Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavors well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to stimulate ricotta hence its Italian name, which entails recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow renders more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was induced in Italy use raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started constructing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might gues. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit merrily next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will be dependent on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint foliages, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last 5 minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of simmering water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until simply al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colouring, then add the chard stems and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mix well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to induce your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to make ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will savor like a chip shop. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was attained in Italy using raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The form you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started attaining my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might suppose. If thats a step too far though, you can attain the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruits will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium heat. Let the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be slightly milky in colouring. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a receptacle, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this mix of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby vegetables, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it genuinely cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Taste for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until merely al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and taste for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a very much partner for the roots and roasteds and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to induce ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to foster little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow makes more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will savour like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was induced in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes need a certain type of ricotta. The kind you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started inducing my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might suppose. If thats a step too far though, you can make the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture oozes out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium hot. Let the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and put this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twist lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it really cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your option of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter foliages to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my money one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stalks finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until only al dente.

2 Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and taste for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to build your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it runs brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavours well be feeing for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm vegetables. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to induce ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to encourage little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was stimulated in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes need a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started building my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can build the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre luck enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit blithely next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium heat. Allow the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the simmer when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it was necessary to 82 C-8 5C) remove from the heat, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting lightly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeezing of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a little more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your option of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take on ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a bit more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turn al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed foliages shredded and stems finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 big unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to simmer and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook in agreement with the packet instructions or until only al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard husks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the heat and savour for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to induce your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavors well be eating for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to build ricotta hence its Italian name, which entails recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to promote little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow creates more ricotta. The quantity of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end outcome will savor like a chip store. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive savor was attained in Italy employing raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The type you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started building my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can induce the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any flapjack or waffle will sit happily next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To cook your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for just a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of sea salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of ocean salt and put over a medium hot. Permit the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to form. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting softly the liquid should be somewhat milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a receptacle, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this combination of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but fingers of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoonful until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it really cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savour for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeezing of lemon juice and a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your choice of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take over ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roast for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the most wonderful pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turning al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stalks finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of boiling water on to boil and add a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook in agreement with the packet instructions or until merely al dente.

2 Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colouring, then add the chard stubbles and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splashing of the pasta water to the greens and mix well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeeze over the juice. Take off the hot and savor for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cook

Its easy to make your own ricotta from scratch. Its ideal for a gentle herb and citrus dip, as the main attraction on a tray of honey-baked figs, or stirred through a plate of spicy spaghetti with chard, garlic and herbs

There is so much to love about ricotta. First up, its clean, fresh cloud-like milkiness many of us think of it as a spring-time thing, but in fact, it works brilliantly as a much needed partner for the roots and roasts and punchier flavours well be eating for the next few months. Next, its versatility in baking and desserts; to fill ravioli or spoon over warm veggies. Best of all, though, is that its made from something that would otherwise be wasted. The ricotta that you buy in the shops is a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. Whey that has been drained off the cheese curds is reheated to construct ricotta hence its Italian name, which means recooked.

My recipe involves gently heating whole milk, then adding vinegar to encourage little curds to form, which are then gathered and strained to form the softest and most gentle of the cheeses. Ive tried lemon juice, but vinegar somehow produces more ricotta. The sum of vinegar is key, too little and the curds wont form properly; too much and the end result will taste like a chip shop. Because this recipe is so simple there is nowhere to hide, so use the best milk that you can afford( the best ricotta Ive tasted was attained in Italy using raw, unpasteurised milk, but thats not as widely available in the UK ).

Some recipes require a certain type of ricotta. The kind you can buy in most supermarkets can be very soft, more mascarpone-like in texture than the firmer, strained ricotta I got used to working with when I cooked in Italy. Thats why I started attaining my own and Id urge you to try too its not as difficult as you might believe. If thats a step too far though, you can make the recipes below with supermarket ricotta. If you do, then leave it in a sieve to drain excess liquid for a few hours, or ideally overnight, so its a little firmer. If youre lucky enough to live near an Italian deli, most sell a good strained ricotta.

As well as a recipe for homemade ricotta, I have included three of my favourite simple ways to eat it. Aside from these almost any pasta would benefit from a little ricotta stirred through it, any pancake or waffle will sit merrily next to a spoonful, and most fruit will team up well with a clean white helping drizzled with a little honey.

straining The type of ricotta available in most supermarkets can be very soft. Strained ricotta is firmer, and much closer to what is available in Italy. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Homemade ricotta

How long you hang your ricotta for will depend on how you want to use it. To bake your ricotta whole or to use it to fill pasta you want something firm, so no moisture seeps out during cooking. For other recipes, such as the pasta or the whipped ricotta below, you could get away with a less firm texture, so hanging it for only a few hours would suffice.

Makes about 300 g
2 litres whole milk
A pinch of ocean salt
40ml distilled white vinegar

1 Pour the milk into a large pan, add a pinch of sea salt and put over a medium heat. Permit the milk to heat up slowly, stirring from time to time.

2 When it is almost coming to the boil when steam and small bubbles begin to appear on the surface( if you have a kitchen thermometer it was necessary to 82 C-8 5C) remove from the hot, add the vinegar and stir gently. You will see curds starting to sort. Continue to stir for 1 minute or so.

3 Cover with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Once the ricotta has rested, line a colander with a large piece of damp muslin and set this over a larger bowl or pan.

