Construction has its own domestic gods. Alan Crane, Richard Ryder and Malory Clifford get busy in the kitchen, while Building columnists taste test 10 wines.
Movement for Innovation chairman Alan Crane and his best mate Richard Ryder, a senior project manager at Bovis Lend Lease who is on secondment to a Pfizer scheme in Kent, have been cooking for each other for 12 years. This is their festive fayre.

Alan Crane's philosophy of cooking
I've cooked for as long as I can remember. Richard used to work for me at Bovis and he was the best man at my wedding. We have a dinner party every three months, alternating between our homes, and to make it more interesting, he has to cook at my house, and vice versa.

We don't work to recipes – in fact, we've been making up recipes for ourselves for 12 years. We cook Chinese, Thai, Japanese – all kinds of food, really. I can honestly say that in all that time we've never had a disaster, or a dish that someone hasn't liked. Now, after 50 or so meals, it's becoming more difficult to come up with something original.

Richard Ryder on why cooking is like construction
I mainly cook for special occasions. My favourite things are Chinese starters, duck, and steak and kidney puddings – all the things I shouldn't eat. My partner is very good at puddings, as is Alan's wife, so they tend to make those when we get together.

I've been cooking since junior school. I got hooked after making a Victoria sandwich for which I won a prize. At 16 it was a difficult decision whether to go into cooking or construction. In the end, I opted for construction and retained cooking as a hobby.

Cooking for people is a fundamental human relationship issue. It's about putting effort into something and being creative – just like construction. They both involve the same basic principles of wanting to give, communicate and put care and affection into the process – respect for people, if you like. You can see parallels there with the Movement for Innovation.

My overriding philosophy is to keep it simple and not do too much. If you're nervous about cooking, do a trial first.

It's very important to present food properly; if it looks colourful and attractive, then it will whet the taste buds. The environment also needs to be right. You can create the right atmosphere with the table decorations – especially at Christmas.

Alan's butterfly of lamb
I'll be cooking butterfly of lamb (not shown) on New Year's Day. It's delicious. It includes a fruity sauce, which I tend to use a lot for meats; living in the country, I'm able to gather blackberries and wild raspberries.

What you need Whole leg of lamb, rosemary, basil, butter, blackberries, beef tomatoes, a large courgette, langoustine, a touch of cornflour, red wine, salt, pepper.

What you do Take the leg of lamb, and very carefully (with a wide, sharp knife) remove the bone. Put the boned leg of lamb face down on a chopping board, then cut through the centre of the leg on the thick side. Form two pockets on either side of the meat (also on the thick side). Stuff the pockets with rosemary and basil, and place a blackberry in each pocket. Roll the leg back up and tie with string.

Cooking’s about putting effort into something and being creative – just like construction. You can see parallels with the Movement for Innovation

Richard Ryder

Place the meat in a roasting tin, with water at the bottom, smooth butter over the top and cover with foil. Cook at 180°C for about 20 minutes per pound. To make the sauce: puree the blackberries and sieve to remove pips. Mix red wine with cornflour, bring to the boil and add to the puree.

Take the lamb out of the oven, untie and lay flat. Open out the pockets – to expose the pinker meat on the inside. Cut the courgette in half lengthways, and arrange down the middle of the meat, pale side up.

Meanwhile, boil the langoustine and remove its head. Arrange on the lamb to form the proboscis of the "butterfly". Slice the beef tomato and place a slice on each wing and finally dab the sauce on the wings. Serve with mangetouts and baby sweetcorn.

Richard's gun dog salad
Gun dog salad is colourful, simple to make and delicious. It's perfect as a starter or a lighter main meal, particularly at the tail end of Christmas, after all the overeating. Serve with new potatoes as a main course.

What you need Four quails, eight quails' eggs, eight cherry tomatoes, a bag of mixed leaves, fresh chives and parsley. The marinade consists of seven tablespoons of olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, and two teaspoons each of honey, soy sauce and tomato sauce.

What you do First, make the marinade. Mix the ingredients in a jug, taste and adjust, then pour into a baking dish.

Place the quails in the marinade, and leave for a couple of hours on each side, or overnight. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drain off the marinade (which you can reduce and use for the dressing). Place the quails in the middle of the oven (not on the top shelf) at gas mark five or six. Cook for 10 minutes and turn over, checking first to make sure the birds are not getting singed. While they are cooking, boil the new potatoes.

Once the quails are cooked, cut them in half and arrange on the plate so that one half supports the other. Lay salad around the quail. Quickly fry the quails' eggs; two per plate.

