Monday 16 September 2019

The Comfort Zone - recipes from 'Bake Off' winner John Whaite


Spinach ricotta yorkshire pudding
Spinach ricotta yorkshire pudding
Comfort Food

If cold weather makes you crave comfort food, these recipes from former 'Bake Off' winner John Whaite will hit the spot.

Lamb & Black Olive in Rosé Wine with Wholewheat Pasta

While the idea of pasta often  conjures up something speedy, there's little that can beat a slow-cooked pasta sauce. Whenever  I cook with lamb I try to use anchovies, which really enhance the flavour of the meat. The result of the slow cooking and the anchovies is a sauce so seriously savoury that a little goes a long way. On that note, don't forget to reserve the pasta cooking water to let the sauce down a little - that's the key to achieving a sauce that is rich, but not overpowering.

Serves 4


For the pasta:

400g dried wholewheat pappardelle

75ml extra virgin olive oil (I prefer Ligurian)

Small handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

For the sauce:

50g unsalted butter

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion, finely sliced

8 anchovy fillets from a jar, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

100g pitted black olives, roughly chopped

500g lamb neck, diced

400ml dry rosé wine

400ml chicken stock

1 rosemary sprig

Fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper


To make the sauce, heat a large saucepan or casserole dish over a high heat and, once hot, add the butter and oil. Add the onion and anchovy fillets and fry, stirring, until the onion starts to soften and colour slightly. Add the garlic, olives and lamb, stir to coat, then add the wine, stock and rosemary. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 2-3 hours until the lamb is tender and the sauce has reduced. Give it a stir every now and again. Once the sauce is cooked, taste it before adding any salt or even pepper. I found mine to be already strong enough, thanks to the slow reduction.

When the sauce is ready, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but ensure the water is very well salted. Reserve 100ml of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta well. Mix the pasta into the sauce, along with the olive oil, reserved pasta cooking water and parsley before serving.

Mushroom, Spinach & Ricotta Yorkshire Pudding

This is something of a cross between pizza and toad in the hole, with my favourite ravioli filling on top. The key to the Yorkshire pudding is to ensure the pan is ferociously hot before you pour in the batter; otherwise you'll just end up with something that resembles a rubbery bathmat.

Serves 4


For the batter:

2 tbsp sunflower oil

225ml full-fat milk

4 large eggs

115g self-raising flour

½ tsp fine sea salt

For the filling: 400g spinach, washed

1 tbsp sunflower oil

50g unsalted butter

400g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

1 small onion, finely sliced

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

250g ricotta

125g pecorino cheese, finely grated

100g mozzarella, torn into small pieces

Fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 250°C/230°C fan/gas mark 9. For the batter, put the oil into the base of a medium roasting dish (about 30x20cm) and put into the oven to get very hot.

To make the batter, put the milk and eggs into a jug and beat together. Toss the flour and salt in a bowl and add a generous splash of the liquid ingredients. Whisk to form a smooth, thick batter, then slowly pour in the remaining liquid, whisking as you go. By this time the oil should have got very hot in the roasting tray, so drop a little of the batter in - if it sizzles, the oil is ready. If not, leave the tray in the oven until it is hot. Pour the batter into the tray and return it to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the Yorkshire pudding has puffed up and is deep golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat and add the spinach. Cook, stirring, until the spinach wilts down, then tip it into a sieve set over a bowl. Add the oil, butter, mushrooms and onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms soften and colour - you need to ensure all excess liquid has evaporated from the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.

Squeeze the excess moisture out of the spinach and discard its liquid. Put into a bowl with the mushrooms and onions and add the nutmeg, ricotta and pecorino cheese. Season to taste.

When the Yorkshire pudding is golden and puffed, remove it from the oven and scatter the filling over it - you might need to press the pudding down in the centre if it has ballooned up completely. Scatter the torn mozzarella on top of the filling. Return the tray to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the mozzarella cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Chorizo, Jalapeño & Black Bean Croquettes

I suppose the title here is all wrong. Being flavoured with the piquant nip of chorizo and Manchego, I'm guessing they should take their Spanish name: croquetas. But I can't part with the school-dinner version. I remember the yelps of joy as we entered the dinner hall to see 'potato croquettes' scribbled hurriedly onto the blackboard; the bright orange cylinders of spud were adored by all. In my heart these will always be croquettes.

Makes about 20


For the croquettes: 30g unsalted butter

35g plain flour

350ml whole milk

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 tsp Dijon mustard

200g Manchego, coarsely grated

50ml double cream

200g chorizo picante, very finely chopped

100g (drained weight) black beans from a can

75g (drained weight) jalapeños from a jar, roughly chopped

To finish:

75g plain flour

2 large eggs

125g breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil, for frying

To serve: Garlic mayonnaise

Lemon wedges


Start by making the sauce. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat until it melts, then stir in the flour using a wooden spoon to make a very thick paste. Allow the paste to cook for a minute until browned slightly. Slowly add the milk, beating constantly - I switch to a whisk when half of the milk is incorporated to ensure there are no lumps. This will be very thick, like porridge without the oats. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring for a minute or so, to ensure the starchy taste of the flour is cooked off.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the tomato purée, mustard, cheese, cream, chorizo, beans and jalapeños. Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until very stiff - if you have the time and patience, overnight is better. To assemble, prepare a little production line: put the flour onto a plate, beat the eggs into a bowl and put the breadcrumbs onto another plate. Scoop tablespoons of the chilled filling and shape into chunky pellets - I dip my hands in a little flour to stop the croquettes sticking - and roll them into short, fat cylinders. Dust the croquettes in flour, dip them in the egg, then coat them in breadcrumbs. Place the coated croquettes on a plate or tray ready for frying.

Heat 2cm of oil in a large sauté pan or flameproof casserole and allow it to get hot. Fry the croquettes for a minute or so per side until bronzed and crispy - don't overcrowd the pan or the croquettes will never become golden enough, so fry in batches.

Transfer the fried croquettes onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to blot off any excess oil before serving with garlic mayonnaise and lemon wedges.Deep-frying Option

Although the method above works fine, I do prefer to deep-fry the croquettes to retain their shape.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 170°C. Once it is hot, add the croquettes in batches, fry until golden, then blot on kitchen paper to remove excess oil before serving.

Make in Advance

The croquettes can be made completely and frozen before cooking. Place them, well spaced, on a baking sheet and freeze.

Once they are solid, put into an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. The croquettes can be deep-fried from frozen, but will take a little longer at a slightly lower temperature.

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