Chefs are a proud bunch and most are happy to share with us their most triumphant, accomplished dishes. Such recipes need a degree of skill; all, a knowledge and understanding of ingredients and flavour beyond what most home cooks have in their armouries.

Even if the food imparted upon us from the country's finest chefs has calmed down a bit (some of Gordon Ramsay's early recipes were preposterous to mere mortals; we probably have Jamie Oliver to thank for a little simplicity and encouragement) much is still relatively high-brow, dinner-party fare. These days, recipe books are works of art and the food inside, too, is created to look beautiful. Their pages tantalise readers as guests have been tantalised in restaurants. The new Dishoom cookbook is a prime example of thoughtful effervescence: it is stunning, though most will have to wait for a free Saturday to whip up an Indian feast.

On the flip side, we have been told countless times of chefs' love for so-called junk food. After all that pie carving and time-consuming sugar work, some might yearn for the practicality and ease of a Big Mac, or an early-morning kebab drenched in hot sauce and garlic yoghurt.

What, then, about those rare occasions where neither will satisfy; when the most enticing prospect is cooking something rewarding at home that doesn't require too much planning and process? We're talking about a Tuesday night, say, and by some inconceivable scenario the chef has the night off. These are the dishes that would never make it into a recipe book but which might be made for a loved one on a rainy day, a close friend on holiday by the coast; quick, efficient cooking, ideally nothing taxing but something that needs effort beyond filling a Pot Noodle with hot water or cooking a portion of chicken dippers.

I'm no chef, but I like softening up onions, carrots, celery, and coarsely chopped pancetta. After that, a few cloves of finely chopped garlic and a tin of haricot beans, drained. I leave it to cook down for a while, a beef stock is added (probably one of those Knorr jelly things), as is a splash of white wine, and soon my house smells the way I want it to. A dollop of crème fraîche and parsley lobbed in at the end elevates it all.

Lately, Tom Aikens, who became the youngest British chef to win two Michelin stars when he was just 26, has been turning to albacore tuna as his go-to. He starts by lightly pan-searing the fish before adding plenty of finely chopped ginger and garlic. Everything is fried quickly, and then cooked lentils are added, before spinach. Aikens deglazes with a little soy sauce, adds lime zest and toasted sesame seeds, and there we have it: dinner in less than 20 minutes.

Chantelle Nicholson, chef patron at Tredwells, has a quick pasta dish she favours, where she renders a handful of lardons (from Waitrose, she says) in a pan on a low heat. Shredded hispi cabbage follows, and then a few spoonfuls of boiled pasta water. Nicholson adds a spoonful of mustard and "loads of black pepper". The dish is finished with a bit of comté or gruyère.

In fact pretty much every chef has their own quick dish. It might be a phase or it might be a recurrent theme, such is its reliability and force. All across London, some of the city's best get home, put one pan on the hob and make something quick and easy, but wonderful in its way.

What do chefs actually eat?

Monika Linton


As chef and founder of Spanish importer Brindisa – which also operates a group of excellent tapas restaurants around the capital – it's no surprise that Monika Linton's quick meals revolve around great ingredients, cooked simply. "Chickpeas with chorizo are a staple," she says. "The combination of good jarred chickpeas that can be heated and sautéed or poached chorizo is something that I love for a quick, satisfying, tasty meal.

"The point of this dish is the ease of putting it together, so I use beautifully creamy Navarrico chickpeas, panceta adobada (cured pork coated with paprika), plus jarred fritada (a tomato and pepper base, which can also be made at home)."

Richard H Turner


As the founding chef of the Hawksmoor group and co-founder of Gridiron, Richard H Turner has a typically meaty way of dealing with cooking on forgotten weeknights: "I often turn leftover roasts – or any leftover meat I have – into potted meat, which can then just sit in the fridge for a few days to be used later as a snack or go in another dish.

"It's the perfect way to use up leftover birds, sausages, gammon; anything. Just chop up your leftover meat, place in a casserole or roasting tray, cover with a generous amount of goose or duck fat and leave in the oven at 120°C overnight. In the morning check the seasoning and place in jars in the fridge, with a good covering of fat on the top."

Masha Rener

Lina Stores

It's no surprise Masha Rener, who oversees pasta restaurant and Soho institution  Lina Stores, keeps her dish limited, shining a light on just a few ingredients as is customary in Italian cookery. But that's certainly not to say it isn't adventurous.

"I like to do fried veal brain with breadcrumbs, garlic and butter. It's easy to make but also kind of gourmet. I always make it for me and my kids – they will probably remember me and my cooking by this one dish – also because very few people like brain, so I make it for the people who do. I always serve it with a fennel salad and seeds."

What chefs eat

Ben Tish


In addition to his role as culinary director of The Stafford Hotel, Ben Tish also opened restaurant Norma nearby earlier this year. There, his food is inspired by Sicily, as well as the island's Moorish influences. While many chefs reflect their restaurant styles at home, Tish does the opposite, instead gravitating towards one of the world's most famous foods.

"I love crispy chicken strips and can eat them by the bucketload," Tish says. "One of my favourite things to do is get good chicken breasts, slice them into strips and then season, coat them in Dijon mustard and then panko breadcrumbs. I fry them until crisp and cooked in lovely olive oil. What these get served with depends – but usually a mayonnaise of some description, either shop-bought or homemade, and watercress, baby gem lettuce and red onion salad and either crispy potatoes cooked on a high heat in the oven, or in a sandwich."

What chefs eat

Margot Henderson

Rochelle Canteen

Margot Henderson, who, with fellow chef Melanie Arnold, oversees the acclaimed Rochelle Canteen, as well as its second iteration at the ICA, also deviates from the classic, flair-free, beautifully comforting British cuisine she's known for.

"I make aubergine mapo tofu," Henderson says. "You need to head to your local Asian supermarket to get all the delicious potions that go into this dish; the flavours are intense and layered. But it's simple to make once you understand the different elements, which together add to something quite complex.

It is my new go-to dish and I always have what I need… well, unless maybe I have to pop out for aubergine or two. Otherwise, I do chicken thighs in ginger, garlic, and soy, simply baked after searing. It's a dish I learnt in the Philippines that I have 'Margot'd'. I always keep chicken thighs in the freezer and my kids think it's a winner. I serve with rice and greens."

Ali Borer

Smoking Goat

Ali Borer from Smoking Goat doesn't seem to want to follow any particular style at all. At Smoking Goat, the East London Thai restaurant inspired by the late-night canteens of Bangkok, his food is playful but true to form. Not so much at home: "I make cheesy broccoli and scotch bonnet pasta – lots of garlic, a good glug of olive oil, one scotch bonnet head and the stem of the broccoli, cooked. I finish with lots of black pepper and loads of pecorino cheese. My favourite pasta for this dish is pappardelle."