Chop the cherry tomatoes (not all the way through) and arrange on the plate. Strain the potatoes, add butter and arrange on the plate. Sprinkle on finely chopped parsley and lay chives diagonally across the top. Finally, dress the salad, using the reduced marinade or a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce.

Malory Clifford runs developer Blackfriars Investments, which has commissioned architect Will Alsop to design a series of flamboyant offices. His taste in food is just as colourful. Here's his Caribbean feast.

If you create a recipe that is outrageously complex, people believe they are gastronomically in orbit

Malory Clifford

I enjoy cooking, but have had no formal training in this field. In my humble opinion, the TV chefs, of which there seem to be no end, create dishes that are far too complex, using ingredients that people have never even heard of, let alone know where to find – and unless you have the most discerning of palates, I'm not sure you could tell the difference. It seems that if you create a recipe that is outrageously complex and bizarre in its construction and present it on a plate the size of a dustbin lid, people believe they are gastronomically in orbit.

Recipes should be relatively straightforward, enjoyable to make and not require intense time slaving over the stove. They should be full of unusual flavours, which, in my opinion, achieve the same results, if not better, than many of these off-the-wall combinations dreamed up to sell books and TV shows. Who would genuinely admit that prunes, Roquefort, ground walnuts and Dover sole make natural bedfellows, for example?

I could give you a number of dishes that support my philosophy, but it should be borne in mind that for most of my life I've been a vegetarian, and it's only in the latter part of it that I've started eating fish and shellfish. I have always been mad – without eating beef. I can cook meat and poultry, but prefer to stick to fish, vegetables, pulses and pasta – the kind of food that die-hard meat eaters do not consider to be a meal.

Malory explains how to keep guests happy
I can say without any doubt that my understanding of fine wines is marginally above zero. I have never quite understood why people spend 15 or 20 minutes sniffing the cork, then the bottle, then the wine they pour in the glass. By the time they've had their first sip, I've already downed at least one large Scotch and soda. If people were honest, they'd tell you that they only drink to get the alcoholic effect; maybe they go through this strange ritual of sniffing to camouflage the reality of having a drink.

When I have a dinner party I always provide a selection of red and white wine, preferably something that costs about £5 or £6 a bottle; a good selection of whisky (blends and malts), as these have become very popular with food; an old-fashioned soda siphon, rather than overpriced, overrated fizzy water; and lots of iced filtered water. You can also offer fruit juices for the faint-hearted.

Coffee and tea are optional, and usually somebody brings one of those funny little boxes of chocolates, the name of which escapes me – they're wrapped in gold foil, piled up like a pyramid. Everyone seems to be quite happy with these; however, you might strike it lucky and somebody will bring a tin of Quality Street.

I cannot guarantee that the lunch or dinner will be intellectually stimulating or even fun, but nobody will go home without having eaten well. And I will not be exhausted from the event and will have been able to enjoy my guests, as all of the food will have been prepared before their arrival.

When my wife used to do the cooking, you couldn't talk to her on the day she was entertaining. You never saw her during the party unless you visited the kitchen, nor after the meal as she was cleaning up – and then she needed three days off to recover. So, it is essential to make food that is very tasty and easy to prepare.

Malory's curried lobster
Here is an example of what I would make at this time of year were I to have a few friends over for lunch or dinner. I preface this by saying that I never think it necessary to serve hors d'oeuvres (and my guests concur), except at the most formal of occasions, and dessert should always be seasonal fresh fruits, with a small selection of nice cheeses. In a restaurant, you are encouraged to have an hors d'oeuvre – first, to increase your spend and, second, to give the chef time to create his masterpiece – but not so at home.

The main dish is lightly curried lobster, which at this time of year can be acquired quite reasonably; even if that is not the case, it is well worth the little extra. This could be accompanied by red cabbage and sweet chestnuts (known in posh circles as marrons glacés), yams or sweet potato seasoned and topped with marshmallows – yes, the little pink and white ones that children eat – and, subject to availability, wild mushrooms sauteed in fine olive oil and Worcester sauce. I recommend two types of potato. First, the smallest of new potatoes, parboiled and then roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper. Second, make mashed potato, place in a large baking dish and fill the centre with fried onions brushed with butter then baked in the oven till golden brown.

All the above components (excluding the potatoes) have a substantial amount of garlic, Caribbean or Cajun spices and hot chilli sauce. The lobsters are reconstructed and served in their shells, coated with cheese and grilled. The chestnuts, preferably fresh, are glazed in brown sugar, and the red cabbage is boiled in red wine vinegar, creating a very distinct, sweet and sour flavour; likewise with the yams. The effect of putting the marshmallows on top of the yams before roasting, beyond the very unusual flavour, is that you end up with a toffee-like topping that tastes great and looks fabulous.

Christmas cookery