Steak with Anchovy Elixir

This lovely elixir can be served with crudities or cooked potatoes for dipping or drizzled over steak.

20 salt-packed anchovies
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
2 1/2 tbs. lemon juice
175ml extra-virgin olive oil
125ml cold water

Soak the anchovies in a dish of cold water for 5 minutes. Throw out the water, add fresh water and soak for a further 5 minuets. Rinse each anchovy under running cold water and remove the tails. (Or use oil-packed anchovies that have been well-rinsed.)

Place the anchovies in a small food processor (or into a bowl if using a stick blender) with the remaining ingredients except the steaks. Blitz to a gloomily, fluid sauce. Decant into serving pieces.

Cook the steak to your liking, leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then serve with the elixir.

Serves 4 with steaks or many more as a dip

Croque Monsieur Bake

This savory bake is perfect for brunch because everything is done the night before.

6 slices multi-grain brown bread
1/3 cup dijon mustard
4 oz. Gruyere cheese slices
3 slices ham (3 oz.)
6 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt ot 1/2 tsp. table salt
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tbs. grated Gruyere cheese
good sprinkling of Worcestershire sauce

Spread the mustard on the bread slices and make sandwiches with the sliced cheese and ham. Cut each in half making two triangles. Squish the sandwiches into a baking dish approx. 10 x 8″.

Beat together the eggs, salt and milk, then pour over the sandwiches. Cover and chill overnight.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Sprinkle the sandwiches with the grated cheese and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serves 4-6

Bulgar Wheat with Flaked Almonds and Nigella Seed

Nigella often says that if one has an ingredient with the same name, it would be rude not to use it! Here, Nigella seeds pair beautifully with bulgar wheat and it is ideal served with Salmon Scallops with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette.

1 tbs. olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. Nigella seeds
2 cups bulgar wheat
750 ml cold water
2 tsp. sea salt flakes
2/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted in a dry skillet
small bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy pot that has a tight-fitting lid. Stir in the lemon zest, thyme, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and Nigella seeds. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the bulgar wheat. Pour in the water and add the salt. Bring to a boil, then clamp on the lid, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. By this time the water should be absorbed and the grains soft.

Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean tea towel, replace the lid and leave for 10 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the bulgar wheat and tip into a bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, almonds and parsley.

Salmon Scallops with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

The simplicity of this lovely salmon is what makes it perfection and the sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar is an ideal flavor pairing. It is wonderful with Bulgar Wheat with Flaked Almonds and Nigella seeds.

1 tbs. vegetable oil
8 thin scallops or fillets of salmon
6 tbs. balsamic vinegar
6 tbs. olive oil
small bunch chives, snipped (optional)

Heat a heavy-bottomed, well-seasoned skillet or a good non-stick skillet. Tip in the 1 tbs. of vegetable oil, then add the salmon and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or to your liking. Keep warm with tented foil.

In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and the 6 tbs. of olive oil until warm. Serve poured over the salmon and sprinkled with chives.

Serves 4-6

Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese and Pecans

The taste of autumn in a lovely side dish.

4 1/2 lbs. butternut squash
3 tbs. olive oil
6 stalks fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 cup pecans
1 cup crumbled Roquefort or other blue cheese

Heat the oven to  425°F. Halve the squash, leaving the skin on, and scoop out the seeds. Cut into roughly 1″ cubes. Transfer to a roasting tin and toss with the oil and a bit of seasoning. Strip 4 of the thyme leaves over (or sprinkle with all of the dried thyme). Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until tender.

Remove to a serving bowl and scatter over the pecans and cheese. Toss everything together and add the last 2 stalks of fresh thyme, torn into small sprigs, to decorate.

Serves 6-8

Chicken Barley

This thick, creamy potage is somewhere between a soup and a stew and absolutely delicious.

3 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunky batons
3 medium parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunky batons
3/4 cup pearl barley
6 bone-in, skin-off chicken thighs
5 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. English mustard
chopped parsley, to serve

Tip the veggies into a large pot the comes with a lid. Add the barley and the chicken. Pour the stock into a jug and stir in the mustard, then pour into the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring it now and then. If it looks dry, add a little boiling water.

After the hour, remove from the heat and remove the chicken thighs. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bones and return it to the pot. Serve in heated bowls topped with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6

Potato and Onion Hash

This is written to serve 1, but it can easily be increased. The cayenne pepper is the key.

1 small onion, halved and sliced into half moons
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cups all-purpose potatoes, skin-on and cut into 1/2″ dice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 egg

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion, then cook over a medium heat with a sprinkle of salt until softened. Tip in the potatoes and cayenne pepper, turn the heat down and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring now and then, until the potatoes are tender and beginning to caramelize.

Turn the heat up and push the hash to one side. Crack the egg into the empty half and fry to your liking. Serve the egg over the hash.

Serves 1

Green Pasta with Blue Cheese

Four ingredients for instant comfort food.

8 oz. trottole verde or any curly pasta of choice
4 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
4 cups baby spinach leaves
3 tbs. chopped, shelled pistachios

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt it. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain.

Return the pasta to the pot along with the gorgonzola and spinach. Put on the lid and leave to sit without heat for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, put the heat on low and stir everything together, adding as much pasta water as you need to thin out the sauce.

Take off the heat, toss in about two-thirds of the pistachios, then divide between 2 warmed bowls. Scatter over the remaining pistachios and a good grinding of black pepper to serve.

Serves 2

Beetroot Orzotto

As beautiful and vibrant to eat as it is to look at!!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups pearl barley
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
125ml dry vermouth or white wine
4 1/4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked beetroot cubes (not in vinegar)
150ml sour cream, plus more for serving
50g chopped pecans
3 tsp. chopped chives

Gently cook the onions in the oil in a deep, wide saucepan until softened. Stir in the barley and stir for about 2 minutes, then stir in the thyme. Tip in the vermouth and let it bubble up, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is tender.

Meanwhile, puree half of the beetroot with half of the sour cream. Stir into the cooked barley along with the remaining cubed beetroot and warm through.

Spoon into a serving bowl and top with the pecans and chives and more sour cream, if using.

Serves 10-16 as part of a feast, or 8-10 if not

Coffee and Walnut Splouge Cookies

This lovely little cookies come together in a jot and are perfect with a cuppa.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
14 tbs. butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tbs. instant espresso powder
2 eggs
generous 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars, then add the espresso powder and the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture just to incorporate, then stir in the walnuts.

Using a smallish ice cream scoop or two spoons, drops mounds of the batter onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden and just set to the touch. Cool on wire racks then store in an airtight container.