Friday, 12 December 2008
Chef Stephen Williams serves the best potatoes in London at Fulham gastropub The Harwood Arms and here's how he does it. Boil small Roseval potatoes until tender; drain and cool. Gently crush the potatoes using the heel of you palm until the skin cracks but the potato remains whole. Deep fry at 170° until crisp, then toss in garlic butter. Simple but utterly delicious.
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
Reading London-based Irish chef Richard Corrigan’s second cookbook The Clatter of Forks and Spoons is a pain in the neck. Holding the monster-sized tome that weighs in at over 3lbs for extended periods of time doesn't help, but its the constant nods of agreement that are the real problem.
“Philosophy of life, politics, religion maybe – but cooking? It’s just people trying to sound more meaningful than they really are.” (Nods reflectively) Couldn’t agree more.
“What is good cooking all about? Knowing your ingredients, and understanding what goes with what.” (Nods knowingly) Yes, absolutely.
“What’s the use of chefs at all, I sometimes wonder, when there is food as simple and gorgeous as Dover sole or a native oyster out there?” (Nods vigorously) Oh, someone get me an Aspirin.
Although primarily aimed at the home cook, there’s so much culinary common sense crammed into the book’s 400-odd pages that no chef should be allowed within a mile of a professional kitchen without reading it.
A cookery booked named after a quote from The Dead by James Joyce with a picture of a sink on the cover was always going to be a class apart. Numerous articles, essays and extended introductions along with the evocative landscapes, still lives and portraits by photographer Kristin Peters break the usual recipe/photo mould.
Corrigan underlines his ingredient-led approach by profiling some of his favourite producers or “extreme artisans” as he calls them. A veritable Irish Mafia of “stubborn, cranky people” includes cheesemaker Bill Hogan of Schull in West Cork and the Seed Saver Association in Country Clare that conserve heritage varieties of fruit vegetables and grains.
Despite his enthusiasm for artisan produce, Corrigan resists being too prescriptive with his recipes. Apart from a general exhortation to spend less in the supermarket and more at the butcher’s shop and farmers market, you won’t have to search too hard to find ingredients for the majority of the dishes.
A love of cheaper cuts such as pig’s trotter and ham hocks and relatively inexpensive fish including mackerel, hake and gurnard means you won’t have to break the bank to cook from the book (although there’s plenty of luxury produce like wild salmon, lobster, grouse and foie gras too).
An eclectic range of dressings and sauces including Italian salsa verde, Catalonian romesco and North African harissa, and dishes ranging from Mediterranean influenced stuffed baby squid with chorizo and feta style cheese to Thai crab and mussel soup reflect the globetrotting style prevalent during the 1990’s London restaurant scene where Corrigan first made his name.
The Clatter of Forks and Spoons also tells Corrigan’s own story, from growing up on a farm in County Meath to the recent opening of his posh new Mayfair restaurant. Although Corrigan’s time cooking in the Netherlands, working with Stephen Bull and opening the Lindsay House restaurant in Soho are all covered, you can’t help feeling that there must be more to say about such a larger-than-life character (try reading Stephen Bull’s side of the Fulham Road restaurant story in his excellent Classic Bull: An Accidental Restaurater's Cookbook and you’ll see what I mean).
With the assistance of Shelia Keating (“without whom,” the author admits in his acknowledgements “the words wouldn’t be on the paper”), Corrigan has produced a volume that more than bears comparison to modern classics such as Alastair Little’s Keep It Simple and Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson.
The book embodies much of what is great about British cooking in the 2000’s, and by doing so guarantees it will be used for decades to come.
A medium Spanish onion - substitute two banana shallots if you feel the need to be superior.
A tablespoon of single estate, extra virgin olive oil – sunflower oil would do just as well but you don’t live on a council estate do you?
A clove of Lautrec garlic - imagine how impressed your friends will be!
A dessert spoon of smoked paprika – smoked, that’s good isn’t it? I could hug myself.
Two teaspoons of toasted cumin seeds – use ready ground cumin if you’re a big fucking pleb. (Actually, in this instance, toasting the seeds yourself makes a big difference to the flavour, so do as you’re bloody well told).
A tin of tomatoes – pay as much as you want for them, but try not to be too much of a middle class twat about it.
Take an 8inch Global chef’s knife and that really expensive black marble chopping board you’re so fucking proud of and put them in the bin because they’re shit. Finely chop your allium of choice on a plastic board that won’t blunt your perfectly adequate Victorinox household standard quality, black polypropylene-handled kitchen knife, because your name isn’t Gordon-sodding-Ramsay.
Heat the single estate extra virgin olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it smokes, then pour it down the drain and try and remember only to use it for salad dressings in future. Start again with the vegetable oil and gently sauté the onion or shallots until soft and translucent.
Smash the garlic with the side of your knife and mince finely while thinking exactly how much money you could have saved by buying the bog standard stuff. Add the garlic to the onions and stir quickly to prevent burning while reminding yourself to say, “I only use Lautrec garlic now, the difference in flavour is just amazing” the next time your pretentious friends come round for dinner.
Add the paprika and cumin and fry gently until your whole house smells like an old sock. Stir in the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning (google language tools: translate text “adjust the seasoning” from Foodiewankspeak to English =“add some salt and pepper”).
If you’ve had enough sense to buy Smart Price tomatoes, you might want to add some sugar or a dash of ketchup to counter their car battery acid-like qualities. Smug gits who traded their first born for a tin of San Marzano can omit this last step.
Simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes and serve with roasted vegetables and cous cous flavoured with spring onions, mint, flat leaf parsley, coriander, lemon and that single estate extra virgin olive oil your just dying to use, while quietly muttering “this is a bit bloody Delia isn’t it?” under your breath.