Classic Elizabeth David recipes (2024)

Ragu: chosen by Jamie Oliver

The Elizabeth David recipe that I love and remember the most is the delicious ragu from her Italian Food book. It's just so different from all the traditional Bolognese sauces we're used to, but I actually think it's loads better. Using chicken livers to give a lovely earthy base to the sauce is genius, and I seem to remember she also did a variation with veal, which surprised me, but really works. There's butter in there instead of olive oil, which would mortify a few Italian nonnas, and also ham, but it's a fascinating way of recreating a classic sauce. All through my career, I've been inspired by female cooks – Rose and Ruth at the River Cafe, of course; Stephanie Alexander, Alice Waters, Delia – and Elizabeth David is up there with the best.

From Italian Food
This is the true name of the Bolognese sauce which, in one form or another, has travelled round the world. In Bologna it is served mainly with lasagne verdi, but it can go with many other kinds of pasta. The ingredients to make enough sauce for six generous helpings are 8oz [225g] lean minced beef, 4oz [115g] of chicken livers, 3oz [85g] of uncooked ham, both fat and lean, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 small piece of celery, 3 tablespoonfuls of concentrated tomato purée, 1 wineglassful of white wine, 2 wineglassfuls of stock or water, butter, salt and pepper, nutmeg.

Cut the bacon or ham into very small pieces and brown them gently in a small saucepan in about ½oz [15g] of butter. Add the onion, the carrot, and the celery, all finely chopped. When they have browned, put in the raw minced beef, and then turn it over and over so that it all browns evenly. Now add the chopped chicken livers, and after 2 or 3 minutes the tomato purée, and then the white wine. Season with salt (having regard to the saltiness of the ham or bacon), pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg, and add the meat stock or water. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently for 30-40 minutes. Some Bolognese cooks add at the last 1 cupful of cream or milk to the sauce, which makes it smoother.

When the ragu is to be served with spaghetti or tagliatelle, mix it with the hot pasta in a heated dish so that the pasta is thoroughly impregnated with the sauce, and add a good piece of butter before serving. Hand the grated cheese separately.

This is the recipe given me by Zia Nerina, a splendid woman, titanic of proportion but angelic of face and manner, who in the 1950s owned and ran the Trattoria Nerina in Bologna.

Pot-roasted chicken with olive stuffing: chosen by Chris Galvin

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (1)

When I was working at L'Escargot in 1991 I was lucky enough to regularly prepare chicken consommé for Elizabeth David when she was in hospital and recuperating. I was a sous chef and my head chef, Martin Lam, used to visit her often.

From French Provincial Cooking
Pot-roasting is a very easy way of cooking a chicken provided you have a suitable utensil. It should be deep enough to contain the bird, lying on its side, with the lid fitting tightly over the top; it should also be rather narrow, so it is all but filled by the bird, for if it is too big the butter or other fat in which the bird is cooking will be spread over too large an area and will dry up or burn. Also, the pot must be a thick and heavy one in which the contents will not stick and in which an even temperature will be maintained throughout the cooking.

To make an olive stuffing for a roasting chicken weighing 2¼ to 2½lb [1-1.15kg] when drawn and dressed, stone and chop 20 black olives with 2oz [55g] of stale white bread weighed without crust, soaked in cold water and squeezed dry, a little piece of onion or garlic, a sprig or two of parsley; bind with a beaten egg and season with a little pepper and nutmeg but no salt. Stuff the bird and, if you have it ready in advance, keep it out of the refrigerator.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the pot or saucepan, but don't let it get to the sizzling stage. Put in the chicken on its side. Leave it 5 minutes over gentle heat. Turn it over on to the other side, so that both thigh and one side of the breast of the bird are in contact with the oil. Cover the pan and cook for 1½ hours altogether, at a very low but steady pace, and turning the bird over twice more during the process, taking care not to damage the skin.

At the end of the cooking time the skin is beautifully golden and crisp, and for once the legs will be cooked through as well as the breast. Remove it to the heated serving dish.

