English onion soup with sage and cheddar

If you have the opportunity, get hold of as many different types of onion for this soup as you can – you need about 1kg in total. Sweat them gently and you’ll be amazed at all the flavours going on.

Put the butter, 2 glugs of olive oil, the sage and garlic into a thick-bottomed, non-stick pan. Stir everything round and add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook slowly for 50 minutes, without colouring the vegetables too much. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes – your onions will become soft and golden. Stir occasionally so that nothing catches on the bottom. Having the patience to cook the onions slowly, slowly, gives you an incredible sweetness and an awesome flavour, so don’t be tempted to speed this bit up.

When your onions and leeks are lovely and silky, add the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skim any fat off the surface if you like, but I prefer to leave it because it adds good flavour.

Preheat the oven or grill to maximum. Toast your bread on both sides. Correct the seasoning of the soup. When it’s perfect, ladle it into individual heatproof serving bowls and place them on a baking tray. Tear toasted bread over each bowl to fit it like a lid. Feel free to push and dunk the bread into the soup a bit. Sprinkle with some grated Cheddar and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce.

Dress your reserved sage leaves with some olive oil and place one on top of each slice of bread. Put the baking tray into the preheated oven or under the grill to melt the cheese until bubbling and golden. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn! When the cheese is bubbling, very carefully lift out the tray and carry it to the table. Enjoy.

Early autumn minestrone (minestrone d'inizio autunno)

Add your fresh or dried and soaked beans to a pan of water with the bay leaf, squashed tomato and potato – this will help to flavour the beans and soften their skins. Cook until tender – check by tasting. They must be soft. Dried beans can take up to an hour, but check fresh ones after 25 minutes. Drain (reserving about half a glass of the cooking water), and discard the bay leaf, tomato and potato. Now season with salt, pepper and a splash of oil.

While the beans are cooking, make your soffrito. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped pancetta or bacon, onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic and the finely sliced basil stalks. Sweat very slowly on a low heat, with the lid just ajar, for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes, courgettes and red wine and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Now add the chard or spinach, stock and beans. Put the dried pasta into a polythene bag, squeeze all the air out and tie the end up. Bash gently with a rolling pin to break the pasta into pieces. Snip the end off the bag and empty the contents into the soup. Stir and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.

If you think the soup is looking too thick, add a little more stock or some of the reserved cooking water to thin it down a bit. Then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the torn-up basil leaves and with some extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top. Put a block of Parmesan and a grater on the table for everyone to help themselves. Heaven!


Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then hold under cold running water. Put the fish and bay leaves in a shallow pan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pan and leave to cool. Remove the skin from fish, flake into chunks and set aside.

Cook the rice in salted water for about 10 minutes and drain. Refresh in cold water, drain again, and leave in the fridge until needed. Melt the butterghee in a pan over a low heat. Add the ginger, onion and garlic. Soften for about 5 minutes, then add the curry powder and mustard seeds. Cook for a further few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice.

Quarter the eggs. Add the fish and rice to a pan and gently heat through. Add the eggs, most of the coriander and the chilli and stir gently. Place in a warm serving dish. Mix the rest of the coriander into the yoghurt and serve with the kedgeree.

Grilled mushroom risotto

Heat your stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour in just enough hot stock to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes until they’ve softened. Fish them out of the stock and chop them, reserving the soaking liquid.

In a large pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the onion and celery. Slowly fry without colouring them for at least 10 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the rice. Give it a stir. Stir in the vermouth or wine – it’ll smell fantastic! Keep stirring until the liquid has cooked into the rice. Now pour the porcini soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan and add the chopped porcini, a good pinch of salt and your first ladle of hot stock. Turn the heat down to a simmer and keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.

Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. This will take about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, get a dry griddle pan hot and grill the wild mushrooms until soft. If your pan isn’t big enough, do this in batches. Put them into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Using your hands, get stuck in and toss everything together – this is going to be incredible!

Take the risotto off the heat and check the seasoning carefully. Stir in the butter and the Parmesan. You want it to be creamy and oozy in texture, so add a bit more stock if you think it needs it. Put a lid on and leave the risotto to relax for about 3 minutes.

Take your risotto and add a little more seasoning or Parmesan if you like. Serve a good dollop of risotto topped with some grilled dressed mushrooms, a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Carrot and coriander treat for all

I always think it's brilliant if you can turn the humble carrot into anything remotely cool or credible, especially in the salad world. You deserve to have a medal if you can come up with something amazing. If you're lucky enough to have vegetables in your garden you'll know what I mean when I say freshness is everything. But those of you who haven't got a garden should buy the freshest-looking organic ones that you can find.

I use a mandolin to slice the carrots for the salad - it will give you long ribbony slices - but you can use a speed peeler or do it by hand with a knife instead. As long as your results are nice and crunchy, that's all that matters.

