Top that: Add some zing to your dishes with Skye Gyngell's herb-infused sauces

For me, cooking is all about taking really good ingredients and maximising their flavour. It's a case of doing as little as possible, just turning up the volume and letting the produce take centre-stage. I think of my own style of cooking as being low on technique but high on flavour.

This week's recipes include what I call "top hats" – last-minute sauces or relishes that complete a dish by giving it strength and identity, and hopefully making it memorable. The secret to making these spoonfuls of intense flavour taste really good is to make them as close as possible to when you plan to serve them. Don't refrigerate them, as it bruises the herbs and ruins the olive oil, dulling the taste. They should also be used in small amounts – it is important to keep balance in mind.

Generously season them, incorporating the best ingredients you can afford, and sharpen with either citrus or vinegar and a generous bunch of herbs. Use these with whatever you feel they might work with – they are quick and fairly interchangeable – but make sure they accompany only simply executed dishes, as they should not be fighting with complicated techniques.

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

Meatballs with salmoriglio

Serves 4

For the meatballs

500g/171/2oz organic pork mince
500g/171/2oz organic veal mince
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bunch of marjoram, leaves only, finely chopped
150g/5oz grated Parmesan
200g/7oz soft white breadcrumbs

For the sauce

2 medium yellow onions
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bunch of marjoram
2 fresh bay leaves
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
200ml/7fl oz full-bodied red wine
1kg/35oz good-quality tinned tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marjoram salmoriglio

1 medium bunch of marjoram, leaves only
A good pinch of salt
1 garlic clove, peeled
The juice of half a lemon
120ml/4fl oz extra virgin olive oil

For the meatballs, place the pork and veal into a large bowl and mix with your hands. Add all the other ingredients, including a generous pinch of salt and plenty of fresh black pepper. Mix well once again – it is very important that the flavour and seasoning is well distributed. Roll into meatballs of whatever size you prefer. I don't like them either too small or too big, so this mixture should make around 20-25 medium meatballs. Set them aside in the fridge while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, peel and finely chop the onions. Place the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan large enough to hold all the meatballs comfortably and place over a medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions and sweat, stirring them once or twice for five minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, chilli, marjoram and a generous pinch of salt. Turn down the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Now add the wine and turn the heat up slightly. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes and turn the heat up again just slightly. Cook for 30 minutes to reduce the tomatoes slightly.

Add the meatballs and cook for 20-25 minutes. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning. It will likely need a little more salt and the smallest amount of pepper.

For the salmoriglio, place the marjoram leaves in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt. Pound until you have a vibrant green paste. Add the garlic and pound until it is crushed completely. Add the lemon juice, stir well and pour in the olive oil. Stir again and taste, adjusting if necessary.

Serve with some polenta or pasta, cooked according to instructions. Ladle the meatballs and sauce on top and spoon over the salmoriglio. '

Roasted vegetables with goat's cheese and smashed tomatoes

This makes a lovely lunch dish on its own, or can be served as an accompaniment to simply grilled meat. The sweet zingy topping is delicious on just about anything. Sometimes for a snack I spread it on toast, perhaps with a little ricotta.

Sprouting broccoli is very good and in season at the moment – I like to eat as much as possible while it is around.

Serves 4

For the smashed tomatoes

12 cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200ml/7fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only
3 good-quality anchovies packed in salt
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp good-quality red-wine vinegar

For the vegetables

1 sweet potato
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp maple syrup
1tbsp tamari or soy sauce
4-5 stalks of sprouting broccoli, trimmed but leaving some dark leaves attached
The juice of one lemon
80ml/3fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g/4oz little cooked white beans, such as coco or cannellini
160g/51/2oz soft goat's cheese

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place the tomatoes in a roasting tray with a little salt and pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place on the middle shelf and roast for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are bursting from their skins. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In a large pestle and mortar, place the rosemary leaves, anchovies and garlic and pound until you have a rough paste; now add the tomatoes two or three at a time, pounding in small increments, otherwise they tend to go everywhere.

Keep adding until all the tomatoes are incorporated, then add the vinegar. Stir well, then pour in the remaining olive oil, stirring as you go. Set aside to allow the flavours to become acquainted.

To make the vegetables, keep the oven at 200C. Place the sweet potato in a roasting tray, pour over the olive oil, maple syrup and tamari, toss together with your hands and roast in the oven until caramelised, which should take 20-25 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool to room temperature. Boil a large pan of well-salted water and plunge the broccoli in; cook for two minutes. Drain, dress with the olive oil and lemon juice and season with the salt and pepper. Arrange the broccoli, beans and sweet potato attractively on a plate, crumble over the goat's cheese, spoon the crushed tomato over the top and serve. '

Grilled monkfish with Parma ham and basil oil

Moist and sweet, monkfish works well with the smoky tastes that a charcoal grill or a barbecue creates. The salty-sweet taste of Parma ham or bacon is a delicious complement.

Serves 4

800g/28g monkfish
40ml/2oz olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices Parma ham
400g/13oz cooked spinach, dressedFor the basil oil
1 large bunch of basil, leaves only
A pinch of salt
1 garlic clove, peeled
150ml/5fl oz of extra-virgin olive oil

Light your grill or barbecue and make sure that it is really hot.

Brush the monkfish with the olive oil and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Lay on the grill and cook without turning or prodding for three minutes on the first side; the monkfish should have a good colour from the grill and the flesh should no longer be translucent. Turn and cook for four minutes on the other side.

While the monkfish is cooking, make the basil oil by placing the basil leaves in a blender with the salt and garlic clove, turning on the engine and slowly pouring in the olive oil through the funnel in the top. You will have a beautifully vibrant sauce that tastes wonderfully fresh.

Lay the warm, cooked spinach in the centre of the plate and lay the monkfish on top. Finish with the slices of Parma ham and spoon over the basil oil to serve.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on the best books about sauces...

Larousse Gastronomique – Vegetables & Salads (Hamlyn, £9.99): A French culinary bible. The 39 sauce and purée recipes are practical and easily executed

The Zuni Café Cookbook' by Judy Roger (WW Norton & Co, £18): Includes a chapter on sauces and relishes from Roger's San Francisco restaurant, including sage pesto and preserved lemon-caper butter

Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook by Susanna Palazuelos, Marilyn Tausend and Ignacio Urquiza (Beautiful Cookbooks, secondhand copies only): A diverse range of sauces, from mole poblano to the picante sauce served with huevos rancheros

Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool – A Celebration of Simple English Cookin by Jenny Baker (Faber, secondhand copies only): Inspired by old English recipes such as mackerel with rhubarb sauce

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