Monday, 26 April 2010
Friday, 23 April 2010
I came across this magazine a year or two ago, and have to say it is right up there in front, as the arbiter of food culture and food cool in Manhattan. I love the articles, unpretentious writing and fashion-cum-rock 'n' roll photography. The covers are awesome (they remind me of Face magazine somehow), and I feel they truly capture the spirit of the Manhattan food scene, without the pretentious foodie bullshit that is rife in other food publications.
Well this isn't a poem, nor a recipe really (well technically it is, but I don't remember it), but it's simply a shortbread made with lavender flowers. I am galloping ahead to summer here - but until the lavender flowers are abundant, you can use dried lavender from Provence if you are fortunate enough to get your hands on some. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not much of a baker, I have to say, I made these (whilst channeling some of Hannah's style), and couldn't get over how easy, but how exquisite these perfumed biscuits really are. Delicious for a fancy afternoon tea, or perfect as a present - if you want to go that bit further and wrap them in a bit of silly paper. Unfortunately mine got scoffed before I had even contemplated sharing them.
Gramercy Park really is where I think I belong (well if I had a spare few million dollars or 10). It oozes a serious amount of salubriousness, and 1920's panache. It is framed by exquisite architecture, and the park itself is home to a few languid sculptures.
On a recent business trip to New York, I found myself jet-lagged and in need of early morning cultural stimulation. Well the Farmer's Market on Union Square didn't disappoint. I was bowled over by the riot of colours, and crate after crate of jewel coloured carrots, exuberant lettuces and barrels of luscious peaches.
As I guess Spring is finally here, this is the time of the year when I start to take confidence in my nascent baking/pastry making skills. I love a good homemade Quiche, and I don't mean one of those heavy bacon and cheese Lorraine jobbies - I think Quiche can be light, crumbly on the outside and still-warm and deliciously eggy in the middle.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
This weekend's sunshine had me craving one thing in particular - squid. For me, warm weekends are all about the smell of crustaceans and squid on a barbeque, the sweet flesh and smoky, ozonic smell of charred shells gets me crazy. I was a bit disorganised with my fish purchasing, so ended up snaffling the last cuttlefish at Shellseekers - as one of Jamie's Fifteen chefs had just bagged the last of the squid and crabs for the restaurant. I have to admit, I haven't cooked cuttlefish that many times (squid seems so much more manageable for some reason), and like squid, you either cook it in a flash on a very hot griddle, or long, low and slow in a braising pot. I had the cuttlefish cleaned (a very messy job - and can ruin your distressed antique french oak surfaces with its ink), and then set to work slicing it and scoring the flesh finely in a criss-cross pattern. I then decided to marinate it with a wild combination of ingredients I had purchased earlier at the market; mint, fresh garlic and blood orange seemed like a good trinity, and a nice combination of flavours for the cuttlefish to play with.
Posted by Steve Wallis at Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
I really adore courgette flowers. It probably has a lot to do with their lightness of flavour, that delicate courgette green-ness, and their saffron coloured petals that make me think they are food of the gods. I often will cook these as a tempura, doused in flour and then into a batter and deep fried until crisp and golden. I have also stuffed them with mint and Goat's cheese, and also with beaten egg whites and brown shrimps. This time I decided to cook these nude in a little olive oil, until al dente and the petals just caramelised. I finished these with a smoked anchovy and blood orange (my ingredient of the week it seems) vinaigrette, and a fresh, pungent salad of red onion, tarragon and lemon.
Of the 'tapas' dishes I created, this was very simple and constructed around a beautiful piece of Cabrales Cheese bought at Brindisa in Borough Market. Cabrales is a rich blue cheese from Northern Spain, that is matured in limestone caves for 2 to 5 months. To balance the intensity of the cheese, I paired it with bitter chicory, slices of radish, salty capers and pan toasted sourdough croutons. It was finished with a drizzle of Dauro Extra Virgin Olive Oil and chervil leaves.
Of the five dishes that I created last weekend, the White Beans with Chorizo is in essence a typically Spanish dish, full of robust flavours of spicy Chorizo, a background smokiness of Paprika and teamed in a stew with tomatoes and creamy white beans. The addition of Wild Mountain Oregano adds a herbal edge to this dish. This can be cooked in advance and improves wonderfully, given a day or two to allow the flavours to develop.
The posting order is a bit back to front, but this dish is the culmination of what had been a wonderful cooking day at my friend's apartment in Southwark. Having spotted these exquisite Champagne Rhubarb stems at Tony Booth's, I had the idea of pairing it with Blood Orange, to create a tangy and luscious pudding. Not being one for fancy desserts, I figured a low maintenance syllabub would do the trick. I added whipped double cream and Greek yoghurt to the cooked fruit, and topped with an easy and fun to make honeycomb.
