Stepping out of your culinary comfort zone is easier than you think. A top chef provides his favourite pairings for spicing up your weekly menu

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If you’re used to cooking on autopilot during the working week, you’re not alone. We all have our go-to recipes for making our kitchen endeavours less stressful, but for many of us (i.e. me), our quests for convenience can end up stifling any culinary creativity. However, thanks to  HelloFresh’s  jam-packed Recipe Boxes, stepping out of our comfort zones is less complicated than we think.

Proving that meals that are big on flavour need only minimal effort, they come with a wide variety of delicious weekly menus and an assortment of seasonal, fresh food that’ll transform your cooking habits. What’s more, there’s also a great range of flexible subscriptions and delivery times to choose from, to ensure they work for any schedule and cooking level - a definite plus when life gets hectic or you’re not quite sure where to start.

To whet your appetite, we asked Andre Dupin, Head Chef at  HelloFresh UK , to serve up his top 10 food and spice combinations. Inspired by his years of experience as a professional chef working in Michelin-starred London restaurants, international cookery schools and supper clubs, it’s a must-read for anyone looking to make mealtimes less boring. Plus,  HelloFresh  has also thrown in a GTG offer into the mix too (full details below) to save you money as well as time. Happy times.

1. Fish and fennel

Fish may be brimming with health benefits but let’s be honest, it can be a bit bland. To give it some extra flavour, Andre recommends adding thinly sliced fennel, a sprinkling of salt (to help soften it), a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh parsley. “The fennel’s mild aniseed flavour is great alongside oily fish such as salmon,” says Andre. It also works well with sea bass fillets too.

2. Pork and fennel seeds

The herb has multi-meat appeal, especially in its seed form. For a pork roast, Andre recommends crushing them (try using a pestle mortar or putting them in a sealed bag and bashing them with a rolling pin for a little stress relief) and rubbing them into the meat before baking it in the oven.

3. Carrots and star anise

With its distinctive taste and licorice-like aroma, star anise offers a wealth of flavour at your fingertips. Its appeal extends to casseroles to Chinese dishes, and it also provides a great way of making your five-a-day much more exciting. “Drop a star anise into the water when cooking carrots to perfume the water and gently flavour them,” Andre recommends. One that appeals to a range of senses.

4. Cabbage and bacon

Bless the poor cabbage. Over the years, it’s developed a rep as possibly the most boring veg on the planet. Andre attributes this to an epidemic of overcooking which can make it watery and tasteless. However, he’s discovered the secret to making it infinitely more interesting - bacon. “The key to this combination is to use smokey bacon and to brown it for real depth of flavour,” he tells me. “Cook it all in one pan so you don't lose the smokiness/saltiness from the bacon.

“Shred the cabbage finely and add it to the pan. Once the cabbage goes in, cook it quickly and add splashes of water to help it cook. Finish with garlic, lots of black pepper and a knob of butter and those cabbage nightmares will be a distant memory.” This method also works really well with Brussel sprouts at Christmas, green beans and broccoli.

5. Potato mash and garlic

There’s nothing more warming in the winter months than a healthy serving of mashed potato. The ultimate in comfort good, incorporate a generous amount of garlic into your recipe for an easy yet effective way to take it to the next level. “Roast whole cloves of garlic, squeeze them from their skins and mash them into your potato with butter or olive oil,” recommends Andre and for an extra edge, try stirring a spoonful of wholegrain mustard in too.

6. Salmon and dill

It’s a classic combo, but one that’s hugely underutilised in our home cooking plans. The herb’s uniquely fresh taste - a mixture of fennel, celery and anise - makes it the ideal candidate for lifting a fish dish. “Stir chopped dill, lemon juice and creme fraiche together for a simple sauce,” advises Andre. And remember to keep stirring to avoid lumps.

7. Pomegranate molasses and salad

This is the ultimate dressing for anyone who hates their greens or grains. Not only do they pack a punch flavour-wise, but they’re also packed with health-boosting antioxidants too. “Mix one part lemon juice, two parts pomegranate molasses and four parts olive oil in a jar, close the lid and shake,” says Andre. “It’s a great dressing for leafy salads or couscous and bulgur wheat.”

8. Chicken and tarragon

Tarragon is one of the central herbs in French cooking and is one of the most versatile too. As well as eggs and cheese, it also pairs extremely well with chicken in a white wine sauce due to its very mild aniseed flavour.

9. Pasta and nuts

Vegans and non-vegans can benefit from keeping a packet of nuts in their cupboards due to their multitude of uses. For a Parmesan replacement, Andre recommends blitzing up walnuts or hazelnuts (which give a deliciously creamy dairy-free texture). Or making a pesto by blitzing walnuts, rocket, basil, garlic and olive oil. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous - try replacing the rocket and basil with herbs such as tarragon, parsley or coriander. “Think of your cuisine and adapt accordingly,” says Andre. “For an Asian-inspired pesto, coriander, ginger, garlic, soy, chilli, peanuts and sesame oil make a great choice for noodles and it’s delicious hot or cold!”

10. Pork and apples

The contrast of the sharpness of the apples combined with the saltiness of the pork makes for an altogether more well-rounded dish. “Bake chopped apples with honey and serve with a pan-fried pork loin or chop,” recommends Andre. If you have a sweet tooth, this is your perfect match.

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