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Top chefs at home: Henry Dimbleby

The co-founder of Leon, and father of George, two, and Johnnie, four months, reveals what his family eats at home and a traditional, tasty recipe

Posted: 9 September 2010
by Catherine O'Dolan

What would be your perfect family dinner? Something simple in the garden, so there was a chance to play. Maybe a butterflied leg of lamb on the barbecue, and chocolate hazelnut crunch ice cream for pudding.

What are the best recipes for weaning a baby? Make proper food – blitz it and freeze it. The stuff that you buy often tastes stale and processed. Things that worked for us are salmon, peas and mint; red lentils and squash; and meatballs with apricots and blitzed vegetables in them.

What’s the best way to tempt a fussy eater? It’s brutal, but keep them hungry. Toddlers need  less food than babies, so don’t fret.

Where do you dine out with your children? At Leon mostly. George has worked out that dad’s job, as well as “pushing buttons on ‘puter’”, is “running restaurants”.

Ben’s Hand-Me-Down Sausage & Bean Pot Pie
Serves  4

250g (9oz) dried haricot beans                   
1 tablespoon olive oil                       
4 large chunky Cumberland sausages, or Italian fennel and pork sausages (if possible)
½ a red onion, chopped                   
A couple of sticks of celery, cut into small dice           
1 small carrot, cut into small dice               
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped               
2 bay leaves
2 stalks of rosemary
2 teaspoons tomato purée
½ a tin (200g) of chopped tomatoes
650–750ml (1½ pints) chicken stock
2–3 potatoes (preferably Maris Piper)
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. When you’re ready to start, preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Put your casserole pan on the hob over a medium heat, add the olive oil and put the sausages in and gently colour them for 5 minutes on all sides. Then place in the oven to finish – roughly 15 minutes. Once the sausages are a lovely golden colour, remove them from the oven, take them out of the pan and set to one side. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Place the casserole pan back over a medium heat, and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, along with the bay leaves and rosemary. Sauté these until nice and soft, roughly 10 minutes. Now add the tomato pureé, cook for a few minutes and add the chopped tomatoes. Cook these down to a thick sauce. Roughly chop the cooked sausages into chunks and add to the vegetables, then add the soaked beans. Add 500ml of the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover with some parchment paper, check the seasoning, put the lid back on the dish and put the casserole back into the oven. Cook for 1½–2 hours, until the beans are baked soft. Check occasionally to make sure they are not becoming too dry, and if they are, add a little more stock. Peel the potatoes and thinly slice (5mm thick). Take the parchment off, then lay the potato slices around the top, lapping each piece on the next to create a potato lid. Keep going round till you have used them all up. Depending on how wet it looks (beans are unpredictable), pour some more of the stock over the potatoes and baste them with the melted butter. You may not need all the stock. Now put back into the oven for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and golden.

Leon can be found in Bluewater and throughout London. For more information, visit

Simply click on the following names to discover the family food secrets and special recipes of chefs Tristan Welch, Jérôme Ponchelle and Richard Bertinet.

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