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Pizza, kebabs, chicken tikka masala: make your own takeaway favourites

Margherita pizza

At its best, pizza is a wondrously simple combination of soft dough with a crispy base and a sparse scattering of choice toppings. No one component overpowers any other: it is a beautiful example of synergetic cooking. If there were a hall of fame for food the margherita pizza would be a certainty for inclusion.

This recipe is incredibly simple. It includes 00 flour but if you really can’t find it then use strong bread flour, although you may need to use a little more or reduce the amount of liquid.

Serves 4
For a basic dough
fast-action yeast 12g
caster sugar 2 tsp
lukewarm water 300ml
good-quality olive oil 30ml, plus a little extra for greasing
00 flour 500g, plus a little extra for dusting
salt 8g

For the tomato sauce
olive oil 2 tbsp
red onion 1, finely diced
garlic 1 clove, finely diced
tomato puree 1 tbsp
balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp
chopped tomatoes 1 x 400g tin
sugar 1 tsp
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the margherita pizza
for dusting
basic dough 1 batch (see recipe above)
polenta about 2 tbsp, for dusting
tomato sauce ½ batch, at room temperature or cooler (see recipe above)
mozzarella 2-3 balls, depending on how cheesy you like your pizza
basil 1 bunch, leaves only
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
 for drizzling

To make the dough, tip the yeast and sugar into a jug and pour over the warm water using a spoon to mix thoroughly. Pour in the olive oil and give the mixture one final stir.

Tip the flour into a large bowl and add the salt.

Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and begin to mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon. When you can’t mix with the spoon any more, tip the ingredients on to a clean surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes, by which time it should be satisfyingly pliable and have a lustrous sheen.

‘Pizza is a wondrously simple combination of soft dough with a crispy base and a sparse scattering of choice toppings.’

‘Pizza is a wondrously simple combination of soft dough with a crispy base and a sparse scattering of choice toppings.’ Photograph: Kris Kirkham

Lightly oil a clean bowl, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with a greased piece of clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for a minimum of 1½ hours.

If pushed for time, spooning shop-bought passata onto a pizza base will do the trick. However, this tomato sauce is well worth making and, once it’s cooking, can happily bubble away while the pizza dough is proving. Double up the recipe and freeze half for future pizza evenings or defrost and use for a simple base of pasta and sauce.

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Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. When hot add the onion and fry, stirring regularly, for 4 minutes, by which time the onion will have softened and taken on a little colour. Add the garlic and continue to stir and fry for a further minute.

Add the tomato puree and mix thoroughly. Fry the mixture for 1 minute, stirring almost constantly to stop the puree from burning. Pour in the vinegar and let it bubble away to almost nothing before tipping in the tin of tomatoes.

Pour in enough water to fill the emptied tomato tin half way and use the water to swill the remaining tomato from the tin before adding it to the bubbling sauce. Add the sugar along with a generous amount of salt and pepper and stir. Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will have thickened to a satisfying consistency. Use the sauce like this or blitz it until smooth to make a slightly more refined sauce.

To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 230C fan/gas mark 9. Place a thick, flat baking tray in the oven and leave it to heat for at least 20 minutes.

Generously dust a clean surface with flour. Tip the risen dough out onto the floured surface and knock the air out by kneading it for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into four.

Take one portion of the dough and roll it out to a diameter of about 30cm, roughly the thickness of a pound coin. Do not be too concerned about making a perfect circle. I very rarely do and, as long as the dough is roughly the same thickness all over, it won’t make a difference to the taste or texture.

When happy with the shape, dust a tray or chopping board with the polenta. Carefully lay the rolled dough out on the polenta, gently pushing the dough back into shape with your fingers.

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce onto the pizza base and spread it all over using the back of the spoon, leaving 1cm border round the edge. Tear chunks of the mozzarella and dot them all over the tomato, then scatter over some of the basil leaves and season with salt and pepper.

The next bit needs to be done as quickly as possible. Ensure that the pizza is free to move around on the polenta-dusted surface. When happy the pizza will slide, quickly remove the preheated tray from the oven and slip the prepared pizza straight onto it.

