Claire Ptaks mozzarella and new potato tarts, Vivek Singhs mace and cardamom grilled lamb, Fergus Hendersons grilled pork chop and more

Claire Ptaks mozzarella, rosemary and new potato tarts

I learned about this wonderful way with mozzarella from Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. You make a sauce of sorts with the cheese and the liquid that it comes in. Add a little cream and seasoning and you have one of the most delicious bases for a pizza or tart.

Makes 4 individual tarts or 1 large tart
For the flaky pastry
plain flour 140g, plus more for rolling
salt a pinch
sugar a pinch
cold butter 85g, cut into 1cm cubes
iced water 2-3 tbsp
egg 1, beaten, for the egg wash

For the filling
buffalo mozzarella 1 large ball and its liquid
double cream 2 tbsp
olive oil 2 tbsp
rosemary leaves 1 tbsp, chopped
sea salt 2 good pinches, or to taste
cracked black pepper plenty
new potatoes 8 (about 200g), peeled, boiled and cut into 1cm slices
olive oil for drizzling

To make the pastry, combine the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut in the cubes of butter with a pastry cutter or the back of a fork, or use a mixer. Avoid over mixing as you want to leave larger chunks of butter than you would think, to give a flakier pastry. Drizzle in the water and bring it all together. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Chop the mozzarella ball into 1cm pieces and put them in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of the cheese liquid, the cream, olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients together, taste for seasoning and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

If making individual tarts, divide the pastry into 4 balls. Roll the pastry or pastries out on a lightly floured surface until about 2mm thick. Carefully lift on to the lined baking tray and sprinkle with a little flour (this helps to keep the pastry crisp). Cover the base or bases with the sliced potatoes, leaving a 2cm border. Fold the rim of pastry up over the filling and brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Now spoon the cheese mixture evenly over the tarts. Bake the tarts for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle the baked tarts with a little olive oil before serving.

Be sure always to boil your potatoes in salted water. The potatoes will absorb the salt from the water and bring out their flavour. Do taste them before assembling the tarts so you know how much more salt to add.
From The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (Square Peg, 20)

Vivek Singhs mace and cardamom grilled lamb with nutmeg saag

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

This is a deconstructed version of the quintessential Punjabi favourite, saag gosht. In many ways, I prefer this dish over the traditional version as it allows for much better appreciation of both fantastic British lamb and nutmeg-scented spinach. If you want something extra to serve with this, roughly chop any vegetables you have in the fridge and saut with some garlic, cumin seeds and dried red chilli flakes to serve as an accompaniment.

Serves 4
rumps of lamb 4 x 175-200g, fat trimmed off, or lamb chops 8-12 (timings provided are for rump. If using chops, reduce cooking by 1 minute each side.)
vegetable oil 2 tbsp, to grill/pan fry
pilau rice to serve (optional)

For the first marinade
ginger 2.5cm piece, peeled
garlic 3 cloves, peeled
green chillies 3, stalks removed
vegetable oil 1 tbsp
salt tsp
lemon juice of

For the second marinade
Greek yogurt 25g
cream cheese 2 tbsp
salt tsp
sugar a pinch
red chilli powder tsp
ground mace tsp and ground green cardamom tsp, mixed

For the sauce
young spinach leaves 1kg
ghee or vegetable oil 4 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
garlic 2 cloves, finely chopped
onion 1 large, finely chopped
green chillies 4, finely chopped
ginger 2.5cm piece, peeled and finely chopped
ground coriander 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp
gram (chickpea) flour 1 tsp
butter 25g
single cream 75ml
sugar a pinch
dried fenugreek leaves 1 tsp , crushed between your fingertips

For the first marinade, blend the ginger, garlic and chilli together, loosening with a little water or oil as needed. Mix this paste with all the remaning ingredients for the first marinade, then rub them over the lamb rumps/chops and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the second marinade and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

To begin the sauce, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spinach leaves and cook until wilted, then immediately drain and cool in a bowl of iced water. Drain the spinach a second time, squeezing to remove all the water and blitz in a blender or food processor to make a very smooth green paste. Set aside.

To cook the lamb, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based ovenproof frying or grill pan on a medium-high heat, add the lamb and sear for 3 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the heat, set aside the lamb and rest for 5 minutes. Now apply the second marinade. Transfer to the oven and roast for 6 minutes. Set aside the meat to rest for 6 minutes while you finish the sauce.

Heat the ghee or oil to smoking point and add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the garlic and cook until golden. Add the onion, reduce the heat and continue cooking for 4-6 minutes, until it is translucent. Add the chillies and ginger, stir in the ground coriander and salt and saut for 2 minutes. Gradually add the gram flour, stirring over a low heat for 1-2 minutes to prevent lumps from forming. When it has turned golden, add the spinach paste and mix thoroughly. Now stir in the butter, then fold in the cream slowly, otherwise the mixture may separate. Add the sugar and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Finish by sprinkling in the fenugreek leaves and grating in the nutmeg. Do not cook for too long after adding the spinach paste as it will discolour and render the dish unappetising in appearance. When the meat has rested, slice thinly and serve with the sauce, pilau rice and some stir-fried vegetables, if you like.