This is really good as a starter, or try eating it with some little kebabs if you're having a barbecue, or stuffed into some pitta bread with sliced grilled chicken.

First of all, slice the carrots or cut them up into fine ribbons, matchsticks or batons. Put them into a salad bowl with the coriander leaves and the sesame or poppy seeds. To make the dressing, finely grate the zest of the orange into a bowl. Add the orange juice, the juice of 1½ lemons and about 4 times that amount of extra virgin olive oil. Pound your toasted sesame seeds to a pulp in a pestle and mortar, then add to the dressing. Mix well, then season to taste with salt, pepper and possibly more lemon juice to make it nice and zingy so that you can taste it once you've dressed the salad. Once the salad is dressed, the flavour of the lemon will lessen, so get eating straight away.

Baked new potatoes with sea salt and rosemary

Wash your potatoes and parboil until almost tender. When done, drain them, drizzle with just a little touch of olive oil and roll in a tablespoon of sea salt, a little freshly ground black pepper and the rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7. Put the potatoes in a roasting tray and cook in the oven for 25 minutes until golden. Or wrap them in tin-foil and throw them on the barbie for the same amount of time.

The quickest tomato sauce

Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pour in 4 generous glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic, shake the pan around a bit and, once the garlic begins to colour lightly, add the basil and the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using your wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic that will be left in the sieve, but make sure you scrape any of the tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl.

Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours. It will be ready when it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza.

Store the sauce in a clean jar in the fridge – it’ll keep for a week or so. Also great to freeze in batches or even in an ice cube tray, so you can defrost exactly the amount you need. But to be honest, it’s so quick to make, you might as well make it on the day you need it.

Chargrilled tuna with dressed beans and loadsa herbs

Feel free to use a couple of tins of beans if it's more convenient. Tinned beans aren't bad these days – they have got much better for some reason. But if you're using dried, which still taste better, soak them overnight in water. They'll double in size. You then just need to drain them and put them into a pan with fresh water to cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer them for around 40 minutes or until tender – sometimes I put a squashed tomato and a potato in the water with them, as it helps to soften the skins. When done, drain them, discarding the tomato and potato, and put them into a large bowl with 8 tablespoons of peppery olive oil, the red onion, anchovies and chillies. Season with salt and pepper and the lemon juice – for a bit of a twang.

Preheat your griddle pan until really hot. Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the lemon zest and pat a little olive oil on both sides. Sear the steaks for a minute on each side. While the fish is searing, get your guests round the table. Throw the herbs into the dressed beans, mix up and divide between the plates. Take the tuna off the heat, tear it up and place on top of the warm beans. Nice with some cold white wine.

Bay salt prawn skewers with summer veg

First of all, get your barbeque good and hot. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak four of them in some cold water for 10 minutes, so they don't burn when you put them on the barbie later. Thread 5 prawns on to each skewer, make sure you poke through the fat and the thin part of each prawn. Slice the courgettes into ribbons with a speed peeler or a mandolin cutter.

To make the bay salt, crumble the bay leaves into a pestle and mortar and add the salt. Bash up the bay leaves until you have a vibrant green salt and all the bay leaves have broken down and released all their natural oils.

Sprinkle each of the prawn kebabs with a good pinch of the bay salt. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and pat and rub everything in. Place the skewers on the hot barbeque for a couple of minutes on each side. Fill the rest of the barbeque with the courgette slices – as they are so thin, they'll only need cooking on one side. After 2 minutes, turn over the skewers and cook for a further 2 minutes while you start taking off the courgettes.

Pour 3 tablespoons of good olive oil into a large bowl. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the peas, broad beans and grilled courgettes. Tear over the mint leaves and the chive flowers, if using. Season with a little salt and pepper and gently mix everything together.

Serve the vegetables in a big bowl in the middle of the table with the skewers on a wooden board next to it. Perfect light, healthy summer eating.

Barbequed red mullet with a hot salsa

First get your barbeque going, with the coals piled up high on one side so it's super hot and low on the other side for a more gentle heat to give you some control.

With a sharp knife, score each of your fish all over on both sides, about 1cm deep. This helps the flavours to get into the fish and will allow the heat right in so the fish gets cooked evenly right down to the bone.

Get a big chopping board ready. Roughly chop the oregano leaves then scatter them over the board. Sprinkle over a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roll the fish over board, pushing them down and rubbing the flavourings into the slashes.

Place fish on to the hot side of the barbie to give them a bit of colour. You’ll be making your salsa on the cooler side (or on your hob). Just heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, add the chopped olives and warm them through for a minute or so. Add the garlic, chilli and rosemary sprigs, give it a good toss and gently fry while you finish cooking your fish.

