Recipes are there to be shared - but that wasn't always the way. In the old days of running restaurants, chefs would guard their recipes fiercely, refusing to pass them down to the next generation of cooks. But now there are cookbooks in abundance, the spirit of sharing is alive and well. Last month in the Magazine, we ran a competition asking for your favourite recipes. I've ploughed through the entries, and cooked up the best: a very interesting exercise - and I managed to spot the ones from my own chefs hoping for a free dinner.
I would like to mention the following entries, even though they weren't winners. Susie Christie's lamb with garlic and anchovies is a great dish, but it was slightly too close to a recipe I featured recently in the Magazine. There was also a lovely recipe for tiny pickled damsons from Patricia Cooper. It was delicious, but just too similar to the Charles Campion greengage recipe we printed a few weeks ago. Carmen Villacampa also came up with a great twist on a bread and butter pudding, using croissants instead of bread.
Margaret Rowden's potato pie was also right up my street and would have been a perfect addition to my new book on regional food, so maybe I can feature it in the next one. Nick Rose from Bridport sent me a recipe for a cheese flan which was certainly out of the ordinary - it had mackerel in it! And Mrs Boston, thank you for your South American spiced soup, which I am going to try; it sounds perfect for Bonfire Night.
Thanks to all of you who sent in recipes and congratulations to the winner Dawn Lyon, who wins dinner with me at J. Sheekey. Well done to the four runners-up, Julia Drobna, Sue Hunt, Vicky Hilton and Margaret Beuth, who will each receive a copy of my new book, British Regional Food, which is published later this month.
Winner: Dawn Lyon, Colchester, Essex: Fisherman's cuttlefish
2 large cuttlefish or 4 small ones (don't use frozen baby ones) or a large squid
8 anchovies in salt, rinsed well
For the stuffing
Stale bread (such as ciabatta)
Half or less of a small red onion, finely chopped
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten (optional)
For the sauce
2-3 cloves of garlic
12 good sized ripe tomatoes
A few capers in salt, rinsed well
Dawn says: I picked up this recipe when I was on holiday on the Italian island of Ponza last year. We met a local fisherman, who was an expert not only in finding top-quality fish in the water, but also in knowing how to bring out the best of them for the table.
First of all, he showed us how to make the tomato sauce. Fry the olive oil and garlic, then add the 12 large, ripe, flavoursome tomatoes, roughly chopped. Leave them to simmer and reduce. Then add a handful of capers and the wings of the cuttlefish. (Discard them when the sauce is ready - they're only there to give an extra boost to the flavour of the fish.)
Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing, which is made from stale bread, such as ciabatta, torn into small pieces into a bowl. Add a little red onion, finely chopped, and lots of chopped flat-leaved parsley to make the stuffing nice and green. Season with salt and pepper. The second time I made it, I added an egg, and liked the way it held everything together more neatly. Mix it all together well.
Clean the tubes of the cuttlefish, removing any remaining skin, and dry them. Do the same with the tentacles. Next, stuff the tubes with the bread mixture fairly densely, but with enough latitude so that you can also stuff the tentacles through the middle of the mixture at the end, so they end up long-ways in the centre of the tube. When that's done, pin the ends with wooden cocktail sticks. I added a few salted anchovies diagonally across the top of each tube. They disappear under the tomato but are a lovely surprise when you bite into them.
Place the tubes in a dish not much bigger than them - but deep enough to hold the sauce, and cover with the tomatoes. Cover them and cook in a pre-heated oven, at a fairly low temperature - 160C (gas mark 2) or so - so that the fish stays tender. Baste them regularly if they are not completely covered and let them cook for around 45 minutes. Sprinkle with more chopped parsley when they are ready.
It's a colourful dish to serve at thet table. As you slice through the tubes, the green of the stuffing highlights the white of the fish and the red sets them both off. Serve with more bread to mop up the juices.
Mark says: I liked the fact that Dawn has a nice story to tell, as well as a lovely recipe. She obviously has great first-hand experience of how fresh fish from the sea can be handled and cooked in a simple, peasant-style way. I strongly recommend getting your fishmonger to clean the cuttlefish for you - when I cooked this, my kitchen ended up full of ink, which I am still trying to scrub out of the chopping board and sink! I decided to present the dish sliced, as you can see in the picture.
Runner-up: Margaret Beuth, London NW3: Grilled fish with 'one-pot' warm potato salad
Margaret says: The combination of different flavours and textures from these ingredients create a delicious and very simple meal. I have specifically not mentioned exact quantities, as the recipe is easy enough to vary, depending on how many servings you need.
Skinned and boned firm white fish portions, such as coley, whiting, organic cod or similar from a sustainable source
For the salad
Small new potatoes, cooked in their skins and halved
Small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
French beans, trimmed and cooked
Stoned black olives
Chopped chives and flat-leaved parsley
Finely chopped garlic cloves
Juice and zest of a lemon
Red chilli, finely chopped
Olive oil to bind
Leek chopped and steamed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First mix all the ingredients together for the salad while the potatoes and leeks are still warm, and season. If you cover the bowl with clingfilm it will keep the salad warm until you need to serve it. Season and chargrill, barbecue or pan-fry the fish and serve simply on top of the salad.
