Simplicity is beauty. I've had more pleasure from a ripe and juicy nectarine than I have from a complicated fondant.According to William Morris, things should either be useful or beautiful, and if you mix that with the idea that less is more and apply it to food, you should be OK. It's something the Italians know well with their cooking; start with good ingredients and you're pretty much all the way there. And, the Spanish as well, which is where the idea for this dish came from.Today's recipe is elegant and parsimonious in its ingredients, it uses clams which are at their best at this time of year from the cold waters around the UK. It's much more than the sum of its parts. I've used Cornish ones but this dish would be equally delicious with what the Scottish call 'spoots'. I'd call it Occam's razor clams.Ingredients12 baby potatoes, halved1 small white onionA bunch of parsley200ml garlic oil (made by grating four cloves of garlic into 500ml olive oil and heating until golden. Leave to cool then strain and keep in the fridge for up to a week)1tbsp flourA bag of clamsSherry vinegar to tasteWater for the sauceSalt and pepper to seasonMethodSoak the clams in cold water for about 20 minutes in a few changes of water then give them all a good slosh about until all the grit and sand has been cleaned away.Make the green sauce by blitzing together the parsley, a good load of garlic oil and a generous splash of sherry vinegar. Season well, taste and perhaps season a little more, not forgetting that vinegar is a seasoning and brings out flavours too, so adjust as you like. You may want it sharper, saltier or sweeter with more oil.Cook the potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender. About ten minutes. Drain them and run them under cold water to stop them cooking any more.Heat the garlic oil in a large, heavy saucepan, something like a le Creuset casserole.Finely chop the onion and gently sauté in the oil, well seasoned with salt, until soft and just starting to think about turning golden.Add the potatoes and cook them for a few minutes until they start to catch here and there and colour a little.Stir in the flour and add a splash of sherry vinegar then stir in a good splash of water until you have a thick sauce the consistency of double cream.Add the clams and cook with the lid on for about five minutes, until they've all opened. Or at least until all the ones that are going to open, open. Throw the others away.Add the green sauce to the pan, stir well, warm through and serve with some more chopped parsley and a little bread to mop up the incredible juices.
Potato has to be one of life's great comfort foods. And while I rail about the result versus the time and planning taken to bake a jacket potato to golden crunchy skin and a fluffy inside, there's no denying that slathered in butter, salt, pepper and melting Cheddar cheese, there's not much to rival it in the crawling under the duvet of food stakes.There are so many things you can do with the potato as we know, but here, because it's such a great absorber of flavour -think of the roast potatoes sucking up the juices from the meat at the end of Sunday lunch- I've used it in a curry. This goes a little beyond the quick spinach and potato saag aloo in that the spice mix is a lot more involved, it's a little saucier and the addition of tomatoes gives it a tangy and sweet richness.It's a dish I happily have on its own, but equally will go fantastically well as a side dish for a slow-roast spicy marinated lamb dish if you want a more exciting Sunday. It also makes a great dosa filling, and the chilli in this will certainly make for a more exciting breakfast. Perhaps a little too exciting, but it will certainly wake you up. And possibly ruin the day if you feed it to the children instead of egg on toast or porridge.Make the spice mix in advance and keep it in an airtight jar, then it's a matter of moments to put the dish together and leave it to simmer away for about 25 minutes to cook and thicken.IngredientsFor the spice mix:I used a combination of the following in fairly equal quantities, but you can adjust if you prefer it to have more or less heat, more aniseedy flavour and so on.SaltChilli powderGround turmericBlack mustard seedMango powderCardamonClovesFenugreek seedCuminCoriander seedFennel seedNigella seedCitric acidGarlic powderBlack pepperFor the curry:1kg Maris Piper potatoes, cut into smallish chunks150g cherry tomatoes4tbsp spice mixA few handfuls of spinachFresh coriander and sliced green chilli to serveMethodBlitz the ingredients for the spice mix into a powder. After you've blitzed it all, add some whole coriander, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds which give the finished dish an extra element of flavour.Put the potatoes, four tablespoons of spice mix and tomatoes in a large saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are soft and the water has reduced by about half.Mash some of the potato into the liquid to thicken it and add the spinach.Stir well until the spinach has wilted, check the seasoning, add some coriander leaves and green chilli and serve. Easy.
