Chefs from some of the greatest restaurants on earth are joined by gastronomes, celebrities and passionate foodies to share childhood food memories and the recipes that inspired them to experiment in the kitchen... a memory bank which reminds us home cooking can be fun, thrifty, save money and amaze your friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Matthew Drennan - Food Writer - London, UK

Matthew Drennan is the award-winning editor of delicious. magazine. He trained as a chef in his native Cork, Eire and after cooking in some of London's top restaurants, he spent 5 years writing and creating recipes for national publications, including Me and Family Circle; before becoming food and drink editor on the Marks and Spencer Magazine, and then launching Ready Steady Cook Magazine.

After working freelance for several further publications such as BBC Good Food and Waitrose Food Illustrated, he became editor of delicious. He has published an admirable portfolio of recipe books including Sensational Soup and Weber’s Little Barbecue Book.

"People have asked me if my passion for cooking came from my mother (Betty Drennan). I guess it did, but in an indirect sort of way. When I was growing up my mother cooked a meal for seven people three times a day and held down a part-time job. It didn’t exactly leave much time for ‘passion cooking’. She was a meat and two veg kind of gal. When Mum was busy at the weekends catching up on household chores I began to bake for the family, teaching myself how to cream cakes, make pastry and whisk meringues. So it was more her lack of time to cook that inspired me to have a go in the kitchen and led to my career as a chef and subsequently a food writer and editor of delicious. magazine. With the family all grown up, Mum now has become the adventurous cook she always wanted to be and is now inspired by the magazine I edit.

But, while Mum’s dinner wasn’t always the most creative meal, it was always the best. Flaky tuna and egg pie was one dish she cooked often and was always a winner with the family. With its crisp pastry and hot, creamy filling, it’s easy to see now why kids loved it, and to be honest, I still do."

Flaky Tuna and Egg Pie
Matthew Drennan

Serves 4

  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 600 ml hot vegetable stock
  • handful freshly chopped parsley
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, roughly chopped
  • 1 x 400 g can tuna in sunflower oil, drained
  • 500 g puff pastry
  • a little milk, for glazing

Preheat the oven to 210°C.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Gradually add the hot stock, stirring all the time, then cook for 5 minutes until thickened. Season well and stir in the parsley. Pour into a large, shallow container to cool quickly. Add the eggs and tuna to the sauce, then chill for 20 minutes.

Cut the pastry in half, then roll out one piece on a lightly floured surface until it measures 28 cm x 20 cm. Place on a baking sheet. Roll out the other piece to around 1 cm larger than the first piece. Spoon the filling on top of the base, leaving a 1-cm border all around, then cover with the other piece of pastry and press the edges with a fork to seal. Trim off any excess pastry. Brush the top with milk and bake for 30 minutes until golden and risen. (You can also make small, individual pies.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tom Aikens - Tom Aikens Restaurant - London, UK

This week we spoke to top chef Tom Aikens, head chef at his-self named restaurant Tom Aikens. Awarded two Michelin stars by the age of 26, he has consistently been tipped as one of the hottest and most talented chefs cooking today. His starting point is everyday ingredients - he believes in buying fresh, seasonal produce, and his recipe books gives guidance on how to choose the best and make the most of them.

"For as long as I can remember – probably the age of 8 or so – my twin brother and I were helping out in the kitchen with my mother. She would involve us in making cakes and home baking, I have a very real memory of her making milk bread and I sometimes think that it was just a dream as the smell was incredible. We had a very good home garden where we grew our own fruit and vegetables; we had strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries and so on. So there would be a lot of toing and froing from the garden to the kitchen, I loved digging the garden for fresh vegetables and seeing things grow and come to life was beautiful.

My father and grandfather were both in the wine business; in the late 70s, early 80s my grandfather ran the wine side to Coleman’s of Norwich (wine merchants, not only famous for mustard). In around 82/83 that closed down and my father started a wine shop and also a importing and exporting wine business, not only with French wines but new world as well. He was very successful and I would say a true pioneer of his time, as he got the new world market of wine wrapped up on his own. This meant that from the age around 12, I started spending a lot of my time on holidays in France, travelling with my father (when he met new suppliers or wholesalers).