Having found myself at Borough Market this weekend, amongst the crowds and Spring sunshine, I happened to bump into a good friend, who duly treated us to Malden oysters, fried whitebait and a delicious pint of prawns from Wright Brothers, as we caught up.
Posted by Steve Wallis at Monday, April 19, 2010
I don't think there is a food experience for me that is more satisfying than to sit at a table with wonderful friends and enjoy the performance art that is Dim Sum. I found myself grounded in London this weekend by the cloud of volcanic ash courtesy of an Icelandic volcano with a name can neither spell nor pronounce. The perfect antidote to my disappointment of not being able to travel took shape as an impromptu plan to have Dim Sum with one of my very best friends, Kamlan. We were reminiscing over the fact that our friendship is now 20 years old, when we were both a similar age and embarking on foundation courses at different art colleges. Kamlan and her family introduced me to Dim Sum, a ritual of family and friends coming together over a table to enjoy plate after plate of delicious morsels.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Firstly I just want to say a huge congratulations to the 2010 Masterchef winner - well done Dhruv, you are an incredible cook! Secondly, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss some of the great projects I've been involved in, since winning Masterchef back in 2007. A great deal of the experience I have gained and the projects I have worked on don't get publicised, as many of them have been works in progress, or subject to confidentiality. As I was omitted from the opening credits on last night's Masterchef show, I thought this would be an opportune time to talk about some of the great work I have accomplished over the past three years.
Following my win in 2007, I was offered an estage at the prestigious 3 Michelin starred Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. There I was taught focus, attention to detail, timing, patience and the art of flavour pairing. I had my eyes opened to a level of creativity I had not thought possible by food alone, and learnt how to balance sublime flavours, colours and textures within a dish. I was also very fortunate to have worked with some very talented chefs, and learnt how to work with some of the most exquisite ingredients I have ever seen pass through a kitchen's doors.
On my return to London, I was asked to be a Sous Chef on BBC's Great British Menu - and worked with many chefs with whose cooking I hold in very high esteem. These include Angela Hartnett, Tom Kitchin, and Sat Bains. Working with Angela was incredible; it was great to witness her speed, tenacity and effortless elegance that oozed from every dish she created. Being Tom's Sous when he created his English Breakfast starter was an experience I'll never forget - that dish was pure genius, and I learnt that you can create a silk purse from a pig's ear. Sat Bains I will remember for introducing me to the joys of the water bath, a missing bit of suckling piglet and chicken popcorn. Need I say more.
Post that hubris, I approached Shaun Hill who had just opened the Walnut Tree, and worked with him at his restaurant in Abergavenny. I love how Shaun cooks, and conceives such remarkable dishes, always with savoir faire. Shaun still is a mentor to me, and having met him recently at Fortnum and Mason, begged me never to stop cooking.
Other projects have included consulting to Sainsbury's on food trends, created menus for Jumeirah Hotels in Knightsbridge, been a brand ambassador for The Cooperative (and spent a summer on the road, cooking at 10 county shows across the UK out of a juggernaut-cum-demo kitchen), and developed recipes for Abel & Cole and Rachel's Organic. I have also been working with Slow Food London and the Southbank Centre, demonstrating and promoting fair and slow food ethics. I am also looking to collaborate with the Southbank this summer with a food and art project, celebrating Brazilian culture.
I spent the best part of last year traveling through Central America, gathering ideas and inspiration for food and life. This year I have started by focusing on my consultancy skills and am working as a as a flavour consultant - establishing savoury flavour trends for a global flavours and fragrance agency. I also partner with two holiday companies, providing gastronomy workshops, tours and holidays. These are www.frui.co.uk (chocolate workshops, tours to Borough and Billingsgate Market and forthcoming food trips to Barcelona and Brussels), and Tell Tale Holidays, www.telltaletravel.co.uk, where I will be the guide and escort on their forthcoming Tamarind and Spice tour across Thailand in November. I can't get enough of traveling it seems.
Most recently, I have been approached to work with the homeless charity Shelter, where I hope that my humble cooking can help raise awareness to the plight of London's homeless population. My final bit of news is that I have just been signed up as a consultant creative strategist at FutureBrand, where I work with a wonderful team of people who let me unleash my creativity to co-create products and ideas for some of the world's biggest brands. www.futurebrand.com
So, I haven't exactly fulfilled the Masterchef dream of opening a restaurant, but I have certainly made mine come true. I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible people over the past three years. I have no plans to open a restaurant at the moment, but I know I would like to at some point in the future, once I have got the traveling bug out of my system and have decided in which country I decide to settle.
So thank you Masterchef for all the incredible opportunities that you've opened up to me, and to all my wonderful friends, followers and supporters who have loved me no matter what.
Posted by Steve Wallis at Thursday, April 08, 2010