The slow change from vivid green to red, yellow, orange. And then how quickly the trees become bare and the glorious colours give way to brown and grey sludgy streets.In the seemingly few hours of daylight we have over the winter months we celebrate the warmth of the fireside. Scarves, gloves, hats and thick woolen jumpers wrapped around us keep us cosy when we venture outside, often leaving and returning home in the dark.I welcome the smells from the slow cooker more than any dog's wagging tail as a greeting. And here we are, only at the gentle tip of the cold months, yet it feels like it's the time for stews. Meat falling from bones into rich and thick broths, individual flavours combining like the instruments in an orchestra to create one symphony.A cast-iron pan with a lid in a very low oven does just as well as a slow cooker, and if you're happy leaving the oven on all day it's the perfect way to cook. However, you may not fancy chopping and browning chunks of meat while drinking your morning coffee and wondering why you have to ask the children twenty times to put a sock on. I have neither the time nor inclination, getting out of a warm bed is tragedy enough. In which case these are best done the night before, or on a weekend when you have a more leisurely start to the day.Of course white potatoes work just as well as the purple ones, which may be a little tricky to find; crushed Anyas would be a real treat. Whatever you use, nothing quite beats the deliciousness of all those juices soaked up by the buttery potatoes. This really is one of those meals that feels like you're back home in the warmth of the family.Tarragon adds a little last of the summer sparkle to the flavours, hinting with its warm aniseed at the comfort to come. If you don't have any, a good handful of chopped parsley running through would be just as nice.Ingredients500g ox cheek, cut into chunks1 onion, roughly choppedA thumb of ginger, chopped1tbsp oregano1tbsp flour1/2 a bulb of garlic1 red pepper, chopped2tbsp tomato purée500ml beef stockLarge pinch of dried mushroomsSalt and pepperPotatoes to serve, cooked and crushed with butter, spring onion and some shredded tarragon.MethodHeat a heavy sauté pan with some oil and sear the beef well until browned. Try not to smoke out the kitchen and set of the smoke alarms in a panicked succession as I did. And sear the meat in batches to avoid boiling rather than caramelising it.Add the flour and stir well, coating all the meat. This will help thicken the sauce. Add to the slow cooker or casserole. Deglaze the sauté pan with a little water or wine and add the juices along with the remaining ingredients.Cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours in the slow cooker, or eight hours in a very low oven. (140c. Gas mark 1) Serve with the potatoes and perhaps some broccoli or garlic green beans.
New season English asparagus traditionally starts on St. George's Day. Enjoy them at their best during the short season and treat them simply.Read More
I really love eating like the French. Good cheese, bread, cold meats, salad and wine combine to make a perfect lunch.Making the most of the sunny morning, Noah, Maya and I went to visit the new weekly Crystal Palace food market today. It was great to see lots of stalls and lots of locals and I filled my bag with baguettes, eggs and a super hot chilli sauce from Mad Ass called Dare Ya.We eventually made it to Good Taste Food and Drink, where I bought some meltingly soft triple crème cheese – including one of my all-time favourites, Chaource – wafer-thin slices of cured ham, thin sticks of saucisson and some Fentiman’s Shandy.It was a lovely way to start the weekend and, once home, I put it all together with a tomato salad, which we ate dreaming of French summers and two-hour lunches. Our two-year-old even decided he liked the Chaource.I'm looking forward to next week’s market. I hope it goes from strength to strength and attracts even more stalls with interesting products.
This dish is so pretty, but essentially my rabbit terrine is a big slab of meat, freshened by the addition of peas and asparagus. Served with a pickled salad and a few truffle shavings, it made a delicious lunch on a recent shoot. Serves: 6-8 peoplePrep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 90 minutesIngredients1 rabbit, skinned and cleaned. Reserve the kidneys and liver150g pork belly, meat and fat separated500ml warm vegetable stock2 sheets of gelatine8 asparagus spears, blanched20 slices of pancetta200g of petit pois1 tbsp saltPepper to seasonMethod
- Heat the oven to 150°C.
- Mince the rabbit and pork belly meat, and finely slice the fat (or get your butcher to do it for you). Add the rabbit, pork, fat, salt, and a good twist of pepper to a bowl and mix well.
