Five simple dishes to master at home

If you’re handy in the kitchen, but keen to broaden your repertoire, why not spend your time perfecting these simple classics?

Thursday, March 26, 2020,
By Glen Mutel
Fluffy pancakes prepared by Neil Weinberg, chef and owner at Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant ...
Fluffy pancakes prepared by Neil Weinberg, chef and owner at Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant in New York City.
Photograph by Mark Weinberg

It’s the aim of almost every budding home cook to have a core collection of failsafe recipes — simple classics that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice. And, now that we’re all spending much more time at home, there’s never been a better time to expand your repertoire. Sure, we can all put together a passable pasta sauce, but what about using that veg to make roasted red peppers with za’atar? Many of us can rustle up a a decent potato salad, but why not incorporate those potatoes into a tartiflette instead?

Having scoured the world for inspiration, we bring you five easy dishes with roots in the Middle East, the French Alps, the Caribbean and the diners of America, all designed to help you use your time wisely and broaden your skill set. Given the current climate, some ingredients may prove hard to come by in supermarkets, but independent grocers, delis and speciality food shops (not to mention online suppliers) should have everything you need. Time to get cooking! 

Neil Kleinberg’s American pancakes
Nothing signals the arrival of the weekend like an indulgent brunch — and what better dish to start Saturday with than fluffy pancakes? New York native Neil Kleinberg says his version is the result of traditional French techniques being applied to an American classic. It might take you a few goes to get these pancakes absolutely perfect, but once you have, you’re in for a treat. 

Warren Richards’ jerk chicken  
Over the next few weeks and months, we’re all going to get to know our kitchens a bit better — and perhaps now’s the time to explore those long-neglected spice racks. Step forward jerk chicken, which, as well as being delicious, is a useful dish to master as the marinade can be stored in the fridge and used later for pork, fish or veg. Warren Richards’s version is a family favourite, passed down from his Jamaican grandmother.  

Yasmin Khan’s roasted red pepper with za’atar 
Inspired by Yasmin Khan’s travels around the north of the West Bank, this tangy, flavoursome dish is an inventive and hugely satisfying way to make use of those vegetables lurking at the bottom of your fridge. If you don’t have any za’tar to hand, don’t worry — you can use a combination of oregano and sumac instead. 

Felicity Cloake’s tartiflette 
If you’re stocking up on groceries, you could do worse than picking up a bag of potatoes and a bottle of white wine — after all, they’ll both keep. This dish, from food writer Felicity Cloake, represents an excellent use of these ingredients. A heartening version of potato gratin from the French Alps, tartiflette goes best with a simple green salad and a chilled glass of Savoie white. 

John Gregory-Smith’s hummus
There are few culinary achievements more simple-yet-satisfying than making your own hummus, particularly when it comes out better than your usual shop-bought brand.
John Gregory-Smith’s ingenious trick is to add a touch of baking powder, which softens the chickpeas and makes the end result smoother. Plus, it’s a great way to use up those packets of dried chickpeas that were gathering dust. 

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