Default pasta sauce

This is my current default tomato-based pasta sauce. Feeds family of 5.

  • 2 x cartons of passata (Sainsbury’s Basics will do – or chopped tinned tomatoes)
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 or 5 anchovies from a jar
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
  • sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
  • 500g bag of really good quality pasta
  • half a vegetable stock cube
  • heaped teaspoon of brown sugar
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • dash of balsamic vinegar or red wine
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

Fry the chillis, basil and anchovies in some olive oil for a couple of minutes until the anchovies melt.  Add the garlic and cook briefly but do not allow the garlic to go brown. Add the passata and all the other ingredients except the stock cube and pasta. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Fill a large pan with a lot of boiling water and add the stock cube and some salt. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Use cheap ingredients for everything else, but the pasta must be the best you can possibly afford.

While the pasta is cooking, whizz up the sauce with a hand blender. This really does make a difference – you get a creamier sauce and the garlic and basil flavours permeate better.

When the pasta is cooked, make a half-assed attempt at draining it – you want the pasta to be wet. Add the poorly-drained pasta to the sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread. This really is quite delicious and a doddle to make.

(Not quite vegetarian, I know – but I guess you could omit the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce and try it with Henderson’s Relish instead?)

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SuperFry Chicken Escalopes

Tilly likes these so much we’ve added this to the menu in our Imaginary Café.

You will need:

  • Some chicken thighs (or breasts, but thighs are cheaper and tastier. Cheaper and tastier in the Suppertime way.) – 1 per person.
  • Some buttermilk – or and egg / milk mix.
  • Spicy sauce of your choice, e.g. a Mexican chilli sauce.
  • Some polenta or semolina
  • Plenty of salt, freshly-ground pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder / granules
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Bash the chicken flat with a rolling pin. Put it in a bowl for a while with the buttermilk and spicy sauce mix to marinade.

Meanwhile, in an old ice cream tub, mix all the dry ingredients, then put the lid on and shake like a Polaroid picture.

When you’re ready to cook, take the chicken out of the marinade bowl, add to the dry mix, coat and shake. Then shallow fry for about 10 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with veg or in a sandwich.

Cooking al fresco:


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Simple Coq au Vin

It’s old-fashioned but it’s wet & windy and this went down a treat tonight. Easy, warming, delicious. Would feed about 4 hungry adults – 1 adult and 2 children failed to eat half of this, the left-overs are a freezer treat to come.

  • 1 medium or small chicken
  • 1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
  • 1 onion
  • 3 miserable carrots, chopped chunkily
  • a few manky bits of limp celery
  • 1 chicken stock cube or stockpot
  • some sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves – if you have three leaves left
  • a few chunks of celeriac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • salt’n'pepa (push it)
  • 100g lardons/pancetta/bacon
  • 1 fat clove garlic

Put the oven on around 170C. In a casserole with a sploosh of olive oil fry the bacon chunks with the onion, carrots, celery, cleriac until soft. Remove them from the casserole and then brown the whole chicken (seasoned with salt’n'pepa mmm baby baby) all over. Remove the chicken and put the other ingredients back in the dish. Add the flour and stir as you gradually add the brandy, stock cube and the wine. A whole bottle. Do it. You will thank me.

When your mix is bubbling and getting a bit thick, chuck the chicken back in with the bay leaves and thyme. Cover and cook in the oven for an hour or two, turning the carcass twice during the process.

Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce on the hob for 10 minutes or so. Pull the chicken apart and serve with lashings of the rich red wine sauce, vegetables – and I made some small rosemary roast potatoes to go with this, which absorbed that delicious red wine sauce just beautfully.

Nigel Slater: you showed me what to do. You showed me what to do…



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Easy peasy quesadillas

Quesadillas are so easy to make, I can’t believe we’ve never tried them before – especially since we have Mexican food every couple of weeks. We made potato and chorizo ones, but I’ll outline a couple of possible alternatives at the end.

