Nigel Slater's favourite borrowed recipes (2024)

A good recipe is one that does more than simply instruct; it should delight, inspire, encourage. It is rare I follow a recipe to the letter. The last one I stuck to like glue was über-baker Dan Lepard's method for making a sourdough 'starter'. It served me well and has acted as proud mother to most of my loaves ever since. But it is unusual for me to focus that tightly on someone else's recipe, if for no other reason than I am usually too busy working on my own.

Of course, you don't always need a written recipe. I remember watching Gordon Ramsay roasting a piece of fish on television. The way he used his knife, placed the fish in the pan, let one side colour and then turned it before putting it in the oven was sheer poetry to watch. No printed recipe could have been as much help as watching a great cook at his craft. This summer I have cooked many a Jamie Oliver recipe for supper, not from his books, but from watching him cook what must have been the most thoughtful, inspiring and quietly informative cooking I have ever seen on television. I didn't need to see anything in print, I took the recipes in almost by osmosis.

But then occasionally I see a written recipe that I wish was mine. It might be a fresh idea, or a twist on a classic or perhaps a way of thinking about something that had never struck me. Again, it could simply be a particularly tempting piece of writing. Nigella's way of introducing her steak béarnaise, reassuring the reader that 'unless you are trying to create the classic in its purist form, be kind to yourself. If you can't get chervil, be assured that it will taste fabulous with just tarragon' is enough to get me into the kitchen.

The list of other people's recipes I do regularly is not long. There is nothing definitive about it - it is just a handful of other cooks' stuff I like to make when I get a minute to spare. Or in the case of Dan Lepard's sourdough starter - a full week.

Steak with bearnaise sauce by Nigella Lawson

Serves 4

1-2 shallots, chopped finely (to yield 1 tbs)
2 tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, and their stalks, chopped roughly and bruised
1 tbs chervil, chopped
2 tbs wine or tarragon vinegar
2 tbs white wine
1 tsp peppercorns (preferably white), crushed or bruised
3 egg yolks
1 tbs water
200g soft unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice
juice of 1/4 - 1/2 lemon

Put the shallots, tarragon stalks, 1 tablespoonful each of the chopped tarragon and chervil leaves, the vinegar, wine and peppercorns into a heavy-based saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Don't move from the stove: this doesn't take long. Equally you can use 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar and omit the wine.

Press the reduced liquid through a sieve or tea strainer and leave to cool. Put egg yolks and water into a bowl. Set over a pan of water that has come to a simmer. Add the reduced and strained liquid and whisk well. Keep whisking as you add the butter, cube by cube until it is all absorbed. Taste, and season and add lemon juice as you wish. Treat it as hollandaise to keep it warm and avert curdling. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of fresh chopped tarragon as you're about to serve it. Serve with steaks, fried in a hot pan for a short time, and green salad made bloody with the juices.

· From How to Eat by Nigella Lawson

Wood-roasted porcini by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

Serves 6

6 large whole fresh porcini, stalks attached, weighing around 200-250g each
12 large sprigs fresh thyme
18 thin slices smoked pancetta
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
3 lemons
a handful of rocket leaves

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. With a soft, dry brush, clean each mushroom carefully. With a sharp knife make two cuts up the length of the stalk, dividing it equally into three parts, making sure it does not become separated from its cap. In each cut place a sprig of thyme, a slice of pancetta and a few slices of garlic. Season generously, then wind a slice of pancetta round each stem to hold in the stuffing.

Heat a suitable roasting pan in the oven until hot, then add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the porcini in the oil and put them in the oven to bake. They take from 5-15 minutes according to the size and thickness of the cap. When ready, the cap will have browned and shrunk, the stem will have coloured and the pancetta will be cooked.

Remove the pan from the oven, and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over each porcini. Serve with the rocket leaves dressed with oil and extra lemon juice.

· From River Cafe Cookbook Two by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray

Devilled crab by Fergus Henderson

Serves 6

3 x 1kg crabs
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped very finely
2 fresh red chillies, seeds removed and chopped very finely
100g fresh ginger, peeled and grated very finely
12 spring onions, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
juice of 2 lemons
sea salt and pepper
1/2 bunch of washed, picked coriander, just disciplined by the merest chopping
1/2 bunch of picked flat-leaf parsley, just disciplined by the merest chopping

Cook and prepare the crabs; for this recipe you want to boil them for 20 minutes, on the side of under rather than overcooked, as they will be cooked again.

Scoop all the meat out of the shell into a bowl and remove all the legs from the body. With a strong knife, cut the body into quarters and partially crack the large claws with a hammer.

In a pan heat a healthy splash of olive oil and fry the garlic, chilli and ginger for three minutes. Add the quartered crab bodies, the claws, the spring onion, and then the scooped crabmeat and all the legs, and the lemon juice. Season and stir continuously and enthusiastically until heated through.