Have ready half a dozen medium-sized potatoes, boiled in their skins but kept slightly undercooked, peeled and cut into squares (or, when they are obtainable, whole small new potatoes). In the oil left from the cooking of the chicken and in the same pan, with the heat increased, brown the potatoes, turning them round and round with a fork; in 5 minutes at most they will be ready. Lift them out with a draining spoon, put them at one end of the dish with the chicken, sprinkle with salt and parsley, and at the other end put a little watercress. The dish is ready. You have a complete and delicious main course – and only one pan to wash up.

Potatoes gratin dauphinois: chosen by Ken Hom

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (2)

When I met Elizabeth, she was near the end of her life. She was bed-ridden but as soon as I came into her room, she pulled out a chilled bottle of chablis which we proceeded to drink. We talked about food, cookery programmes and how food had changed over the years. After we finished the bottle, I was ready to leave, giving my excuses and Elizabeth said "nonsense" and pulled out another bottle from under her bed.

From French Country Cooking
Gratin dauphinois is a rich and filling regional dish from the Dauphiné. Some recipes include cheese and eggs, making it very similar to a gratin savoyard: but other regional authorities declare that the authentic gratin dauphinois is made only with potatoes and thick fresh cream. I give the second version, which is, I think, the better one; it is also the easier. And if it seems to the thrifty-minded outrageously extravagant to use half a pint of cream to one pound of potatoes, I can only say that to me it seems a more satisfactory way of enjoying cream than pouring it over tinned peaches or chocolate mousse.

It is not easy to say how many people this will serve; two, or three, or four, according to their capacity, and what there is to follow. Much depends also upon the quality of the potatoes used. Firm waxy varieties such as the kipfler and the pink fir-apple make a gratin lighter and also more authentic than that made with routine commercial King Edwards or Majestics which are in every respect second best.

Two more points: as the quantity of potatoes is increased the proportion of cream may be slightly diminished. Thus, for 3lb [1.4kg]of potatoes, 1¼ pints [710ml] of cream will be amply sufficient; and the choice of cooking dish is also important, for the potatoes and cream should, always, fill the dish to within approximately ¾ inch [1.9cm] of the top.

Peel 1lb [450g] of yellow potatoes, and slice them in even rounds no thicker than a penny; this operation is very easy with the aid of a mandoline. Rinse them thoroughly in cold water – this is most important – then shake them dry in a cloth. Put them in layers in a shallow earthenware dish which has been rubbed with garlic and well buttered. Season with pepper and salt. Pour ½ pint [285ml] of thick cream over them; strew with little pieces of butter; cook for 1½ hours in a low oven, 150C/gas mark 2. During the last 10 minutes turn the oven up fairly high to get a fine golden crust. Serve in the dish in which they have cooked.

Poached eggs: chosen by Prue Leith

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (3)

The writing is so engaging that I sat on the kitchen radiator reading on for ages and never got round to poaching the eggs. She prefaces it with a quote from Dr Kitchener from The Cook's Oracle of 1817.

From French Country Cooking
This is what Dr Kitchener has to say about poached eggs:

"The cook who wishes to display her skill in Poaching, must endeavour to procure eggs that have been laid a couple of days, those that are quite newlaid are so milky that, take all the care you can, your cooking of them will seldom procure you the praise of being a Prime Poacher: You must have fresh eggs or it is equally impossible.

"The beauty of a Poached Egg is the yolk to be seen blushing through the white – which should only be just sufficiently hardened, to form a transparent Veil for the Egg."

My own method for poaching eggs I learnt from a cookery book published by the Buckinghamshire Women's Institute, and it has proved infallible.

Boil a saucepan of water, and into this dip each egg whole, in its shell, while you count to about 30, then take it out. When it comes to poaching the eggs, have a pan of fresh water boiling, add a dessertspoon of vinegar, stir the water fast until a whirlpool has formed, and into this break the eggs, one at a time. 1-1½ minutes cooks them. Take them carefully out with a draining spoon. They will be rounded and the yolks covered with a "transparent Veil" instead of the ragged-looking affair a poached egg too often turns out to be, and the alternative of the egg-poaching pan, which produces an overcooked sort of egg-bun, is equally avoided.

