wHow does he need truffle and caviar? With a few leftovers, new tricks and a little ingenuity, a dish can look and feel amazing, despite its cheaper ingredients. Whether you’re adding some extravagance to lunchtime, or hosting a chichi dinner, here are 11 top chef recommendations for recipes that are budget-friendly and relentlessly luxurious.
Pasta with shrimp sauce
Asimakis Chaniotis, Executive Chef at Pied a TerreLondon
When we cook prawns in the restaurant or at home, I always keep the heads, with a little bit of the prawn meat – I put them in a box in the freezer. For two people, I’ll use about 10 shrimp heads. Soak the onions and garlic, then add the shrimp heads. Caramelize it a bit and then remove it with either anise seed alcohol like ouzo, or you can use wine. Reduce it, then add the tomatoes and simmer for half an hour. I use a hand blender and blend instead of puree to crush the heads a bit. Simmer for another two minutes, then pass them through a sieve, pressing the heads for maximum flavor, and discard the skins. To make it really fancy, top it with trout eggs or trout – much cheaper than caviar – and maybe some basil, then lemon juice or lime juice.
Chickpea and chorizo stew
Monica LintonBrindisa Founder, London
This soup was made for the little shop we used to have in Exmouth Market in central London. With only one electric cooking ring, we wanted a dish that was simple, yet flavorful and hearty. It’s quick and easy to make, yet feels comforting and rich, perfect as the colder months roll in. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan, add 200g of coarsely chopped chorizo, 200g of chopped pancetta and a finely chopped onion, then sauté for three or four minutes. Add a cup of red wine, 400ml of sofrito sauce and 400ml of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for five minutes. Add two 660g jars of chickpeas, two crushed garlic cloves and two tablespoons of fresh oregano, and simmer for another five minutes. Season to taste, then eat the good bread.
Spaghetti with mussels
Jacob KennedyAnd the chef sponsor From Good luck and God bless youLondon
This has the luster of a really good seafood pasta, because he is The seafood pasta is really good. I am amazed at how cheap mussels can be when other seafood is so expensive. You can choose to make it with or without tomatoes; I like to use a little cook the pasta in well salted water – not salty like the sea but maybe salty like tears. It’s worth investing in good pasta because it doesn’t cost much. Cook a little garlic and chili in a skillet, and then, a second later, mussels. Add a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, just enough to make the sauce blush. Stir the pasta with the mussels and cook them all together, adding some good olive oil at the end. You could add a little more parsley or basil, but I wouldn’t. This is messy and fun, and has as much flavor as noodles with lobster or oysters, but it’s as cheap as potato chips.
Flatbreads with toppings
Roberta Hall MacaronChef Patron of The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh
You can decorate homemade flatbread as an appetizer or as a snack to make it look great. Flatbreads are quick and easy to make, with bread flour, dried yeast, water, yogurt, sugar, and salt. Here are some topping ideas: You can easily make ricotta at home using only milk, cream, lemon juice, and salt. Make a pipette – chop the onion and pepper and sweat them with grated garlic. Top with a layer of ricotta cheese, pipered, roasted zucchini and thinly sliced salted zucchini, then some chopped toasted hazelnuts. Another option is to make a smoked mackerel pâté – mix fish fillets with some fresh cream, lemon juice and chives or dill. Put that on flatbread, then finish it off with various pickled vegetables for a nice bright texture—cucumber, radish, and fennel work well—and you can add a little fresh apple, too. To make an easy pickle, you only need vinegar, water, sugar and a pinch of salt, and you can mix it with mustard seeds or peppercorns. It makes you feel as if you’re doing something special at home, but it’s really simple.
Spices marinated eggplant parmigiana
Helen Graham, Executive Chef at BubalaLondon
Finely chop the eggplant—one eggplant feeds two—then fry until crispy. Make a tomato sauce with garlic, tomatoes, a little sugar, and allspice, a spice blend that’s full of holes. Layer with eggplant and tomato sauce, the cheese of your choice, then sprinkle with Parmesan (or Grana Padano to keep costs down), some bread crumbs, which could be just some stale bread, grated, and olive oil. If you want to make it more substantial, you can add lasagna sheets. Then just smear it. It makes a really nice centerpiece, one that tastes more than the sum of its parts.
