INGREDIENTS 400g macaroni 50g butter, plus extra for greasing 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped 50g plain flour 500ml whole milk 200ml of double cream 50g mature cheddar 50g Parmesan or Pecorino 1 small bunch of dill, finely chopped 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 lemon, zest 200g of fresh crab meat (white and brown meat) A handful of coarse white breadcrumbs 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the macaroni. Cook until just tender. Drain, refresh and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan, and when it’s bubbling add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the flour and stir well.
Stir occasionally while it’s cooking, then gradually whisk in the milk until you have a smooth white sauce. Continue to cook the sauce, stirring for a few minutes until it thickens.
Now stir in the cream, the cheddar cheese and half the Parmesan. Stir well until it’s all melted.
Now add the dill, mustard, lemon zest, crab meat and plenty of salt and black pepper to taste. Remove the sauce from the heat.
Combine the cooked macaroni with the crab and dill sauce and tip into a lightly buttered deep 26cm rectangular dish.
Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the remaining Parmesan, the olive oil and a little salt and pepper and tumble together.
Scatter the topping over the macaroni and place under a preheated grill to bake for 6-10 minutes or until the pasta is piping hot in the middle, bubbling around the edges and golden on top.
When it comes to the crab I like to use two thirds delicate white meat, which tends to be found in the legs, and one third rich brown meat, which can be found in the body. Sometimes, I like to pick the crab myself, it’s a rewarding, slow paced process, but a good fishmonger should be able to get hold of freshly picked crab meat for you if time is in short supply.
Make sure your macaroni is cooked properly – if you drain it while it is too al dente, it has a tendency to take up all the sauce as it’s finishing cooking under the grill.
If crab isn’t your thing – don’t worry! You can make an equally delicious variation on this recipe using steamed leeks and sautéed mushrooms instead. They both go wonderfully with fresh dill.
INGREDIENTS 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thickly sliced 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper For the pesto 30g sunflower seeds 1 small garlic clove 75g mature Cheddar or hard goat’s cheese, finely grated Good pinch of fine sea salt 1 large handful of basil 100ml extra-virgin olive oil For the mackerel 2 medium-sized fresh mackerel, filleted 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 fresh bay leaf, torn 1 clove of garlic, bashed 2 sprigs of thyme
INSTRUCTIONS Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C Fan/ Gas Mark 6
Place the tomato halves (you can quarter really big ones) cut-side upwards into a baking dish big enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Scatter over the thyme stems and the sliced garlic, then trickle over the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
Place the dish in the oven and roast the tomatoes for 45-60 minutes, or until they have begun to blister around their edges and are well on their way to collapsing.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Using the back of a ladle rub the tomatoes through a course sieve, extracting all that rich, thick sauce.
Discard the skin and seeds left behind in the compost. Pour the tomato soup into the deep casserole and bring to a simmer. You can adjust the balance of sweetness and acidity with a dash of cider vinegar or a pinch or two of sugar. Either way, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. If the soup is too thin, you can simmer it for a little longer to thicken it.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Place a dry non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat. Add the sunflower seeds and cook, stirring regularly for a few minutes until the seeds are toasted and fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Place the cooled, toasted seeds in a food processor with the garlic, cheese and salt and pulse until you have a fairly fine consistency. Throw in the basil and pulse until well chopped, then gradually add the oil. When everything is combined to a nice, even texture check the seasoning and spoon the pesto out into a bowl.
When you’re ready to serve the soup, you can cook the fish. Re-heat the non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, bay leaf, thyme and bashed garlic clove, two flavours that work beautifully together when cooking mackerel.
Cut the fillets in half, giving you eight small pieces. Season the mackerel lightly with salt and pepper and place the pieces, skin-side down in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the fillets are almost cooked through, then flip the fish over and switch off the heat. The fillets will finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan.
Ladle the soup between 4 wide, warm bowls. Add two pieces of fish to each bowl and spoon on some pesto.
Finish with a trickle of your best olive oil, a twist of black pepper and a few small basil leaves if you have them.
Mackerel is a rich, oily fish with a wonderful flavour and in my opinion, one of the best fish there is for eating. It’s important that it’s super-fresh. Look out for firm, bright-eyed, silver fish and you won’t be disappointed.
