My top ten

Here is a list of my favourite dishes from this book. Not necessarily those I cook most – in fact I have this strange need to set aside the things I love, to know they are there and to call on them in times of need – but those dishes which have served me well for a long time, and will continue to do so.

  1. The loin of lamb with garlic (view recipe). All the lamb dishes in my life will stand beside this dish in judgement. There is nothing complicated about it, no big deal about its creation – and the power the garlic gives to the lamb makes it forever mouth-watering. It was a constant on the restaurant menu, and it never let us down. Since then, it has never failed me, at any dinner party, no matter what the company.
  2. A variation of Fredy Girardet’s passionfruit souffle (view recipe). I first heard of this wonderful dish from Iain Hewitson. Hewitson told me we must take the passionfruit souffle, no matter what else we had. We did, and we took the feel and flavour home with us, changed the sweetness level, and served it for what seemed forever. There is no better souffle. Thanks, Fredy.
  3. Osso buco (view recipe). This was a dish created in an environment of great fun. Sally and I went head to head cooking two versions of this traditional Italian veal dish. In the end, we each declared ourselves winners, and ate more osso buco in one week than any other two mortals might in a lifetime. It thus represents a hidden attribute of great cooking: memories.
  4. A Kreem-b-tween (view recipe). This dish proves that commercial thinking is just as much a source of pleasure in the kitchen as are more traditional sources. We just took the idea from Peter’s, used classic vanilla bean ice cream, and delicious crisp wafers, and served it with lots of tropical fruit in a mango andĀ passionfruit sauce. During the restaurant days, I probably had one a day – and that for four years.
  5. Risotto, any way you like (view recipe). I came to love risotto pretty late in my life, after trying it many times in the restaurant and being discouraged by a lack of interest from the customers. Now it’s a certainty, several times a week, in our diet. Delicious, filling, ripping with all sorts of flavours and textures, every bit as good today as tomorrow, racing back through generations, and yet as cheap as dirt.
  6. Crab, in the eastern way (view recipe). Another marvellous memory, buoyed in this case by the brilliant texture and flavour of the giant crab. Those of you who know and love Woody Allen’s great movie Annie Hall as I do, will recall the two great scenes surrounding the crayfish cook-off. In the first case it was fun and games and wonderful love and joy; in the second it all back-fired – no communication, no flippancy, no rule-breaking, no love. Now every time I cook crays or crabs, I think of Annie Hall.
  7. Scallops in the open shell (view recipe). Scallops are the essence of the sea, rich in saltiness, deep in flavour, marvellous of texture. When you mix all this with a little soy, tomato and chives, you have pure simplicity, but a marvel of flavour.
  8. Any perfectly fresh fish, cooked to the second. What you do with it belongs entirely in your imagination. Butter, or olive oil, or cream, or coconut milk, or just lemon juice and black pepper. It’s up to you, butĀ I’m starting to love fish with coconut in the Thai style.
  9. A simple salad, of mustard cress, watercress, and spinach, with Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper, virgin olive oil, tiny just-preserved olives and balsamic vinegar. Clean as a whistle, brilliantly flavoured, oily enough to drip down your chin. A tribute to freshness and ingenuity.
  10. A wiggly pasta, with a rich, hot, tomato sauce; or a thick, crusty pizza made with your own hands (view recipe). These two are the essence of Italian cooking, I suppose. A thick, rich sauce, clinging to hot shapes of pasta or bread dough. Full of wit, full of flavour, simple, cheap, traditional and – here’s the key – always available.