A bruschetta is a kind of open sandwich and it's probably where the idea for cheese on toast originally came from. It's normally made from a large loaf of sourdough natural yeast bread, which is a dark grey colour and has a higher water content than usual in the dough. It also has a thick crust and, because of this, moisture is retained in the bread, meaning it can be used up to a week after purchasing. Have a look round a farmers' market or in a good supermarket and you should be able to find some. If you can't, a good-quality round cottage-style loaf will give you good results.

The bread is best sliced 1cm thick and toasted on a barbecue, but it can also be done in a griddle pan for ease at home. After that it should be lightly rubbed a couple of times with a cut clove of garlic, then drizzled with some good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The toppings can be as humble or as luxurious as you like, from chopped herbs or a squashed tomato with basil, to marinated vegetables or beautiful cheeses, to lovely flaked crabmeat. The only rule is that whatever goes on top of a bruschetta should be nice and fresh and cooked with care.

If you have a large loaf, cut it in half, then slice it crossways about 1cm/½ inch thick. Chargrill these slices on a barbecue or in a griddle pan until they are crisp on both sides, then lightly rub each piece a couple of times with a cut clove of garlic. Drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt. You can eat the toasted bread just like this, but make sure the oil is the best you can find otherwise it will never taste good.

Baby artichoke bruschette

Start by preparing the artichokes, peel them back to their pale, light leaves, then halve them and remove the hairy chokes with a teaspoon. Place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Add the garlic cloves and a little squeeze of lemon juice and cook until the stalks are tender.

Drain in a colander, then place the artichokes straight back into the empty pan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry for 4 minutes to get a bit of colour on them. When they're slightly golden, remove from the heat, squeeze in a little lemon juice, add the mint and season carefully to taste.

Remove 4 artichoke halves from the pan and put to one side, then mash all the rest in the pan, using a fork to squash the garlic out of the skins (throw the skins away).

Smear across your basic bruschette, tearing one of the reserved artichoke halves over the top of each. PS It's also really nice to add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan to the mashed-up artichokes.

Consistently good gravy

There are two things that make a good gravy: a vegetable trivet, which is the layer of vegetables in the bottom of your roasting tray that your meat sits on; and the juices from a roasted piece of good-quality meat.

As long as you always use a vegetable trivet and buy good-quality meat, your gravy will taste like heaven whether you use water or stock. Follow my method for making gravy and you’ll never look back.

To make your gravy
• When you come to make your gravy, your chicken will be covered and resting and you’ll have your tray of chicken juices and vegetable trivet in front of you
• Using a spoon, carefully remove 90 per cent of the hot fat from the tray by angling it away from yourself and scooping off the fatty layer that settles on top
• Put the tray back on the hob over a high heat
• Add the flour, stir it around and, holding the tray steady with a tea towel in one hand, use a potato masher to mash all the veg to a pulp – don’t worry if it’s lumpy
• You can rip the wings off the chicken and break them up into the tray to add more flavour at this point
• When everything is mixed and mashed up, add the alcohol to give a little fragrance before you add your stock (the alcohol will cook away)
• Keep it over the heat and let it boil for a few minutes
• Pour the stock into the tray, or add 1 litre of hot water • Bring everything in the pan to the boil, scraping all the goodness from the bottom of the pan as you go
• Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until you’ve achieved the gravy consistency you’re looking for

To serve your gravy
• Get yourself a large jug, bowl or pan and put a coarse sieve over it
• Pour your gravy through the sieve, using a ladle to really push all the goodness through
• Discard any veg or meat left behind
• At this point you’ve got a really cracking gravy, and you can either serve it straight away or put it back on the heat to simmer and thicken up
• Depending on which meat I’m serving it with, I’ll add a teaspoonful of horseradish, mustard, redcurrant jelly, cranberry, mint or apple sauce – you certainly don’t have to, but I think the little edge of complementary flavour you get from doing this is brilliant