Joe's ideas for bonding and eating

Cooking has always been my main hobby, and now I’m lucky enough to be doing it for a job. One of the most prominent lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that not only does the common saying “Food is the way to a man’s heart” ring true,  food is actually the way to most people’s hearts.
In every group of friends there is always one who is a good cook and has people over for dinner, bakes for people and introduces them to new things. In my group of friends you won’t be surprised to hear that I am that person… and it’s great!

Bonding over a dinner that you’ve put your heart and soul into is, in my experience, one of the best ways of getting closer to your friends and even meeting new ones. So my challenge to you is to become that “chef” of the group!

Take the time to learn and watch your friendships flourish.
Here are some examples of what you can start off with, these are easy things to cook but bound to impress!

  • Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, and Avocado Salad. Chop some chives, mix them in with some full fat cream cheese and add some sea salt. Spread it on the smoked salmon and roll it up. Serve with your favourite leaves and avocado.
  • Spicy Tomato and Basil Soup. Chop 5 tomatoes and cook in a large non-stick dry pan. Add 600ml of Vegetable stock, sea salt, pepper, 1 large potato, 1 large onion, 1 large carrot, 1 tablespoon of tomato purée and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add a handful of chopped basil and stir in, blend until smooth and then pass through a sieve.


  • Fillet steak. Grab a 6oz fillet steak from a trusty local butcher, heat a non-stick frying pan with a teaspoon of oil until the pan is steaming, drop 1 sprig rosemary and 1 sprig thyme into the pan. Season the steak with salt and pepper and sear for 4 minutes each side (medium rare)
Salmon by Joe
Feeding relationships with soulful meals
  • Salmon fillets. Buy Salmon fillets from a fishmonger, skinless and boneless. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter, season the salmon with salt and pepper, chopped dill and chopped chives and add to the pan, sear for 2 minutes each side and then put in the oven (180 degrees) for 6-7 minutes. Serve with your choice of potatoes and veg.


  • Chocolate brownies. Mix 175g melted butter or margarine, 125g plain flour (sieved), 50g cocoa powder (sieved), 3 eggs, 350g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence all together in a bowl. Grease a flat oblong tin and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes (180 degrees). Serve with vanilla pod ice cream and dark chocolate sauce.
  • Stewed Cherry deconstructed crumble. Now this dessert is bound to puzzle people, but trust me, it works. Put 50ml of water in the bottom of a saucepan, add some pitted cherries, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, 50g demerara sugar, cook on a low heat until the cherries are soft. Serve with crumble mix, chopped basil and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.

Follow Joe’s beauties on Instagram @castanocooks
Beautiful feature photo by Jamie Sims

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