About Me: Putting food on the table for the family quickly and economically doesn't mean you have to compromise on quality. This book shows how Hugh's approach to food can be adapted to suit any growing, working family, or busy young singles and couples for that matter. Breakfast, baking, lunchboxes, quick suppers, healthy snacks, eating on the move and weekend cooking for the week ahead, all these, and more, will be covered in River Cottage Every Day.
A classic fool combines a fruit compote or purée, custard and cream to delicious effect. This is a sort of deconstructed version, with yoghurt replacing the cream to give the whole thing a lighter feel. You could mix all three elements together, of course, but I like the look of them unmingled in the dish, and the pleasure of choosing exactly how much of each to put on my spoon.
This is an all-time classic, and deservedly so. My version – baked in ramekins in a bain marie – is guaranteed to avoid the potential pitfalls of custard that won’t set or sugar that somehow scorches before it melts. Using soft brown sugar for the caramel top may not be authentic, but it has a lower melting point than caster sugar and behaves more predictably under the hot grill (or cook’s blowtorch). You do need to make the custards well in advance, as chilling them thoroughly in the fridge before the final sugar melting is vital. In summer and autumn I like to serve crème brûlée with a small bowl of fresh raspberries on the side. These can be eaten as ‘sharpeners’ between mouthfuls of creamy, sugary brûlée – or dropped right into the custard once the burned sugar top has been cracked.
This moist, lightly spiced, fruit-packed cake, devised by my friend, Nikki Duffy, is a bit different from your average fruit cake, with its citrussy aromatics and slightly chunkier dried fruit. I absolutely love it. A thick slice is fantastic with morning tea or coffee, and a wedge wrapped in greaseproof paper is perfect in a lunchbox. It will keep well in a tin for a week or more. Should you find, as can be the case with fruit cakes, that your fruit sinks, it probably means the cake batter isn’t stiff enough. Make sure you stick to the quantities in the recipe, and fold the fruit in as lightly as you can. But don’t worry too much – a fruit-on-the-bottom cake is no great tragedy.
Lamb shoulder is an underrated cut. Treated to a very long, slow cook with pungent spices, it offers meltingly soft, flavourful meat that you can pull off the bone easily – as well as a pool of rich juices. This recipe works best with larger, more mature lambs, or hogget or mutton. You can also rub the spice paste on the inside of a boned lamb shoulder, then roll and tie it. Give it an initial 30 minutes at a high temperature (as below) then roast at 160°C/Gas Mark 3 for 2½ hours.
I love the idea of blackberry and apple ice cream but it’s hard to ‘fix’ the delicate flavour of apple in a rich, custard-based ice. I’ve now discovered that mixing Bramley apple purée with a little yoghurt produces a great frozen pud, full of appley flavour. Melting some bramble jelly is a quick way to make a sauce, but at the height of the blackberry season, you could use fresh berries – lightly cook about 250g blackberries with about 50g sugar and a splash of water, then rub through a sieve to remove the pips. Adjust the sweetness to taste, but err on the tart side.
Rhubarb, I confess, is one of my very favourite fruits (though to be accurate, it’s actually a vegetable with an identity crisis). I never tire of finding new ways to enjoy it. This sweet and fragrant breakfast compote is a fairly recent discovery and I absolutely love it. Try it on eggy bread or perfect pancakes, or spooned on to your customised muesli or thick yoghurt. Alternatively, serve with vanilla ice cream for a pretty pud. From January till early April, you can buy elegant, slender stems of indoor-grown ‘forced’ rhubarb. This gradually gives way to the thicker, darker, more robust outdoorgrown crop. Either will work in this recipe.
This recipe appears in The River Cottage Family Cookbook but I couldn’t resist including it again here because these chewy, vanilla-rich treats are easy-peasy, taking no more than 10 minutes to make, and 10 to bake. Ideal when people turn up unexpectedly for tea, they are also a mainstay of rainy afternoon cooking sessions with the kids. No batch has ever been known to last till the next day.
Pheasant has a slight tendency to dryness but pot-roasting it like this, with plenty of rich chorizo to provide a little fat and extra flavour, ensures a very satisfying result. The butter beans are a fine addition: they soak up all the flavours of the meat, wine and herbs and then you can mash them deliciously into the juices on your plate. If you prefer, you can joint the pheasants and brown the individual pieces rather than the whole birds. This recipe works brilliantly for a couple of jointed rabbits, too.