Get your bread at the ready: Skye Gyngell's warming winter dishes are sauce heaven

The perfect end to a hot winter meal? Mopping up those sauces with a hunk of bread

Wafting with delicious aroma, these dishes are perfect for waking up the senses at this time of year – and perfect, too, for being mopped up with slices of bread, for they all are surrounded by generous portions of sauce.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Meatballs with yellow polenta

Serves 6

1/2 kg/1lb minced pork
1/2 kg/1lb minced veal
75g/3oz soft white breadcrumbs
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Small bunch of thyme, leaves only
75g/3oz freshly grated Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 dried red chilli, crumbled
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch of sage
200ml/7fl oz full-bodied red wine
2 jars of good-quality Italian tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl and mix very well. The easiest and most thorough way of doing this is with your hands. Once the mixture is well combined, roll into 18 generous-sized balls and set aside while you make the sauce.

Place a large, heavy-based pan on top of the stove, turn the heat to medium and add the olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the onion, chilli and garlic, turn the heat down slightly and cook for 10 minutes; the onion should be soft and translucent. Add the bay leaves, sage and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further five minutes, then add the wine and return the heat to medium. Allow the wine to bubble for a minute, then add the tomatoes, place a lid on the pan and cook for half-an-hour, by which time the sauce should have reduced a little to be rich and dark. Season with a good pinch of salt and a little black pepper and add the meatballs. Return the lid and cook for 20 minutes, then serve.

Fillet of beef with borlotti beans, anchovy and tarragon butter

Serves 6

200g/7oz dried borlotti beans, soaked in water for 12 hours
1 bunch of sage
1 head of garlic, sliced in half horizontally
20 little tomatoes, pierced with a small knife so they ooze juice into the cooking liquid
2 dried chillis, left whole
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
Enough water just to cover the beans

Drain the beans and place in a baking tray. Add the sage, garlic, tomatoes, chillis, oil and vinegar and cover with the water. Set your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4, cover the baking tray tightly with foil and place on the middle shelf. Cook for an hour, or until the beans are really tender. Remove from the oven and keep in a warm place.

For the butter

1 good-sized bunch of tarragon, leaves only
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 good-quality anchovies
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper

Chop the tarragon finely and put in a bowl. Add the garlic and mustard. Chop the anchovies very finely and add. Cut the butter into cubes and add. Now beat together thoroughly to combine.

For the beef

200g/7oz fillet per person
A generous pinch of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Place a large pan over a high flame. Season the meat very generously – it is important to use sea salt. Once the pan is hot, add the fillet and cook for five minutes on one side before turning and cooking for the same length of time on the underside. The fillet should have formed a delicious crust on the outside. Remove from the pan and wrap in foil. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes, then slice into eighth-of-an-inch pieces. Reheat the borlotti and spoon into bowls, lay the beef on top and spoon over the butter. Serve as soon as the butter has melted.

This dish is always very popular when I put it on at Petersham. It is warm and tender, with the spices given just a hint of sweetness by the prunes.

Lamb with prunes and Moroccan spices

Serves 6

2 boned, medium-sized legs of lamb
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin
4 cardamom pods
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 red onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 cms of peeled fresh root ginger
2 red chillis, chopped, seeds left in
1 tbsp tamarind water or lime juice
5 litres chicken stock or water
800g/11/2lb chopped Italian tomatoes
2 sticks of cinnamon
A generous bunch of coriander
100ml/31/2fl oz tamari or soy sauce
75ml/3fl oz maple syrup
200g/7oz prunes, stones removed

Slice the meat into two-inch cubes, removing most of the fat as you work. Put the spices into a small frying pan and place over a gentle heat until they pop – it is important that they do not burn, as they will become bitter. Remove from the heat and grind well in a pestle and mortar.

Place the oil into a pan, season the meat with salt and pepper well all over and brown well in batches. As each batch browns, remove and set aside while you brown the next batch.

Once all the meat has browned, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chillis and spice mix. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft. At this point, add the tamarind water or lime juice, turn up the heat slightly and add the stock or water and the chopped tomatoes.

Add the cinnamon sticks and return the meat to the pan. Turn the heat to low, place a lid on the pan and cook for two hours. It is important that the meat is very tender and succulent – this will only be achieved by slow cooking.

Chop the coriander, including the root and stems, and add to the pan along with the soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup and prunes. Cook for another 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.

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