Wiener schnitzel

Since you can all make it on autopilot, you don’t really need a recipe for Wiener schnitzel, so my introduction today is going off-piste into linguistic territory. A schnitzel is a thin, breaded, fried cutlet traditionally made from veal; the ‘Wiener’ part means ‘from Vienna’. In Hungary they call the dish Bécsi szelet, Bécs being the Hungarian name for Vienna. And in Hungary the technique of coating meat in breadcrumbs is called ‘panírozás’, from the verb ‘panírozni’. If you want to make a joke that only a Hungarian will get, you can refer to the act of putting on make-up as panírozás.

Our version of Wiener schnitzel uses turkey rather than veal and the basic recipe below lends itself to some experimentation. (Zita has become quite expert at incorporating spices and lemon zest into the flour and breadcrumbs. For an even more exotic take, try Ottolenghi’s recipe that uses tahini in both coating and sauce.) It is a cornerstone of your repertoire because I would invariably put it on the weekly menu for Monday nights, when I would be out at Choir – and of course it was one of the four dishes Babú ‘invited’ the girls to make during that unforgettable, volcano-blighted trip to Budapest in April 2010 (see Banoffee pie). Its traditional accompaniment is a potato salad, but we eat it more commonly with boiled new potatoes or chips, and steamed green beans.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pack quick-cook turkey steaks
60g seasoned flour (salt, pepper & nutmeg + any embellishments you like)
2 eggs
1 pack dried breadcrumbs – you will need more than you think
Oil for frying
Lemon quarters for serving

Method

Set up your assembly line: flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs in three wide bowls. Dry the turkey steaks, then dip each in turn in the flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Keep in a single layer on a large plate.

Heat the oil in a large flat frying pan, switch on the extractor fan and fry the schnitzels on a medium heat until golden brown on both sides. You don’t want the heat too high because the breadcrumbs are liable to catch and burn. Drain on kitchen paper and serve at once with lemon wedges, mayonnaise and ketchup. 

Lemon pasta

After the excesses and complexities of Easter, here is something very straightforward. Spaghetti al limone is another deliciously simple recipe from the first River Café Cookbook (see slow-cooked lamb shanks), easy to rustle up from limited ingredients. It makes a great starter for an Italian meal or a quick supper dish, served with a tomato salad. 

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients

250g spaghetti
Salt and pepper
3 unwaxed lemons
150ml olive oil
150g freshly grated parmesan
2 handfuls fresh basil

Method

Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, reserve a cupful of the cooking liquid, then drain thoroughly and return to the pan.

Meanwhile, scrape the zest off one of the lemons (in strips if you have a zester), then juice all three lemons. Beat the zest and juice with the olive oil, pepper and salt, then stir in the parmesan until thick and creamy: the cheese will ‘melt’ into the mixture. 

Add the sauce to the spaghetti, and shake the pan so that each strand is coated with the cheese. Loosen with some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. Finally, stir in the chopped basil and serve.

Chocolate & raspberry roulade

We ate this first in April 2013, when we hosted the fabulous Muijser family over Easter at Garde. (The recipe, by master patissier Eric Lanlard, had been published in the Times the previous month.) Fast forward seven years to Lockdown 1 and Louis’ self-improvement regime: alongside learning the guitar and French, he mastered a range of culinary skills, treating us to this terrific pudding on Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, the middle-aged parents were recovering from Covid and the girls were pre-occupied by online shopping, Geoguesser and hair dye.

Serves 10

Ingredients

50g caster sugar
50ml water
25ml crème de framboise
300ml double cream
50g icing sugar
500g fresh raspberries, plus extra to decorate

For the sponge

Butter, for greasing
175g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
175g caster sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 38x28cm baking tray and line with baking paper. To make the sponge, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

2 In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks using an electric hand whisk until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla paste and cooled chocolate and stir until smooth. In a large, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir a large spoonful into the chocolate mixture, mixing gently, then fold in the remaining whites. Fold in the cocoa powder.

3 Spoon the mixture into the prepared tray and gently level the top using a palette knife. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on top of the sponge, then put a clean, damp tea towel on top of the paper. Leave to cool completely.

4 Meanwhile, make a syrup. Put the caster sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool completely before stirring in the framboise.

5 To assemble the roulade, whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Dust a large piece of nonstick baking paper with some of the icing sugar, then turn out the roulade onto it and peel off the lining paper. Brush the framboise syrup over the cooled sponge, then spread over the whipped cream and cover with the raspberries, pushing them into the cream slightly. Starting from a long edge, roll up the sponge like a Swiss roll. Roll tightly to start with and use the paper to help you roll it up. The roulade may crack when you do this, but that’s part of its charm. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

6 To serve, trim the ends of the roulade and place on a serving plate. Dust generously with the remaining icing sugar and serve with extra raspberries.Serve with a raspberry coulis (whizz up 150g raspberries with a tablespoon of icing sugar, then sieve to remove the pips).

Easter Lamb

Our holidays with the Taylor family – in Provence, Norfolk and Dorset – are particularly memorable for the food we’ve eaten: sausages and lentils, crab linguine, barbecued mackerel freshly fished by Hugh F-W and, in April 2009, this gorgeous spring lamb with haricot beans and rosemary lemon gravy. I brought the lamb and the recipe (by Lindsey Bareham in the Times) from London to Brancaster and spent a fair few happy hours preparing a slap-up lunch that Sunday, which also featured a chocolate & cardamom tart, a trip to church and an easter egg hunt. Last year we dug out the now-faded newspaper clipping and made it all over again during Lockdown 1. If you’re feeding vegetarians, the tomato & haricot beans accompaniment makes a substantial meal in itself.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2.5kg leg of spring lamb
4 garlic cloves
Small bunch rosemary
1 large lemon
Half bottle dry white wine
25g butter
Half tbsp flour

For the beans:
500g dried haricot beans
1 medium onion
6 cloves
Small bunch thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
1 red birdseye chilli

For the sauce:
1 large onion
4 shallots
4 garlic cloves
2 medium carrots
25g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
8 medium tomatoes, preferably plum
50g flat-leaf parsley

To serve:
Carluccio’s carrots
Roast potatoes
Steamed broccoli
Redcurrant jelly
Mint sauce

Method

Begin the bean preparation 24 hours in advance. Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Rinse thoroughly, return to the pan and add sufficient water to cover them by 10cm. Bring to the boil and boil vigorously for five minutes while removing frothy scum as it presents itself. Drain, cover with water again and bring back to the boil.

Trim and peel the onion and stick it with the cloves. Crack the garlic with your fist and flake away the skin. Run a needle and cotton through the garlic and chilli. Knot securely, leaving sufficient cotton to bundle up the thyme, rosemary and bay. Place in the pan with the onion. Establish a gentle simmer, cover with a tilted lid and simmer for 1-2 hours, checking after 1 hour, until the beans are soft but holding their shape. Add 1 tsp salt, simmer for 10 more min. Drain and reserve 200ml cooking water. Discard the onion-and-herb bracelet.

Meanwhile, make a sauce for the beans. Peel, halve and finely chop the onions, shallots and garlic. Melt the butter and oil in a spacious sauté pan, stir in the onions, shallots and garlic and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 min until soft, slippery and lightly coloured. Peel and chop the carrots into dolly mixture-size pieces. Cover the tomatoes with boiling water. Count to 30, drain, cut out the core of each in a pointed plug shape and remove the skin, then chop into small pieces.

Stir the carrots and tomatoes into the soft onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 min until the carrots are tender and the tomatoes sloppy and sauce-like. Stir the sauce into the beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. If convenient, make the beans to this point, cool, cover and chill for 24 hours. To finish the preparation, reheat gently, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid if needed. Just before serving, stir the chopped parsley through the beans.

To cook the lamb, heat the oven to 220C/200 fan. Trim any excess fat from the joint. Crack the garlic with your fist to loosen the skin. Make a bed in the middle of the roasting tin with most of the rosemary and the garlic. Place the joint, meaty side uppermost, on top. Pour the wine around the meat and squeeze the lemon over. Smear the butter over the top and season lavishly with black pepper. Lay the remaining rosemary over the top. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven temperature down to 180C/160 fan and roast for a further 1 hr 15 min, for pink meat, or slightly longer, depending on how well done you like your lamb. Baste twice during cooking. Take the pan out of the oven and transfer the joint to a warmed plate. Cover loosely with foil or leave in a warm place for at least 20 min before carving.

