Ainsley Harriott tells you how to make easy meals to make you feel good for winter

FEELING blue now summer is coming to a close? Delicious home cooking is sure to lift your spirits, says cheerful TV chef Ainsley Harriott.

His new book, Ainsley’s Good Mood Food, is packed with recipes for happiness.


Ainsley’s new cook book is packed with recipes to make you feel good this winterCredit: DAN JONES

Ainsley, 64, says: “There’s no two ways about it – food can definitely lift your spirits and put you in a good mood.

“I first realised this as a young boy watching and helping my mum cook for family and friends.

“She was a wonderful home cook, and I could see the love she put into her food and the way it would bring a smile to people’s faces. The kitchen was always a busy place, full of laughter and music.

“That’s where my love of cooking started. When talking about food and our mood I should include the cooking process.

“I want you to enjoy cooking – there’s no point in serving up tasty food if the chef is stressed and grumpy at the table.” In an exclusive extract, we choose six recipes from Ainsley’s new book.

Brioche French Toast with Orange & Honey-roasted Figs, Hazelnuts & Mascarpone (Serves 4)

These sticky, luscious figs are perfect for a Sunday brunch


These sticky, luscious figs are perfect for a Sunday brunch

THIS is one of my favourite flavour combinations and it’s an absolute treat for a lazy Sunday brunch.

The sticky, luscious figs and earthy hazelnuts are sublime with the rich and decadent French toast – or as I like to call it, naughty eggy bread!

You can enjoy the toast and figs with yoghurt instead of mascarpone if you want to be a little less naughty.


  • 250g mascarpone
  • Zest and juice of 1 large orange
  • 140ml single cream
  • 6 ripe figs, halved lengthways
  • 2 tsp butter, plus extra for frying
  • 2 tbsp runny honey, plus extra (optional) for drizzling
  • 30g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 heaped tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 4-6 thick slices (about 2.5cm thick) of brioche
  • Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

TO MAKE: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment or foil. In a bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and half the orange zest and juice.

Add a splash of the cream if it needs loosening a little (or for a treat add a splash of Cointreau!). Cover and chill until needed. Place the figs on the lined baking tray, cut-side up, and dot with a little butter. Drizzle the honey over the figs and squeeze over the remaining orange juice.

Scatter over the hazelnuts and roast for 14-16 minutes or until the figs have softened and caramelised and the nuts are nice and golden. Remove from the oven and turn off the heat.

In a large shallow dish, whisk the eggs with the cream. Add the vanilla, remaining orange zest and sugar and whisk again until well combined.

Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Dip each slice of brioche into the egg mixture, letting it soak up the liquid for a few seconds before turning over to coat the other side.

Once the butter is foaming, add the soaked brioche to the pan one or two at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp.

Transfer to a wire rack in the still-warm oven while you cook the remaining slices, adding a little more butter to the pan if needed.

To serve, slice the French toast in half and place 2-3 pieces on each serving plate. Top with 3 halves of the sticky figs, drizzling over any roasting juices, and a little extra drizzle of honey if you like.

Add a spoonful of the mascarpone and dust with icing sugar, if using, to serve.

Honey & Thyme Caramelised Pear, Pecan & Cheese Tart (Serves 4)

This sweet and savoury tart is just delightful!


This sweet and savoury tart is just delightful!

THIS easy-to-make sweet and savoury tart is gorgeous, with flavours that make me very happy indeed. Creamy, tangy goat’s cheese with buttery pear and aromatic thyme and the warm honey bringing sweetness – it’s just delightful!

I’ve used a little blue cheese to add a burst of contrasting sharpness, but if you prefer you can leave it out and use a little more goat’s cheese. Serve with a watercress or rocket salad.


  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 firm pears, cored and sliced
  • ½ lemon, for squeezing
  • 1 x 500g block ready-made puff pastry
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • 125g soft goat’s cheese
  • 100g dolcelatte or similar soft blue cheese
  • A handful of pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Leaves of 3-4 thyme sprigs (or whole sprigs if soft)
  • 1 egg, beaten (or a little milk)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO MAKE: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

In a large frying pan over a medium heat, melt the butter with the honey.
Add the pears and a squeeze of lemon juice and cook for 2 minutes on each side until caramelised. Remove the pears from the pan and lightly season, reserving the honey caramel in the pan.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle about 28 x 38cm and 5mm thick. Score a 2cm border around the edge of the pastry then place it on the lined baking sheet. Arrange the pear slices over the pastry within the border, then dot the cheeses over in an even layer, then the pecans. Scatter over the thyme. Lightly brush the border with the beaten egg.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden and the cheese is bubbling.

