This is my favourite contribution to the autumn dinner table, and one that can be served as a hearty side, or as a meal in its own right.  

Sweet potato.jpg

Ingredients - serves 4 - 6

  • 1.2kg sweet potatoes 
  • 400ml double cream 
  • sprig of rosemary 
  • 100g Gruyère cheese 
  • 50g pecans
  • Butter, for greasing 
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Grease a 23cm (approx.) pie dish (ceramic is best) with butter. Whatever you do, don’t use a dish with a loose bottom or you’ll be scrubbing your oven floor for weeks.

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice each very thinly – I use a mandolin or a food processor, but it can be done using a knife, with a straight eye and steady hand. After you’ve peeled each potato, rearrange the slices as though you were trying to stick them back together to reform the whole potato. Wedge these bundles into the greased dish randomly and at different angles – treat them as though the potatoes were whole, just pack them tightly into the dish.

Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the rosemary with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the cream comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 5 minutes.

Pour the infused cream over the waiting sweet potato. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and take off the foil.

Coarsely grate the cheese and roughly chop the pecans, then scatter both cheese and nuts over the baked gratin. Return to the oven for a further 15–20 minutes, until the cheese top is bronzed and the sauce is bubbling. Allow to cool and set for 15 minutes before diving in. 


Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 6/8

  • 450g orange curd
  • 300g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 300g self-raising flour 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 oranges

The Essentials 

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 325ml water, 150ml at room temperature, 175ml boiling 


Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Grease a 30 x 20cm pudding tray.

For the batter, beat the butter, 150ml water, 150g of the orange curd, 250g of the sugar, the flour, eggs and grated zest of the oranges until smooth – I do this in a food processor, but a freestanding mixer works ne, as would a wooden spoon and elbow grease. Pour the batter into the prepared tray and refrigerate for an hour.

For the sauce, whisk together the remaining 300g of orange curd with 175ml boiling water and the remaining 50g of sugar with the juice of 1 orange. Pour the sauce over the pudding then bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do bear in mind there is sauce in this pudding, which will stick to the skewer. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before you dig in. 

Recipe from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Purchase here


As I write this introduction, I can’t help but giggle at my mum’s comments about this recipe. When I handed a pie to her, on a blustery autumn day, she dug in and without so much as a thank you said, in her Northern accent,‘oh love, there’s a lot of leek in here’. But that’s the point: lots of leeks, because I love them – especially when they are sweetly caramelised and mixed with the dry cider.

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 4-6 

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets 
  • 400g leeks (about 4) 
  • 400ml dry cider 
  • 100g full-fat crème fraîche
  • 320g packet ready-rolled puff pastry 

The essentials

  • Olive oil, for frying 
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • 50g unsalted butter 


Chop the chicken into 2cm nuggets. Wash and trim the leeks (if not already prepared) and slice into thin discs.

Heat a fairly large saucepan over a high heat and add a glug of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces with a pinch of salt and pepper and fry until all sides are more or less seared. Remove from the pan and put into a bowl, setting aside until needed.

Put the leeks into the same pan with the butter and another pinch of salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the leeks to
very slowly caramelise, stirring occasionally – this will take a good 20 minutes or so. Once the leeks have cooked down, return the chicken to the pan and pour over the cider. Increase the heat to bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Once the filling has cooled slightly, add the crème fraîche and more salt and pepper to taste, and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture between 4–6 ovenproof mugs.

For the pastry top, unwrap the pastry and cut out discs that are just a little bigger than the mugs, and place them over the filling, tucking the excess pastry around the inside edge of the mug. Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up. 



When it comes to frying mushrooms, I’m an avid believer in Julia Child’s method. She says not to overcrowd them in the pan so that they fry rather than steam, so even with the small weight of mushrooms here, it’s best to fry them in a few batches so they don’t go too soggy. The texture of these fried mushrooms is just right in this spicy, creamy sauce. 

Ingredients - serves 1 

  • 200g mixed mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 75ml double cream
  • 2 slices sourdough

The Essentials

  • 40g unsalted butter 
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 

If the mushrooms are a little grubby looking, give them a clean: use a clean, slightly damp cloth to wipe away any grit or dirt. Never wash mushrooms, their texture is like sponge and so will soak in any water and become waterlogged.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a high heat. Slice the mushrooms finely and add one-third of them to the butter with a pinch of salt and pepper. Fry the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until they’re coloured – a good 5 minutes or more. Repeat with the remaining batches of mushrooms then return all of the cooked mushrooms to the pan.

