For that time when you need something quick and simple to prepare, this British favourite fits the bill. A gammon steak, topped with a soft poached egg, and roasted baby potatoes instead of fries, makes for a very enjoyable meal.
Wash the potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic cloves and season. Toss together to coat the potatoes.
Tip into a small roasting tin/pan and roast for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, turning a couple of times to make sure they cook evenly.
Preheat the grill to high. Remove any rind from the gammon steaks, then brush with the remaining olive oil. Grill/broil for 3 minutes on each side until they are starting to brown and are crisping at the edges.
While cooking the gammon, also cook the eggs. Take a non-stick frying pan/skillet and grease with butter. Bring some water to the boil in the pan. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and add the white vinegar (this helps to keep the whites of the eggs in shape). Break the eggs into the pan and poach for about four minutes until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still soft. (Make sure there is enough water in the pan to cover the eggs)
Serve the gammon topped with a poached egg and accompanied with the roasted baby potatoes.
The traditional shepherd’s pie can be quite bland and my basic Shepherd’s Pie recipe has extra seasonings to liven it up. This one brings a touch of Italian using a Napoletana sauce and with grated Parmesan on the top.
1 fresh rosemary sprig (or a large pinch of dried)
225ml/8 fl oz red wine
500g/17 fl oz Napoletana pasta sauce (or similar)
900g/2 lb potatoes (floury)
50g/2 oz butter
50g/2 oz Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
Brown the lamb in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to break up any lumps, about 7 minutes. It should be really well browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan with the rosemary and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. There should be enough fat left from browning the meat not to require adding any oil.
Return the lamb to the pan and stir in the wine. Loosen any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan, then leave the wine to bubble gently until roughly half of it has evaporated. Stir in the pasta sauce, then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large chunks. Put in a pan of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan to dry off any excess moisture. Mash with the butter and half the Parmesan.
Preheat the grill to high.
Spoon the meat sauce into a medium-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the potatoes, no need to smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Brown under the grill for about 3 minutes.
Serve with seasonal vegetables.
The dish can be prepared ahead of time up to the grill stage. Cover the dish then refrigerate for up to two days. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 25–30 minutes until heated through and golden on top.
*I prefer to use boneless chicken breasts because they are really succulent. But legs or breasts with bone in would work too.
Large roasting tin
Finely chop two thirds of the basil and mint and 2 lemon thyme sprigs, reserve the remaining third. Using a pestle and mortar, pound together the herbs, crushed garlic and two tablespoons of the olive oil until they form a paste. Or use a food processor. Put the chicken in a shallow bowl and cover with the herb mixture. Cover, refrigerate and leave for at least 30 minutes to marinate.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Put the peppers, courgettes and potatoes in a bowl. Season and pour over the remaining olive oil. Toss together until all the vegetables are well coated. Carefully add the tomatoes. Spread in the roasting tin and add the chicken and marinade.
Roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Squeeze over the lemon juice and scatter over the reserved herbs.
Tinned plum tomatoes can be substituted for the fresh plum tomatoes. Just add them to the pan during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Marinading time: At least 30 minutes, overnight if possible
Cooking time: 40 minutes
500g/1lb pork tenderloin
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup*
4 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper
Vegetables to serve
Roasted, diced potatoes and carrots
*I like to use real maple syrup as I try to avoid the ingredients in synthetic maple syrup. Pure Canadian maple syrup is freely available in the U.K.
For the mustard pork
Mix together in a bowl the maple syrup, mustard, garlic, oil and seasoning.
Coat the tenderloin with the marinade, leave it for at least 30 minutes, overnight if possible.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6.
Put the meat in a small roasting tin and roast for 20–25 minutes until it. browns on the outside and the juices run clear when tested with a skewer. Spoon the sticky pan juices over the pork and then slice.
For the vegetables
Parboil a few potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Dice and toss in a little extra virgin oil. Roast for about 30 minutes until browning and crisp.