Although the wine and lemon juice will have reduced slightly during cooking, it will have mingled with the meat juices and a hint of garlic to make plenty of delicious gravy. If you need more liquid, add vegetable or bean cooking water. First discard the garlic and rosemary and place the pan over a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly. Simmer briskly, stirring everything together, before straining into a jug.

For a thick gravy, sift the flour over the top of the juices while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. If the gravy turns lumpy, replace the spoon with a wire whisk. Pass the gravy through a sieve into a serving jug. 

Thai beef salad

This meets the qualification for inclusion because it has gone down a storm on the three occasions I’ve made it: first at The Ridge one Boxing Day (maybe 15 years ago); then last year, mid-pandemic, at Granny’s flat in Putney; and, most recently, to celebrate the February birthdays in 2021. My go-to recipe comes from an Australian website and now lives, printed in hard copy, among the ragged clippings in the ‘filing system’ on the cookbook shelf.

Larger quantities here – and the greenery included beans instead of cucumber

Serves 4

Ingredients

1½ tbsp fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp finely chopped palm sugar (or use light brown sugar)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1 beef rump steak (about 680g)
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cucumber, halved lengthways, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 long fresh red chillies, halved, deseeded and thinly sliced lengthways
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, large leaves torn
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked
1 bunch fresh Thai basil, leaves picked, large leaves torn
55g toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, centre veins removed, finely shredded

Method

Whisk together the lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and palm sugar in a jug. Place the steak in a glass or ceramic dish. Drizzle with half the dressing, cover with cling film and place in the fridge (if it’s a hot day), turning occasionally, for 2 hours to develop the flavours.

Preheat a griddle pan (or a barbecue) on high. Cook the steak on the grill for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a board, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Place the tomato, cucumber, onion, chilli, mint, coriander, basil, peanuts and lime leaves in a large bowl. Thinly slice the steak across the grain and add to the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and gently toss to combine. 

Hot citrus pudding

The television series that accompanied the publication of Delia Smith’s Winter Cookbook in the 90s made a big splash and inspired a number of family meals that have stood the test of time (Colcannon potatoes and Mushroom risotto being two examples). This excellent hot pudding quickly became a favourite for Sunday lunch. Full of fresh citrus flavours, it’s light and fluffy and emerges from the oven in a pool of its own curd-like sauce. All you need on the side is some chilled cream.

Serves 6

Ingredients

75g softened unsalted butter
175 caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
75g self-raising flour
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange, 1 lemon and 2 limes
200ml milk

You will also need a deep baking dish of 1.75 litre capacity, well buttered. I use the square pyrex dish.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan.

First, get the citrus zest and juice ready and keep together in a small bowl. Separate your eggs. Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale in colour – it won’t go light and fluffy because there is more sugar than butter, but don’t worry about that. Beat the egg yolks and whisk them into the mixture a little at a time. Next, sift the flour and lightly fold it into the mixture, alternating it with the combined citrus juices, zest and lastly the milk.

Now in a clean bowl and using a washed and dried spanking-clean whisk, whisk the egg whites to the soft-peak stage and lightly fold those into the mixture. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled at this stage – it’s supposed to. Pour the mixture in the the prepared dish and bake for 50 minutes, by which time the top should be a nice golden brown.

Thai prawn curry

Back when we were in living in Tarleton Gardens, your father and I had a brief flirtation with Ian Marber’s Food Doctor Diet. Like all ‘diets’ the restrictions proved unsustainable in the long term, but one of Marber’s recipes took root. This green Thai curry, originally a recipe for monkfish, is a vehicle for all sorts of alternative proteins: I make it most often with prawns but have also done it with chicken and tofu. For the cucumber-averse (Zita), pak choi can be used instead. It is very quick and simple, taking less time to pull together than it does to cook the accompanying rice. The other obligatory accompaniment – grated carrot salad – is also straightforward to rustle up (recipe included).