Season and drizzle with a little of the leftover caramel to serve, either warm or cold.

Easy Sausage, Bacon & Bean Bake (Serves 4)

This sausage and bean bake proves that sometimes simplicity is best


This sausage and bean bake proves that sometimes simplicity is best

SOMETIMES simplicity is best and that’s definitely the case with this satisfying bake made mostly with store-cupboard ingredients – it’s perfect for busy days and is sure to please the entire family. I like to use Italian sausages which are full of flavour and slightly sweet and aromatic with fennel.

They work perfectly with the mild beans in this bake, but feel free to use any sausages you like – or leave out the bacon and use vegetarian sausages for a simple and tasty veggie meal.


  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 6-8 good-quality sausages
  • 4 streaky bacon rashers, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 200ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
  • 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve
  • Pinch of sugar (optional) sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO MAKE: Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

In an ovenproof sauté pan or shallow flameproof casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat and add the sausages.

Cook for 4-5 minutes or until sealed and lightly browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the bacon to the pan and fry until brown all over. Add the remaining oil then add the onion. Cook for 4-6 minutes until softened.

Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the stock to deglaze the pan then stir in the tomatoes, ketchup, balsamic vinegar and all the beans.

Bring to a simmer, stir in the parsley and season to taste (add a little sugar to sweeten the tomato if needed).

Nestle the sausages among the beans and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the beans are bubbling and the sausages are cooked through.

Serve straight to the table sprinkled with parsley, with some fresh crusty bread on the side.

Fabulous Fish Pie (Serves 4-6)

This satisfying fish pie is simple and perfect for a family dinner


This satisfying fish pie is simple and perfect for a family dinner

THIS is a homely and satisfying fish pie that’s simple to prepare and great for a family dinner.

You can use any combination of firm-fleshed fish you like, and many supermarkets sell ready prepped fish pie mixes, although I always like to include some smoked haddock for a depth of flavour.

You can make the pie ahead of time and cook from chilled – bake for 40-45 minutes until heated through.


  • 1kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 700ml full-fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 650g mixture of skinless and boneless firm fish, large pieces, from a sustainable source
  • 2 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp English or Dijon mustard
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tsp snipped chives
  • 150g raw tiger or king prawns, from a sustainable source
  • A handful of frozen peas, defrosted
  • 50g Cheddar, grated (optional)
  • Sea salt and ground white pepper

TO MAKE: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted boiling water, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, put the milk and bay leaf in a deep-sided frying pan, season and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat.

Add the fish fillets, then reduce the heat and gently poach for 4-6 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the fish onto a plate to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, check for any stray bones, keeping the fish in large chunks. Strain the milk into a jug.

Drain the cooked potatoes and allow to steam in the colander for a few minutes to dry out. Tip back into the pan and mash the potatoes well with a potato masher or pass through a ricer for super-smooth mash. Beat in the crème fraîche and half the butter and season with salt and white pepper. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened but not coloured. Increase the heat to medium, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Gradually pour in the reserved milk, whisking constantly, then simmer over a low heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Stir in the mustard, lemon zest and a small squeeze of juice, and check for seasoning.

Add the parsley, chives, prawns and peas. Lightly grease a deep ovenproof pie dish or medium lasagne dish with butter. Add the fish then spoon over the sauce to cover.

Let it rest for a few minutes to allow a slight skin to form, then spoon or pipe over the potatoes to cover completely. Smooth with a spatula (unless piped) and scrape the surface with a fork to fluff the surface slightly.

Scatter over grated cheese (if using) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the top is golden.

Serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Peri-Peri Chicken & Charred Chilli-Lime Corn (Serves 4-6)

You could make this on your barbecue or in the kitchen


You could make this on your barbecue or in the kitchen

THE Portuguese/southern African sauce peri peri, or piri piri, is a rich, smoky and slightly sweet sauce that marries so well with chicken.