Pea and mint pancakes with garlic mayonnaise
Bettina Campolucci Bordiauthor Celebrate: vegan recipes for All Occasions
You can do this as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre, and it looks really nice on a plate, but it’s really cheap – frozen peas, potatoes, onions, and some mint. Boil and mash about 250g of potatoes and caramelize one red onion or some shallots. Put 500 grams of peas in a blender or puree it, then mix it with mashed potatoes, onions, a little chickpea flour and some mint, and shape it into small patties. If you want to make it extra fancy, you can put it out—form it between two spoons—and then fry it. If you want to be really real, you can make mayonnaise out of aquafaba—chickpea water—which you might have saved from another recipe. Add some grated garlic to the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Tagliatelle with chicken in creamy sauce
Katlejo Mlambo, chef at KuduLondon
Being French trained, I am a huge fan of butter and cream, and they seem luxurious. The pasta – at the moment being my favorite – with the creamy sauce becomes a white canvas that allows you to layer on the flavours. Sauté the garlic, ginger and onion, then add about 200ml of cream, some mozzarella, lemon juice and some lemon zest to give it a little spiciness. I like grilled chicken thighs, which have more flavor and don’t dry out as quickly as breasts. Marinate them in a quick marinade—olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger—and roast. I like generous slices, otherwise it might look like a mess in the bowl. Combine it all together, then top it off with some freshly chopped cilantro and another squeeze of lime juice, then Parmesan to make it look more expensive, or any hard cheese that’s cheaper.
Hammock congee pie
Erchen Chang, Bao Co-Founder ChefLondon
Congee—similar to risotto, but more liquid—is usually a cheap and comforting dish, but by placing puff pastry on top and washing it down with eggs, it suddenly turns into something different. You can make congee from scratch using any rice, but I usually use short grain rice. Put a pork shank – one joint will suffice – and 150 g of rice in a saucepan with water or broth. I’ll put in a 1-inch piece of ginger for flavor, so you can easily pick it up afterwards. Cook slowly for about an hour and a half, whisking to make sure the rice grains are broken up. Once the pork is cooked, remove it and shred it, then return it to the congee. You can add different ingredients – for example, green onions, or whatever vegetables are in the fridge. I like to add fermented mustard greens – something to give it that tartness. Transfer to an oven bowl and place the puff pastry on top, brush with an egg, and place in the oven for 20 minutes. You can prepare a large portion to put aside in the fridge or freezer for later use, then put the pie dough on top and pop it in the oven.
Mushrooms on toast
Paul Ainsworth, Head Chef Patron Paul Ainsworth at no 6, Cornwall
As a kid we didn’t go to fancy restaurants so if my dad treated us it would be something like Beefeater. I always order the garlic mushrooms on toast, and this is a deluxe version. You can get farmed “wild” mushrooms in supermarkets, made from mushrooms like oyster mushrooms and shimeji. Grab a loaf from the baker’s and slice it, then rub it with olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and toast—if you have a charcoal skillet, that’s even better. Mushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic, fresh parsley and shallots. You can add a touch of fresh cream until it’s completely creamy. Place on toast, then top with a hard-boiled egg, good olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. When you cut the hard-boiled egg, the yolk will season the dish. You just got textures, crunches, and a very inexpensive dish, but you look real.
Chris Leach, Co-Founding Chef of Manteca, London
This is a dish from Umbria in northern Italy, using pork sausage. Use any regular pork sausage – as opposed to something like ham and apple – and crunch it open and cook it in a skillet with a little crushed garlic and a splash of white wine, then add about 100ml of double cream. Finish with grated Parmesan or Grana Padano and serve with any short pasta, such as rigatoni or penne. The cream makes it feel more luxurious. We offer a restaurant version of this with black truffles, but you can use cheaper truffle oil. Just a little drop in cream, white wine and sausage brings out the pig.
They were for youchef Palapapa patron, London
This is one of my favorite things to eat – my mom used to make it when we were kids. Take two or three tablespoons of chickpeas and spread them around a plate. Sauté a little garlic, hot pepper and any spice mix you like – I like Ras El Hanout – for a few minutes, then add a spoonful of harissa and a can of chickpeas with the liquor. Cook for about 10 minutes, and you will have a delicious spicy chickpea broth. You can add whatever you have in the fridge, like leftover meat. While hot, pour it over the chickpeas. Top with a hard-boiled egg, a couple of pickles, and some good toast. It’s warm, wintry, and the chickpeas get velvety and smooth.