Serves 4

Ingredients

500g raw peeled jumbo king prawns (defrosted if frozen)
2 tbsp sunflower, groundnut or coconut oil
2 kaffir lime leaves, or 3 fat strips lime zest
1 stick lemon grass, cut into 3 chunks and bashed
3 tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 tin coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
½ large cucumber or 1 head pak choi
Handful of roughly torn basil (Thai or regular)
1 lime

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, then add the lime leaves or zest and the lemon grass. Fry briefly, add the green curry paste and cook for a minute. Now add your prawns and stir-fry until they turn pink: this will take just a couple of minutes. If you’re using chicken strips, allow a bit longer to make sure the meat is cooked through. Pour in the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and let it bubble for 5 more minutes. To prepare your cucumber, peel a few strips off (leaving some dark green stripes), halve it, scrape out the seeds and cut into 3cm batons. If you’re having pak choi instead, cut the firm white part into chunks, shred the dark green leaves and keep separately. 

Add the fish sauce and cucumber or white pak choi to the curry mix and simmer for another couple of minutes. Finally, stir in the basil (and pak choi leaves). Remove the lemon grass and lime leaves before serving with rice, carrot salad and a squeeze of lime.

Carrot salad

4 large carrots
1 tbsp sunflower, groundnut or coconut oil
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp lime juice

Peel and coarsely grate the carrots and place in a serving bowl. Heat the oil in a small pan and fry the mustard seeds until they start to pop. Stir it all into the carrots with the lime juice. 

Carrot salad with black mustard seeds

Apple sauce

An essential accompaniment to roast pork or goose, apple sauce is incredibly simple to make and will keep for at least a week in the fridge, for eating with leftovers. Make sure you’re armed with a lemon to stop the apples from browning once they’re peeled and cut. The quantities here are approximate: feel free to adjust the sugar according to your preference. 

Ingredients

2 bramley (cooking) apples
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 lemon

Method

Squeeze the juice of the lemon onto a small plate. Peel, quarter and core the apples, turning the cut surfaces in lemon juice as you go. Slice the quarters thinly (crossways or lengthwise depending upon their size); put in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Place the pan over a very low heat, cover and leave to stew, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. The apples will cook down into a smooth puree. Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary, then decant into a small serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.

Aubergine steaks

A long-standing regular on the weekly menu, this recipe makes a great meat-free supper dish, substantial enough to justify the description ‘steak’. I came across it in Marie Claire magazine in the early 1990s, when I was in a five-year vegetarian phase that ended decisively over a dish of beef carpaccio, at Woz in Notting Hill, in 1997 (yes, it made quite an impression). If you’re not a fan of goat’s cheese (Zita), replace it with a soft cheese of your choice.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium-sized aubergines (long rather than fat), halved lengthways
60ml olive oil
4 tbsp fresh pesto – shop-bought or home-made
125g soft goat’s cheese
60g grated parmesan
Salt

Method

It’s worth salting the aubergines first, not to remove the bitterness (which has been bred out of most aubergines these days) but to draw out moisture, so that the aubergines don’t soak up too much oil when fried. Sprinkle the aubergine halves with salt and leave for 30 minutes; then rinse and pat dry.

Heat two large heavy-bottomed frying pans and add 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil to each. Place two aubergine halves, skin side down in each pan, turn the heat to low and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes. Turn over and fry on the other side until the cut surface is golden brown. Remove to kitchen paper, cut side down and turn on the grill to a high setting.

Line a baking sheet or grill pan with foil and line up the aubergine steaks on it. Spread a generous tablespoon of pesto on each one, then dot with goat’s cheese and top with a good sprinkling of grated parmesan. Grill for 5 minutes until the surface is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve with a tomato salad and boiled new potatoes or tabouleh.

Pesto

Like vinaigrette, mayonnaise or hollandaise, pesto is a sauce you ought to be able to sling together on autopilot. The traditional Genoese version demands a lot of patient pounding with a large mortar and pestle, so use an electric blender instead to produce a vibrant, versatile paste in just seconds. The quantities below are approximate and the ingredients are open to variation: omit the parmesan, for example, to make it vegan; or replace the basil with rocket and the pinenuts with toasted walnuts. I sometimes add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to inject some sharpness, though the acid will end up dulling the green colour if you then keep it for later use.

Ingredients

60g (two supermarket packs) fresh basil, thickest stalks removed
50g pinenuts
50 parmesan, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
120ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method

If you have time, toast the pine nuts in a frying pan until lightly coloured or roast in a 180 (fan) oven for about 8 minutes (walnuts will take a little longer, maybe 10). Place in your blender with the basil, pinenuts, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper, turn the motor on and pour in the olive oil in a stream until you have your desired consistency. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.