4 Spoon the ricotta into the colander and allow it to drain for an hour or so, or overnight depending on your desired firmness( see note above ). To test whether the cheese is ready, gently lift the muslin up by the corners and twisting softly the liquid should be slightly milky in colour. The ricotta is now ready. Transfer to a container, seal and store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Whipped herb and lemon ricotta

Quick and super-light, this mix of herbs and ricotta is ideal for dipping. I use baby veggies, but thumbs of good toast or crackers would work too.

Serves 4
450g fresh ricotta
Salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

To serve
Baby carrots, beetroots and radishes, cut into sticks

1 Put your ricotta into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, then beat it with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You can do this with an electric mixer if you want it actually cloud-like.

2 Now stir in the garlic, herbs, zest and olive oil. Savor for balance and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more of whatever you think it needs.

3 Serve in the middle of the table with your selection of veg or toast for dipping.

4 Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

Honey ricotta with baked figs

This is a faintly sweet take over ricotta that could be served as a dessert or a quick lunch, piled on top of toasted bread with some bitter leaves to counter the very slight sweetness.

Honey Any leftovers can be spread on warm toast the next day. Photo: Matt Russell for the Guardian

Serves 4-6
250g ricotta
1 tbsp of runny honey
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested, juice reserved
6 figs
50g almonds

1 Preheat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

2 Turn the ricotta out of its packet on to the lined tray, then drizzle it with honey. Grate over the orange zest and scatter the vanilla seeds on top.

3 Halve the figs and arrange them around the ricotta. Squeezing over the juice of the orange and a little more honey then put into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, approximately chop the almonds. Scatter them over the baking tray and roasted for the last five minutes.

5 Serve straight from the oven in the middle of the table.

Spaghetti with chard, garlic, chilli and ricotta

One of the fastest pastas I know( the sauce is cooked in the time it takes for the pasta to turn al dente) and for my fund one of the nicest.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
400g chard, rinsed leaves shredded and stubbles finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon( plus an extra lemon for juice, if needed)
Salt and black pepper
150g of ricotta
Parmesan or pecorino( optional)

1 Put a large pan of simmering water on to simmer and add got a couple of generous pinches of salt. Once the water is at a rolling simmer, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or until simply al dente.

2 Meanwhile, hot a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and rosemary. Fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour, then add the chard stalks and sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Add the foliages. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 34 minutes, or until the foliages have wilted a little.

3 Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Add a splash of the pasta water to the greens and mixture well. Grate over the zest of the lemon and squeezing over the juice. Take off the heat and savor for seasoning. Crumble over the ricotta and stir it though. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like, a wispy grating of parmesan or pecorino.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand
A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Flavourful flatbreads and quick quesadilla recipes | The modern cook

Anna Jones recipes: A flatbread is the epitome of versatility merely fill it with whatever you happen to have to hand. Heres a caper, herb and egg mixture and a speedy squash quesadilla to get you started

The happiest days of my childhood were spent in northern California, only north of San Francisco. We lived in a bungalow that had a small back garden with a lemon tree, spent weekends at the beach or picnicking in redwood forests.

Most nights we ate simply at home, leaning on the sunladen produce from surrounding farms: avocados for almost every meal, oranges and lemons straight from the trees. Sometimes, wed stroll got a couple of blocks to buy a peaky-topped cup of chocolate frozen yoghurt, which wed eat on the spot. It was all fairly wholesome in the times before we started venturing out for our dinner.

Later, as older kids, we loved those cheery American joints the ones with a menu longer than your limb, where the waitresses wear name badges and bottomless coffees are served the working day. The food was always American with a nod to Mexico, and as children we loved it. Crisp potato scalps, topped with a melting of cheese dipped into chive-peppered sour cream, shoestring fries and burritos. But what we loved the most were the quesadillas two flour tortillas fried on the plancha until crisp, then sandwiched around a very generous layer of melted Monterey Jack cheese, cut into wedges and served with guacamole and salsa. These triangles of pleasure were served as a starter, but were really big enough to be a meal in their own right.

I build quesadillas a little bit differently now, leaving the seriously cheese-laden ones to fond memory, along with chocolate milkshakes and knickerbocker glories. Instead, I use vegetables, pulsations, herbs and even eggs to stimulate textured fills with pops of flavour that be removed from Mexico, to Italy, France, Morocco and back again. In fact, quesadillas are truly only sandwiched flatbreads, which in some sort or the other youll find in almost every culture.

We make armies of them when we have a crowd to feed as they are the perfect vehicle for dipping, a great snack with a cold beer in hand, and are fairly fuss-free. A quesadilla allows you to play around and use what you have to hand. The main thing to think about is to fill your tortillas with something that they are able to bind both sides together some cheese, egg or soft mashed veggies or beans are ideal.

Caper, herb and egg flatbreads

This recipe is as quick as they come and is one of the most flavourful little suppers I know. Its loosely based on a recipe by my friend Heidi Swanson( of the 101 Cookbooks blog ). For the herbs, I utilized dill and basil, but mint, tarragon, parsley and chives would all work too.