Dr Kitchener instructs his readers to place poached eggs on bread "toasted on one side only". How right he is; I have never been able to understand the point of that sodden toast …

Try serving poached eggs on fresh, buttered bread; alternatively on a purée of some kind – split peas, sweetcorn or mushrooms, with pieces of fried bread around, but not under, the egg.

Omelette fines herbes: chosen by Tom Parker Bowles

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (4)

You don't turn to Elizabeth David for nannying, step-by-step instruction, or precise amounts and timing. She assumes you know the basics, and is a writer who offers inspiration, and wonderful, opinionated prose. Her recipes are timeless, and all her books wonderful works of reference (and tirelessly researched) as well as beautiful reads. Her instructions for omelettes are unbeatable.

From French Provincial Cooking
As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own. Reasonably enough; a successful dish is often achieved by quite different methods from those advocated in the cookery books or by the professional chefs, but over this question of omelette-making, professional and amateur cooks alike are particularly unyielding. Argument has never been known to convert anybody to a different method, so if you have your own, stick to it and let others go their cranky ways, mistaken, stubborn and ignorant to the end.

It is therefore to anyone still in the experimental stage that I submit the few following points which I fancy are often responsible for failure when that ancient iron omelette pan, for twenty years untouched by water, is brought out of the cupboard.

First, the eggs are very often beaten too savagely. In fact, they should not really be beaten at all, but stirred, and a few firm turns with two forks do the trick. Secondly, the simplicity and freshness evoked by the delicious word "omelette" will be achieved only if it is remembered that it is the eggs which are the essential part of the dish: the filling, being of secondary importance, should be in very small proportion to the eggs. Lying lightly in the centre of the finished omelette, rather than bursting exuberantly out of the seams, it should supply the second of two different tastes and textures; the pure egg and cooked butter taste of the outside and ends of the omelette, then the soft, slightly runny interior, with its second flavouring of cheese or ham, mushrooms or fresh herbs.

As far as the pan is concerned, a 10-inch omelette pan will make an omelette of 3 or 4 eggs. Beat them only immediately before you make the omelette, lightly as described above, with two forks, adding a light mild seasoning of salt and pepper. Allow about ½oz [15g] of butter. Warm your pan, don't make it red hot. Then turn the burner as high as it will go. Put in the butter and when it has melted and is on the point of turning colour, pour in the eggs. Add the filling, and see that it is well embedded in the eggs. Tip the pan towards you and with a fork or spatula gather up a little of the mixture from the far side. Now tip the pan away from you so that the unset eggs run into the space you have made for them.

When a little of the unset part remains on the surface the omelette is done. Fold it in three with your fork or palette knife, hold the pan at an angle and slip the omelette out on to the waiting dish. This should be warmed, but only a little, or the omelette will go on cooking. An omelette is nothing to make a fuss about. The chief mistakes are putting in too much of the filling and making this too elaborate. Such rich things as foie gras or lobster in cream sauce are inappropriate. Moderation in every aspect is the best advice where omelettes are concerned. Sauces and other trimmings are superfluous, a little extra butter melted in the warm omelette dish or placed on top of the omelette as you serve it being the only addition which is not out of place.

Prepare 1 tablespoon of mixed finely chopped parsley, tarragon, chives and, if possible, chervil. Mix half of this, with salt and pepper, in the bowl with the eggs, and the other half when the eggs are in the pan. If you like, put a little knob of butter on top of the omelette as it is brought to the table.

Breast of lamb Ste-Menehould: chosen by Simon Hopkinson

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (5)

Only a week before the death of Elizabeth David, I finally prepared Breast of Lamb Ste-Ménéhould. The recipe was originally published for the Spectator, in 1961. This discussion-including-a-recipe was possibly seen as wilfully casual by irate readers, who simply wished for their usual instructions: ingredients/method/result, please? But she had particularly asked whether she might present her articles in such a way.