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Place the tray back in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, by which time the cheese will have melted, and the dough will have bubbled up a little on top and turned crisp on the base.

At this point start preparing the next pizza by rolling out a second ball of dough on a polenta-dusted surface, and topping with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

When baked, remove the pizza from the oven and slide it onto a board. Top the cooked pizza with more basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately or wait until the rest of the pizzas are made and serve all at once.

Chicken chow mein

Chicken chow mein.

Chicken chow mein. Photograph: Kris Kirkham

There was a time when fresh egg noodles were the provenance of specialist stores, however they can now be found in the fridge compartment of most supermarkets. If your supermarket hasn’t quite caught up then use the dried version, following the package instructions for rehydrating. Use this recipe as a template; it works just as well with pork or prawns as it does with chicken. Also feel free to add other vegetables, such as peppers, green beans or pak choi.

Serves 4
chicken breasts 2 large, cut into 1cm strips
light soy sauce 4 tbsp
sunflower or vegetable oil 2 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves, finely sliced
red onion 1 large, cut into about 8 thin wedges
fresh ginger 2cm piece, peeled and finely chopped
mangetout 100g, cut in half widthways
fresh egg noodles 400g
Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry 3 tbsp
sesame oil 2 tsp
spring onions 4, trimmed and finely sliced

Place the chicken breasts in a small bowl and pour in 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, mix and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high heat. When hot add the garlic, red onion and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring almost constantly.

Add the chicken slices, pouring in any of the soy sauce that is in the bowl too. Continue to fry, stirring regularly for 3-4 minutes. Tip in the mangetout and stir-fry for a further minute before adding the egg noodles. Mix everything together: it may be useful to use a combination of two wooden spoons for this. Pour in the rice wine and let it bubble up and steam, until it almost completely evaporates. Mix again using the two wooden spoons, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil.

Scatter the noodles with the spring onions before serving.

Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala. Photograph: Kris Kirkham

Tikka masala is a ubiquitous dish, so much so that nobody is quite sure where the concept and recipe originated. Whether it was India or the UK, there’s no denying that it is a delicious curry.

Serves 4
natural yogurt 250g
garam masala 3 tbsp
ground coriander 2 tbsp
ground ginger 2 tbsp
ground cumin 1 tbsp
smoked paprika 2 tsp
garlic 6 cloves, crushed to a paste
fresh ginger 5cm piece, peeled and grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chicken breasts 6, chopped into 4cm pieces
sunflower or vegetable oil 4 tbsp
onions 2, peeled and pureed in a food processor or grated
cloves 6
tomato puree 2 heaped tbsp
chopped tomatoes 1 x 400g tin
double cream 100ml
flaked almonds 
75g, toasted, to serve
coriander 1 small bunch, chopped, to serve

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Place half the yogurt in a large bowl along with half the ground spices and half the garlic and ginger. Add a generous pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Mix well with a spoon until you reach a smooth consistency.

Add the chicken pieces to the marinade coating them well, then cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours but preferably overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pureed onion to the oil along with a large pinch of salt. Leave to cook, stirring regularly for 12-15 minutes, by which time the onions should have taken on some colour and become very soft. Add the cloves and the remaining ground spices, garlic and ginger. Continue to fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring almost constantly.

Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase the heat and add the tinned tomatoes and marinated chicken. Stir all the ingredients while bringing them to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked through. If unsure, pick out the thickest piece and cut it open to check. It’s cooked when the flesh is white throughout.

Stir in the double cream for a little luxury before serving topped with the toasted almonds and chopped coriander.

Lamb doner kebab

Lamb doner kebab.

Lamb doner kebab. Photograph: Kris Kirkham

Spiced succulent pieces of grilled lamb served in soft pittas and topped with crunchy salad is similar to the takeaway version in concept, but completely different in terms of flavour.

Serves 4
ground cumin 1 tbsp
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper
lamb leg or shoulder steaks 1kg, chopped into 3cm chunks
red onion 1 large, roughly chopped into thin wedges
pitta breads 4 large, to serve
iceberg lettuce ½, shredded, to serve
chilli sauce
 to serve
garlic and onion dip to serve

Spoon the ground cumin into a bowl along with the olive oil, garlic and a generous amount of pepper. Mix the ingredients together until combined. Add the lamb and red onion. Work the marinade into the meat and onion: this is easily done with a spoon, but I find getting your hands in the mix works best.