Mark says: This delicious dish strikes me as being slightly influenced by a salad Niçoise, which is traditionally made from what's available in season and can therefore be adapted accordingly. The great thing with a flavoursome warm salad like this is that you could use anything from sea bass to mackerel to tuna: it's up to you. There is one important thing to say about potato salads, however: they are at their best when they have been nowhere near the fridge, as the potato, once chilled, tends to lose all its natural flavour and qualities.
Runner-up: Sue Hunt, near Salisbury, Wiltshire: Wild rabbit with elderberries
Sue says: This dish works very well with squirrel, too - you need one per person, though it's not all that easy to get hold of! We have a very good market in Salisbury, so wild rabbit is always available. The herbs I have used can be changed around - parsley and sage with the thyme are good, too. Sometimes I put fewer herbs in and add chopped and skinned tomatoes; it's a very versatile dish. Black olives are good when elderberries are out of season.
1 wild rabbit, cut into serving pieces
1 chopped onion
1 sliced carrot
2 sliced celery sticks
About an eighth of a red pepper
Three-quarters of a pint chicken stock or water
Salt and black pepper
2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs tarragon and 2 bay leaves
1 head elderberries
Good amount of olive oil or butter for frying
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Heat the olive oil or butter in a flameproof casserole and sweat the vegetables for five minutes or so. Remove and set aside. Turn the heat up and add the rabbit pieces, browning them quickly. Lower the heat and add the herbs.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, return vegetables and add elderberries, cooking for a further couple of minutes. Add stock or water and black pepper. Cover and finish in oven; simmer for about an hour or until the rabbit is soft. Serve with a green vegetable and creamy mash.
Mark says: Sue is a woman after my own heart, living off the land and making tasty meals for next to nothing. This stew could be thickened a touch by dusting the vegetables with a spoonful of flour for a more robust wintry version and maybe adding the elderberries towards the end of cooking. My partner Clare and I had this for dinner and it was delicious.
Runner-up: Vicky Hilton, Weybridge, Surrey: Lamb's heart and pepper stir fry
Vicky says: Recipes for heart are few and far between and nearly always involve long slow cooking. Heart is pure muscle and therefore lends itself perfectly to stir-frying. This recipe is delicious, nutritious, simple, quick and cheap. I challenge you to set aside your doubts and give it a try!
2 lamb's hearts with veins removed, trimmed of excess fat and tubes, and cut into strips.
1 green pepper, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
125g button (or wild) mushrooms, thickly sliced
2tbsp vegetable oil
A few sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme, or a pinch of dried herbs
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan or wok and fry the peppers and mushrooms on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the pan to a plate. Heat the other tablespoon of oil in the same pan; season and cook the heart on a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn over and fry for 2 minutes more. Turn down the heat, add the set aside vegetables and oregano and continue to fry for a minute. Add the lemon juice, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve with pasta such as penne or festone.
Mark says: I've been wanting to put lamb's heart in the column for years now, but I do realise that, like tripe and other offal, it's just not popular any more. My gran used to make stuffed lamb's heart when I was a kid once a fortnight; I couldn't wait to get home from school. She braised them for ages though, unlike Vicky Hilton's recipe here, in which they are simply stir-fried; she rightly points out that hearts are perfect for quick cooking and I totally agree: I often have a grilled ox heart sandwich, served rare, with lashings of horseradish, at St John in London. I hope you don't mind, Vicky, but when cooking this I used some freshly gathered ceps instead of button mushrooms, and fresh oregano from the garden, and it was still sensational.
Runner-up: Julia Drobna, London SW15: Plum dumplings
Makes about 10 dumplings
Julia says: This is a typical pudding from Eastern Europe, in particular Russia and the Czech Republic. Kids and adults love it.
For the pastry
500g plain flour
1tbsp lard, softened
100ml hot water
For the filling
1kg fresh plums, halved and stoned
Breadcrumbs, lightly browned
Unsalted butter, melted
Mix all the ingredients for the pastry together by hand to form a smooth dough. Roll it out on a lightly floured board, ideally to about half a centimetre thick or less. Cut into 8-9cm squares, then put two halves of a plum back together, place into the centre of each pastry piece, and fold the pastry up and around the plum, pinching the edges together where it meets to secure it.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, drop the dumplings in, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle over as much breadcrumbs and icing sugar as you want. To finish, spoon over a little melted butter.
Mark says: I love the simplicity of this dish and the way it could be varied with different seasonal fruits, or even a mixture of fruit and nuts. I think it would be a fun one for the kids to get involved with, too. I've moulded mine rather like a piroshki which I ate in Russia, but it's up to you what shape you make them - if the kids are helping, then the outcome could be a bit unpredictable.
Mark Hix's new book, 'British Regional Food', will be published by Quadrille on 20 October, price £25. See next week's Magazine for the first of three exclusive extractsReuse content