Add the paprika to the pan, stirring it through the mushrooms for just a minute. Mince the garlic and add that along with the cream, and simmer for a few minutes until the mushrooms are coated in a paprika-flecked thick sauce.

Toast the sourdough until crispy, then pile the mushroom stroganoff on top. Season to taste (I like a lot of pepper here) and serve. 


With such reliable jarred varieties available, so many people rarely make their own pesto, but this version just isn’t something you can find in the shops. The Brazil nuts have such a different flavour – obviously more nutty – and seem, in a way, to make the idea of pesto and pasta a much more wholesome affair. 

Ingredients - serves 4 

  • 45g Gruyère
  • 60g Brazil nuts, plus extra to garnish
  • 80g basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 400g lasagne sheets

The Essentials

  • 150ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper 

For the pesto, roughly chop the Gruyère and simply blitz it with the nuts, basil and peeled garlic in a food processor until blended. Then with the processor still running, slowly pour in the olive oil. You should end up with a fairly smooth pesto.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a large pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Smash the lasagne sheets into uneven shards and add to the water. Boil for 9 minutes then drain – though do reserve 50ml of the starchy pasta water.

Return the cooked pasta to the pan and add the pesto. Heat over a medium heat for just a minute, until everything is warmed through. If at this stage the sauce looks a little scant or too thick, splash in some of the reserved water to loosen – though not too much. Serve the pasta with an extra drizzling of olive oil and a few chopped Brazil nuts. 


Spanakopita, the classic Greek pie made with feta and spinach, is undoubtedly hard to compete with. My version here is totally off-piste in terms of flavour, but it is made, somewhat reassuringly, in the same way. And – dare I say it – I think this updated version gives the original a run for its money. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 6

  • 750g butternut squash (about 1 small)
  • 550g baby leaf rocket
  • 180g gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 sheets filo pastry 

The Essentials 

  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • 75g unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a 20cm sandwich tin.

Peel the butternut squash and chop into 2cm chunks, throwing away the seeds and pulp. Put the chunks into a baking tray and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Roast for 45 minutes until softened, then tip into a heatproof mixing bowl to cool.

While the squash roasts, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over a high heat in a large saucepan. Add the rocket – you may need to do this in batches – and stir-fry until completely wilted down. Allow to cool until cold enough to handle, then put into a clean tea towel and squeeze out every last drop of moisture. Add to the roasted squash pieces and mix together. Pull the cheese into small chunks and add to the bowl along with the eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until everything is well incorporated.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over a high heat until melted – don’t let it brown. Unroll the sheets of filo pastry. Paint one sheet with a little melted butter and lay that, buttered-side-up, into the cake tin, allowing the surplus to overlap the sides of the tin. Repeat with the remaining sheets, laying each at a different angle to the next so that the entire tin is covered. Pile the filling into the tin, squashing it down lightly, then fold the surplus pastry up and over it to conceal it entirely. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and crispy.

This is great served warm or cold, but I would recommend you let it cool for 15 minutes or so after baking. That way, the eggs set, the  flavours mingle and everything is improved. You can cut it into small diamond shapes to serve, but I prefer a hearty triangular wedge. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.


The vibrant colour of mixed heritage tomatoes is awesome; there is a whole palette to choose from. I particularly love the green tigers, with their verdant skin and dark green stripes and those tiny little yellow ones with a zingy, sharp flavour.

This tart is gorgeous served slightly warm, but I personally prefer it once it has cooled completely. The flavours just seem to have found one another by the time it has come to room temperature. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 6-8 

  • 320g packet ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 100g soft goat’s cheese
  • 400g mixed-colour heritage tomatoes
  • 70g pitted black olives
  • A few sprigs of thyme 

The Essentials

  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Unroll the pastry onto a baking sheet, and with a sharp knife score a 1cm margin around the edge of the pastry – don’t cut all the way through, but use enough pressure so that the score line is visible.

Crumble or spread the goat’s cheese over the pastry, keeping it within the margin. Slice the tomatoes fairly finely – if you don’t have a really sharp chef’s knife, a serrated knife is always a good option. Arrange the tomato slices, as higgledy-piggledy as possible, on top of the goat’s cheese and sprinkle over a pinch of salt and pepper. Roughly chop the olives and scatter them over the top of the tomatoes along with the thyme.