Leave the meat to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight. If marinating overnight, ensure the meat is removed from the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking to warm up to room temperature.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill to its highest setting.

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Tip the meat and onion onto a tray lined with tin foil and pour over any residual marinade. Season the meat generously with salt at this point and slide the tray under the grill as close to the hot element as possible. Grill for 6-7 minutes on each side, before removing and allowing to rest for 5 minutes – just enough time to prepare the pittas.

Toast the pittas, cut them open and stuff with the shredded lettuce. Fill the pittas with the cooked meat then drizzle with the chilli sauce and garlic and onion dip. Serve your kebabs with not a drunk in sight.

Macaroni cheese

Macaroni cheese.

Macaroni cheese. Photograph: Kris Kirkham

There are many additions that can be made to this recipe, from the inclusion of bacon and tomato slices to truffle oil. However, I like to keep things simple and have opted for beautiful, oompa-loompa-coloured simplicity. If you can’t find the onion or garlic salt bring the milk for the white sauce to the boil with a couple of peeled garlic cloves and a peeled halved onion in it. Discard them before adding the milk to the mixture.

Serves 4
dried macaroni 600g
olive oil 2 tbsp
salt and freshly ground pepper
unsalted butter 80g
plain flour 80g
milk 800ml
red leicester cheese 150g, grated
mustard powder 1 tsp
onion salt 1 tsp (optional)
garlic salt 1 tsp (optional)
parmesan 20g, grated
green salad
 to serve

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander, then run it under cold water to cool it completely. Tip the pasta into a large bowl and pour in the oil along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 190C fan/gas mark 6.

Place the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, reduce the heat and tip in the flour. As soon as the flour is in the pan, begin to stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture for 1 minute, stirring almost constantly to make a smooth paste.

Take the saucepan off the heat and pour in roughly a quarter of the milk. Mix until completely combined. Don’t worry if the ingredients begin to clump a bit. Add half the remaining liquid and place the pan back on the hob, stirring almost continuously. When the milk has been worked in, pour in the remainder and continue to stir. Bring the sauce to the boil while stirring and let it boil for 1 minute, before reducing the heat to medium and adding the cheese. Stir well, until all of the cheese has been combined into the sauce.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the mustard powder, onion and garlic salts (if using). Stir to combine.

Tip the pasta into the sauce and stir well to coat with the mixture. Tip into an ovenproof dish. Scatter the parmesan over the top and bake for 15-20 minutes, by which time the sauce will have turned golden in places and will be bubbling gloriously around the edges.

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Stir-fried mushrooms with pak choi

Stir-fried mushrooms with pak choi

Stir-fried mushrooms with pak choi Photograph: Kris Kirkham

Chinese food is so badly represented by a great many takeaways you may never have really considered vegetables to be of much importance to the cuisine. Often they seem to be no more than a colourful afterthought used to pad out gloopy sauces thin on meat. The opposite could not be more true. The Chinese are outstanding exponents of tasty veg. The method below could be used with almost all soft vegetables from courgettes to lettuce leaves.

Serves 4
sunflower or vegetable oil 2 tbsp
oyster mushrooms 225g, torn into 2cm strips
garlic 1 large clove, peeled and finely diced
pak choi 4 heads, root removed, leaves separated
light soy sauce 2 tbsp
sesame oil 2 tsp

Pour the oil into a large frying pan or wok and heat until it is smoking hot. Add the mushrooms and fry for about 45 seconds by which time they will have browned lightly.

Add the garlic to the hot pan and continue to fry for a further 30 seconds, stirring. Drop in the pak choi and stir to mix it with the mushrooms. Pour in 3 tablespoons of water and continue to fry until the pak choi begins to wilt; this shouldn’t take more than 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Mix to ensure all the ingredients are evenly coated. Serve with a bowl of plain rice or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.

• The recipe for the Margherita pizza was amended on 17 May 2020 because an earlier version mistakenly specified 300ml of olive oil for the dough when 30ml was the required amount.

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