At one of my recent cookery demonstrations I got a great tip to make an all-in-one white sauce, which simplifies the process here. There are two things that are key to this method: the milk must be cold when you start, and remember to keep whisking vigorously until the sauce thickens. If you want to take this simple recipe one step further, add some fried smoked streaky bacon bits. This is a great dish for a leftovers lunchbox the next day.
Coq au Vin Blanc was a regular winter dish in my house when we were growing up. I have distinct memories of it steaming up the kitchen windows while we did our homework on the kitchen table. It's a wonderfully warming meal, perfect for cold evenings. Chicken joints such as thighs and legs are often far cheaper to buy than chicken breasts, and meat cooked on the bone always seems to have more flavour.
Chorizo is one of my favourite ingredients to use, it provides really delicious smoky flavours and, when fried, renders the most amazing red oil. One of the first few times I visited London, I got myself down to world-famous Borough market where you can pick up some of the best Spanish chorizo outside Spain. This salad is nicest if you can get your hands on some really good-quality chorizo – you will generally find the best stuff in Spanish specialty food shops.
One of my favourite quick-fix suppers, this is full of fresh flavours and has a nice hum of heat from the chilli flakes. Gnocchi is easy to make yourself, but you can now pick up packets of the fresh variety in most supermarkets. If you happen to have fresh peas growing in your garden, feel free to use them instead of frozen.
Ribollita is an Italian soup that was traditionally seen as peasant food. The great thing about this soup is that it makes an ideal base for any additional ingredients that you might want to add. Think of it as an opportunity to give a last moment of glory to any miserable veggies left at the bottom of your fridge! I keep leftover Parmesan rinds in my freezer, which I add to sauces and soups like this to give a unique rich flavour. Add a couple while the soup is simmering and simply fish them out before serving.
Carrot and cardamom are a wonderful combination of flavours. The cake itself is moist enough but for that extra special touch you can add the delicious cinnamon cream cheese frosting. If you want to go all out, you can make mini carrots out of marzipan with a little orange food colouring and angelica root for the stalks.