I like to use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts in my pesto because I love the flavour they have. Hazelnuts and walnuts work well too.
Feel free to swap out mackerel for any fish you like. I’m a fan of seared scallops or if fish isn’t for you, some caramelised wedges of fennel go amazingly, or a pile of lemony, roasted courgettes.
It’s possible to reduce this tomato soup right down to an intense sauce, which you can serve alongside the mackerel or a fish of your choice.
INGREDIENTS 400g plums or damsons 1 fresh vanilla pod 2 tablespoons runny honey, plus extra to taste 1 star anise 2 bay leaves 175g plain flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ orange, finely grated zest 40g golden caster sugar A pinch of fine sea salt 1 egg 100ml milk 1 tablespoon runny honey, plus extra to serve 1 large knob of butter, plus extra to serve
INSTRUCTIONS Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C Fan/ Gas Mark 6
Halve the plums and remove the stones. If they are stubborn, use the tip of the knife to tease them out.
Place the plum halves into a small roasting dish with 2 tablespoons of water. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the black seeds and add these to the plums. Tumble the plums around the dish to disperse the vanilla.
Split the pod halves again and add these to the plums too. Trickle over the runny honey then roughly bash the star anise and add this to the plums along with the bay leaves.
Place the dish in the preheated oven and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the plums are beginning to collapse and are sweet and fragrant.
To make the drop scone batter, place the flour into a large mixing bowl with the baking powder, orange zest, sugar and salt. Crack in the egg, then add the milk and honey. Use a whisk to combine fully.
Melt the butter on the non-stick crêpe pan over a medium heat. Then, pour most of the bubbling butter into the drop scone batter and stir it through to combine thoroughly.
One by one, add 4 generous tablespoons of batter to the pan to make four individual pools of batter. Cook them for 1-2 minutes, until the undersides are golden, then use a small spatula to flip each drop scone over and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes until that side is golden too.
Place the cooked drop scones onto a plate or board while you cook the remaining batter.
Serve the scones warm with heaped spoons of the vanilla-roasted plums and an extra trickle of runny honey for good measure. These are also great with a serving of rich natural yoghurt on the side.
You’ll know it’s time to turn your drop scones when you notice tiny little bubbles appearing on the surface of each scone.
You can double the recipe if you’re cooking for a crowd, but if it’s drop scones for one, simply cover any batter you don’t use and place it in the fridge. It’ll keep for a couple of days.
INGREDIENTS 20g butter, for greasing 2 tablespoons flour, for greasing For the Sea Salt Caramel 150g caster sugar 2 tablespoons water 200ml double cream 80g salted butter, diced 1 teaspoon sea salt (fleur de sel) For the chocolate fondant 4 medium eggs 80g caster sugar 50g plain flour, sifted 100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao) 100g unsalted butter
To make the sea salt caramel, add the sugar and water to a saucepan and heat over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. When the colour is a nice golden caramel, remove from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream – this should create some bubbles – and mix using a silicone spatula. Finish the caramel by adding the butter and the sea salt and then leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/ 210° Fan/ Gas Mark 8.
Make the chocolate batter by whisking the eggs and sugar energetically for at least 3 minutes until it forms a nice light foamy mix. Incorporate the flour slowly and set aside.
Using a microwave (for 2 minutes at 600W) or a bain-marie, melt the chocolate and the butter together in a bowl. Once the chocolate and butter have cooled down for a few minutes, add to the foamy egg, sugar and flour mix and gently stir until you get a silky glossy batter.
Grease the Le Creuset Stoneware Stackable Ramekins with butter and then coat with some flour. Divide the chocolate fondant batter between 4 ramekins and pour 1 tablespoon of the sea salt caramel in the middle.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, leaving to cool for 1 minute before serving.
These are not only super quick to make, but you can also keep them in the freezer for up to a year. Simply cover with cling film and set in the fridge before placing into the freezer. It is an absolute lifesaver when you have last minute guests and no dessert ready. Just pop them in the oven for 15 minutes from frozen – no one would guess they are pre-prepared!