Bake the tart in the oven for 25–35 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up around the tomatoes and is a light golden brown. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.


Thyme is a personal favourite, but sprigs of fresh oregano are just as beautiful. Tarragon or rosemary are very interesting, but not to everyone’s taste; the choice is yours. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.


I once ran away to Madrid where I fell in love. My love affair was with this dish. I ate it every day for brunch, and I make it so often now.The beauty of it is not only its simplicity, but also that it’s a great recipe to experiment with – adding chorizo or pancetta in place of the sausage works particularly well. Traditionally this is made with potatoes, but this version is a little lighter on the carbs. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 2 

  • 3 best-quality sausages
  • 2 small bell peppers (I use red and yellow)
  • 4 spring onions
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g Manchego cheese

The Essentials

  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 


Slice the sausages into 1cm chunks. Deseed the peppers and slice them finely, chop the spring onions into 1cm pieces and set aside until needed.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage chunks, turn the heat down to medium and fry for a good few minutes until cooked through, stirring them often. Add the peppers and spring onions and fry for a minute or so, just until softened.

Hold the eggs about 30cm above the pan and crack them open, allowing the insides to tumble and crash into the pan. Leave the eggs to fry for 2 minutes or so, until they are only just set. Grate the cheese and scatter it on top, then season to taste. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here



Lemon drizzle cake is one of those cakes that seems to have always been around. There are countless recipes, each with their own twist, but when baked with rosemary it is particularly delicious. I first tried this combination at the E5 Bakehouse in London – theirs was made with polenta – and I just had to make a version of my own.

Because this is made with ground almonds, it’s gluten-free, too. And in the event that there are leftovers (as if!), this will last a good week or so in an airtight tin. 

Helen Cathcart 

Ingredients - serves 8 

  • 6 large eggs
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 3 large lemons
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary

The Essentials

  • 50ml water 


Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3. Grease and line with baking paper a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin. 

Separate 5 of the eggs placing the whites into one bowl and the yolks into another. Put the remaining whole egg into the bowl with the yolks and add 300g of the sugar and the zest of all 3 lemons. Whisk the yolks and sugar until the sugar more or less dissolves into the yolks, then beat in the almonds. This will be an almost impossibly thick batter, but that is normal.

Using a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites to fairly stiff peaks. Scoop one third of the egg white into the yolk mixture and beat vigorously to slacken. Gently fold the remaining egg white into the batter using a spatula or large metal spoon, being careful not to deflate the whites. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45–50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out fairly clean – there may be the odd moist crumb on there.

While the cake bakes, make the syrup. Put the remaining sugar into a saucepan with the juice of all 3 lemons, the water and the rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil for 1 minute, then set aside until the cake is baked.

As soon as the baked cake comes out of the oven, stab the cake repeatedly with a skewer, then pour the syrup over the top and leave it to soak in while the cake cools completely, in the tin. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here


I adore the, somewhat contradictory, delicate boldness of smoked fish. A newcomer might suspect that the delicate flesh wouldn’t take the flavour, but we all know that it just works. That gentle smokiness pairs so well with the paprika-spiked chorizo. The tender leeks and slightly startling bite from the capers takes the flavour of this dish – which is essentially a broth – even further. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 2-4

  • 300g raw chorizo sausage
  • 2 large leeks
  • 2 large fillets smoked haddock
  • 500ml good-quality chicken stock
  • 2tbsp non-pareil capers

The Essentials 

  • sea salt flakes
  • coarse black pepper 


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Slice the chorizo into 5mm slices. Slice the leeks into 1cm discs and place to one side until needed.

Heat a heavy, shallow casserole – one you have a lid for – over a high heat and add the chorizo. Fry the pieces, stirring every few seconds, until the chorizo starts to leak out its orange, spicy oil. Once it does, add the leeks to the pan and fry for 1 minute. Add the stock with a pinch of salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes in the oven – if you don’t have a lid, a piece of foil tightly wrapped around the pan should be ok.

After 40 minutes, uncover the pan and lay the haddock fillets on top. Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 10–12 minutes, until the haddock is cooked through. Flake the haddock into the broth beneath, scatter over the capers, check the seasoning – though I find this to be balanced enough – and finally, serve. 


I love how mouth-puckering and sharp apricots are; they’re pretty much tiny little spheres of punchiness and tang. But sweeten them with a good glug of amaretto (almonds are the perfect counterpart) and top with a caramelised brown-sugar meringue and you have a simple, lavish dessert.