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a snack
2 eggs
Salt
A small splashing of olive oil
2 medium corn or flour tortillas or wraps( about 15 cm wide)
A few sprigs of soft herbs, chopped
2 tbsp small capers
A few cornichons/ gherkins, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of freshly shaved parmesan

For the toppings
200ml Greek yoghurt
Zest and juice of a lemon
Salt and black pepper
2 avocados

1 Mix the yoghurt, half the lemon juice and all the zest with a pinch of salt and black pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

2 Quarter the avocados, then cut each piece into thin slices down to the skin. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice and set aside.

3 Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Heat a small frying pan over a medium hot, add a tiny splashing of olive oil, then add half of the egg to the pan, let it set into a kind of pancake for 10 -1 5 seconds. Now, running speedily, put one of the tortillas on top of the egg: you want the egg to still be a bit runny, so it will attach itself to the tortilla as it sets.

4 When the egg has defined, use a spatula to turning the whole thing over, sprinkle over half of the herbs, half the capers and cornichons and half of the parmesan. Cook until the cheese has melted. Repeat for multiple quesadillas.

5 To serve, fold the tortillas in half and top with the yoghurt and slicings of avocado and, to make a meal of them, a little lemon-dressed green salad.

Squash Serve straight from the pan with the tomatoes and a little salad, if you are making a snack of it. Photo: Issy Croker for the Guardian

Quick squash quesadillas

The feta is optional I often construct these without any cheese at all.

Serves 2 as a snack, 4 as a snack
Olive oil
A quarter of a butternut squash, peeled and grated
Salt and black pepper
10 black olives, pitted and approximately chopped( I use kalamata olives)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
400g tin of white beans, drained
50g feta( optional)
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 medium corn or flour tortillas

For the tomatoes
200g ripe vine or cherry tomatoes
A small bunch of basil
A little balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

1 Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan, add the butternut squash and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped olives and the chilli, then cook for a few minutes, until the squash has softened and lost its rawness.

2 Transfer to a bowl and add the beans, then gently mash everything you are able to still want to have some flecks of unmashed squash. Crumble in the feta, if youre employing it, then savour and season, if needed. Set aside.

3 Chop the tomatoes into a salsa consistency, add the basil and chop again, transfer to a bowl, add a splashing of balsamic and a little olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.

4 Warm a frying pan big enough for your tortillas over a medium hot. Lay a tortilla flat in the pan, quickly spoon a quarter of the squash mixture on top and even out. Set another tortilla on top and dry-fry until blistered and golden brown, then flip over with a spatula and do the same on the other side. Maintain the quesadilla warm while you do the next one.

5 Serve straight from the pan with the tomatoes and a little salad, if you are making a snack of it.

Flavour map: Mix and match these flavours and textures

Base
Something soft or melty to assist the tortillas stick
Mashed butter beans, Mashed black beans, grated cheddar, an egg, torn mozzarella, mashed chickpeas, grated and sauted courgette

Back-up
Another soft texture to add interest
Grated sweet potato, grated squash, roasted red peppers, chopped cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, grated beetroot, shredded greens or kale

Accent
A top flavour note: add one or two of these
Chopped spring onions, red chilli, capers, chopped olives, chipotle paste, finely chopped red onion, a spice mix garam masala, zaatar etc; feta, a grating of lemon or lime zest

A soft herb
Some freshness
Coriander, mint, basil, parsley, dill

Something to dip into
Guacamole, salsa, tahini yoghurt dip, smashed pea dip, hummus

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and author of A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

Anna Jones’ springtime herb and yoghurt soup recipe | The modern cook

The modern cook: Wake up sleepy palates with this fresh herb soup or a crisp salad fortified with sorrel, roasted radish and lentil

The daffodils have been( and are almost gone) and the branches are heavy with bud: springtime is here. In the kitchen, signs of wintertime are fading, although the greener things that spring will bring are still some way away. For render, its a no mans land the hungry gap, as its often called.

Right now, soft herbs, wispy and green, fill my kitchen. From savoury flat-leaf parsley to the green tartness of the first sorrel, these first-of-the-year soft herbs, Im sure, are here to wake up our palates, lifting us out of the rhythm of winter cooking and readying us for the fresh flavours and simple dishes that lie ahead.

I buy herbs once a week or so when they look good at the shops, and keep them alongside the milk bottles in the door of my fridge, standing in glasses with some cold water at the bottom like cut flowers. This doubles their lifespan( theyll keep for about a week ), and their grassy fragrance is wafted around the room each time I open the fridge a casual reminder of their presence, which means they make their style into more of my cook than they might otherwise …

Herbs have been peppering everything I cook over the past few weeks: topping bright spring stew, taking centre stage in soft herb omelettes, crowning gently spiced pilaf, and in pestos that sit under a golden slick of oil in the fridge.

Ive been buying bunches of sorrel an underused herb, likely because it can be hard to get hold of. If you can search it out, its lemony liveliness makes your mouth water like no other food I know: if there was ever a herb to get us “re ready for” spring, this is it. I love it in salads, baked under eggs and wilted on toast. This week, I use it with lentils and radishes to make a pretty salad with some crispy-edged lentils.

Four soft, green herbs make an appearance in todays herb soup dill, tarragon, coriander and parsley but truly any combination of your favourites would work. This soup bridges the gap so perfectly: light and optimistic in flavour with lemon and herbs, but backed up with butterbeans and yoghurt.