- Soften the gelatine in a little water for ten minutes, then drain and squeeze out, then set aside.
- Line a terrine dish with the pancetta, hanging the edges over, so that you can fold them back and cover the top.
- Spoon a layer of the rabbit and pork into the bottom and spread well. Cover with a layer of peas. Add another layer of rabbit and pork mix. Add a layer of asparagus. Cover with the remaining meat.
- Pour in the gelatine and stock, then press down. Fold over the pancetta. Place the terrine in a baking tray half-filled with hot water and cook for one and a half hours.
- Remove from the oven, take the lid off and weight down with a piece of cardboard and some tin cans, then leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Remove from the fridge half an hour before serving, turn upside down onto a board and slice. Serve with a pickled salad.
As I was approaching the final few days of a 170-recipe cookbook I was commissioned to write and style, I had a call from London community station Zone One radio as they were doing a programme about food photography. Could they come along to the shoot to talk to me?Their journalist joined us on the shoot to find out more about food styling and photography. We were in the middle of shooting a slow roast pork belly and the conversation centred around how to make the food look as appetising as possible. Food should always look relaxed and natural, even if it’s a fancy recipe – and that can mean choosing the right props and deciding on the most flattering angle. You can listen to the show here: http://www.zoneoneradio.com/2013/05/ingoodtaste-food-photography-with-jay.html?m=1
Lamb – whether spiced and charred in the tandoor, coated with a herb crust and roasted, or simply sliced thinly and served in a sandwich with mustard, parsley and cucumber yoghurt – is a great meat for any time of year. This recipe, which pairs lamb with aubergine, is great for a roast lunch.Serves: 4 peoplePreparation time: 15 minutesCooking time: 40 minutes, plus restingIngredients 2 racks of lamb, French-trimmed with scored fat8 baby aubergines, cut in half lengthwise1 bulb of fresh garlic (use aged if not available)4 cloves of aged garlic400g Anya potatoes, thinly sliced4 turnips, trimmed and quartered1 sprig of rosemary3 tbsp capers3 tbsp chopped parsleySplash of VermouthOlive oilSalt and pepper to seasonMethodHeat the oven to 200°C and put the potatoes, turnips, garlic cloves, rosemary and aubergine in a roasting tray. Liberally shake around with olive oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat a heavy pan and sear the lamb until the fat is golden and the meat is lightly browned. Season a little and place on top of the vegetables in the oven. Turn the heat down to 120°C and cook for around 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, take out the veg and lamb and leave to rest somewhere warm. Deglaze the roasting tray with the Vermouth and strain the juices into a jug.
- Dress the aubergine with parsley and capers and serve everything together. You can carve the lamb first if you prefer, but I think it looks great whole to carve at the table.
How to food style itAs well as tasting great, food needs to look good on the plate. Here are some tips to make yours sing:
- Serve it on a rustic board or square plate, preferably of a dark colour to create a contrast with the meat and garlic.
- Make your lamb look appetising and golden brown by ensuring you score and sear the meat. The French-trimmed white bones are also essential for making the meat the visual and appetising. Ensure they are wrapped in foil during the roasting.
- Finally, don’t overdo it – spread the ingredients out delicately, so that you can see each piece of food clearly. Put any extra vegetables in a bowl to the side.
A ripe peach is a thing of beauty; soft and juicy, slightly messy and best eaten over the sink. Peaches also go really well with rich meats, but in this instance I roasted them in spices and a little wine to serve as a simple pudding. They respond really well to spices, and especially the aniseed and floral flavours of Szechuan pepper. The Amaretti biscuits complement the natural almondy flavour found in peach stones. Serves: 4Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 35-40 minsIngredients8 peaches, on the firm side of ripe4 star anise1 cinammon stick1 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns2 vanilla pods1 tsp ground allspice2 tbsp caster sugar1 small glass white wine (Sancerre or Gewürtztraminer are good)4-6 Amaretti biscuits, crushedA few lavender leaves and toasted almonds to garnishFor the syrup:60g caster sugar100ml water8 sage leavesMethod
- Heat the oven to 180°C.
- Slice and stone the peaches, lay them on a roasting tray and scatter over the remaining ingredients and pour in the wine.
- Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until nice and soft but still holding their shape.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil, then stirring until the sugar disolves. Simmer hard for another five minutes or so, until you have a nice syrup. Add the sage leaves and leave to infuse while the peaches finish cooking. Remove the sage leaves before serving.
- Leave the peaches to cool for a while, and serve with the crushed Amaretti sprinkled over and some of the syrup. If you like, you could also serve with ice cream or very cold Eiswein.
How to food style it
- The colour of these peaches is wonderful, so be sure to choose a plate that brings that out. I normally prefer white but in this case a grey would work well.
- Place one half, cut side up on the plate, slightly off centre then rest the other one at an angle against it, again, cut side up.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the peaches, put one of the star anise on the plate along with the almonds and lavender leaves. Pour over a little syrup.
I must admit, I set out thinking more about the shapes and colours of this pickled vegetable dish before the flavours, as I couldn’t resist the red of radish against the bright green of cress leaves. Strong, vivid colours will always make a dish look more appetising – which must appeal to our natural instincts for healthy food – and pickling is a great way to intensify those colours.Pickling also creates a sharp contrast of flavours to freshen the palate, and everything here was so sharp, sweet, crunchy and fresh that I was hard pressed not to eat it straight from the bowl.This dish would work well with lightly-spiced chicken, steamed sea bream and lemongrass, or perhaps scallops quickly sautéed in butter and orange zest.Serves: 4Prep time: 10 mins, plus pickling timeIngredients16 radishes, sliced as thinly as possible2 tbsp mustard cress10cm cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible1 head of Shimeji mushrooms, sliced from the base2 tbsp caster sugar2 tbsp white wine vinegar1 tbsp Mirin2 tsp Japanese rice vinegarMethod
- Mix together the sugar and liquid ingredients in a bowl and stir well until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the remaining ingredients, apart from the cress, and stir gently, making sure they are covered by the vinegar. Set aside and leave to pickle for half an hour or so.
- Scatter over the cress and serve as a side dish or pile delicately on the plate with your chicken or fish.
How to food style it
- If serving in the bowl as a side dish, just make sure everything can be seen. The white inner circles of the radish make great ‘frames’ for the cress and mushrooms. Try and fold the cucumber in nice waves throughout.
- If serving directly on the plate, it’s nice to space all of the elements out and create a graphic pattern on the plate to then place the other elements in and around.
- Use the pink sugary vinegar left in the bowl to create vivid spots and drizzles on the plate.
When I was at my parents’ last weekend for my dad’s birthday, I wanted to contribute something to the lunch, and brought in the figs I happened to have left over from the day before. I started first thing in the morning by caramelising some onions over a very low heat, until they turned a sweet golden brown. Nearer to lunchtime, a quick assembly of the onion, figs, goat’s cheese and tomato created a simple and pretty puff pastry tart. I didn’t, but you could add some crisped parma ham at the end to give it a little extra texture and saltiness.Serves: 6-8 as a starterPrep time: 25 minsCooking time: 1 hour for the onions, plus 25 mins for the restIngredients1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry4 white onions, thinly sliced, though red would work well too1 tsp sugar1 thyme sprig8 figs, quartered150g crumbly goat’s cheese8 cherry tomatoes1 tbsp poppy seeds1 tbsp sesame seeds1 tbsp honeyOlive oilLemon zest2 tsp balsamic vinegar, thickened slightly in a hot pan and left to coolA handful of lamb’s lettuce to garnishSalt and pepper to seasonMethod
- Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add some olive oil, the onions, thyme and a little salt and sugar. Stir occasionally and cook until they start to become translucent. Turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Check occasionally, stirring to make sure they don’t stick or burn. Cook for 45-50 minutes or until they are golden brown, sweet and rich.
- Nearer to lunchtime, heat the oven to 180°C and roll the pastry onto a baking sheet. Prick the middle with a fork so it doesn’t rise too much, and score a 1cm border all the way around. Cook for 15-20 minutes then remove from the oven and spread the onions over it. Arrange the figs, goat’s cheese and tomatoes on top, sprinkle with the seeds, and drizzle with the oil, honey, balsamic and lemon zest.
- Season well and when cooled a little, top with the lamb’s lettuce.