450ml/16 fl oz milk, plus extra for creaming the potatoes
60ml/2 fl oz white wine
1 lemon, juice only
salt and pepper
400g/14 oz white fish fillet (e.g. haddock), skinned
400g/14 oz salmon fillet, skinned
50g/1¾ oz baby-leaf spinach
100g/3½ oz Cheddar cheese, grated
A large ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes, until soft. Add the eggs during the last 8 minutes to soft boil (saves on another pan!). Once the eggs have cooked, remove them and run them under cold water, this will prevent a dark rim forming round the yolk while they are cooling. Drain and mash the potatoes with 25g/1 oz of the butter and a little milk, until creamy. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pan and, once foaming, tip the pan and quickly add the flour. Stir to form a smooth paste and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes (making a roux). Warm the milk (a microwave makes this quick) and slowly mix into the roux until smooth. Stir in the wine. Continue cooking over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes until the sauce has thickened, stirring constantly. The sauce needs to be very thick because once the fish is added and cooks in the sauce, its juices will thin it. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and a good grating of nutmeg. Set aside.
Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks and mix in the ovenproof dish with the spinach leaves and the sauce. Peel the eggs and carefully cut into quarters and scatter them evenly over the dish. Cover with the mashed potato and top with the grated cheese.
Cover the dish and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for a further 10–15 minutes until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.
1 organic chicken stock cube or 1tsp chicken bouillon
8 whole tinned tomatoes, plus juice
4 baked potatoes
A deep-sided sauté pan with lid
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
Put the flour and some pepper into a plastic storage bag, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Reserve the remaining flour in the bag.
Heat the oil and butter in the sauté pan over a moderate heat and brown the chicken pieces, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut the bacon rashers into thin strips and fry gently in the pan for 2 minutes, until the fat starts to run. Add the onion and continue to cook until the onion starts to brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the reserved flour into the pan and stir until the mixture has thickened. Mix the stock cube/1tsp bouillon into the water and add slowly to the pan, stirring constantly, until well combined. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and add the tomatoes.
Return the chicken to the pan, cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken and keep warm. Place the sauté pan on the hob and over a medium to high heat reduce the sauce to thicken. Put the chicken back in the pan, scatter the croutons over and add some chopped parsley.
Serve with baked potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
For the croutons
These are so easy to make. Remove the crusts from 2 slices of bread (preferably a day old), cut into cubes and put in a bowl. Sprinkle over about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, some dried parsley and black pepper. Toss together.
Layer on a small baking tray covered with baking paper/parchment paper and put in the oven for 12–14 minutes.
1 jar Tuscan-style olive and garlic pasta sauce (Classico)
450g/1 lb fresh or frozen French beans or fine beans/whole green beans, cut in half
1 tsp dried basil or fresh basil leaves
A deep sided sauté pan with lid
Heat the oil in the sauté pan over a medium heat and add the chicken and garlic. Cook until the chicken is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and pepper and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pasta sauce, green beans and basil. Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium heat, cover and simmer for 35 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally.
*I choose these options because I don’t like all the additives and sodium found in other brands.
Deep sided frying pan
Griddle or heavy-based pan
1.75 litre/3 pint ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven/350°F/gas mark 4
Heat the olive oil in the deep-sided frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and oregano and fry for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the onion is softened but not brown.
Turn up to a moderate heat and add the lamb to the pan. Stir fry for 10 minutes until the meat starts to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the griddle over a medium-high heat (2–3 minutes) then fry the aubergine slices in batches in a single layer for 3–5 minutes, turning them once. Put them to one side.
Drain any fat from the lamb, add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock cube or teaspoon of bouillon. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce the heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 25–30 minutes until the liquid has reduced.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into even sized pieces and simmer in a saucepan for 15 minutes. Drain, cool a little, and cut into thin slices.
Make layers with the aubergine, lamb mixture and potatoes in the ovenproof dish, finishing with potatoes. Pour the cream over and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20–25 minutes until bubbling and golden.