When I find myself in a cooking rut, I turn to the spice drawer to inject some intrigue into my meals: smoky paprika for a rich chicken stew; toasted cumin seeds ground and dusted over pork chops while they fry in butter; or a sprinkle of cinnamon in my morning porridge.
Vodka Penne is an American-Italian classic that I have served as a quick-fix dinner on many occasions when the cupboards were bare in our first apartment. Over the years, I've revisited the original recipe, sometimes with quick meatballs made of pork sausage and fennel, and more recently with this spicy version, which breaks the meatballs down to create a speedy ragu. The alcohol in the vodka sharpens the flavour of the tomato puree and is fairly essential to the authentic flavour of the dish.
My Harissa Fried Chicken is a true weekend treat - the real pay-off for firing up a big pot of oil are the crispy, spicy nuggets of chicken that, post-fry, are tossed in a rich, red harissa spice mix for extra flavour. You could add some greens, but for an indulgent dinner, roast baby potatoes and a rockin' green, garlic aioli will do the trick.
How I miss LA's San Gabriel Valley, where a 15-minute drive would get you access to some of the best Sichuan-style food I've tasted outside of Asia. The numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns isn't for the faint-hearted - instead of that raw explosion a sliced red chilli can hit you with, Sichuan peppercorns provide a slow build of rounded heat that leaves your lips tingling. Crushed into a sweet spice mix with fennel seeds and star anise, they help form the ideal dusting for crispy chicken wings.
You'll find all you need to spice up your weekend cooking within these three recipes - give them a go!