Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

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Baileys Irish cream tiramisu

The combination of Ireland and Italy in a dish sounds nothing less than intriguing, but it is a combination made in heaven. A super recipe from Nigella.

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Serves 12

9 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 cups water (cooled)
1 cup Baileys
14 oz Savoiardi cookies
2 large eggs
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 lb mascarpone cheese
2 2/1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix the coffee with 3/4 cup of the Baileys in a shallow bowl. Dip the cookies into this liquid; let them soak on each side enough to become damp but not soggy. Line the bottom of an 8 1/2″ square glass dish with a layer of the cookies.

Separate the eggs, but keep only one of the egg whites. Whisk the two yolks and the sugar together until thick and a paler yellow, then fold in the remaining 1/4 cup of Baileys and the mascarpone to make a moussy mixture.

Whisk the single egg white until thick and frothy; you can do this by hand with such a small amount. Fold the egg white into the yolky mascarpone and then spread half of this mixture on top of the layer of cookies.

Repeat with another layer of soaked Savoiardi and then top with the remaining mascarpone mixture.

Cover the dish with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to serve, push the unsweetened cocoa through a small tea strainer to dust the top of the tiramisu.

Best hot, baked Florentine artichoke dip

Here is another winner recipe after researching countless baked spinach-artichoke recipes for a family- friendly holiday appetizer. Hot and bubbling straight from the oven with a lovely crispy topping.

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makes 4 cups and is enough for 8 to 10 people

1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (12 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 heaped cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
3 large garlic cloves, squeezed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 & 1/2 cups French breadcrumbs (homemade)
2 tbsp butter, melted

Drain the spinach, press between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Combine the spinach, artichoke hearts and the next 5 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.
Spoon into a lightly greased 11″ by 7″ baking dish.
Combine the breadcrumbs and butter, sprinkle over the spinach mixture.
Bake, uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with assorted crackers or breadsticks.

Best mac ‘n cheese with crisp, garlic breadcrumb topping. (to die for)

In preparation for Christmas dinner this year, I researched hundreds of mac ‘n cheese recipes with the only prerequisite being that ALL ages would love it, so nothing gimmicky, no strange flavors…
This recipe was a major hit with everyone and it’s well worth adding to your holiday cooking repertoire. The crispy garlicky breadcrumbs on top are also a wonderful addition.
I made it the day before, kept it in the fridge overnight, brought it to room temperature and baked it just before serving, so it really was easy.

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Serves 12

For the topping:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the macaroni and sauce:
14 oz dried elbow macaroni
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
16 oz coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 6 cups)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 1/2 tbsp English mustard powder

Special equipment:
9- by 13-inch baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle of oven. Butter the baking dish. Set a large, covered pot of salted water over high heat to boil.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter and oil until the butter foam subsides. Add the panko crumbs and garlic; cook, stirring, until the crumbs are golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and salt, and set aside.

Add the macaroni to the boiling salted water and cook until just al dente (avoid overcooking). Drain the macaroni and set aside. In a large wide pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking to incorporate and make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the roux is light golden, about 4 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a béchamel sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and cook until the béchamel sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more.

Add the the salt, pepper and mustard powder. Add the cheeses in three batches, whisking until each addition is completely melted before adding more. Remove from the heat.

Add the drained macaroni to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir well to coat. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the buttered baking dish and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 18 to 23 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Asian sweet potato gratin.

If you like dairy-free food and Asian flavors, this is a great twist on a heavier, creamier potato gratin.
Sweet potato and peanut butter might sound like a bonkers pairing, but combined with the flavor powerhouses of chili, ginger and lime, the result is magical.

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Serves 2, but easily can be augmented

3 sweet potatoes
8 fl oz of coconut milk
1 tbsp peanut butter
A stem of lemon grass
A thumb of ginger
1 chili
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat your oven to 350 F
Scrub 3 sweet potatoes, then slice as thinly as you can.
Place the slices in a medium sized baking dish.

Finely chop a chili. Peel a thumb of ginger with a teaspoon and roughly chop. Take 1 lemon grass stem and remove the tough outer leaves.

Zest the lime and juice half. Tip in 1 tbsp peanut butter, the lemon grass, chili, ginger, lime zest and the juice into a food processor.

Pour in 8 oz coconut milk. Blitz to combine all the ingredients.
Taste and season.

Pour the coconut sauce over the potato. Mix with your hands then flatten.
Cover the dish with foil and seal the edges tightly. Cook for 30 mins.

Remove the foil and cook for a further 20 mins till golden.

Check the sweet potatoes are cooked and soft by piercing with a knife. If still firm, place back in the oven and cook for a further 5-10 mins.

Smoked oyster and bacon stuffing

I couldn’t resist this recipe and will definitely be making it for one of the Holiday meals this year. You’ll need about 4 cups of unbaked stuffing for a 12-pound bird if you’re stuffing the bird, but personally, I like to roast the stuffing separately.

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Serves 8
1 loaf crusty white bread, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (8 cups)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
2 large celery stalks, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup packed drained smoked oysters (from three 3-ounce cans)
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (from about 8 slices)
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On two rimmed baking sheets, arrange the bread in a single layer. Toast until dry and pale golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and celery are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the oysters, bacon, thyme, and vinegar and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Add the parsley, eggs and bread; stir to combine. Add the broth in two additions, stirring until absorbed after each addition. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer stuffing to dish. Bake on middle rack until deep golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

** Tip.
Toast the bread up to 2 days ahead and store in airtight containers or zip-lock bags.

Butternut squash, mustard and Gruyere gratin

I love anything that has cream, cheese and vegetables in it and you might want to think about changing up your Thanksgiving meal by adding this to the repertoire.I highly recommend it.

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A small knob of butter (1 tbsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
10 decent sized-sage leaves
10 fl oz pot double cream
6 fl oz whole milk (or use cream instead for an extra luxurious dish)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, quartered and thinly sliced (about 2lb 2oz prepared weight)
1/4 tsp hand grated nutmeg
8 oz Gruyère, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and cook slowly over a low-medium heat, stirring every now and then, for 10-15 mins until golden and soft.

Meanwhile, put the garlic and half the sage in a saucepan, add the cream and milk, and heat gently, not allowing the mixture to boil, for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 mins, then fish out the sage and garlic. Stir in the mustard and season well.

If cooking straight away, heat oven to 350 F.
Layer the squash slices, (sprinkling a little grated nutmeg on each layer)the onions, most of the cheese and the infused cream into a large baking dish, finishing with a layer of cream. Once you’ve used the ingredients up, scatter with the remaining cheese and put the remaining sage leaves on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 mins.

Uncover the dish and increase the heat to 400 F. Cook for a further 20-30 mins until golden brown and tender all the way through. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving.