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Chefs reveal the simple pleasures they couldn’t live without…

We asked some of our favourite cooks, chefs and food writers to wax lyrical about the simple foods they can’t live without. From bubbling melted cheese on toast to juicy slow-roasted tomatoes, their answers are guaranteed to make your stomach rumble

Words: Kayleigh Rattle

Fish, chips and lots of vinager

I have so many simple food pleasures – good food doesn’t have to be difficult! In fact, I often get the most pleasure from eating something utterly uncomplicated. From fish and chips, sodden with vinegar, eaten on the beach at the end of a warm summer’s day to a thick slice of sourdough slathered in salted butter and thick honey on a chilly winter morning, it all comes down to where I am, and what the occasion and season is. I also adore nothing more than a massive bowl of salted popcorn, glistening with butter, when I’m watching a film.” Rosie Birkett, food writer and stylist, rosiebirkett.com

Proper homemade dhal

Dhal is a simple necessity in my house; if you were to peek into my larder you’d see a whole rainbow of pulses. Madhur Jaffrey called dhal ‘life-saving’ and I can see why – it’s eaten in every home across India, whether you’re a prince or a pauper. A packet of lentils lends itself to endless possibilities. I’ve recently taken to cooking them with fried onions, dried mint, cumin and dried lime, finished with a dollop of saffron yoghurt and a medium boiled egg, plus handfuls of fresh dill, mint and parsley – it’s simply bliss in a bowl.” – Ravinder Bhogal, chef patron of Jikoni, jikonilondon.com

Broad beans with oil and garlic

One of my favourite quick dinners to make at home is broad beans with oil, plenty of crushed garlic, water to steam, and salt and pepper to season. I love meaty, rich broad beans and we get through tonnes of them at Belmond Le Manoir! I also love a cheese soufflé or boeuf bourguignon -– both are heady and rustic.” – Raymond Blanc, Belmond le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, belmond.com

Tea and biscuits

I always start my day with a strong cup of tea and some digestive biscuits – it has been my breakfast since college days. I just can’t do without it in the mornings!” – Chetna Makan, author of Chetna’s Healthy Indian (£20, Mitchell Beazley)

Anything on toast
“I couldn’t survive a week without toast – it’s such a quick, cheap, versatile food. I remember eating six slices of barely warm cheap white bread, butter and Marmite every break time as a hollow-legged teenager and, though these days I prefer sourdough, the smell of Fine Lady still gets me every time I walk past a caff. Butter’s still best, but almost anything goes on toast for me; tinned sardines, sautéed greens with lots of garlic and olive oil, leftovers from the Sunday roast… and of course, baked beans and cheese. Can’t beat it.” – Felicity Cloake, food writer and author of Completely Perfect (£12.99, Fig Tree)

Home-grown tomatoes on toast

When I used to work at a hotel I would make tomatoes on toast after cooking the guests’ breakfast. Now, my daughter and I enjoy eating tomatoes fresh from our back garden. I work during the week, so on a Sunday it’s a real treat for me to wake up early, pop the oven on to 120˚C, slice the tomatoes in half, add a drizzle of rapeseed oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and maybe a sprinkling of fresh thyme from the garden. I then pop them into the oven to sit for a couple of hours before all the family come downstairs. Having the oven at 120˚C almost dries the tomatoes out, which makes their flavour super intense and slightly sweet. I toast local sourdough, smear on fresh local butter and watch it seep into the bread like a sponge, then I pile the tomatoes on top.” – Richard Bainbridge, chef owner of Benedicts restaurant, restaurantbenedicts.com

Cheese on toast

I like simple food, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. My go-to fix has got to be cheese on toast – I just love the stuff! I like using either sourdough or crusty white bread, cut thick. The cheese needs to be a good mature Cheddar with a bit of a bite – being from Cornwall I tend to use Davidstow – and it needs to be grilled to the point that it’s bubbling and beginning to colour. Sometimes, for a change, I’ll add some finely chopped onion, a touch of Marmite or a sprinkling of curry powder. In fact, I think I might have to go and make one right now...” Nathan Outlaw, chef and restaurateur, nathan-outlaw.com

Spicy cheese toastie

A cheese toastie has got to be my favourite midnight snack. It’s so easy to make – just mix together chopped chicken tikka, 4 diced green chillies, a red onion, lots of mature Cheddar and lay on buttered wholemeal bread along with chutney or ketchup. Place in a sandwich toaster or under the grill and cook until it’s golden and crisp on the outside and the cheese has melted on the inside.” – Vivek Singh, chef and restaurateur, viveksingh.co.uk

A perfectly-made cheeseburger

Having grown up in California, I love a juicy cheeseburger. Not just any burger though; it has to be made with good quality 5% fat beef patties. It also needs to be loaded with hot, gooey Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, and dripping with ketchup or mayonnaise, burger sauce and mustard – all within a soft, buttered toasted brioche bun.” Dan Toombs, author of The Curry Guy (£12.99, Quadrille)

Buttered sweetcorn

There’s nothing quite like the taste of a homegrown, just picked sweet corn. I’ll set a big pan of salted water to boil then dash out to the veg patch, pluck a sweet corn from a row of plants, scurry back to the kitchen, stripping the papery layers from the cob as I go, then plunge it straight into the boiling water. Three minutes later, I’ll slather it with butter and tuck in. Honestly, there’s no feeling quite like the satisfaction of eating home-grown vegetables within minutes of picking.” Kathy Slack, food writer and supper club host, glutsandgluttony.com

Dippy egg and soldiers

I’m such a toast fiend! Left to my own devices, I’d probably eat toast for most meals. Toasted fancy sourdough, toasted cheap white, toasted rye: I love it all. While all toast is good toast in my opinion, it has to be said that there’s really no greater pleasure in life than bursting the golden yolk of a dippy egg with a well-buttered toast soldier.Ella Risbridger, author of Midnight Chicken (£22, Bloomsbury)

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