This is a simplified version of a recipe in Mexican Food by Wahaca-founder Thomasina Miers. Feeds 4.

  • 4 large, plain flour tortilla wraps
  • 200g chorizo – whole not sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella cheese, torn into chunks
  • 4 large handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 500g potato
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Peel and cut the potato into 1cm cubes. Fry until soft, then set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Cut the chorizo into chunks, put the potato back in with the thyme and fry for several minutes until everything combined and the potatoes have taken on a glorious reddish hue.

Spread a quarter of the mix on half a wrap, and add the cheese. Fold it over and squish down flat so you have a semi-circle. Brush with olive oil and cook on a hot griddle for a minute or two, flipping over and cooking both sides until the cheese melts. They will have pleasing scorch lines on them from the griddle and be slightly crisp and crunchy. Cut the half moon in to 3 or 4 wedges and serve – we had them with salsa, slaw and guacamole.

We also made a pescatarian version with prawns, smoked paprika and a dollop of pibil chilli sauce. Plenty of scope for veggie alternatives too – I’d like to try making them with squeaky cheese (aka halloumi).

No photos as they didn’t hang around long enough to snap. Delicious, quick & easy!

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Christmassy red cabbage

I was trying to make Nigella’s red cabbage from her Christmas book, but I didn’t have the right spices and I mistook pomegranate juice for cranberry – it worked rather well, certainly much sweeter than my usual winter red cabbage.

  • 1 red cabbage
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • tsp sea salt
  • 2 eating apples
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • grated nutmeg
  • tiny bit of ground cinnamon
  • carton of cranberry juice drink

Cut the red onion into large, but quite thin, slices. In a thick-bottommed casserole or saucepan, fry the onion for 10 mins or so in the oil with the salt so they go soft but not brown. Add the diced apple, cook for a few more minutes. Add the spices, sugar and cabbage then cover with the cranberry juice drink and bring to the boil, then simmer, with the lid on, on a very low heat for a couple of hours – or put it in a very low oven.

This tastes better the longer you leave it. We had it with roast chicken and I froze the leftovers for Christmas day. Delicious!

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Bonne Dimanche breakfast toastie

Bonne Dimanche

Ok, this is about as French as cricket, but I was listening to fip as I was eating this, and the presenter wished her listeners a ‘bonne Dimanche’. Bonne Dimanche indeed.

To feed one person you will need:

  • 2 slices off a large white crusty loaf of bread
  • 1 rasher of bacon
  • A sausage opened out, or a sausage-amount of sausage meat
  • A slice of cheese (I used Emmental)
  • Condiments of choice

Put the grill on! On some foil, flatten out the sausage meat so it’s the same shape and size as your bread. The idea here is that it cooks much more quickly than a normal sausage. Put it under a medium-high grill with the bacon.

When the bacon and sausage are looking cooked on one side, flip them and put the bread under the grill. Keep an eye on it.

When the bread is toasted on one side, flip it over, put the sausage meat on one slice and add the cheese on top. Keep under the grill for a minute or two until all the meat is cooked and cheese melted.

Assemble and eat with condiments like tomato ketchup or American mustard.

SonA had a fried egg in his as well, but I think that’s de trop.

Bonne Dimanche

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Pea, prawn & mint risotto

Dead quick and easy risotto. This was utterly delicious. Serves 2 very hungry people, or 3 normal people.

You will need:

  • 200g risotto rice
  • a large mug full of frozen peas
  • half a large onion or 1 small onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 glass of dry white Vermouth
  • optional: a thimbleful of pastis / Pernod
  • optional: a homeopathic quantity of shrimp paste
  • a large mug full of prawns – I used frozen cooked ones, just use whatever your budget allows
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, washed
  • a few dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 Sainsbury’s Basics chicken stock cube (or veg stock if you must)
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, olive oil, water
  • half a lemon

This is what you do:

In a small saucepan, simmer the stock cube, frozen peas, porcini, shrimp paste (and prawns if they are frozen) with half a litre or so of water. Chop half the mint and add to the stock.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and celery. In a large frying pan with a lid, fry in olive oil on a low heat until soft & translucent.