I first came across it in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and had always wanted to cook and eat it. Elizabeth had become a good friend, and I was a great admirer of her writing. I only wish I could have cooked it for her, as I know it was one of her favourites. We would have drunk a bottle of old Rhone with it. Maybe two …

From An Omelette and a Glass of Wine
One of the breadcrumb-grilled dishes I like best is the one called Breast of Lamb Ste-Ménéhould. It is very cheap (breast of English lamb was 8d. a pound at Harrods last Saturday – one often finds a cheap cut cheaper and of better quality in a high-class butchery than in a so-called cheap one, and 2½ lb [1.15kg] was plenty for four), but I am not pretending it is a dish for 10-minute cooks. It is one for those who have the time and the urge to get real value out of cheap ingredients. First you have to braise or bake the meat in the oven with sliced carrots, an onion or two, a bunch of herbs and, if you like, a little something extra in the way of flavouring such as two or three ounces of a cheap little bit of bacon or salt pork, plus seasonings and about a pint of water. It takes about 2½ to 3 hours – depending on the quality of the meat – covered, in a slow oven. Then, while the meat is still warm, you slip out the bones, leave the meat to cool, preferably with a weight on it, and then slice it into strips slightly on the bias and about 1½ to 2 inches wide. Next, spread each strip with a little mustard, paint it with beaten egg (one will be enough for 2½ lb of meat), then coat it with the breadcrumbs, pressing them well down into the meat and round the sides. (I always use breadcrumbs which I've made myself from a French loaf, sliced, and dried in the plate drawer underneath the oven. I know people who think this business of making breadcrumbs is a terrible worry, but once the bread is dried it's a matter of minutes to pound it up with a rolling pin or with a pestle – quicker than doing it in an electric blender.)

All this breadcrumbing finished, you can put the meat on a grid over a baking dish and leave it until you are ready to cook it. Then it goes into a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, because if you put it straight under the grill the outside gets browned before the meat itself is hot. As you transfer the whole lot to the grill pour a very little melted butter over each slice, put them close to the heat, then keep a sharp lookout and turn each piece as the first signs of sizzling and scorching appear.

The plates and dishes should be sizzling too, and some sort of sharp, oil-based sauce – a vinaigrette, a tartare, a mustardy mayonnaise – usually goes with this kind of dish.

Carbonnade Nimoise: chosen by Darina Allen

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (6)

I tell all our students to read her books. Not only does she write wonderful prose but the books and the recipes are still very of the now. French Provincial Cooking would be my desert island book and this is a lovely comforting dish.

From French Provincial Cooking
Carobonnade is a name usually associated with a Flemish dish of beef cooking in the local Belgian beer. A carobonnade of mutton is also a traditional dish from Nimes in the Languedoc, home also of the famous brandade de morue, the Friday dish of salt cod found all over southern France. The Nimois carbonnade is one of those slow-cooked dishes of meat and vegetables which is still, in places where household ovens are rare, sent to cook at the local bakery. Put in as soon as the bread is taken out, while the oven is still very hot, it is left 3 or 4 hours and, by the time the oven is cool, the meat is so tender that it could be eaten with a spoon. This form of cookery is obviously the most convenient for people who have Aga or similar cookers, or for anybody who wants to leave the food to look after itself while they are out.

The ingredients for a Carbonnade Nimoise for four people are 2 slices of mutton or lamb cut from the leg, each about ⅓ inch thick and weight about ¾ lb [340g], ¼ lb [115g] bacon, 2 lb [900g] potatoes, garlic, herbs, olive oil.

Lard the meat with little spikes of bacon and garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a large baking dish, put in the rest of the bacon cut in strips, put the meat on top, sprinkle it with salt, pepper and thyme or marjoram, surround it with the potatoes, peeled and cut into small squares, and put the dish, uncovered, into a hot oven for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven very low, Gas No. 2 or 3, 310 to 330 deg. F. [155 to 165C], cover the pan, and leave for 3½ to 4 hours. By the time it is cooked most of the fat will have been absorbed by the potatoes, and the whole dish will have a typical southern flavour and smell. Sometimes other vegetables – onions, artichoke hearts, a tomato or two, fennel cut in quarters, carrots or aubergines, unpeeled, but cut into small squares – are added with potatoes.

