1. The new apple and elderberry jelly from Tracklements. This delightful and versatile condiment contains English apples and elderberries foraged from Wiltshire hedgerows. You see elderberries everywhere in our hedges, but there are few recipes around for them, which is a shame. I hope that this jelly will hopefully bring a very underrated wild fruit to the masses - perhaps they could be the next blackberry. I've been a keen and dedicated fan of Tracklements ever since I visited their factory in July, and really like this jelly. It's sweet enough to eat on its own spread onto some toast, but they recommend serving it with meat, particularly roast pork. I found another use for it, stirring it into the jus for a rather delicious pheasant dish I made a couple of weeks ago. It goes very well with game, its sweetness lifting the earthy flavour of wild meat.
For two people: brown one pheasant all over in a little olive oil in a hot pan. Remove, turn the heat down, and sauté a chopped carrot, two chopped celery sticks, and a sliced onion until softening. Turn up the heat and pour in 500ml cider. Add a couple of bay leaves, a few sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme, a generous grinding of salt and pepper, then return the pheasant to the pan. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the bird is cooked through. Remove to a board and leave to rest for a few minutes before carving. Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid and return it to the pan. Boil until slightly reduced; thicken with some arrowroot or cornflour. Add 1 tsp apple and elderberry jelly to the pan juices. Carve the pheasant and serve with the jus, on a mound of mashed potato or polenta, with some spring greens or curly kale alongside, and - of course - extra apple and elderberry jelly to accompany the meat.
2. Fresh figs, ricotta, parma ham and toasted sourdough bread. Yes, I know I blogged about this recently. However, I just cannot get over the sheer delight of a mouthful that combines slightly tangy, dense, crusty bread, still warm and fluffy in the middle, with a succulent juicy morsel of fig, the sweet milkiness of ricotta cheese, and the rough, salty notes of a wafer of prosciutto. Even better, I've discovered, if you mix some lemon thyme leaves (my favourite herb) into the ricotta before slathering it onto the crispy bread. I could happily eat this for lunch every day for the rest of my life.
3. Sugar and soy glazed salmon from Bill Granger's new Everyday Asian cookbook. For four people, marinate four salmon fillets in a mixture of 4 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp soft brown sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice, for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, pre-heat the grill to 220C. Place the marinated salmon fillets on a piece of non-stick baking parchment on an oven tray. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Grill the salmon fillets for about 8 minutes until just cooked through and still slightly pink in the centre. Meanwhile, boil the marinade for a couple of minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the cooked salmon. I like to serve this on a bed of rice, with a crunchy salad alongside: simply mix 1-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar with 1-2 tbsp mirin and 1 tsp sesame oil. Toast 4 tbsp sesame seeds until fragrant. To the dressing, add 3 grated carrots, half a cucumber (grated), and some finely shredded Chinese leaf or cabbage. Toss well, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and serve alongside the salmon. The result is utterly addictive - there's something about the sweet, sticky glaze coupled with the moist, oily flesh of the fish that works so very well. Even better where the syrupy glaze has soaked into a mound of fluffy rice. A really fantastic meal, and also one that will make you feel incredibly healthy.
4. Duck eggs. For the best (most middle-class) scrambled eggs on toast ever. Two or three eggs each, in a pan with a little milk, seasoning, butter and chives. Serve on toasted sourdough with thick slices of smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, and lashings of black pepper. I love the way duck eggs solidify into huge clouds of creamy curds in the pan, rather than the sometimes runny, homogenous mixture you end up with if you stir normal hen eggs too much. A divine way to start the day.
5. Fig, goats' cheese and prosciutto pizza: adorn your homemade pizza base with a little tomato sauce, followed by torn chunks of mozzarella, followed by slices of prosciutto, crumbled goat's cheese, quartered fresh figs and a generous sprinkling of lemon thyme. Top with rocket when cooked. You may think fruit on a pizza sounds weird, especially with tomato, but it works. The sweetness and crunch of the figs cuts through the intense richness of the tomato, cheese and prosciutto, with a delightful lemony tang from the thyme that works so well against the lactic bite of a good goats' cheese.
Incidentally, also incredible as a pizza topping is the combination of thinly sliced steak, crumbled stilton, and caramelised red onion. This came about rather by accident: my boyfriend, having dinner with me on Saturday night, suddenly started feeling ill just as his beautiful rib-eye steak (complete with a slowly melting puck of truffle butter and a huge mound of chips) arrived. We had to go home (not before I'd finished my main course, mind), but I was adamant that he couldn't just leave the steak to be thrown away in the kitchen. I would not allow that cow to die in vain. Instead we took it home in foil and a Sainsbury's bag (a sad and ignominious end for such a noble beast), sliced it thinly the next day, and used it to top a pizza. Perhaps still an ignominious end for a cow, but better than the bin.