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Nigel Slater's new tricks: Do you have a clever twist on a classic dish?

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Jennifer Fazey Jennifer Fazey | 16:45 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

As producer of Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers, I couldn’t wait to see what recipe ideas Nigel Slater would come up with for the start of this new series. So when he suggested taking some British classics and giving them a simple new spin, we all thought it was inspired. Surely we’re all guilty of cooking our favourite suppers time and again and wouldn’t mind a bit of a change, without saying goodbye to them altogether?


Nigel Slater from Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers


The great thing about watching Nigel cook - off and on screen - is how it makes you think about why a recipes ‘works’. It might sound a bit weird but I think sometimes we just cook and eat on autopilot - especially when we’re following a recipe. But if you stop and think about what it actually is you like and why, it can be a bit of a revelation.

Like Nigel says, the reason we all love the classic cottage pie is simple - it has a single winning combination.  Something warm, meaty and rich on the bottom and something fluffy and soft on top. It’s more about textures than tastes. So using turkey mince instead of the traditional lamb, and squash mash instead of potato for this new version, suddenly makes total sense.

We’re lucky enough on the production team to try all of Nigel’s food as soon as we’ve got all the shots we need. A great perk of the job! Of course everyone asks ‘what’s your favourite?’ and I can honestly say I loved them all. But on this programme there was one recipe that stuck in my mind.

Nigel Slater's watercress and basil pesto.


Nigel’s hand-made pesto ticked all the boxes for me and made me promise I’ll never buy the stuff in the jar again. His twist is the addition of watercress and I hadn’t realised how easy pesto is to make. Nigel told us that he was genuinely chuffed to successfully grow basil for the first time in his life. His previous attempts had always failed, which is why the home-made pesto we see him making in the show was the ultimate reward and a fitting end for all his patience and hard work. I made some after filming and it really was as easy as he’d made it look (and it freezes well too).


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Do you have your own twist on a classic dish? Perhaps something you discovered when the shops ran out of a particular ingredient or when you’ve cooked for someone with a special diet? Let us know.

Jennifer Fazey is the Producer of BBC One’s Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers.


  • Comment number 1.

    My twist is to make apple crumble with rolled oats instead of flour. It makes a crunchy crumble that actually helps our cholesterol levels stay moderate, even though it is made with butter. I add cinnamon and sultanas, and use an olive-based margarine if I am feeling very saintly. It is better with a sharper apple like Bramley.

  • Comment number 2.

    That pesto definately looked absolutely gorgeous - I loved the idea of adding a bit of watercress and keeping the integrity of the pine nuts with it for texture rather than blitzing it all to a pulp a la Ready Steady Cook - I'll certainly be trying that!

  • Comment number 3.

    P.S. Whenever you go on holiday Ms Fazey, I'm more than happy to cover for you...! ;-)

    *tucks knife and fork in jacket pocket in readiness*

  • Comment number 4.

    I was almost giddy at the thought of a second series of "Simple Suppers". I love to watch Nigelcook and I share his enthusiasm for simple ingredients, idealy from the garden, cooked well and with sensitivity. When one has the luxury of time, cooking and baking are tactile and enjoyable experiences, which cheer the soul and send pleasure for those with whom you share your efforts.

  • Comment number 5.

    My twist on cottage pie is to use brown or Puy lentils instead of mince. It's tasty and of course great for vegetarians. Just let the lentils soak in boiling water for an hour beforehand. Well it's vegan as well of course and answers the vegetarians who get a bit bored with with cheese or eggs with everything.

  • Comment number 6.

    Take a pile of anya potatoes. Par boil them (about 4 mintes). Meanwhile take a table spoon of caraway seeds and grind them with a mortar and pestle. Grab some seame oil, dark soy sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Heat about two table spoons of the oil in a wok. Chuck the potatoes in (may need to batch twice) splash some soy sauce while stirring the potatoes. next sprinkle ground caraway seeds as you continue to stir. Finish off with some blck pepper to season. They are ready when the look dirty and sticky. Eat hot or leave in fridge as a cold snack, or salad.............. or whatever you feel like.

  • Comment number 7.

