- Flickr/Richard Moross
Everyone has a signature dish they whip out when they’re trying to impress – whether it’s beans on toast or a gourmet beef wellington with all trimmings.
Once you’ve got a catalogue of tried and tested favourites, you’re set up for every culinary occasion – without the stress of hoping the recipe you chose on a whim turns out as planned.
Business Insider asked some of the UK’s highest-profile head chefs – with 13 Michelin stars between them – which dishes everyone should be able to whip up by the time their 20s are over.
The list includes recipes that accommodate every level of experience in the kitchen – from simple sauces to show-stopping desserts.
Scroll on to discover 30 dishes everyone should know how to make by the time they turn 30, according to the UK’s leading head chefs.
Beer can chicken on the barbecue is a crowd-pleaser.
- Flickr/Lee Coursey
Steve Smith, head chef at Jersey-based Michelin-starred restaurant Bohemia, believes everyone should have a crowd-pleasing recipe up their sleeves. “When you’re busy and don’t find the time to cook, it’s good to have a few staple dishes with you can whip up quickly,” Smith said.
“You can’t wrong with Beer Can Chicken on the BBQ if the weather’s good.”
This recipe from Jamie Oliver incorporates a sweet and smoky rub to enhance the flavours from the grill.
A balanced and filling salad.
- Flickr/LA Foodie
“Being able to whip up a filling, balanced, and tasty salad using leftover vegetables and salad ingredients in the fridge is a skill,” Smith said.
“A salad can be delicious when some real thought has gone into it. Learn what works together and what doesn’t – it needs acidity, sweetness, textures, and substance.”
Need some inspiration? Check out this list of one food blogger’s favourite ever salad combinations.
Avocado and bacon is a brunch staple simple enough for everyone to master.
- Unsplash/Brenda Godinez
Whether it counts as an actual recipe or not, Smith said: “For breakfast, you have to be able to make smashed avocado on toast with bacon.”
Best topped with lime and chilli flakes, check out this avocado toast run-down from BBC Good Food.
A proper quiche is a summertime classic.
- Unsplash/James Harris
Flaky pastry packed with gruyère cheese and bacon set in a savoury egg custard, a Quiche Lorraine is high on the list of Bibendum head chef Claude Bosi’s most crucial recipes.
Sitting at the helm of London’s most recently-awarded two-star Michelin chef, he said: “Not very complex, but if done well a Quiche Lorraine can be delicious and full of flavour.”
Follow this recipe from BBC Good Food for the perfect balance of flakiness, saltiness, richness, and creaminess.
Sink your spoon into an elegant apple tart.
- Unsplash/Benko Prieur
“The most comforting and satisfying dessert is, in my opinion, apple tart with caramel sauce,” Bosi said.
“Making your own caramel sauce is quite simple once you’ve done it a few times, and homemade is almost always better [than shop-bought] if you can master it.”
A slice of this sticky tart from Epicurious looks too good to resist.
Buying a good cut of steak is one thing — cooking it right is another.
- Flickr/Richard Moross
“A good steak is a prime cut of meat, so it’s important to treat it with the respect it deserves,” said Paul Shearing – head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen.
“Room temperature steak, a hot pan, and paying close attention to cooking time is key,” he added. “Most importantly, make sure you have time to rest the steaks after cooking.”
Great British Chefs have plenty of advice when it comes to cooking methods, seasoning, and timing depending on the cut. Check out their database here.
A proper gravy can elevate your roast beyond measure.
“I always get asked how we make our gravy at Bread Street Kitchen, and the key is a good stock,” Shearing said.
“At the restaurant, we slowly caramelise our beef bones and carrots before adding to the stock, which gives a real depth of flavour. To do this at home, keep bones in the freezer from a previous meal, or ask your butcher for bones.”
This recipe from James Martin also uses beef and carrots as the base for a rich and hearty gravy.
And like a roast needs gravy — brunch needs hollandaise.
- Flickr/Katherine Lim
With an extensive breakfast menu at Bread Street Kitchen, Paul Shearing knows a thing or two about brunch. “A good hollandaise sauce will instantly raise your brunch game,” he said. “It is perfect with poached eggs and smoked salmon for a weekend treat.”
“Hollandaise doesn’t require many ingredients, but it does require time and attention – don’t rush as the eggs will curdle and the sauce will split.”
Hollandaise in a hurry might not be easy, but this sumptuously smooth sauce from Julia Childs can be knocked up in under 15 minutes.
A proper roast potato is done best when kept simple.
- Flickr/US Department of Agriculture
Neil Rankin, owner and head chef at the barbecue and open fire pit restaurant Temper in Soho, believes that knowing how to make a proper roast potato is an absolute must.
“Roast potatoes are quintessentially British, and other than the meat are by far the best thing on the plate every Sunday,” he said.
Although it seems simple, everyone has their own method which they believe works magic on the humble spud. Jamie Oliver’s twice-roasted recipe gently crushes the outer crisp layer half way through cooking to allow for an extra crunchy surface area.