Roasting the peppers and the chillies beforehand pumps up the flavour but you can skip this bit to save time and if you like things hot, feel free to add more chillies.

If it’s not BBQ weather, roast the chicken in a 200C/180C fan/gas 6 oven for 40-45 minutes until the skin is crispy and the juices run clear.


  • 1-1.5kg bone-in, skin-on chicken legs (about 6-8 pieces)
  • 4-6 corn cobs
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade:

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 large red peppers, de-seeded and quartered
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • ½ tsp paprika (unsmoked)
  • 3-6 African bird’s-eye (piri piri) chillies, according to taste
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 8-10 basil leaves, torn
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • A splash of whisky or bourbon (optional)

TO MAKE: Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Place the red onion and peppers on a baking tray and drizzle with oil.

Sprinkle with the paprika and roast for 20-25 minutes, then add the chillies and garlic and toss. Roast for another 10 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Rip the stems from the chillies and place the contents of the roasting tray with the remaining marinade ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor or blender, along with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Blend well. Continue to blend while drizzling in the oil until you have a smooth marinade.

Slash the chicken at intervals with a sharp knife and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the marinade and rub into the meat. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Meanwhile, boil the corn cobs in a large pan of salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat a barbecue and remove the chicken from the fridge to come up to room temperature.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place over direct heat for 3-4 minutes on each side to sear.

Move to a cooler part of the barbecue and cook, turning and basting with any marinade, for a further 35-45 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part is pierced with a metal skewer.

Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes.

In a bowl, mash together the butter, chilli, cayenne, lime zest and a good squeeze of juice. Season with salt.

Rub the corn cobs with some of the butter (reserving some for serving) and place directly on the grill, turning, for 6-8 minutes or until charred on all sides.

Serve the chicken with the corn on the side with a knob of chilli-lime butter melting over the top.

Rich Chocolate & Espresso Cheesecake (Serves 8-10)

This indulgent cheesecake is perfect for a dinner party


This indulgent cheesecake is perfect for a dinner party

WELL, you can’t get a better boost to your mood than this fabulously rich and indulgent cheesecake. It’s a simple-to-make chocolate cheesecake with a subtle hint of espresso – a perfect dessert for a dinner party or special treat.


  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped
  • 250g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp good-quality cocoa powder
  • 220ml double cream, at room temperature
  • For the base:
  • 80g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g dark chocolate digestive biscuits
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • For the ganache topping:
  • 100g good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped
  • ¾ tsp instant espresso powder
  • 180ml double cream

To decorate:

  • Instant espresso powder dark chocolate curls or shavings
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)

TO MAKE: Grease the base of a deep 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

For the base, melt the butter in a pan over a gentle heat. Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or blitz in a food processor. Place the crumbs in a bowl, add the sugar, espresso powder and melted butter and stir to combine. Tip the base mixture into the prepared tin and level with the back of a metal spoon. Chill for 30 minutes.

Place the 200g chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure it doesn’t touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Using an electric hand-held mixer, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until smooth. Sift in the cocoa powder and beat until combined. Fold in a spoonful of the cooled chocolate until combined then fold in the rest of the chocolate.

Gradually pour in the cream, whisking continuously, until thick and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the cream cheese is mixed together.

Spoon the mixture over the biscuit base, smoothing it out with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, until set. When set, make the ganache topping. Put the chocolate and espresso powder into a bowl and set aside. Place the cream in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat and bring to a low simmer – do not let it boil.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave it to melt for a minute.
Slowly whisk the cream through, moving in the same direction, until combined and smooth.

Set aside to cool for 6-8 minutes before pouring onto the cheesecake. Gently tilt the cheesecake tin to enable the ganache to spread across the top.
Chill in the fridge for 30-40 minutes until set.

Partly unclip the tin and gently slide a small palette knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Fully open the tin and remove the cake.

You may need to smooth the edges with the palette knife.

Decorate the top of the cake with a little espresso powder, chocolate curls or shavings and chocolate-covered espresso beans (if using).

Ainsley’s Good Mood Food by Ainsley Harriott (Ebury Press, £20), out on September 9


Ainsley’s Good Mood Food by Ainsley Harriott (Ebury Press, £20), out on September 9
Ainsley Harriott and James Martin plotting the return of Ready Steady Cook

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