As with any good roast or grill, remember to rest your meat for a good amount of time for this rump it needs to rest for as long as it cooks, chops a little less. If you slice it as soon as it comes out of the oven, all the juices will bleed on to the plate.
Vivek Singh is executive chef and CEO of The Cinnamon Club, London SQ1;

Fergus Hendersons grilled pork chop and spring onions

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

Theres a particular pork chop recipe in Robert Fresons wonderful book The Taste of France that has given me many sleepless, yearning nights and happy dreams. This is a simplified version, all about the onion! Perfect for the first twinges of spring.

Serves 4
pork chops 4, about 2.5cm thick, skin and fat scored, if you like
spring onions 32
butter a knob
Vielle Prune 100ml (or brandy if you cant get your hands on it)
chicken stock 100ml

Put the chops on a hot griddle or barbecue and grill for about 7 minutes on each side, just until they stop being totally giving to the push but well before they become a lost cause. In the meantime grill your spring onions, they should be charred so that they are quite black on the outside and nutty sweet on the inside. Brush off the worst of the burn on their outside and set aside.

Finish the chops off in a pan. Add the butter and when it is sizzling add the chops, splash in the Vielle Prune to deglaze, then the chicken stock, and finally toss in the onions. Shake, and cook for 30 seconds or so to allow them to get to know each other. Serve with a bit of mash if you like, but no other vegetables are needed, the onions should take centre stage.
Fergus Henderson is chef patron of St John

Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovichs meatballs with peas, mint and yogurt

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

The perfume rising from this pot is enough to transport you to a dreamland Persia, all minarets, walled gardens and soft silk slippers. It is also perfect for British springtime: green-tasting and light, but still hearty enough to dispel the cold damp outside. This makes 12 balls (youll need three balls each, but will want a fourth).

Serves 4
For the meatballs
potato 1 large, peeled and grated (about 250g)
minced lamb 400g
minced beef 250g
onion 1 small, finely diced (about 120g)
coriander 1 small bunch, chopped (about 10g)
mint 1 small bunch, chopped (about 15g)
ground turmeric 1 tsp
ground cumin 1 tsp
ground allspice 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp
white pepper tsp
egg 1

For the cooking liquor
olive oil 1 tbsp
onion 1 large, diced (about 150g)
garlic 4 cloves, peeled and cracked with the flat of your knife
salt 1 tsp
dried Persian lemons 2 whole, cut in half
dried red chilli 1 small, cracked in half
cinnamon stick
water 1 litre

To finish
natural yogurt 250g
egg yolk 1
dried mint 4 tsp
cornflour 1 tbsp
peas 200g (fresh or frozen)
mint leaves or pea shoots if you can get some, to garnish

Heat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Squeeze out any excess liquid from the grated potato (you should end up with about 150g) and mix in a large bowl with all the other meatball ingredients. Form the mixture into 12 balls of roughly 60g each. Place on a lightly-oiled baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, place a large saucepan on a mediumhigh heat and add the olive oil, onion, garlic and salt. Saute until the onion starts to soften. Add the Persian lemons, chilli and cinnamon stick and fry together for one minute, then pour in the water and bring to the boil.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the boiling cooking liquor. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat to a constant simmer and cook slowly for 45 minutes. You can prepare up to this stage in advance the meatballs and cooking liquor will keep for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge. Then when you want to finish making the dish, simply tip the meatballs and liquor into a large pan and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes to heat through thoroughly before continuing with the rest of the recipe.

Mix the yogurt in a bowl with the egg yolk, dried mint and cornflour until fully combined.

If you are using fresh peas, add them to the simmering meatballs, increase the heat and cook for 3 minutes; if you are using frozen peas, just pop them in they wont need any additional cooking time. Then, stirring carefully all the while, add the yogurt mixture to the meatball liquor. Return to the boil and cook for 1 minute to thicken the sauce.

Serve straightaway, sprinkling some fresh mint leaves and/or pea shoots onto each dish to garnish. This dish is great on its own, but it will also work beautifully with fragrant basmati or jasmine rice.

If you have any meatballs left over, they will keep for a day or two in the fridge. Reheat them thoroughly on a low heat with a spoonful of water to loosen up the sauce or pop them into the microwave.
From Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich (Hodder & Stoughton, 25)

Lindsey Barehams Greek spring chicken with lemon potatoes

Photograph: Chris Terry

Serves 4
olive oil
red onions 2
lemons 2
garlic 8 large cloves
large waxy potatoes 900g
dried oregano 2 tsp
salt and freshly ground black pepper
dry white wine 250ml
water 250ml
poussins 4, or spring chickens
cherry tomatoes 4 trusses

Heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Smear a large roasting tin with a little olive oil. Peel the onions, then halve and slice them into wedges. Halve the lemons, and crack the cloves of garlic but dont peel them. Peel the potatoes and slice them thickly. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil into a mixing bowl, add the potatoes, onions, a teaspoon of oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the juice of a lemon. Swirl everything around in the bowl to coat it with the oil. Spread the potatoes in the roasting tin, tuck in the garlic, then pour over the wine and water. Put the tin into the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Using kitchen scissors, cut out each poussins backbone. Turn the birds over and cut them in half, down the breastbone.

Add them to the roasting tin. Smear them with olive oil, squeeze over the juice of the second lemon, then season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the remaining teaspoon of oregano. Roast for 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and roast for a further 15 minutes. The potatoes should be tender, some crusty, some gooey, the poussins just cooked and the tomatoes soft. Serve with a share of the pan juices.
From One Pot Wonders by Lindsey Bareham (Michael Joseph, 18.99)

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