All herbs get their flavours from the essential petroleums within them, but fundamentally differ from each other in strength and structure. Softer herbs like coriander or basil often add more flavour when added at the end of a dish, whereas traditionally bred British herbs rosemary, sage, thyme, bay add more when theyre used during the cook. Whether or not you follow one of todays recipes, maintain this in intellect if and when you decide to infuse a dinner with herbal notes. Springtimes soft herbs require little( or nothing) by way of cooking to do their very best in a meal.

Spring herb and yoghurt soup( main painting)

Just about the perfect bowlful for this space between winter and springtime. You can use any soft herbs here only make sure you balance a more neutral herb, such as parsley, with a stronger one such as tarragon( the stronger the flavour the less of that herb you will need ). You need quite a gentle stock for this: “if youre using” cubes or powder then a cube or 1 tsp of powder is likely to be plenty in 1 litre of water.

Serves 4
Olive oil, for frying
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
small bunch of dill, fronds and husks separated
small bunch of tarragon, foliages and stems separated
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems separated
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems separated
400g tin butter beans, drained
1 litre vegetable stock( see note above)
4 tbsp plain yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
Sumac, to serve

1 Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring from is high time to day, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and spices, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the pan smells aromatic.

2 Roughly chop the herb stalks, then add them to the pan along with the butterbeans and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, or until the stems have softened.

3 Allow to cool a little, then whizz with a stick blender in the pan until you have a smooth soup. Add the yoghurt, most of the herb leaves( reserving a few for the upper part of the soup) and whizz again, until smooth.

4 Add the lemon juice and savour, adjusting the seasoning with more salt or pepper. Ladle the soup into bowl and top with a sprinkling of sumac and a few herb leaves.

Sorrel, roasted radish and crispy lentil salad

If you cant get hold of sorrel, scrunch a couple of handful of spinach together with the juice of a lemon, then roughly shred it and scatter over the top in place of the sorrel. It wont be quite as fairly, but it will still savor great.

Sorrel, Sorrels lemony liveliness constructs your mouth water like no other food I know, says Anna Jones. Photograph: Issy Croker for the Guardian

Serves 4
400g radishes, washed
400g new potatoes, washed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tbsp honey
800g tinned puy lentils, drained in a sieve and dried on kitchen paper
50ml yoghurt
2 handfuls of sorrel foliages, rinsed and dried well( see above for an alternative)
Salt and black pepper

1 Set the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6. Halve the radishes and potatoes. Tumble them on to a roasting tray with 1 tbsp of olive oil, half the lemon juice, some salt and the honey.

2 In a separate roasting tray, mix the lentils with a generous pinch of sea salt, another 1 tbsp of olive oil and the zest from the lemon.

3 Put the tray with the radishes and potatoes into the oven for 30 minutes, giving a shake once or twice during the course of its cook hour. With 15 minutes to go, put the tray with the lentils into the oven. Roast until they are crisps and beginning to blister; the radishes and potatoes should be soft and golden brown at the edges.

4 Meanwhile, build the dressing by whisking the yoghurt with a little squeezing of the lemon and the olive oil. Season well with salt and black pepper, taste and add more lemon, if you like, then set aside.

5 Once the lentils and radishes are cooked, remove from the oven and mixture everything in rough layers on a large platter with the sorrel. Drizzle with the yoghurt dressing.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

20 best autumn recipes: part 1

From baked squash to a classic blackberry and apple pie, Observer Food Monthlys selection of the pick of the season Part 2 of this series launches tomorrow

Richard Olneys pears in red wine( poires au vin rouge)

Serves 4
feeing pears 4 or 5, somewhat under ripe
orange 1
cinnamon
sugar 150 g
good red wine 1 bottle

Cut the pears in two, lengthwise, core and peel them and arrange the halves in the bottom of an earthenware or enamelled ironware terrine if they are to be cooked in the oven, Pyrex or porcelain will do as well. Clean the orange to remove any hint of insecticide or preservative, and shave a long spiral from the peel, maintaining clear of the white, pithy material. Add it to the pears, sprinkle very lightly with cinnamon, add the sugar and the wine, bring to a simmer, and leave, covered, to simmer for about 2 hours( with certain hard varieties of cooking pears, one may allow as much as 6 to 8 hours cooking time ), or until they are coated in a thin syrup. Serve them chilled, accompanied by tuiles or other simple cookies.
From The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney( Collins, 14.99 ). Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 12.29

Jane Grigsons blackberry and apple pie

Blackberry
Blackberry and apple pie: When you assemble windfall apples to make this pie, quantity and various forms of fruit do not much come into it. Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer

When you pick blackberries in the autumn, and gather windfall apples to make this tart, sum and various forms of fruit do not much come into it. You stimulate the best of what you have. This is the way it should be. This is how regional dishes once developed. People employed what their garden and neighborhood could offer. Sometimes a suggestion from a visitor or the arrival of a new ingredient with the development of trade and manufacture might dedicate a new facet to an old dish, with luck a new refinement, most likely at least, in recent times a short cut or substitute ingredient that did not improve it. I cannot feel that before the great bramley conquest it was introduced in 1876 blackberry and apple pie constructed with the windfalls of pippin or reinette assortments savoured much better. Nowadays, I use tart windfall Blenheim orange apples, and then after Christmas Belle de Boskoop. This is a real treat as we do not grow it in Wiltshire, and depend on the kindness of January visitors from France for an occasional supply.