Cauliflower cheese is cheap, tasty, and a great vegetarian option to know how to knock together.
- Wikimedia Commons/Sodanie Chea
“Cauliflower cheese is a perfect, crowd-pleasing, warming vegetable-based dish which is low cost and delicious,” Rankin said.
This oozing recipe from Jenny White uses extra mature cheddar cut through the creamy sauce, adding plenty of flavour.
Throw together a multi-purpose curry sauce.
“A base for so many great meals, perfecting a curry sauce builds a strong foundation for a variety of dishes and is great when cooking for a group of friends,” Rankin said.
Curry can take many forms and flavour profiles, but this velvety and vibrant tikka masala sauce from Chef de Home makes a great foundation from which to expand your repertoire.
A hearty, fridge-clearing soup makes a warming lunchtime staple.
- Unsplash/Taylor Kiser
Clare Smyth became the first female chef to hold and retain three Michelin stars during her time as Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Now, Smyth runs the kitchen of Core in London which she set up earlier this year.
“A simple vegetable soup is cheap, quick, delicious and nutritious, and you can make a big batch to last a few days,” Smyth said.
This quick and easy homemade vegetable soup recipe from The Spruce can be easily adjusted to suit whatever’s lurking at the bottom of your fridge.
Spaghetti bolognese is great when cooking for a group.
“Spaghetti bolognese is another classic that everybody should be able to rustle up,” Smyth said.
“Pasta with tomato comes in so many different forms, but you really can’t go wrong with a family-favourite bolognese.
This bolognese recipe from Andrew Balmer builds a rounded and flavoursome base for the sauce using carrots, celery, bacon, and plenty of herbs.
A roast chicken with all the trimmings will keep everyone at the table happy.
Smyth believes that everyone should know how to roast a chicken with a few trimmings, “simply because everybody loves a roast with all the trimmings.”
Ina Garten’s recipe for the perfect roast chicken loads the skin with plenty of seasoning so it crisps up to become the star of the show.
Turning a roast chicken into two dinners will help you save time, money, and effort with your evening meals.
Neil Borthwick, head chef at Merchants Tavern – a stunning, European-influenced restaurant in Shoreditch, London – said: “Something simple and super tasty is a salad of roast chicken, rocket, baby gem, tarragon, and Parmesan that you can throw together quickly using roast chicken leftovers.”
Whilst a salad can consist of whatever you’ve got lying around, making the effort to cook up something special to top your salad with, like these hot and crispy polenta croutons from Michael Symon, is also worthwhile.
A sumptuous Eton Mess looks fantastic and requires close to zero effort.
“It’s good to be able to make one sweet thing and Eton Mess is one of my favourite British desserts – and it’s easy to make,” Borthwick said.
Crumbled meringue, lashings of softly whipped cream, and oozing berries make up this classic British summertime dessert.
If you’re strapped for time, use pre-bought meringues for an instant throw-together end to your meal. Otherwise, this recipe from Delia Smith also incorporates a homemade strawberry coulis while keeping the list of ingredients minimal.
A succulent pork chop with flavoursome trimmings.
- Flickr/Naotake Murayama
“A pork chop with lentils, English mustard and savoy cabbage is a good one to have up your sleeve,” Borthwick said, calling it “a simple, hearty but impressive dish.”
This recipe from Gourmet Traveller braises red cabbage in wine, replacing Neil’s suggestion of savoy, but packs plenty of flavour with mustard, sage, and bay leaves into the chops.
Beef or venison bourguignon is an elegant classic.
- Unsplash/Yvonne Lee Harijanto
Marcus Eaves, head chef at of Oblix – the 32nd floor restaurant at the top of the Shard in central London – believes in mastering big dishes you can turn into a social occasion, or dress down for an easy mid-week dinner.
He said that “venison Bourguignon is a great example of a winter staple that will get you through the coldest season,” thanks to its rich flavours that develop during the long cooking process.
“It’s a great dish to knock up in the morning and leave in the oven to bubble and caramelise throughout the day.”
The most famous venison bourguignon recipe of all time, by Julia Childs, is a classic for a reason. Check it out here.
Combine the crunch of freshly baked bread with the most flavoursome ingredients with this flatbread.
- Flickr/Kurman Communications
“A truffle, ricotta, and pancetta flatbread is an incredible dish and a classic on the Oblix menu,” Eaves said. “It’s all about letting the ingredients do the talking – no funny business.”
This quick flatbread recipe from the Great British Budget Menu by chef Paul Ainsworth makes a great foundation to top with your choice of ingredients.
Making fresh pasta isn’t as daunting a task as it sounds.
- Unsplash/Carissa Gan
“You can’t beat fresh linguini with clams, chilli, lemon, and garlic,” Eaves said. “If you can master making fresh pasta, you’ll have endless fun in the kitchen.”
Fried rice is a quick dinner that’s full of flavour.