How to food style it
- The pastry sheet really is a blank canvas, and with this tart the ingredients do all the work for you. Purple figs against pure whites, golden olive oil and green leaves are going to work, almost however you throw them down. Do try to build in balanced layers, making sure that every section of the tart has a good mix of the ingredients.
- Finally, drizzle with oil and seeds to unify the surface and scatter leaves gently across, taking care to not hide the rest of the ingredients.
In our house, it’s pretty rare for there to be any crackling left over from a roast pork – or, come to think of it, much pork. But when that does happen, I like making this version of bubble and squeak for brunch the next day. This deserves to be a dish in its own right, so it is even worth making it from scratch.Serves: 4Cooking time: 20 minsIngredientsUse whatever leftovers you have from the roast, or failing that:Shredded slow roast gammon and shattered crackling10 roast potatoes, lightly crushed with a fork½ a Savoy cabbage, finely sliced and blanched in salted water3 spring onions, shredded1 red onion, finely sliced1 tbsp Olive oil and tbsp butter to fry (or use the gammon dripping)3 dill cucumber picklesSalt and pepper to seasonMethod
- Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and season well.
- Heat a frying pan and add the oil and butter until hot.
- Throw in the cabbage and potatoes, cook well, adding the red and spring onion at the last minute.
- Serve on warm plates with shredded cooked ham, crackling and sliced pickles, with a touch of wholegrain mustard.
How to food style it
- With this one, the cabbage forms a great base to structure the flakes of meat, potatoes and onions on. Try to give it form and height.
- Laying shards of crackling and slivers of spring onion on top helps give it elegance and leads your eye across the whole dish, bringing everything together.
- A spoon of mustard and some sliced pickles finish it off, keeping it elegant while still remaining rustic. It is, after all, a dish of leftovers.
Most people love strawberries, meringues and cream, but not me. I just don’t get on well with the cream, yet I love the idea and the ‘Englishness’ of the Mess. My version uses natural yoghurt with a little vanilla added, but you could use lightly whipped cream if you prefer. If you can get some wild strawberries, they make an excellent addition, while the balsamic, cress, thyme and pepper add a flavour punch, as well as being visually exciting.Talking of which, my aim here was to make the whole thing to look like a Jackson Pollock painting.Serves: 4 peopleCooking time: 1 hr (or 10 mins if you buy meringues)Ingredients2 punnets of strawberries, 1 halved, 1 puréed with a little sugar100ml natural yoghurt, with a little vanilla extract added4 fist-sized meringues, bought or home-madeA few thyme sprigs1 small bunch of salad cressA small bottle of balsamic syrup (or make your own by reducing 100ml of balsamic until you have a syrup)2 tbsp olive oilA pinch of freshly ground black pepperMethod
- Hull one punnet of strawberries and put in a blender with a pinch of sugar. Blitz until smooth and put in the fridge while you assemble the rest.
- Crush half the meringues and lightly break the other half. Scatter on a plate or board and add the strawberries. Give it a twist of pepper, and sprinkle over the thyme and cress. Spoon over the yoghurt and purée, then pour over the balsamic syrup and serve immediately.
How to food style it
- This one is great fun to do and is just like being back at school with some paints. A dark, rectangular surface really helps the reds and whites stand out; I used slate here.
- This is a question of balance on the plate, keep everything well defined by not piling it up or putting it too close together.
- Be really free and loose with the sauces, don’t be scared to make a mess and make bold, sweeping strokes with them.
I couldn’t resist taking this picture on a food shoot yesterday because the colours were so amazing – and blood oranges are in season at the moment. To me, blood oranges sum up the sunny Mediterranean, so it seems odd they have their short season during the English winter.To make use of them while you can, how about putting them in a salad with fennel and a simple olive oil dressing? If you think that’s pushing the Mediterranean feel a bit far while there’s still snow on the ground, enjoy them on their own or in a juice – or better still, make them into jellies with fennel seeds and a dash of pastis for pudding.What do you like using blood oranges for?
Welcome to The Modern Husband, where I post a wide range of recipes and writing about food I love to make – from quick family suppers to Michelin-style cooking for special occasions.I work as a freelance food stylist and writer for some of the country’s leading magazines, food suppliers and retailers. I am also head chef in my household, which includes two young children and a food-loving wife. This means that most of my time is based around creating recipes and feeding people of all ages.Nico