La daube de boeuf Provencale: chosen by Rick Stein

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (7)

Elizabeth David was a friend of my parents and used to come to our house in Cornwall but, to my fury, I was too young to remember her, although my brother does. They had all her books, including a first edition of Italian Food, so her style of cooking was a great influence on me. I tried this recipe for the first dinner party I ever gave, in the 60s in Cornwall. I dived straight in, invited 10 people and used my mother's old Aga casserole dish. It recommended orange peel which I thought was fabulously exotic, and I had no idea how to find salt pork: I think I used bacon.

From French Provincial Cooking
This is an easy recipe, but it has all the rich savour of these slowly cooked wine-flavoured stews. The pot to cook it in may be earthenware, cast iron or a copper oven pot of about 2 pints capacity [1 litre], wide rather than deep.

The ingredients are 2lb [900g] of top rump of beef, about 6oz [170g] unsmoked streaky bacon or salt pork, about 3oz [85g] fresh pork rinds, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a bouquet of thyme, bay leaf, parsley and a little strip of orange peel, 2 tablespoons olive oil, a glass (4 fl. ounces) of red wine, seasoning.

Have the meat cut into squares about the size of half a postcard and about ⅓ inch [85mm] thick. Buy the bacon or salt pork in the piece and cut it into small cubes.

Scrape and slice the carrots on the cross; peel and slice the onions. Cut the rinds, which should have scarcely any fat adhering to them and are there to give body as well as savour to the stew, into little squares. Skin and slice the tomatoes.

In the bottom of the pot put the olive oil, then the bacon, then the vegetables and half the pork rinds. Arrange the meat carefully on top, the slices overlapping. Bury the garlic cloves, flattened with a knife, and the bouquet, in the centre. Season and cover with the rest of the pork rinds. With the pan uncovered, start the cooking on a moderate heat on top of the stove.

After about 10 minutes, put the wine into another saucepan; bring it to a fast boil; set light to it; rotate the pan so that the flames spread. When they have died down pour the wine bubbling over the meat. Cover the pot with greaseproof paper or foil, and a well-fitting lid. Transfer to a very slow oven, at 140C/gas mark 1, and leave for 2½ hours.

To serve, arrange the meat with the bacon and the little pieces of rind on a hot dish; pour off some of the fat from the sauce, extract the bouquet, and pour the sauce round the meat. If you can, keep the dish hot over a spirit lamp after it is brought to the table. At the serving stage, a persillade of finely chopped garlic and parsley, with perhaps an anchovy and a few capers, can be sprinkled over the top. Or stoned black olives can be added to the stew half an hour before the end of the cooking time.

Although in Italy pasta is never served with a meat dish, in Provence it quite often is. The cooked and drained noodles, or whatever pasta you have chosen, are mixed with some of the gravy from the stew, and in this case the fat is not removed from the gravy, because it lubricates the pasta. Sometimes this macaronade, as it is called, is served first, to be followed by the meat. Nowadays, since rice has been successfully cultivated in the reclaimed areas of the Camargue, it is also quite usual to find a dish of rice, often flavoured with saffron, served with a meat stew.

The daube is a useful dish for those who have to get a dinner ready when they get home from the office. It can be cooked for 1½ hours the previous evening and finished on the night itself. Provided they have not overcooked to start with, these stews are all the better for a second or third heating up. The amounts I have given are the smallest quantities in which it is worth cooking such a stew, and will serve four or five but of course they can be doubled or even trebled for a large party; if the meat is piled up in layers in a deep pan it will naturally need longer than if it is spread out in a shallow one.

To order any of these books for a special price, go to

Classic Elizabeth David recipes (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Laurine Ryan

Last Updated:

Views: 5574

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Laurine Ryan

Birthday: 1994-12-23

Address: Suite 751 871 Lissette Throughway, West Kittie, NH 41603

Phone: +2366831109631

Job: Sales Producer

Hobby: Creative writing, Motor sports, Do it yourself, Skateboarding, Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Stand-up comedy

Introduction: My name is Laurine Ryan, I am a adorable, fair, graceful, spotless, gorgeous, homely, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.