With some leftovers, new tricks and a little ingenuity a dish can look and feel fancy, despite its cheaper ingredients. Whether adding some lavishness to lunchtime, or hosting a chichi dinner, here are 11 top chefs' recommendations for recipes that are budget-friendly and uncompromisingly luxurious.
Pasta with prawn sauce
Asimakis Chaniotis, executive chef at Pied à Terre, London, uses around 10 prawn heads for pasta for two. Sweat down onion and garlic with an aniseed-y alcohol like ouzo or wine, then add tomatoes and simmer for an hour. I use a stick blender and pulse, rather than puree, to crush the heads a bit. To make it really fancy, top with herring or trout eggs, then a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Chickpea and chorizo stew
This stew was devised for the tiny shop we used to have in Exmouth Market. With only a single electric ring to cook on, we wanted a simple but tasty and hearty dish. It's quick and easy to make, yet it feels indulgent and rich, and is perfect as we enter the colder months.
Spaghetti with mussels
Cook spaghetti in well-salted water – it's worth investing in good pasta because it doesn't cost that much more. Cook a bit of garlic and chilli in a pan, then a second later, the mussels. Add a couple of spoonfuls of a tomato sauce, just enough to make the sauce blush. This is messy and fun, and has as much refinement of flavour as pasta with lobster or clams, but it's cheap as FRIES.
Baharat-spiced aubergine parmigiana
Make a tomato sauce with garlic, tomato, sugar and baharat, which is a spice mix that packs quite a punch. Layer the aubergine and tomato sauce, your cheese of choice, and then sprinkle it with parmesan. If you want to make it more substantial, you could add in lasagne sheets. Then you just roast it.
Ham hock congee pie
You can make congee from scratch using any rice, but I would normally use short grain rice. Put a ham hock and 150g rice in a pot with water or stock. Slow cook it for maybe an hour and a half, whisking it to make sure that the rice grain is broken down. Transfer it to an ovenproof bowl and top with puff pastry, egg-washing it, then pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.
Fry a bit of garlic, chilli and any spice mix you like, for a couple of minutes, then add a spoonful of harissa and a tin of chickpeas with its liquor. Cook for about 10 minutes, and you get this spicy, umami, delicious chickpea stew. You can add whatever you have in the fridge, like leftover meat. While hot, pour it on top of the hummus. Top it with a soft-boiled egg, a couple of pickles and some good toasted bread. It’s warm, wintry, and the chickpeas get velvety and smooth.
Did you like these ideas?
What are your at-home-luxury-dishes? Want to share?