A gentleman who can cook is a gentleman indeed. Gone are the days of laughing off cooking as something you’re ‘terrible at’, or that you ‘don’t know how to do’ — these days, to be a confident, capable cook is to embody that sophisticated suavity that every gentleman should perpetually aspire to. And it’s not a novel idea, either; the road to gentlemanly cooking has been paved by the likes of Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and Will Bowlby.
But don’t start losing sleep over a half-stocked spice rack or a slightly overdone chicken fillet; we’re not suggesting that it’s compulsory to join the ranks of the country’s greatest chefs. There’s no need for professional expertise; but in the modern world, there is a need for quiet confidence and assured ability in the kitchen.
Standing helplessly next to the oven while your partner, housemate or parent takes the culinary helm is not a good look, gents. Never be brash or arrogant about it: but we’d strongly advise brushing up on your cooking skills if you suspect they may be a little on the rusty side.
With that in mind, we’ve curated five particular dishes that every gentleman should be able to whip up at any given moment. It pays to have a specialty; and these dishes are beloved, easy to make and — when done right — indubitably impressive.
So the next time a friend spontaneously drops by for an impromptu lunch, your parents pay a surprise visit to your London flat or the restaurant you’ve chosen for that long awaited first date cancels on you, leaving you forced to host the evening yourself: you can rely on any one of these five dishes to restore your culinary credentials, and leave your guests feeling happy, full and suitably in awe of your cooking expertise.
This summer, you could do a lot worse than a simple salad
Salads are a bit like the undersung heroes of the culinary realm. They’re simple and delicious (when done right, of course); and yet they never quite manage to take centre stage on the table. But it’s time to place salads in the spotlight; because trust us, gents, to have a stellar salad recipe up your sleeve will make you the envy of all your less culinary minded friends.
By ‘salad’, we don’t mean hastily throwing some leaves, sliced tomatoes and olive oil into a large bowl and hoping for the best. Instead, we mean brushing up on some of the most popular salads of our time, and dedicating some time to becoming proficient at one in particular.
Which salad you choose will depend on your preferred ingredients, but we’d say you can’t go wrong with Caesar, Cobb or Greek as a starting point. Take some time to understand the ingredient ratios, and hone your dressing to a marvel. Most of all, never underestimate the salad — they’re easy to get wrong, but if you get it right you’ll be the talk of the gastronomy town.
Gentleman’s Journal recommended recipe: Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad
If you’re partial to a fish-based dish, we’d suggest honing in on salmon
Who doesn’t love salmon? If you’re looking to become proficient at a fish-based crowd pleaser, we’d vote for the humble salmon every time. It’s the perfect summer staple, so it’s just the thing if you’re looking to hone your cooking skills over the next few weeks; it’s endlessly versatile, with multiple preparation and serving options; and it can be accompanied by a wide range of other dishes.
Take some time to get to know salmon. It’s not a matter of simply grilling it and serving it up with potatoes and asparagus; it’s a question of what flavourings you choose to pair with it. Perhaps you favour the honey-glazed approach; perhaps you’re partial to garlic butter, or ginger, or chilli; or perhaps you could really push the boat out, and try your hand at a salmon en croute?
It’s your call — but we’d recommend individualising your salmon preparation process, and taking some time to get it right. And don’t assume it can only be served with potatoes, either; couscous, pappardelle and rice are just three alternatives, but the world’s your salmon-oriented oyster. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have people queueing up at your door.
Gentleman’s Journal recommended recipe: Gordon Ramsay’s Teriyaki Salmon
If you’re looking for a versatile crowd-pleaser, opt for ragù
No, we’re not talking about bolognese here. Bolognese is wonderful, of course; but ragù is its more gentlemanly cousin.
What’s the difference, you ask? Well, bolognese is a thicker sauce, typically used with wider pasta dishes like lasagne. Ragù is generally found in spaghetti dishes — hence its crowd pleaser element, because who doesn’t love spaghetti? — and the opportunities to impress, with delectable flavours and an envy-inducing sauce consistency, are endless.
Ragù isn’t one for vegetarians (if you’re doing it the traditional way, that is): it’s generally made by cooking meat (beef or game tend to go down well) over a low heat for quite some time — and you’ll want to cook it in a braising sauce (we’d opt for a tomato or wine base). It’s not compulsory to pair it with spaghetti; pappardelle will also go down a treat. Find a recipe that works for you, in terms of palette and ability; and spend some time getting it down to a T. You’ll be glad you did — as will your friends and family.
Gentleman’s Journal recommended recipe: Pasta Evangelists’ Pappardelle with their Signature Beef Shin Ragù
Don’t underestimate the power of a good soup
Picture the scene: your housemate’s had a terrible day, and is in need of comfort. Your partner’s feeling under the weather, and needs some wholesome nourishment. You’re having a solo weeknight dinner, and feel like whipping up something decent while avoiding anything too extravagant. The answer? Soup, soup and soup again.
Soup does not exclusively appear in tin cans; when homemade, it can be the comforting, nourishing staple that so many of us often need. And, when done right, it can be divinely delicious, too. When selecting which soup you’re going to become an expert in (though there’s certainly no need to limit yourself to just one), you could go for one of the perennial favourites — mushroom, tomato, chicken, minestrone — but then again, why not push your culinary boundaries?
Experiment with gazpacho; improvise with chowder; explore your options with wontons. The opportunities are endless; as will be the admiring gratitude you’ll receive from your nearest and dearest when you whip up your delectable soup recipe.
Gentleman’s Journal recommended recipe: Nigella’s Yellow Split Pea and Frankfurter Soup
Pull out all the stops with the perfect roast
So far, you’ve had it fairly easy — we’ve suggested dishes that can either be served on their own, or that require fairly simple accompaniments. But with a roast, you’ll need to pull out all the stops. Don’t worry, though; we have faith that you’ll be able to pull off an entire roast dinner (or, indeed, lunch) with more than a little panache.
A roast is essential for any gentleman who calls himself a good cook. Of course, the centrepiece of your roast dinner will vary, depending on your personal tastes — beef, chicken, lamb — but be aware that whichever centrepiece you choose will require its own, very specific, accompaniments. It’s not as simple as saying “I’d like to serve a roast beef” — beef has to come with Yorkshire puddings, to say nothing of all the other trimmings with which you’re no doubt familiar. Similarly, if you opt for chicken, why not become adept at a uniquely delicious stuffing?
A good roast dinner is something that every gentleman should have up his sleeve, ready to whip out whenever the opportune Sunday arises. By all means, enlist help — cooking a roast alone is more hassle than it’s worth, not to mention a bit lonely — but make sure you’re calling the shots. It’s a useful skill to have, and it’ll set you in high esteem: we promise.
Gentleman’s Journal recommended recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Roast Leg of Lamb with Pancetta, Sage & Rosemary