With apples of this quality, you do not need so many blackberries( cookery books often give equal weights of each ). If you are making the tart soon after picking blackberries, rather than from a store in the freezer, weigh them and add up to doubled their weight in apples.

Assuming you start with 1kg apples and kg of blackberries, put half the blackberries into a large saucepan. Peel, core and slice the apples, sprinkling them with lemon or orange juice to prevent them darkening: put the peel and cores into the blackberry pan and covering with water. Cook slowly at first, then faster as the juices operate, so that you end up with about 150 ml of strained liquid. Dissolve 200 -2 50 g sugar in the liquid, the quantity according to the tartness of the fruit.

Pack the sliced apples and remaining blackberries in layers in a deep pie dish. Mound up the fruit in a curve above the rim of the dish. Pour the sweetened, cool juice over the whole thing. Cover in the usual route with shortcrust tart. Brush over the top with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Put into the oven at 200 C/ gas mark 6 for 45 -6 0 minutes depending on the depth of the dish. Turn the heat down slightly once the pastry is situate firm and lightly coloured. Protect it with butter papers from becoming too brown. Test the apples with a thin pointed knife through the central hole in the pastry: when it goes through them easily, they are done. Serve with custard sauce or cream, preferably cream, clotted cream above all.
From Jane Grigsons Fruit Book by Jane Grigson( Penguin, 12.99 ).
Click here to order a copy from the Guardian Bookshop for 12.99

Anna Del Contes trofie with walnut sauce( trofie in salsa di noci)

Trofie
Trofie with walnut sauce: a Ligurian speciality. Photo: Martin Poole for the Observer

This sauce from Liguria is traditionally used with pansoti or corzetti, local pasta shapes constructed with a simple dough of flour and water. Pansoti are the Ligurian ravioli, filled with wild herbs, beet foliages, borage and ricotta.

Corzetti come in two shapes: in one, the rolled-out dough is cut in the shape of a figure of eight; in the other, a far rarer shape, the dough is cut in the shape of large coins and each coin is stamped with a special wooden tool carved with a pattern. In the old days, aristocratic families had their own postage with the coat of arms on it. Corzetti are rarely found on the market, but another Ligurian pasta shape, trofie, can be used; these are more widely available from supermarkets.

As for the walnuts, they should be fresh-looking with no dark places and in big pieces, presenting no sign of powder. Of all nuts, walnuts are the ones that most quickly turn rancid and they become unpleasantly acid when old.

Serves 4
walnuts 100 g, shelled
one-day-old crustless bread 30 g
whole milk 3-4 tbsp
garlic 1 clove
extra virgin olive oil 100 ml
double cream 2 tbsp
parmesan cheese 50 g, grated, plus extra to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
trofie 350 g

Soak the walnuts in simmering water for about 15 minutes and then drainage and remove as much of the scalp as you can. Preheat the oven to 120 C/ gas mark.

Break the bread into small pieces, put it in a bowl and pour over the milk. Leave it for a few minutes and then squeeze out the milk and put the bread in a food processor together with the walnuts and the garlic. Blitz while adding the petroleum through the funnel. Transfer the concoction to a serving bowl and mix in the cream and the parmesan. Savor and season with salt and a little pepper. Place the bowl in the oven.

Cook the trofie in simmering salted water. Drain, reserving some of the water, and turn it into the bowl with the sauce. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce, mix well and serve at once with a bowl of grated parmesan.
From Anna Del Conte on Pasta by Anna Del Conte( Pavilion, 18.99 ).
Click here to order a copy from the Guardian Bookshop for 16.40

Simon Hopkinsons cep tarts

Cep
Cep tarts: perfect for a light lunch with a rocket salad and some thin slivers of parmesan. Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer

Persillade basically means chopped garlic and parsley. It is a classic of Provenal cookery and is added to many sauted dishes at the last minute, together with a few breadcrumbs to soak up any excess olive oil or butter. When added to fried ceps, they become cpes la provenale and if you are not wishing to bother with the pastry, then this dish is wonderful just as it is.

If you are lucky enough, like me, to have been foraging for fresh ceps in Welsh forests, then these are the mushrooms to use for this dish. Plainly, these are not readily available in the shops! So, as an alternative, I would suggest either a combination of dried or tinned ceps( which are readily available in expert food shops and some supermarkets) with big, black, flat mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are best because they have a much stronger flavor, and are easy to reconstitute.

This would be perfect for a light luncheon with a rocket salad and some thin slivers of parmesan.

Serves 4
fresh ceps 450 g or dried ceps 110 g
flat mushrooms 225 g
butter 110 g
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch, leaves only
garlic 4 cleaves, peeled and chopped
dry breadcrumbs 50 g
lemon grated rind of 1
egg 1, beaten
parmesan cheese 2 tbsp, freshly grated

For the pastry
strong plain flour 225 g
salt a pinch
unsalted butter 225 g, cold, cut into small pieces
lemon juice of
iced water 150 ml

Begin by making the pastry, preferably the day before; certainly several hours in advance. Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl and add the butter. Loosely mix, but dont mixture the two together in the normal way of tart create. Mix the lemon juice with the iced water and pour into the butter/ flour concoction. With a metal spoon, gently mix together until you have formed a cohesive mass. Turn on to a cool surface and shape into a thick rectangle. Flour the work surface and gently roll the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 18 cm x 10 cm. Fold one third of the rectangle over towards the centre and fold the remaining one-third over that. Lightly press together and rest the pastry in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Return the pastry to the same position on the run surface and turn it through 90 degrees. Roll it out to the same dimensions as before, and fold and remainder again in the same style. Repeat this turning, rolled, folding and resting process three more hours.( Phew! This is the moment when you wish youd bought ready-made pastry .) Place the pastry in a polythene bag and leave in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

If you are using dried ceps, encompas with lukewarm water and leave to reconstitute for 20 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze dry with your hands.( Strain the soaked water and use it to make a soup or stock .)