When picking your apricots, make sure they are firm and a rich, orangey gold. If they are insipid in colour, they’re bound to be insipid in taste. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 4

  • 12 fresh apricots
  • 90ml amaretto liqueur
  • 195g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 50g flaked almonds, plus extra to scatter

The essentials

  • 60g unsalted butter 


Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.

Halve the apricots, remove their stones and place them cut- side up in a medium-sized roasting dish. Cut the butter into small dice and sprinkle it over the apricots. Sprinkle over the liqueur and 20g of the sugar and bake for 20–25 minutes, until the apricots soften and just start to colour very slightly.

While the apricots roast, make the meringue. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time while whisking constantly until you have a very thick, glossy meringue. I do this on high speed in my freestanding electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, but it can be done just as easily with a handheld electric mixer. Fold the flaked almonds into the meringue, being careful not to de ate the mixture.

Once the apricots have roasted, randomly splodge the meringue over the top of them and sprinkle over more almonds, then return to the oven for a further 15–20 minutes, until the meringue is coloured and slightly crispy on top, a golden, satin matte. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here


The idea of coating chicken in breakfast cereal may seem fairly childish, but actually the results are so pleasing. And besides, in America they use cornflakes a lot for coating chicken, so I refuse to be embarrassed by this recipe. With the pungent and piquant dip, this is such a comforting treat. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 4

  • 600g chicken mini breast fillets (or just cut 600g chicken breasts into smaller chunks)
  • 300g buttermilk
  • 150g Rice Krispies cereal
  • 220g Stilton cheese, at room temperature
  • 100g Sriracha

The essentials

  • Sea salt flakes
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Oil, for frying 

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken pieces with 100g of the buttermilk so that each piece is very well coated. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour – or leave it overnight if you can, as the chicken will then be incredibly tender.

Crush the Rice Krispies in a mixing bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the chicken, mixing well, then dredge each piece of chicken through the Rice Krispies until very well coated.

Pour 1cm (depth) of oil into a deep-sided frying or sauté pan and heat over a medium–high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. If they darken a little too quickly, your oil is too hot. Place the cooked pieces onto a plate lined with a couple of layers of kitchen paper to drain off the excess grease.

For the sauce, put the remaining buttermilk into a food processor with the Stilton and Sriracha and blitz to a smooth dip.

Allow the chicken pieces to cool just until you can manage to gobble them up without burning your mouth, then serve with the sauce for dipping into. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here


A slow-roasted leg of lamb will always earn you a few gasps of surprise from whoever witnesses its unveiling – let’s face it, we cooks just long to impress! The flavour here not only comes from that slow-cooking process but also the gutsy marinade of anchovies, garlic and mint; every single flake of lamb is gorgeous. The potatoes, sitting snuggly under the lamb, catch all of the meat’s juices as it roasts and so become incredibly tender. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 4-6

  • 100g jar anchovies in olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon mint sauce
  • 2kg leg of lamb
  • 6 medium Maris Piper potatoes 

The essentials 

  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 


Make a marinade for the lamb by blitzing the anchovies and the oil they came in, with the peeled garlic cloves and
the mint sauce to a smooth paste in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor you could make the paste using a sharp knife and bold ambition. Stir in 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

With a sharp knife, stab the lamb leg repeatedly all over – you need as many deep cuts as possible, without completely massacring the meat. Spread the paste over the entire surface of the meat, working it well into the cuts. Refrigerate for an hour, or until required.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas mark 3 and remove the lamb from the fridge 1 hour before it goes into the oven to bring it up to room temperature.

Slice the unpeeled potatoes as nely as possible – I use a mandolin – and arrange them in layers in a deep-sided roasting dish, seasoning with a very small pinch of salt and pepper every couple of layers. Place the lamb on top of the potato slices. Cover with a couple of sheets of foil, ensuring you seal it extremely well. Roast in the oven for 4 1⁄2 hours.

Remove the tray from the oven and increase the heat to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7. Remove the foil and baste the lamb with some of the juices from the roasting tin. Put everything back into the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove the lamb from the oven, transfer it to a plate, cover it with foil and leave to rest. Return the potatoes to the oven for a nal 25–30 minutes, until slightly crispy around the edges. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.