A filling fried rice is a great way to use up the odds and ends of fresh vegetable and cooked meat lurking in the fridge.
Andrew Wong, head chef and owner of A. Wong in London, recommends that everyone learns the fundamentals of fried rice so they can throw together a quick dinner in a hurry. “Everyone should learn how to make at least an egg fried rice, a decent one, it’s an absolute staple,” Wong said.
This “fast-fix fried rice” recipe from BBC Good Food works as a great starting block to base your own flavour-combinations on.
And fried rice partnered with a spring roll is a match made in heaven.
To go with your fried rice, why not make a couple of hot and crispy spring rolls?
Wong said that everyone should also be able to rustle some good spring rolls: “Nowadays that’s easy, you can buy most of the ingredients [in mainstream supermarkets, you just have to learn to assemble it.”
This step-by-step guide my Steamy Kitchen uses a mix of crisp vegetable batons and moist chicken meat to add a diversity of textures to their spring roll contents. This recipe also works for freezing – meaning your spring rolls can be ready, from freezer to fryer, in ten minutes.
Sticky ribs that fall apart are a hard feat, but worth mastering.
- Flickr/Matt Johnson
Sticky ribs are a favourite amongst diners at Andrew Wong’s Michelin star restaurant in Victoria. But you don’t have to wait until you go out for dinner to get your rib fix.
“Everyone should know how to make really tasty, sticky ribs,” Wong said.
These sticky, sweet, and spicy ribs from Gordon Ramsay are slow-cooked at a low temperature for hours to make sure the meat melts in the mouth.
Sink your fork into a rich and creamy risotto.
- Unsplash/Julien Pianetti
Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef at Michelin two-star restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, believes that learning how to make risotto, in turn, helps you to expand your cooking repertoire as you start to think about flavouring, combinations, and extras.
“Once you have the fundamentals of making a risotto, it becomes very diverse and can be manipulated to suit most ingredients,” Palmer-Watts said.
A silky, decadent chocolate mousse is an easy and delectable treat.
“Chocolate mousse made with great chocolate and lightly set – you can’t beat it,” Palmer-Watts said. “Keep it simple to let the flavour profile of the chocolate you choose come through.”
Raymond Blanc’s recipe for chocolate mousse keeps things simple with good quality dark chocolate and eggs as the main ingredients. Mary Berry’s recipe, on the other hand, includes double cream, brandy, and a knob of butter for extra decadence.
Make a sharp and silky lemon tart.
Pastry has a reputation for being difficult at times. However, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have plenty of recipes at your fingertips to try your hand at.
Hamish Brown, group executive chef of ROKA Japanese restaurants in London, said: “A classic lemon tart takes a bit of work, but is worth spending the time on. Once you have nailed the technique, you can pull it off for those last minute dinner parties – no drama.”
This creamy and tangy recipe from Gregg Wallace incorporates a crumbly base that melts in the mouth alongside its rich, fruity filling.
Master spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino’s perfect simplicity.
- Flickr/Luca Nebuloni
Literally translated as “spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, and chilli,” this simple dish can be made using ingredients found in almost every kitchen and is ready within minutes.
“This spaghetti recipe is my favourite pasta dish by far,” Brown said, adding that “it has so few ingredients and can be eaten any time of the year.”
“It’s quick, it’s delicious, and needs good quality ingredients as there is nowhere to hide here!”
This recipe from pasta-makers Barilla incorporates organic spaghetti and extra virgin olive oil to incorporate luxury into the otherwise simple dish.
A crisp, sweet pavlova topped with sharp, fresh fruit.
- Unsplash/Toa Heftiba
“Pavlova is a wonderful dessert to master,” said Portland head chef Zach Elliott-Crenn. “It’s simple, yet spectacular, light, but moreish, and it’s infinitely adaptable using whichever fruits are in season.”
Adding vinegar and cornflour to your meringue base can help to stabilise the mixture during cooking. Masterchef UK judge Gregg Wallace’s strawberry pavlova recipe keeps things simple, adorning his base with sweet strawberries and sharp redcurrants.
French onion soup is the perfect, warming comfort food.
For something less summery, Elliott-Crenn recommends a classic French onion soup. “You can’t beat a delicious ‘soupe à l’oignon’ on a cold day,” he said.
“It’s bound to impress your friends, yet [it’s] unpretentious and comforting – and according to the French, it’s a classic hangover cure.”
Raymond Blanc’s recipe calls for baguette and gruyere cheese to make his version of the soup’s classic, chunky croutons – adding authenticity.
Master the aromatic flavour profile of a Malabar prawn curry.
- Flickr/Geoff Peters
“Everyone should have a curry up their sleeve, and this one is easy to whip up in a pinch, forgiving and incredibly tasty,” Elliott-Crenn said.
His favourite recipe for this classic south Indian dish was passed on by a friend in India. However, this recipe from Jamie Oliver includes the tamarind, turmeric, and mustard seeds that gives the curry its authentic, aromatic flavour.