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6. Roll out the pastry into four circles measuring about 15 cm across and 3mm thick. Place on a floured tray and keep cool in the fridge.

Slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat the butter in a large frying pan until merely turning golden. Throw in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook briskly until crusty and golden brown, driving off any moisture that builds up. Add the parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs and lemon rind and mix thoroughly. Turn into a bowl and leave to cool. Remove the pastry circles from the fridge, brush the leading edge with beaten egg to a depth of 1 cm and spread the mushroom concoction over the four circles up to the edge of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and put on to greased baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 15 -2 0 minutes or until the pastry has risen around the edges and is thoroughly crisp underneath( check by lifting with a palette knife ). Serve piping hot.
From Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson( Ebury, 16.99 ).
Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 24.60

Jane Scotter and Harry Astleys cooked squash with celery and herb cream

Baked
Baked squash with celery and herb cream: sweet dumpling a very pretty striped and dimpled squash is ideal for this. Photograph: Tessa Traeger

This recipe was devised on one of the rare occasions that we had a major power cut, with three young children needing to be fed and merely the wood burner for warmth and cook. We wrapped the squash in foil and tucked them into the edges of the wood burner, away from the flames. The children dipped cubes of bread into the cheesy, fondue-style fill. It became a popular supper dish in less chaotic days, too.

Our favourite squashes to use for this recipe are uchiki kuri( also known as onion squash ), buttercup and blue ballet. All have dense, strongly flavoured flesh that soaks up flavours and fat without becoming mushy and marrow-like. The scalp of the squash retains its beautiful, vibrant colouring and is thin enough not to need peeling. We think it is the best part.

You can also serve this dish as a starter, using individual smaller squashes. The photo shows sweet dumpling a very pretty striped and dimpled squash that is ideal for this.

Serves 2 hungry people
squash 1, about 1-2kg
creme fraiche about 300 ml( you need enough to fill the squash by)
lemon juice of
celery leaves 3 sprigs, or 1 lovage leaf
rosemary, thyme or sage 2 sprigs
butter 1 knob
garlic 1 clove, finely chopped
nutmeg a little, grated, or cinnamon stick
good melting cheese, such as comte, gruyere or cheddar 150 g, grated
sea salt and black pepper

To garnish( optional)
olive oil 3 tbsp
sage 4-5 leaves

Heat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6. Cut the top off the squash to make a lid and put aside. Scoop out the seeds and a little of the flesh so that you are left with a clean squash bowl. To stop the squash toppling over, it is a good idea to make a base for it to sit on: take a approximately 30 cm square piece of foil, squeeze it together and shape it into a bangle. Set it in a roast tin and place the squash on top.

Fill the squash three-quarters full with creme fraiche and then add the lemon juice, herb sprigs, butter, garlic and grated nutmeg or the cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the lid back on the squash. Cover with foil and cook for at least an hour. The cooking time will differ, depending on the size of your squash. It is done when a sharp knife slides through the flesh with no resistance.

Remove the herb sprigs and sprinkle in the grated cheese. Place the squash back in the oven, without the foil, for about 10 minutes, until it has browned and the cheese is nice and gooey.

The fried sage garnish is optional, but it appears and savor great. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the sage leaves, constructing sure they are completely dry if you have washed them. Fry for about 30 seconds, until crisps, then remove and place on kitchen paper to drain.Sprinkle the leaves on top of the squash filling.

The easiest style to serve this is to spoon out the creamy contents on to each persons plate and then cut chunks off the squash horizontally, running your way down. Serve with toasted sourdough bread.
From Fern Verrow by Jane Scotter& Harry Astley( Quadrille, 25 ).
Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 17.50

Read more: www.theguardian.com

20 best autumn recipes: component 1

From baked squash to a classic blackberry and apple pie, Observer Food Monthlys selection of the pick of the season Part 2 of this series launches tomorrow

Richard Olneys pears in red wine( poires au vin rouge)

Serves 4
eating pears 4 or 5, somewhat under ripe
orange 1
cinnamon
sugar 150 g
good red wine 1 bottle

Cut the pears in two, lengthwise, core and peel them and arrange the halves in the bottom of an earthenware or enamelled ironware terrine if they are to be cooked in the oven, Pyrex or porcelain will do as well. Rinse the orange to remove any clue of insecticide or preservative, and shave a long spiral from the peel, keeping clear of the white, pithy material. Add it to the pears, sprinkles very lightly with cinnamon, add the sugar and the wine, bring to a boil, and leave, covered, to simmer for about 2 hours( with certain hard assortments of cooking pears, one may let as much as 6 to 8 hours cooking day ), or until they are coated in a thin syrup. Serve them chilled, accompanied by tuiles or other simple cookies.
From The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney( Collins, 14.99 ). Click here to order a copy from the Guardian Bookshop for 12.29

