Posts Tagged ‘celebrity chefs’

The man lies exaggerates.  For a start, that claim is fatuous, and moreover, his directions for perfect pork crackling betrayed me – as I suspected they might.

I’ll admit that Clarissa Dickson Wright with a wig and a penis blazing his way through the Yorkshire countryside on a quest for the Great British Feast is a beguiling sight, and his pot shots at a certain pilfering, posturing and now pigeon shooting chef are persuasive (let the feathers fly!), yet when it came to the crunch he left me with crackling stiffer than it was crisp.

True, my meat was tender and tasty with a gorgeous glaze and fat rendered below, but the dish came off half-cocked: our crackling crackled not, a monstrous munch fit for the dentally daring alone.

As a MPW virgin I found a famous chef more fascinated by food than currying favour with viewers and reviewers an inviting prospect, but although I love that surly face still, his words failed me: when he said “I don’t care” I should have believed him.

I will, however, spread the love by sharing my minor modifications to the glaze instructions in his Honey Roast Pork recipe:

Spiced Honey Glaze

  • 6 star anise
  • 1 tbsp cracked coriander seeds
  • 600g runny honey
  • 1 stock cube
  • 200ml water

The TV show is sponsored by Knorr, hence the stock cubes, but I use their liquid concentrate so no criticism from this corner.  600g honey seems totally excessive; I used 4 TBS with around 100ml of water.  Anyway, one just stirs together the water, honey, coriander seeds, star anise and stock in a saucepan and simmers the liquid until reduced by a third and fairly syrupy.  Don’t abandon it or you will have savoury treacle toffee – or worse.

Marco instructs us to glaze the pork – I’m sure he glazed the crackling itself on TV – using a pastry brush.  I strained out the bits, cleaved off the crackling and glazed the meat, allowing it to caramelise on the oven’s bottom shelf while I attempted (and failed) to furnace the crackling into compliance.  Incidentally, I remember Heston Blumenthal mentioning the umami properties of star anise and how it subtly enhances the meatiness of meat: it certainly did the business here.

Be that as it may, my quest for unfailingly friable, crisply crunchy crackling continues.  My pork rind plays peekaboo with perfect: sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t and I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!

Does anyone out there know the science behind the secret?  Do I have to ask Harold McGee?  Heston Blumenthal?  Please, put me out of purgatory; any kind soul who knows the truth do leave a comment and let me know.

Marco’s Great British Feast ITV Wednesdays 9th, 16th & 23rd July at 2100
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parmesan custard with anchovy toastOh joy! Today’s FT features Rowley Leigh sharing his wit, wisdom and, best of all, the recipe for this hot hors d’oeuvre, the talk of London town since the opening of his raved-over restaurant Le Café Anglais, which, I see, now has a visit-worthy website.
Touching to read Rowley got his inspiration for this dish from watching Rick Stein on TV; so much joy in one little weekend.

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One (mental) escape from the enforced trogloditism (yes that’s my word) of this year’s Whitsun Bank Holiday might be via a 2 minute video in The Times travel section: that suavely sincere and sincerely suave Raymond Blanc tucked into a pink bib while explaining and demonstrating that classic and exclusive Mediterranean dish, bouillabaisse, in a location just to the east of Nice on the Côte d’Azur.

If Raymond himself fails to delight (hardly likely), pay a cyber-visit to his venue – the fabulous Coco Beach restaurant – for a quick fix of Riviera deluxe.  No wonder he’s smiling.

It’s such an old saw that bouillabaisse can be made only with local rockfish that I shan’t labour the point here.  Mind you, with French fisherman stunt pulling once more I’ve a good mind to hire myself a speedboat and raid their waters of every loup, lotte, rouget and rascasse I can find.  Just need a bit of marine diesel…

Until such time, I am willing to share my delightful version using chicken in place (no pun intended) of fish:

Pouillabaisse™ aka Chicken BouillabaisseHenri Bardouin pastis
serves 4

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs, skinned and cut in large chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 bulbs fennel, chunked – keep fronds for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced fine
  • generous pinch of saffron
  • a sprig of thyme, 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin of tomatoes (whole or chopped, whatever is on hand)
  • generous slug of pastis
  • 1 litre or so chicken stock
  • 500g waxy or new potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • olive oil

We want to keep the flavours pure and clear, so in a large cast iron casserole and over a medium heat, soften the onion and fennel in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  After about 5 minutes add the garlic, saffron, thyme and bay leaves then pop the chicken pieces on top.

Sprinkle over the pastis then add half of the tomatoes with their juice (break them up with your wooden spoon if using whole).  Add the potatoes and pour over sufficient chicken stock to almost cover the chicken and vegetables, then decide whether to add the rest of the tomatoes.  We’re making a bouillabaisse here, and with the price of fennel and saffron we’re in polite company, so mustn’t allow the tomato to shout down the other flavours.  Think visually – more yellow than red.  If you think the tomato is in danger of taking over the party, top up with chicken stock.  If not, add the rest of the tomatoes and top up with stock to barely cover.

Bring to the gentlest simmer, cover and cook for between 30 minutes and an hour until chicken and potatoes are cooked through.  There should be plenty of liquid, so serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with a dash of good olive oil and the chopped fennel fronds.

A homemade rouille sets it off perfectly.  Recipe coming soon…

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Sometimes it’s hard to tell which end is speaking

There should be stringent laws, licensing laws, to make sure produce is only used in season and season only

Does anybody actually know how to legislate seasonality, especially with all this climate change going on?

Can we assume that Petrus, the Boxwood Café, maze and all the other gaffs in his empire serve seasonal produce exclusively?

And if it’s true that Britain has become

 a nation of lazy eaters who followed trends and fads rather than substance

is not the celebrity chef culture, which he exploits mercilessly to be one of its biggest beneficiaries, at least partly to blame?

Don’t get me wrong, I know what he’s driving at, and I do agree with him in principle and over the sorry turn Delia has taken, and about plastic bags, but does he have to be so bombastic?  Perhaps his bookings are down…oh! no!  well waddayaknow; he has a new series of The F word starting up next week.

Now, if he started a campaign against bad language and bullying we’d really be talking.

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