• Ainsley Harriott's happy food includes haloumi bake and a cracking Spanish custard (Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook / Dan Jones)Source: Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook / Dan Jones
From haloumi bake to sweet desserts, channel some Ainsley Harriott happiness with these recipes from the singing, smiling chef.
26 Aug 2020 - 4:00 PM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2020 - 9:37 AM

--- Watch Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook, 8.30pm Sundays on SBS Food or stream it on SBS On Demand ---


It's hard not to feel happy when you watch Ainsley Harriott eating and cooking - and the huge grins and belly laughs that come along with it!

His new show, Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook, has even MORE dancing and singing and laughing than usual. We asked him what is it about meeting and eating that makes him so happy. 

"Well, meeting and eating are two of my three favourite activities! And I’m so pleased that the team that makes the show with me is able to bring that across to everyone watching. In case you’re wondering, by the way, my third favourite activity is, of course, watching Arsenal!" 

Here are nine of our favourite feel-good recipes from one of SBS Food's most-loved TV hosts. Sing and dance while you cook, and channel some of Harriott's infectious love of life! 

Ainsley’s ultimate jerk chicken

Get your tastebuds doing a happy dance with this Jamaican classic. Ainsley Harriott says it's one of his all-time faves for a barbecue, and the leftovers are great for sandwiches and salads.

Betsy's drop scones (aka pikelets)

Like puppies and kittens, small things have special appeal. And so it is with this 'small thing' of the pancake world: Betsy’s drop scones with rhubarb and raspberry ripple cream, a recipe from Ainsley's Australian Market MenuDrop scones, also known to many Aussie households as pikelets, are petit pancakes. Serve with the ripple cream in the recipe, with your favourite jam and cream, or with butter and golden syrup. They'll bring a sticky smile to your face either way!

What's cooking?

Sesame soy beef lollipops

The very world lollipop conjures childhood glee for many of us! In this recipe from Ainsley's Australian Market Menu, he's having some fun with the recipe name - these are really beef skewers. The marinated beef is delicious when grilled, so you get double the joy here: a smile at the name, and a smile when you eat!

Sesame oil gives dishes depth, like this these soy beef lollipops.

All of your favourite things

Take a little tour on a platter: make like Ainsley does in Corsica, in the second episode of Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook, and bring together lots of delicious things. His version includes cheese, sliced meats, grapes and honeyed figs, which he makes with a local honey, but you could add anything you like, and make it any size you like - a platter to share or a platter for one. How about adding his seared mozzarella in smoked ham with figs or his salt cod fritters, alongside your favourite cheeses and deli items? 

Marjoram-roasted vegetable, lentil and halloumi bake

If you love cheese, then there's a strong chance the squeaky, salty glory of haloumi makes you happy, so this easy, tasty one-tray bake with slabs of golden haloumi is for you. Along with all the recipes from the show, the Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook book has a swathe of other tempting recipes from around the Med, including this one, which he's shared with us. "While I was in Corsica, I tried many delicious vegetarian dishes that were simply prepared yet full of flavour from fresh herbs and garlic. ...This dish is easy to prepare for a mid-week dinner – just toss it all together in the one dish!" 

One-pot rose harissa chicken and apricot pilaf

Some Ainsley Harriott recipes make you want to dance, some make your tastebuds sing, while this one falls into the 'so easy to make' comfort food category. This makes us happy because it's quick and easy, uses just one pot (less washing up!) and is full of hearty flavours. "I’m using a ready-made harissa paste to add a depth of flavour and a smoky chilli kick. Rose harissa gives a special sweetness and aroma, but you can use ordinary harissa if you prefer and you can add more or less depending on how spicy you like it," he says of this recipe - another one from his fab new Mediterranean cookbook. 

Chargrilled sourdough with sauteed mushrooms and melted Caprino Romano cheese

Sometimes you just want easy comfort food and for many of us, cheese on toast ticks all the boxes. This version adds another layer of yum for mushroom lovers.

Mushrooms on sourdough.

Crema Catalana

There's so much to love about a smooth Spanish custard with a hint of citrus and spice, topped with a hardened caramel! Grab your spoon and crack in. "A traditional Catalana is not as rich as a crème brûlée and the Spanish use cinnamon rather than vanilla to flavour the custard. Originally from Catalonia, the dessert is popular throughout Spain and I definitely enjoyed a couple while in Seville and Granada," says Harriott. 

Chargrilled sumac lamb cutlets with a herby tabbouleh

This recipe is one that Ainsley whips up in his stunning outdoor kitchen overlooking the city of Amman in Jordan, near the end of his wanderings in Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook. Cook it and channel that happy grin when you squeeze some lemon over before digging into the zesty lamb and fresh herby salad!

Halloumi bake, harissa chicken and crema Catalana recipes extracted from Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook, by Ainsley Harriott (Ebury Press). Photography by Dan Jones.

More happy food from Ainsley Harriott
Spiced mango and rosewater lassi

Spruce up your next summer mango smoothie with a pinch of cardamom and dash of rosewater.

Eggplant fritters with wild honey and cinnamon sugar

It's not that common in Western cooking to mix sweet and savoury but the soft texture and mild flavour of eggplant makes it surprisingly good for a sweet-savoury mashup.

Apple Isle French toast with walnut and caramel bananas

Apple Isle is an anecdotal name given to Tasmania as it was once a major producer and exporter of apples. It also references the state's shape, which loosely resembles that of an apple.

Clap-hand roti

Clap-hand roti is great to mop up tasty curries and sauces. Clapping helps release the air pockets and makes these Caribbean flatbreads lovely and light and flaky.

Marinated chicken kebabs with preserved lemon and harissa yoghurt dressing (djej mechoi)

“In the Medina of Fez, I was mesmerised by the colourful stands selling spice mixes, bowls of fiery harissa and great piles of shiny olives and golden preserved lemons. It takes about a month to ‘pickle’ the local whole lemons in brine, but when they’re ready they have a unique flavour and salty tang that goes brilliantly with chicken cooked on coals. You can preserve lemons at home if you like a bit of pickling, but you can also find them in most good delis.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

Upside-down chicken in a pot (maqlooba)

“I love one-pot dishes like this. They almost get on with the cooking by themselves and this recipe is one of the hidden gems of the Middle East. Hopefully you’ll be as lucky as I was when I ate it: sitting on a sunny terrace in Amman as the steaming dome of fragrant rice, spiced chicken and vegetables appeared on a big plate for us to tuck into. Heaven.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

Rum-drunk barbecued chicken

“There’s nothing more Caribbean than rum and to get that flavour right through the chicken, it helps to make a few incisions into the meat before marinating it. I love the idea of keeping a little bit of bone on the chicken so when you put it onto the barbie it’s got a bit of structure.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food