Jane Grigsons blackberry and apple pie

Blackberry
Blackberry and apple pie: When you gather windfall apples to make this pie, sum and variety of fruit do not much come into it. Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer

When you pick blackberries in the autumn, and gather windfall apples to make this tart, sum and variety of fruit do not much come into it. You construct the best use of what you have. This is the way it should be. This is how regional dishes once developed. People use what their garden and neighbourhood could offer. Sometimes a suggestion from a visitor or the arrival of a new ingredient with the development of trade and fabricate might devote a new facet to an old dish, with luck a new refinement, most likely at least, in recent times a short cut or substitute ingredient that did not improve it. I cannot help feeling that before the great bramley conquering it was introduced in 1876 blackberry and apple pie induced with the windfalls of pippin or reinette ranges savoured much better. Nowadays, I use tart windfall Blenheim orange apples, and then after Christmas Belle de Boskoop. This is a real treat as we do not grow it in Wiltshire, and depend on the kindness of January guests from France for an occasional supply.

With apples of this quality, you do not need so many blackberries( cookery books often devote equal weights of each ). If you are constructing the tart soon after picking blackberries, rather than from a store in the freezer, weigh them and add up to double their weight in apples.

Assuming you start with 1kg apples and kg of blackberries, set half the blackberries into a large saucepan. Peel, core and slice the apples, sprinkling them with lemon or orange juice to prevent them darkening: put the peel and cores into the blackberry pan and covering with water. Cook slowly at first, then faster as the juices operate, so that you end up with about 150 ml of strained liquid. Dissolve 200 -2 50 g sugar in the liquid, the quantity according to the tartness of the fruit.

Pack the sliced apples and remaining blackberries in layers in a deep tart dish. Mound up the fruit in a curve above the rim of the dish. Pour the sweetened, cool juice over the whole thing. Cover in the usual route with shortcrust pastry. Brush over the top with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Put into the oven at 200 C/ gas mark 6 for 45 -6 0 minutes depending on the depth of the dish. Turn the hot down slightly once the pastry is define firm and lightly coloured. Protect it with butter papers from becoming too brown. Test the apples with a thin pointed knife through the central hole in the pastry: when it goes through them easily, they are done. Serve with custard sauce or cream, preferably cream, clotted cream above all.
From Jane Grigsons Fruit Book by Jane Grigson( Penguin, 12.99 ).
Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 12.99

Anna Del Contes trofie with walnut sauce( trofie in salsa di noci)

Trofie
Trofie with walnut sauce: a Ligurian speciality. Photo: Martin Poole for the Observer

This sauce from Liguria is traditionally used in conjunction with pansoti or corzetti, local pasta shapes stimulated with a simple dough of flour and water. Pansoti are the Ligurian ravioli, filled with wild herbs, beet foliages, borage and ricotta.

Corzetti come in two shapes: in one, the rolled-out dough is cut in the shape of a figure of eight; in the other, a far rarer shape, the dough is cut in the shape of large coins and each coin is stamped with a special wooden tool engraved with a pattern. In the old days, aristocratic families had their own stamp with the coat of arms on it. Corzetti are rarely found on the market, but another Ligurian pasta shape, trofie, can be used; these are more widely available from supermarkets.

As for the walnuts, they should be fresh-looking with no dark spots and in large pieces, presenting no sign of powder. Of all nuts, walnuts are the ones that most quickly turn rancids and they become unpleasantly acid when old.

Serves 4
walnuts 100 g, shelled
one-day-old crustless bread 30 g
whole milk 3-4 tbsp
garlic 1 clove
extra virgin olive oil 100 ml
double cream 2 tbsp
parmesan cheese 50 g, grated, plus extra to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
trofie 350 g

Soak the walnuts in boiling water for about 15 minutes and then drainage and remove as much of the scalp as you can. Preheat the oven to 120 C/ gas mark.

Break the bread into small pieces, set it in a bowl and pour over the milk. Leave it for a few minutes and then squeeze out the milk and put the bread in a food processor along with the walnuts and the garlic. Blitz while adding the petroleum through the funnel. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and mix in the cream and the parmesan. Savor and season with salt and a little pepper. Place the bowl in the oven.

Cook the trofie in simmering salted water. Drain, reserving some of the water, and turn it into the bowl with the sauce. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce, mix well and serve at once with a bowl of grated parmesan.
From Anna Del Conte on Pasta by Anna Del Conte( Pavilion, 18.99 ).
Click here to order a copy from the Guardian Bookshop for 16.40

Simon Hopkinsons cep tarts

Cep
Cep tarts: perfect for a light lunch with a rocket salad and some thin slivers of parmesan. Photo: Martin Poole for the Observer

Persillade basically entails chopped garlic and parsley. It is a classic of Provenal cookery and is added to many sauted dishes at the last minute, along with a few breadcrumbs to soak up any excess olive oil or butter. When added to fried ceps, they become cpes la provenale and if you are not wishing to bother with the pastry, then this dish is wonderful just as it is.

If you are lucky enough, like me, to have been foraging for fresh ceps in Welsh woodlands, then these are the mushrooms to use for this dish. Obviously, these are not readily available in the shops! So, as an alternative, I would suggest either a combination of dried or tinned ceps( which are readily available in expert food shops and some supermarkets) with big, black, flat mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are best because they have a much stronger flavour, and are easy to reconstitute.