Just before serving, throw in the coriander and parsley, give one last stir, tip into a dish, and eat armed with useful tools to pick out the crab flesh, and many napkins. And for that matter, much white wine.

· From Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson

Wok-fried crispy bream by Jamie Oliver

Serves 2

2 x 285-400g royal or grey bream
sunflower oil
2 good handfuls of Chinese greens (spinach, pak choi)

For the Thai dressing:

4 tbs fresh lime juice
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs sesame seed oil
1 tbs soy sauce
a good pinch of brown sugar
1 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 large handful each fresh coriander and basil, chopped

For the Asian marinade (you need 2 quantities):

2 sticks lemongrass, crushed or bruised
1 small handful kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 tbs soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
2 limes, halved, juiced and skins squashed
10 good glugs olive oil

For the Thai dressing, put everything into a jam jar and shake. Slash the bream on both sides, 1cm deep, in a criss-cross fashion. In a pestle and mortar pound up the marinade ingredients and rub into the fish, getting it into the cuts and the belly. Let this sit for up to an hour.

Heat a wok with about 5cm of sunflower oil. Remove the bream from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dust each fish with flour, shaking off any excess. Then carefully place each fish into the wok and fry for three minutes on each side. The skin will go amazingly crispy. Steam the greens until tender. To serve, place the greens on a plate, put the fish on top, and drizzle with the Thai dressing.

· From The Return of the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

Kaffir lime juice-dressed prawns by David Thompson

Serves 4 with side dishes

6 large uncooked prawns (shrimp), unpeeled
2 bird's eye chillies (scuds), pounded
3 red shallots, sliced
1 tbs finely sliced lemongrass
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 tbs julienned young ginger
1 tbs julienned long red or green chilli
handful of mixed mint and coriander leaves

For the dressing:

2 tbs kaffir lime juice or regular lime juice
2 tbs Asian citron or mandarin juice
1 tbs caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbs fish sauce

Vein the prawns, rinse and dry. Grill or roast in their shells. Cool, peel and shred. Mix the dressing and dress prawns. Add remaining ingredients.

· From Thai Food by David Thompson

Poached chicken with leeks by Rose Prince

Serves 4

60g butter
1 chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
900ml chicken stock
3 leeks, cut into rounds
leaves from 4 sprigs of tarragon
250ml double cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a casserole over a medium-high heat but do not let it burn. Add the chicken joints and brown them on both sides, then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, skimming away any foam. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Add the leeks, tarragon and cream, season and cook for a further 10 minutes.

· From The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince

Salt cod croquetas by Sam and Sam Clark

Serves 4

225g salt cod, soaked for 24 hours in cold water in the fridge
600ml milk
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/2 medium onion
350g potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tsp finely grated onion
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 heaped tsp plain flour
750ml sunflower oil for deep-frying
1 lemon, quartered
sea salt and black pepper

While the salt cod is soaking, change the water two or three times. Drain the salt cod and place in a saucepan with the milk, bay leaves and onion half, and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer very gently for four minutes until the fish flakes easily (salt cod will stay more juicy and tender if cooked gently). With a slotted spoon, remove the salt cod and put it in a bowl. Carefully put the potatoes into the same saucepan of simmering milk and cook for 20 minutes or until soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, go through the salt cod, discarding skin and bones. Now mash or shred the cod either between your fingers or with a potato masher. At this point the cod should have no large or hard bits, just soft fibre. All of this is best done when the cod is warm, if not hot, as it will become stubborn and gluey when cold.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them, discarding the milk, onion and bay. Put the potatoes through a sieve or mash them well. Now mix the potato with the cod, grated onion, parsley and the flour. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and check for seasoning.

This is the fun part, shaping croquetas! You will need two dessertspoons to help provide the basic shape and a board or a plate sprinkled with a little more flour to place them on. Scoop some mixture onto your spoon, and with the help of the other spoon make a rough oval egg shape (quenelle). Place it on the floured board. Make 12 to 16 of these. At this point they are ready to fry, but will keep well for up to 24 hours when covered in the fridge.

When you are ready to eat, put the oil in a large saucepan and place over a medium heat for four minutes. Test the temperature by adding a small piece of the cod mixture. It should turn golden brown over the course of a minute, not instantaneously. Adjust the temperature accordingly.

Cook the croquetas in two batches, lowering them into the oil with a slotted spoon, until they are amber in colour. When they are ready, lift out with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen paper. Serve immediately either with alioli and/or sweet tomato sauce, a little salad and wedges of lemon.

· From Moro: the Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark

Afghan rice pudding by Ruth Watson

Serves 6

115g round pudding rice
568ml cold water
284ml double cream, preferably Jersey
300ml full cream milk
4 green cardamom pods
115g natural caster sugar
2 tsp rosewater
about 30g unsalted raw pistachios, finely chopped

Put the rice in a sieve and wash it thoroughly under running water. Transfer the rice to a medium-sized saucepan and pour in the cold water. Cover the pan and bring the contents to a boil over a medium heat.