    My twist is to make cauliflower cheese with broccoli and cauliflower – a great way to get my son to eat more greens! I also like to use Parmesan and add a splash of cream to the cheese sauce.

  • Comment number 8.

    Personally, one thing I do slightly differently is eggs and bacon. I've never been a fry up girl, but I do love a good brunch. So I often poach an egg, and then have it with a couple of bits of Parma ham and a bit of spinach if I'm being healthy. Or just as lovely is a freshly boiled egg (runny yolk please) with slices of grilled, crisp Parma ham for soldiers.

    @LeCreusetFiend: you're welcome to stand in on holiday cover as long as you're prepared to put on a few pounds!

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations on the production Jennifer, although Nigel's programmes strike me as those which almost just come together, not needing a frenzied input? They seem calm and considered, I imagine work day catering is a bonus.

    Surely a few pounds is a small price to pay?

    Tomorrow's twist will be a breakfast BLT, bacon, rocket, tomato and some hard boiled egg slices, all on toasted malted brown.

  • Comment number 10.

    Simple Suppers is such a good program-always relaxing and inspiring at the same time! I always love trying Nigel's recipes and the hand made pesto will certainly be on the agenda.

  • Comment number 11.

    A great programme Jenny. Great ideas and all very do-able.

    I am sure, as in most of these productions, a lot of energy is expended in making them look so effortless and relaxed. The pesto looked great. I grew purple basil for the first time this year so will see what I can do in 2011.

  • Comment number 12.

    I've tried a variety of Nigel's recipes this week :- tangy and fresh pesto, sweet tasting butternut squash shepherds' pie, falafels from "The 30 Minute Cook", served with beetroot and parmesan salad and not forgetting the two cakes from "Tender vol 1" using beetroot,as I had some left from the beetroot salad, the moist seed cake and deeply rich chocolate cake. All delicious and inspiring me to cook up more in the future.

  • Comment number 13.

    Orange and Bitter Chocolate Pond Pudding

    Ref: James Martin's Sussex Pond Pudding (traditional)
    Gently melt a 100g block of 85% organic chocolate and stir into the dry pastry ingredients. Finish the dough with milk as required.
    Cut a lid off a navel orange and remove the flesh. Retain.

    Poach the skin in a sugar and water syrup to soften it before steaming. Strain off the syrup and allow the skin to cool. You don't need the sugar syrup so bottle or jar it.

    Put the orange flesh and juice in a pan with a glug or two of whisky, 6 cloves, half a cinnamon stick, and half a tsp nutmeg. Add the butter and sugar from the original recipe and heat gently until syrupy.

    Line the pudding mould with the chocolate pastry, put the orange skin in the centre, fill with strained syrup (retain leftovers for later), replace the orange top, cover with remaining chocolate pastry and steam as directed.

    Stir a couple of dessertspoons orange syrup into a pint of double cream until aromatic and slightly sweetened.

    When the pudding is cooked, remove from mould and dribble with a little orange syrup to serve (don't go mad). Serve with your prepared double cream.


  • Comment number 14.

    I think it was Jamie Oliver last Christmas who made mince pies by putting the filling on a layer of puff pastry, rolling it up, slicing it into pinwheels, and baking it on a fillo pastry base in a bun tin.

    I've tried this technique now with mashed apple for individual pies, and apricot jam as a spin on jam tarts. Don't be stingy with filling and they're fab.

    Since I had some fillo left over, I made some nut brittle parcels (make the brittle in a pan first). Tip: if you try this last one then make them small like sweets so you can crunch them in one go!

  • Comment number 15.

    Use the spices and fruit from a tagine recipe to marinade lamb cubes.

  • Comment number 16.

    Will somebody please ask Nigel Slater not to speak with his mouth full of food. It is unpleasant to see and goes completely against all that we teach our children about good table manners.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Nigel, we had just made your Mackerel with asparagus and rhubarb from 'Tender 1' yesterday ( we now have both books as a gift from son no. 2) except that we used whole sea bass, and there you were on the tele cooking sea bass! BTw the rhubarb goes splendidly with any fish and we used cauliflower and broccoli instead of asparagus. - sumptuous


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