This would be perfect for a light luncheon with a rocket salad and some thin slivers of parmesan.

Serves 4
fresh ceps 450 g or dried ceps 110 g
flat mushrooms 225 g
butter 110 g
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch, leaves only
garlic 4 cloves, peeled and chopped
dry breadcrumbs 50 g
lemon grated rind of 1
egg 1, beaten
parmesan cheese 2 tbsp, freshly grated

For the pastry
strong plain flour 225 g
salt a pinch
unsalted butter 225 g, cold, cut into small pieces
lemon juice of
iced water 150 ml

Begin by making the pastry, preferably the day before; certainly several hours in advance. Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl and add the butter. Loosely mix, but dont mixture the two together in the normal route of pastry induce. Mix the lemon juice with the iced water and pour into the butter/ flour concoction. With a metal spoonful, gently mix together until you have formed a cohesive mass. Turn on to a cool surface and shape into a thick rectangle. Flour the run surface and gently roll the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 18 cm x 10 cm. Fold one third of the rectangle over towards the centre and fold the remaining third over that. Gently press together and rest the pastry in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Return the pastry to the same position on the work surface and turn it through 90 degrees. Roll it out to the same dimensions as before, and fold and rest again in the same style. Repeat this turning, rolled, folding and resting process three more times.( Phew! This is the moment when you wish youd bought ready-made tart .) Place the pastry in a polythene bag and leave in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

If you are using dried ceps, encompas with lukewarm water and leave to reconstitute for 20 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze dry with your hands.( Strain the soak water and use it to make a soup or stock .)

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6. Roll out the pastry into four circles measuring about 15 cm across and 3mm thick. Place on a floured tray and keep cool in the fridge.

Slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat the butter in a large frying pan until just turning golden. Throw in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook briskly until crusty and golden brown, driving off any moisture that builds up. Add the parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs and lemon rind and mix thoroughly. Turn into a bowl and leave to cool. Remove the pastry circles from the fridge, brush the leading edge with beaten egg to a depth of 1 cm and spread the mushroom concoction over the four circles up to the edge of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and put on to greased baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 15 -2 0 minutes or until the pastry has risen around the edges and is thoroughly crisp underneath( check by lifting with a palette knife ). Serve piping hot.
From Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson( Ebury, 16.99 ).
Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 24.60

Jane Scotter and Harry Astleys baked squash with celery and herb cream

Baked
Baked squash with celery and herb cream: sweet dumpling a very pretty striped and dimpled squash is ideal for this. Photograph: Tessa Traeger

This recipe was devised on one of the rare occasions that we had a major power cut, with three young children needing to be fed and only the wood burner for warmth and cooking. We wrapped the squash in foil and tucked them into the edges of the wood burner, away from the flames. The children dipped cubes of bread into the cheesy, fondue-style filling. It became a popular supper dish in less chaotic times, too.

Our favourite squashes to use for this recipe are uchiki kuri( also known as onion squash ), buttercup and blue ballet. All have dense, strongly flavoured flesh that soaks up flavours and fat without becoming mushy and marrow-like. The skin of the squash retains its beautiful, vibrant colouring and is thin enough not to require peeling. We think it is the best part.

You can also serve this dish as a starter, use individual smaller squashes. The photo shows sweet dumpling a very pretty striped and dimpled squash that is ideal for this.

Serves 2 hungry people
squash 1, about 1-2kg
creme fraiche about 300 ml( you need enough to fill the squash by)
lemon juice of
celery leaves 3 sprigs, or 1 lovage leaf
rosemary, thyme or sage 2 sprigs
butter 1 knob
garlic 1 clove, finely chopped
nutmeg a little, grated, or cinnamon stick
good melting cheese, such as comte, gruyere or cheddar 150 g, grated
sea salt and black pepper

To garnish( optional)
olive oil 3 tbsp
sage 4-5 leaves

Heat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6. Cut the top off the squash to make a lid and set aside. Scoop out the seeds and a little of the flesh so that you are left with a clean squash bowl. To stop the squash toppling over, it is a good idea to make a base for it to sit on: take a roughly 30 cm square piece of foil, squeeze it together and shape it into a bangle. Set it in a cook tin and place the squash on top.

Fill the squash three-quarters full with creme fraiche and then add the lemon juice, herb sprigs, butter, garlic and grated nutmeg or the cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the eyelid back on the squash. Cover with foil and bake for at least an hour. The cooking time will differ, depending on the size of your squash. It is done when a sharp knife slides through the flesh with no resistance.

Remove the herb sprigs and sprinkle in the grated cheese. Place the squash back in the oven, without the foil, for about 10 minutes, until it has browned and the cheese is nice and gooey.

The fried sage garnish is optional, but it lookings and savours great. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the sage leaves, stimulating sure they are completely dry if you have washed them. Fry for about 30 seconds, until crisp, then remove and place on kitchen newspaper to drain.Sprinkle the leaves on top of the squash filling.

The easiest style to serve this is to spoon out the creamy contents on to each persons plate and then cut chunks off the squash horizontally, working your style down. Serve with toasted sourdough bread.
From Fern Verrow by Jane Scotter& Harry Astley( Quadrille, 25 ).
Click here to order a transcript from the Guardian Bookshop for 17.50

Read more: www.theguardian.com