Reduce the temperature, remove the lid, and simmer the contents until the water has virtually evaporated, stirring frequently to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once the rice has absorbed the water, stir in the cream and milk. Bring the mixture back to the boil, then reduce the heat again. Simmer gently for about 25 minutes, uncovered and stirring frequently until the rice pudding has thickened to the texture of sloppy porridge.

In the meantime, gently crush the cardamom pods in a mortar, remove and discard the husks, and crush the remaining seeds to a fine powder. Now add the sugar and cardamom seeds to the rice pudding and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rosewater. Stir in, or sprinkle the pistachios on top of each portion of rice pudding, according to your mood.

· From The Really Helpful Cookbook by Ruth Watson

Roast grouse and bread sauce by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

1/2-1 grouse per person, plucked and drawn, the neck and giblets reserved
a little soft butter, lard or dripping
2 rashers of fatty streaky bacon per bird
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stock/dressing:

the neck and giblets from the bird (minus the liver)
the wings (optional)
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tbs fat or oil
1 bay leaf
red wine
plain flour
redcurrant or quince jelly (optional)
bread sauce

Prepare the birds by smearing a little fat over the breasts, seasoning with a twist of pepper and covering them with a couple of rashers of streaky bacon. The grouse's liver is particularly good, and can be replaced in the cavity, perhaps with a couple of teaspoons of port, before cooking. Place in a roasting tin and put in the centre of a very hot oven (230C/gas 8).

Remove the bacon after 8-10 minutes and take it out of the oven if it's as crisp as you'd like it to be. At this point you could baste the birds with any fat in the tin, but do it fast so as not to let the oven cool. About 20 minutes in total should be enough to cook most grouse through without drying them out, 25 minutes for a larger bird, provided in both cases they can rest for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the gravy. The meat should be just a little pink, but if this is not to your taste, add 5-7 minutes to the cooking time.

Skim off any excess fat from the roasting tin (what little there is will be from the bacon). Place the tin on the hob and sprinkle just a teaspoon of flour into it. Scrape the base with a wooden spatula, scratching up any crispy bits and mixing them with the flour and juices. Use a small splash of wine and a little of the reserved stock to help this process and loosen the gravy. Now strain all the liquid in the roasting tin through a sieve into a small clean saucepan. Whisk in the rest of the stock and bring to the boil. Taste the gravy, adding just a little redcurrant or quince jelly if you think it needs sweetness. Boil to reduce if you want to intensify the flavour, then season with salt and pepper as you see fit. Whisk in a little more flour if you want to thicken it. In short, fix the gravy how you like it.

If you want to do the liver thing, fry a small crouton of bread for each bird, scrape out the liver from the cavity of the bird and spread it, like pâté, on to the bread. Serve on the plate with each bird.

Bread sauce

Serves 8

1 small onion
4 cloves
500ml milk
1 bay leaf
125g fresh (or slightly stale but not rock hard) bread, torn into small pieces or breadcrumbs
50g butter, cut into small pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nigel Slater's favourite borrowed recipes (1)

Peel the onion, cut it in half and stud it with the cloves, then put it in a pan with the milk, bay leaf and a twist of black pepper. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat. Add the bread, cover and leave to infuse for at least an hour.

Finish the sauce shortly before serving: fish out the onion, cloves and bay leaf and stir over a low heat until simmering gently. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the pieces of butter, adjust the seasoning and serve hot, on the table in a sauce boat.

· From The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Panade of slow-cooked onions with gruyère by Skye Gyngell

A panade is basically a dish cooked with bread. It is essentially simple food.

Serves 4

50g unsalted butter
4 yellow onions, peeled and very finely sliced
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50ml apple brandy
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
750ml chicken stock

To serve:

4 slices good-quality sliced bread
1 garlic clove, halved
120g Gruyère, grated
handful of curly parsley, stalks removed and very finely chopped (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the sugar and add a pinch or two of salt. Sweat gently for 20 minutes until very soft. The onions will deepen in colour as the sugar and butter begin to caramelise and their natural sweetness is teased out.

When the onions are really soft, add the brandy and increase the heat to reduce the liquor, cooking off the alcohol. Add the herbs and pour in the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until the stock has reduced slightly and the flavour is deep and intense. Discard the herbs.

To serve, toast the slices of bread until golden brown on both sides. Rub the toast with the cut garlic clove while still hot and place one slice in each warm soup plate. Ladle over the onion broth and sprinkle with the Gruyère. Finish with a grinding of black pepper and a sprinkling of parsley if you like. Serve piping hot.

· From A Year in my Kitchen by Skye Gyngell

Nigel Slater's favourite borrowed recipes (2024)
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