On one of my particularly greedy afternoons, I was nibbling on a batch of – admittedly, shop-bought – coconut macarons, and thought they were a little dry. I raided the fridge and found cream cheese and lime curd, so I put them both to good use. The idea for this came instantly, and the next day I had to get down to work. The trick to an utterly toothsome macaroon base is to combine the coconut with melted marshmallows before baking. And since marshmallows are a great setting agent, I used them for the filling, too, so there is no need to bake that. 

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 10 

  • 360g white mini marshmallows
  • 300g desiccated coconut
  • 300g good-quality lime curd
  • 450g full-fat cream cheese
  • Zest of 1 lime 


Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin.

For the coconut macaroon base, put 180g of the marshmallows into a heatproof bowl with 1 tablespoon of water. Set over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until the marshmallows melt into a thick goo. Add the coconut – still over the heat – and stir until well coated in the marshmallow melt. Tip into the cake tin and press it over the base and up the sides. I find it far easier when I grease my hands with a little oil, and I prefer a more rustic, uneven edge (see picture). Bake the base in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. This will puff up a little, so as soon as it comes out of the oven, press it down gently to compact it. Allow to cool.

For the filling, repeat the marshmallow melting process with the remaining 180g marshmallows and another tablespoon of water. Once melted, remove from the heat and beat in the lime curd, then beat in the cream cheese – it’s easier to do this with a whisk but don’t whisk to aerate, just vigorously mix until smooth. Pour the lling into the cooled coconut base and refrigerate overnight. Don’t be impatiently prodding this or prematurely slicing it; just forget about it until it sets completely. Sprinkle over the lime zest before serving. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.


Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - makes 8-10 portions

  • 350g jumbo rolled oats
  • 180g maple syrup
  • 180g crunchy peanut butter
  • 150g dried apricots
  • 100g dark chocolate chips 


Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas mark 2.

Place the oats in a large mixing bowl. In a saucepan stir together the maple syrup and peanut butter over a medium heat, until they mix together and become looser. Pour the maple syrup and peanut butter mixture over the oats and stir until all of the oats are covered – the mixture will clump together into little nuggets, and that’s exactly what you are looking for.

Scatter the mixture over a large baking sheet – you may need to do this on two baking sheets – and allow to dry out in the oven for 45 minutes, shaking the trays to mix everything up halfway through so that the nuggets colour evenly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and crisp on the baking sheets.

Once cool, chop the apricots into small chunks and toss them into the granola with the chocolate chips and stir through to evenly distribute them. Store in an airtight tub or jar where it will last for a good five or six weeks. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.



Once of my favourite midweek treats is a bowlful of gorgeously golden gnocchi nuggets. I have dabbled in making my own gnocchi – I love sweet potato and pumpkin varieties – but the packet version is such a handy weapon in the kitchen armoury, offering almost instant gratification. Ordinarily you boil the gnocchi, similar to pasta, but when fried in butter it becomes crispy on the outside and so tender in the middle.To retain that crispness, I don’t want the sauce here to be so thin that it makes the gnocchi soggy; it should be intensely flavoured and thick enough to just coat everything. 

 Helen Cathcart

Helen Cathcart

Ingredients - serves 2-4

  • 2 banana shallots
  • 300g mixed mushrooms
  • About 8 sage leaves 
  • 100g dry white wine 
  • 400g gnocchi

The essentials 

  • 100g butter
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • Olive oil 


Finely chop the shallots and add them, with the butter, to a large frying pan set over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and reduce the heat to medium-low, frying the shallots until softened – a good 15 minutes should do it. Give the pan a stir every once in a while to stop the shallots catching.

Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms thinly and roughly chop half of the sage. When the shallots are softened, increase the heat to high and throw in the mushrooms. Stir-fry them for a couple of minutes until they start to soften, then add the sage and pour in the wine. Allow the wine to bubble and reduce so it coats the mushrooms, but isn’t really wet enough to be a sauce. Check the seasoning – probably needs pepper and a touch more salt – then remove from the pan.

Clean the pan and return it to a medium heat then add the remaining 50g butter. Once the butter melts add the gnocchi and fry, without stirring or tossing, for 2 or 3 minutes until golden brown. Then toss about in the pan and fry for a few minutes more. The gnocchi should be slightly crispy so it clatters quietly and invitingly when moved. Return the mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat the gnocchi.

To garnish, heat at least 3 tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan and allow it to get hot then add the remaining sage leaves, frying them for just a minute, maybe less, until crispy. Remove from the pan and blot on a piece of kitchen paper.

Serve generous, heaping platefuls of the gnocchi with a crispy sage leaf or two. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.