Nigel slater’s small dishes to mix and match life and style the guardian apple pie recipe from scratch with lattice

I just want something good to eat. I honestly don’t mind if its two or three small dishes from which to pick and choose or a single plate of food. The blurred lines of how we eat are far more appealing to me than the strict “here is your main course and this is its accompaniment” way of sustaining ourselves. Relaxed food produces more relaxed dinner and I’m all for that. Formality isn’t for me.

I am increasingly putting more than one dish on the table at the same time. Cauliflower cheese with a side dish of fried mushrooms and pancetta; grilled aubergines and feta with a dish of root vegetable dauphinoise; a bowl of creamed chickpeas and red pepper with a plate of cold sliced lamb. Recipes that will sit comfortably as either principal dish or for us to pick at as we please are some of the most useful I have in my kitchen.


Here is a collection of the latest. Oyster mushrooms, thyme and pancetta

I have used king oyster mushrooms for this, but any decent-sized, fleshy mushroom will work.Black pepper the thickness to which you slice them is crucial. Too thin and your supper will lack substance. This makes a good light lunch, and a cracking side dish for cauliflower cheese.

Tear the pancetta into short pieces. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan till golden, moving them regularly round the pan so they colour evenly. Peel and very finely slice the garlic.

Slice the oyster mushrooms lengthways into thick pieces, about three or four per mushroom. Melt the butter in a shallow pan. As it starts to froth, add the garlic and the 1 tsp of thyme leaves, then, when the garlic is golden, add the pancetta. When the pancetta starts to crisp, turn, cook for a minute or two longer, then remove it along with the garlic and set aside. Add the hazelnuts to the pancetta.

Lay the mushrooms in the pan, together with a little more butter if necessary. Sprinkle the mushrooms with the 1 tbsp of thyme leaves and a little salt and cook till light golden brown.Black pepper remove the mushrooms to a serving dish, scatter over the pancetta, garlic and hazelnuts and serve. Grilled aubergine with feta and yogurt

I prefer, when griddling aubergines, to cook them without oiling them, then I put them straight into seasoned olive oil. They emerge, 20 minutes later, luscious and silkily soft. (and you have avoided filling your kitchen with smoke.) this way, with the grilled aubergines nestling in a thick dressing of minted yogurt and feta cheese, it is something I put on the table with other dishes (a lentil and onion salad, stuffed tomatoes), although it can also work as a (light) main course with warm flatbread.

Get a griddle pan hot. Cut the aubergines lengthways into 1cm thick slices, then place them on the griddle and let them cook, watching their progress carefully, until they are soft and nicely browned.

Pour the olive oil into a mixing bowl and season it with a little salt and black pepper. As each piece of aubergine comes from the griddle pan, push it down into the olive oil, then set aside while you make the dressing.Black pepper

Put the yogurt in a medium sized bowl, finely chop the mint leaves and add them to the yogurt. Roughly chop the parsley, leaving the smaller, younger leaves whole if you wish, then stir them into the yogurt with a little ground black pepper. Crumble the feta cheese into small pieces and fold into the minted yogurt.

Spoon the feta dressing on to a serving dish. Lay the aubergines on top of the dressing, then add the sliced pickled onions or chillies, cut into segments or thin rounds as you wish. Scatter over a few whole, small mint leaves, then spoon over a little of the aubergine olive oil marinade. Chopped winter salad with slow-cooked sausages

A crisp and colourful salad, high on crunch, with a dressing made from the pan juices and fat from a batch of sausages, cooked slowly, so their skins take on a glossy, almost molasses-like stickiness.

Put the sausages in a frying pan with a little oil or fat and let them cook slowly over a low heat.Serving dish turn them as they colour, keeping the heat low, so they take on a sticky patina.

Cut the cauliflower into florettes, then into thin slices and place them in a bowl. Slice the radishes in half lengthways. Cut the carrots into long thin shavings with a vegetable peeler, then add to the cauliflower together with the radishes.

Finely shred the cabbage and combine with the vegetables. Pick the leaves from the parsley, dropping them into the vegetables as you go. Thinly slice the spring onions and the apple, then toss with the other ingredients.

Season the vinegar with salt and pepper. Remove the sausages from the pan and cut into thick slices then toss with the slices of vegetables and herbs. Pour the vinegar into the hot pan and let it bubble with the sausage fat for a few seconds then pour over the raw vegetables and sausages, toss lightly and serve. Roast red pepper and chickpea dip

A hummus of sorts. (I am uncomfortable with calling anything by that name that contains anything other than chickpeas, garlic, lemon and oil.) I do think it is worth skinning the chickpeas (I know, I know) but once you have done so, you may never look back.Serving dish you can do it painstakingly, pea by pea or simply rub them together in your palms, a handful at a time. Either way will result in a smoother mash. Your call.

I have been known to sit with this and a pile of warm turkish flatbread, but it is also a fine side dish for cold roast meats, grilled aubergines, and my favourite –deep-fried artichokes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Slice the peppers in half lengthways, remove the seeds then place the halved fruit in a roasting tin. Trickle a little olive oil over the peppers, just enough to wet them, then set the unpeeled garlic cloves among them. Bake for 40 minutes or until the peppers are soft and the skin somewhat blackened. Remove from the oven, then peel away their outer skins. Reserve any juices in the roasting tin.

Open the tins of chickpeas, drain and rinse them. Pop the chickpeas from their skins if you wish, then tip the peas into a saucepan, add the thyme and bay leaves and cover with water.Black pepper bring to the boil, lower the heat then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the chickpeas, reserve a handful for later, then tip the rest into the bowl of a food processor with the roasted, skinned peppers. Pull the thyme leaves from their stalks and add them to the peppers, discarding the stalks and the bay leaves. Pop the roasted garlic from its skin and add to the bowl.

Process the peppers, garlic and chickpeas to a smooth cream. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Scoop the paste out into a serving dish, making a hollow in the centre with the back of a spoon.

Heat the reserved chickpeas in a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook for a few minutes till they start to turn gold. Pour a little olive oil over the paste, letting it trickle into the hollow, scatter the warm chickpeas over the surface, then dust lightly with the paprika. Sweet potato loaf, curry leaf and mustard cream

Once it leaves the oven, it is worth resting this dish for a good 20-30 minutes in a warm place, during which time much of the cream sauce is absorbed by the sweet potato.Serving dish it makes the dish firmer, more like a loaf than a gratin and, I think, is better for it. I have served this as a principal dish, but it needs a hefty partner – a winter salad of cabbage and walnuts perhaps, or slices of pork pie. I feel it is equally good as part of a light lunch as it is a side dish for a rib-eye steak.

Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice them thinly, no thicker than a pound coin. Cut the potatoes so they will snugly fit into the loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Pour the cream into a jug then stir in a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. Add the dried chilli flakes, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Grind the coriander seeds to a coarse powder, then add to the cream.

Place slices of sweet potato in the dish or tins, pouring in a little of the spiced cream between each layer. Cover the tin with foil, place a heavy weight on the foil, then bake for 1 hour or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Remove the tin from the oven and leave to settle, still weighted, for a good 25 minutes.Serving dish either serve from the dish, or if you have used loaf tins run a palette knife round the sides of the tin, then upturn on to a serving dish. Slice and serve.