Chuck in the risotto rice and turn the heat up. When the rice is starting to go translucent, but before it burns, throw in the vermouth. Inhale deeply. Life doesn’t get better than this.

Add the pastis at this point if you have some. Turn the heat down and stir. You’ve gotta keep stirring. As the liquid gets incorporated, add stock a ladleful at a time. If a few peas, mushrooms or prawns get in, no matter. Keep stirring. I know the phone’s ringing. Ignore it. Keep stirring.

When you run out of stock and added all the prawns & peas, taste the risotto. Adjust seasoning with some sea salt and plenty of pepper. If the rice isn’t cooked, add a bit of boiling water from the kettle. Keep stirring. You want the rice and celery to have a little bit of crunch left.

When it’s cooked, add big shavings of parmesan cheese using a vegetable peeler. Stir. Put the lid on and leave for 5 minutes.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and the rest of the mint leaves, whilst listening to fip and drinking cold white wine. Then watch Jules et Jim.



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Chipotle baked beans

This is the easiest thing in the world. And we love easy at Suppertime!


You will need

  • 1 tin of Heinz baked beans
  • half tsp of cumin
  • half tsp ground coriander
  • half tsp smoked paprika (or less – this makes it really spicy)
  • one small dried chipotle, crumbled

Put the beans in a pan on the hob, add the spices and simmer slowly for at least half an hour. Even tastier for breakfast the next day on toasted left-over soda bread (pictured here mixed with some left-over French tinned cassoulet).


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Fusion Chilli

I love chilli. I love filling, meaty feasts like Jamie Oliver’s brisket chilli. I also love the fast-food flavours of Meat Liquor’s genius layover chilli, as used to great effect in their Chilli Cheese Fries. Tonight I combined the two.

  • 800g beef brisket
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • half tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 fresh red chillis
  • 1 beef stock cube or pot
  • 1 can of cooking beer
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp French’s American mustard
  • fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

Put the oven on at 200 C. Cut deep slices into the brisket. Rub the spices with salt & pepper into the meat. In a casserole fry the chopped onion until translucent, then add the garlic and sliced peppers and thinly sliced red chillis. Cook for a bit longer on a low heat, then whack the heat up and fry the brisket. Then add the tinned tomatoes, beer, beef stock, ketchup, tomato puree, mustard and bring to the boil. If needed, top up with water. Put a lid on, turn the over down low (I went down to 100C) and leave in there for 3 or 4 hours.

Then remove the meat, put the sauce on the stove and simmer vigorously to thicken, adding the vinegar and chopped coriander. Pull the beef apart with a couple of forks, and re-immerse in the liquid.

Serve in wraps, with rice, grated cheese and sour cream. Delicious!

Whilst cooking this, I also invented Tequila Rice. I can confirm that tequila does not add enough flavour to rice to warrant flambé-ing half your hair off.

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Kut-price kurrywurst

Okay, I’m not proud of this. In fact, I’m quite ashamed. I wasn’t even full of Kölsch as an excuse. I can merely blame the Meat Liquor cookbook and Son A for making me make Currywurst.

Serves 4. You will need:

  • 1 packet of Lidl bratwurst.
  • 1 jar of Sainsbury’s Basics Curry Sauce
  • Heinz ketchup
  • skinny oven fries

Sainsbury’s Basics curry sauce is currently on sale for THIRTY PENCE for a large jar, same size as their ‘Chinese Chip Shop Curry Sauce’ which is around FIVE TIMES more expensive. The cheaper sauce has less salt, less fat and fits the bill perfectly.

I fried the bratwurst, but next time I’ll grill them and I grilled the skinny oven fries. I heated the curry sauce in a small saucepan with a very large squirt of ketchup.

When the fried are crispy, serve with the sausages and douse in curry sauce / ketchup mix. EAT. And feel very, very guilty.

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