite ready to give up the cheese board, the doorstep-sized leftover sandwiches, or remove our hand from the Quality Street box. But although the food might be the same post-Christmas, the tone of our eating has changed slightly. Christmas cooking (and eating!) can turn into a logistical marathon: juggling pans and hob space, reconciling wildly different cooking temperatures for items that need to be in the oven at the same time, catering to a raft of

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

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

Buttermilk waffles recipe

I don’t like one-use kitchen gadgets. Well, that’s not true, I do like them actually. I love them. I am drawn to them in those little catalogues that come through the door, brimming with plastic and promise, like a magpie. But my small kitchen doesn’t love them. My overflowing drawers and crowded worktops don’t love them. After ditching my garlic peeler and my egg poacher, my milk frother and my (ahem) hot dog slicer, I have made a pact with myself that any utensil or equipment I bring into the kitchen has to do some heavy-lifting. No single-purpose gadgets shall darken my door any longer. But there is one exception:

Recipe: Spotted Dick for grown ups

Spotted dick is synonymous with school dinners: it’s one of a field of puddings that divide the nation – like rice pudding and jam roly poly – into those who, haunted by sloppy or stodgy memories, cannot countenance the idea of enduring them again, or those who seek them out in a fit of nostalgia. The joy of writing this Vintage Chef column is that even those dishes I might otherwise avoid, I get to rediscover and share. I was extremely sceptical of blancmange; I treated coronation chicken with suspicion, but in exploring and experimenting with recipes, I was newly converted: blancmange can be heavenly, like an enormous panna cotta;

Recipe: Sticky toffee pudding

I’ve been cooking for a little while now: professionally for huge quantities of people for a couple of years, writing about it for the thick end of four, and teaching myself at home for over six. I’ve been to pastry school for an entire full-time academic year. None of this matters to my family: all my family wants from me is sticky toffee pudding. At Christmas, it is mandatory, and every other occasion where I fail to arrive bearing a huge tin of the stuff, its absence is quietly resented. I’m going to visit my sister soon, but will be away just beforehand, so there’s already a large pudding sitting

Forget the school slop – a true rice pudding is a rare treat

If I had a pound for every person who’s told me they hate rice pudding, I would be a rich woman. It might be the most hated dessert in Britain, and we have our school system to blame for it. The rice pudding that is ubiquitous (and seemingly generation-crossing) in British schools is offensively bland, inexplicably metallic and unbelievably gelatinous. Made with milk powder and water, never introduced even in passing to actual milk, then poured into a quadrant of a battered plastic tray, it is many people’s first dalliance with rice pudding and, understandably, their last. I’m not sure its original incarnation would do much to persuade the deniers,

How to cook Stilton and broccoli bake

Finally, I almost have my kitchen back. I feel like during Christmas, we give our kitchens over to a higher power: one who insists that we fill our fridges with enough prosecco to see us through a nuclear winter, that everything is spiked with brandy, and followed with a chaser of cheese. We didn’t even host Christmas this year: we were away for Christmas-proper and bookended it with visiting various friends and relatives. There is, really, no excuse, for such a high proportion of festive leftovers. And yet, for the last week, I’ve found soggy mince pies everywhere, and brandy butter I don’t remember buying. But now, I am starting