After about 4 minutes turn the fish over by easing them off the grill with a fish slice – be patient otherwise they will stick – and cook for another 4 minutes until cooked and moist on the inside, with a crispy skin on the outside.

Remove and discard the sprigs of rosemary from the frying pan; they will have released lots of flavour so they've done their job. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and toss. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the parsley leaves. Give the salsa a taste. Olives are usually quite salty so you probably don’t need any more salt but that's your call. I might add a little pepper though. Once everything is warmed through, take the pan off the heat.

Remove the fish to a plate. To make sure they are cooked, pull a bit of the meat away from the bone. If it comes away easily, you're in business.

Serve the fish simply with some salsa spooned over the top.

Grilled butterflied monkfish with a sweet runnerbean stew

Feed the runner beans through a bean cutter. If you don’t have one, just run your speed peeler down each side of the bean to get rid of the stringy bits and then cut them into 1cm pieces at an angle.

Your runner bean stew can be cooked in advance or started just before you cook the fish. Heat a large saucepan, big enough to hold all the ingredients, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil plus the oil from the jar of anchovies. Chop 4 of the garlic cloves and fry them gently with the anchovies and dried chilli until it all goes soft and the anchovies break down into a mush. Pour in the crushed tomatoes or passata and add the beans and the rosemary sprigs. Season and bring to the boil. Place a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes or until the beans are nicely cooked. If the sauce gets a little dry, add a splash of water and give the beans a stir.

Lay the monkfish pieces on a chopping board and slice them horizontally almost in half, so they open out like a book. Try to get them so you have an even thickness on both sides. Score the fish lightly and put to one side.

To make the gremolata, finely chop the remaining clove of garlic with a pinch of salt. Next, finely chop the parsley and finely grate the lemon zest. Mix these with the garlic, give it all one last chop and put aside to sprinkle over at the end.

Heat a very large griddle pan or frying pan (or use two smaller ones). Season the fish well with salt and pepper and rub lightly with olive oil. Cook the fish for 2 minutes each side or until just cooked through (don’t be tempted to overcook it).

Take the beans off the heat, taste and season them once again if necessary. Remove the rosemary sprigs and squeeze in the juice from the lemon. Place a pile of beans on each plate and top with a piece of fish. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and gremolata. Or you could serve the whole lot on a big platter in the middle of the table – family service style!

Grilled and roasted pork

First of all, smash your fennel seeds up in a pestle and mortar and crumble and bash in your dried chilli – now this is supposed to give a subtle heat, so I’m going to leave it up to you to use as much or as little as you prefer. Put your loin of pork on to a chopping board and score the fat in a criss-cross fashion. Rub the meat all over with a little olive oil, then sprinkle the fennel seeds and chilli all over the pork. Cover the pork up and put it to one side in a roasting tray – if it has come straight out of the fridge let it come to room temperature – so that it can absorb the flavours.

About an hour before you’re ready to cook, you need to light your barbecue to let it get to the right temperature. I’d advise you to use charcoal instead of gas so that you get a lovely chargrilled flavour coming through. You can also, of course, roast the meat in the oven, but I prefer to do it on the barbecue. (If you roast it in the oven for the whole time it’ll need 1 hour 20 minutes.) Either way, season the meat quite generously with salt and pepper and place it fat-side down on the grill. This will make the barbecue flame a bit so you’ll probably need to turn it over quickly on to the meat side, but it does tend to get the bars oiled up and the smoke going, which we like. Grill the meat for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how hot your barbecue is, and remember to keep turning it so it gets those lovely charred bar marks all over it.

Remove the pork to the same roasting tray you marinated it in and put it into the oven at 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. After half an hour add the vinegar and rosemary leaves, carefully move the meat around and baste it, and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then slice the meat up. All the lovely juices from the tray can be kept warm and poured over the meat just before serving. If you’ve been to Italy, you may have noticed that you really do just get some slices of meat with a simple side dish. At the end of the day, the meat tastes great; so serve it in any way you see fit.

Scrumptious spanish chickpea and chorizo soup

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large pot and add the chorizo. Allow to heat up and cook for a couple of minutes until the fat comes out of the chorizo, then add your onion, garlic and celery. Turn the heat down and cook slowly for 15 minutes with a lid on and without colouring the onions. Now take the lid off – the smell and colour will be fantastic. Stir it around and get some colour happening now. Add your spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for around 40 minutes.

At this point you can remove about a third of the mixture and purée it in a food processor. Pour it back into the pot, give it a good stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the pata negra or ham and 2 or 3 tablespoons of good Spanish extra virgin olive oil. Divide into bowls and grate some hard-boiled egg on top. The egg was a bit unexpected when I was given this in Barcelona, but it actually adds a lovely richness to it.