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Croque Monsieur Bake

Croque Monsieur Bake

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Cheesy Chilli I can't count how often I find myself stirring a pan with some mince in it, day to day. Not that this is anything to apologize for: it's easy, quick and comforting. I could probably measure out my life in chilli bowls, and that's no bad thing either. This recipe draws again on a favourite time-saving practice of mine, which is to start off with some paprika-piccante chorizo sausages that give off a fiery orange oil in which to sear and season the mince. Spaghetti With Marmite I came across this recipe in Anna Del Conte's memoirs, Risotto with Nettles. Now, there are so many recipes I could borrow from her, and many I have, but this is the one I have to show you here. She introduces it as hardly a recipe, but I wanted to include it because I haven't as yet found a child who doesn't like it. I know the combination of pasta and Marmite sounds odd to the point of unfeasibility, but wait a moment, there is a traditional day-after-the-roast pasta dish, in which spaghetti is tossed in stock, and I have eaten shortcut versions of this in Italy (recreated guiltlessly in my own kitchen) which use a crumbled stock cube, along with some butter, olive oil, chopped rosemary and a little of the pasta cooking water to make a flavoursome sauce for spaghetti.

Tomato and Horseradish Salad One of the most gratifying things for a home cook is to scrimmage a meal together out of leftovers. It’s enormously satisfying to ransack the fridge and use up what lies under plastic wrap or is lounging about in the vegetable drawer; it always provides a relaxed, unforced creativity. I certainly would never have thought of using horseradish as a dressing for a tomato salad if I hadn’t wanted to find a way to use up a horseradish root staring beseechingly at me every time I opened the fridge. While obviously excellent with beef, this is wonderful with any oily fish, too. To eat this at its best, leave time for the tomatoes to steep in the piquant dressing before serving.

Pasta With Pancetta, Parsley and Peppers I always have a stash of pancetta cubes in the fridge to spruce up whatever else I may have to hand, but here they rather take centre stage. If you want to use lardons instead, then do. They should be the same - the cubetti di pancetta, Italian, and the lardons, French - but for some reason the lardons are cut chunkier, and consequently a supermarket packet of them tends to weigh about 200g rather than the 140g of pancetta. Don't worry. Either pack size will do nicely here. Sake Steak and Rice For gluten free: use gluten free Dijon mustard instead of English mustard and tamari instead of soy sauce. Check also that the Worcestershire sauce is suitable as some brands contain malt vinegar (made with barley). The real thing to take from this, too, is the cooking method. This easily translates to bigger cuts as in my quick-cook longrested fillet: when I've got people coming round and I'm not sure exactly when we'll be eating, I cook a large contrefilet or fillet of beef - about 2.25kg / 5lb for eight, or ten if you're a good carver. This is expensive but easy.

Bulgar Wheat Salad With Pink-Seared Lamb This bulgar wheat salad is loosely based on tabbouleh, only using coriander in place of the parsley, lime in place of the lemon and omitting the tomatoes and adding the chilli and some raw, diced courgettes. Coriander is so much more headily aromatic than parsley that I've made the ratio to herb and grain skewed differently from traditional tabbouleh: that's to say, this is a herb-flecked grainy salad, rather than a herb salad into which a few grains have been tossed. Because the bulgar wheat is so strongly flavoured and aromatic you can leave the lamb as it is: no marinade, no nothing, just sweet and pink and warm against the green-flecked cracked wheat. If you want to serve the lamb on top of the salad, I find that two loins of lamb are plenty, but if you want to serve the meat on a separate plate, then I'd go for three. This may sound mad, but really it does seem to make a different to how people eat.

Kitchen Remix by Charlotte Druckman When Charlotte Druckman was planning and writing her new book Kitchen Remix, she couldn’t have known just how apposite it was going to be when it came out. Its premise is simple, and persuasive: each chapter focusses on three ingredients, and shows how they can be combined to create different dishes. The ingredients themselves range from familiar fridge and storecupboard staples - mushrooms, cauliflower, rice, chicken, chickpeas - to just a few perhaps more recherché pantry items, in the form of nori seaweed, dried Chinese sausage and Taleggio cheese, but these latter ones are there to show how easy it is, once you have them in the kitchen, to make them part of your repertoire, boosting the flavour of everyday cooking. Indeed, flavour is what this book celebrates so compellingly, but more than that, it is written with such confidence-bestowing kindness and enthusiasm.

Nigella Lawson's Meatballs with Orzo 1. Line a large baking sheet with cling film, then put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and mix together, gently, with your hands. Don’t overmix, as it will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy. Nigella's Recipes Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion as to what should or should not go into a Salade Nicoise, so let me tell you from the outset, I have no desire to join the fray. I put in what I have at home from, broadly, the accepted canon, but not necessarily everything the purists would. Since the tomatoes we get mostly don't have a lot of flavour, I tend to use those tubs of "sunblush" tomatoes, and their intense, flavourful acidity works well here. I am a great believer in keeping these on hand. Otherwise, speed being of the essence, the only real deviation is that I use croutons (some high - end baked ones from a packet will do) rather than boil potatoes and then have to wait for them to cool.

Golden Egg Curry This magnificent addition to my eating life comes courtesy of Yasmin Othman (who has brought much deliciousness my way over the years) and I glow with gratitude every time I eat it. This – called masak lemak telur in Malaysian – is very far removed from the egg curries I remember from my early youth, and would much prefer to forget. What we have here are eggs poached in a rich, aromatic, turmeric-tinted, tamarind-sharp, coconutty sauce or soup. This has definite heat, but not eye-wateringly so. If you’d like it a bit milder, do not pierce the three whole finger chillies.

Slow Roast Pork Belly There are a few meals I can say I'm making that will make my children excited (or pretend to be), and this is one of them. Alongside there must be Pie Insides (which is what my daughter has always called leeks in white sauce) and for ultimate gratification, roast potatoes although I usually use goose fat for roast potatoes, I feel the pork belly allows, indeed encourages, the substitution of lard. I'm not convinced that with all that fabulous crackling you do need roasties as well, but I like to provide what makes people happy. I have advised an overnight marinade, but if I'm making this (as I tend to) for Sunday supper, I often prepare it in the morning and leave it in the fridge loosely covered with baking parchment, or midday-ish and leave it uncovered in a cold place (but not the fridge) for a few hours. Read more As featured in

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup Even if you don't have much chicken left over, you should still make this. A few shreds will be plenty. (And this recipe is worth bearing in mind even when your starting point is not leftover chicken: if you were to bung in some frozen prawns at the end, making sure you cook them through, this would make for a fabulous storecupboard supper.) This is a very laissez-faire recipe all round, actually: when I cooked it for the photo shoot I forgot to put the vegetables in and it was still heavenly.