There were some days when he would drop us (me and my brother) off with a supplier while he would spend lunch with them doing business. We ended up working some days with the suppliers – in the vineyards, sweeping out the cellars, sometimes having lunch. So from an early age my exposure to food and wine was quite significant.

On one particular trip my father booked us into a Michelin Two Star restaurant/Hotel, by complete accident. He only realised the magnitude of what he had booked when we arrived at the hotel to find our car surrounded by four guys wearing white gloves and bow ties, as my father was never one for looking in a guidebook it was all one by word of mouth or a Frenchmen telling him to try this place out.

That evening we had the most amazing meal and it is one of those inspirational gastronomic moments that I will never forget. It was still the era of nouvelle cuisine so tiny portions and lots of courses. The tastes and flavours were stunning. I had the most beautiful tomato salad with simple olive oil, basil, finely diced shallots, course sea salt, pepper and chives: A fillet steak melted in my mouth – a tall tower of beef fillet that had been larded with beef fat , it was sublime and perfection in one, the waiters lifting endless cloche for my parents with course after course, we also had the best chips ever, an accompanying stacked tower of perfectly cooked and cut potato. The tastes were sensational, I was in heaven and as I say I’ll never forget it.
This was the start of my earlier memories of food, I then wanted to become a chef and I never looked back from this point, I decided it was what I wanted to do, from all of this I just wanted to get more and more into cooking.

One of the simplest dishes that I remember making was a very simple beef and onion pie, its a great winter dish and is very simple to cook, the other dish is a classic dish we serve at Toms Kitchen which is a seven hour braised shoulder of lamb cooked with balsamic vinegar and onions and its bliss and heaven rolled into one.

Minced Beef and Onion Pie

The minced beef mix here makes 950g, more than you need for the pie, so you could save some for another dish. You could actually turn this basic meat mixture into several things: a pastry pie as here, or you could put mashed potato on top for a cottage pie, or serve it just as it is as a pasta sauce (very like a traditional bolognaise).

  • 500g minced beef
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 250g onions, peeled and diced
  • a large pinch of dried thyme
  • 2g caster sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 2g freshly milled black pepper
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8g plain flour
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 300g ready-made puff pastry
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water

1 Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6. Have ready a 20cm pie tin.
2 Place a pan on a medium heat, add the butter, and when it has melted, add the diced onion, thyme, sugar, and half the salt and pepper. Cook on a medium heat for 12 minutes until the onion is golden brown and caramelised. Stir the onion well, as it can catch and burn on the pan.
3 While the onion is cooking you can start to cook the mince. Place a non-stick frying pan on a high heat and add the oil. When this is hot, slowly add the mince; don’t add it all at once as it could splash. Don’t move the mince at first, as it will cool the pan down. Wait for 2 minutes before you do. Add the rest of the salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mince is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
4 Pour the meat into a colander with a bowl underneath to catch any excess oil. Put the pan back on a low heat, and add the cooked onion to deglaze the pan of all the meat flavour. Stir for a couple of minutes, then return the meat and mix them well together. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, then add the stock a little at a time, stirring well. Once all the stock has been incorporated turn the heat up to full so the mince comes to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. The meat is ready. For the pie you will need 500g of the beef filling.
5 Take the pastry and divide roughly in half (you need 160g for the base and 140g for the lid). Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the 2 pieces – the base piece to 5mm thickness, and the lid a little thinner. Let these rest for about 30 minutes.
6 Put the base piece of pastry into the tin. Pour in the meat filling. Egg- wash the edges of the pastry, and then place the lid on top. Crimp to seal, and make a couple of little holes in the middle. Egg-wash the top of the pie, and then bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Serves 4
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes

Slow-roast Shoulder of Lamb with Onions and Thyme, Balsamic

Depending on when you are going to be eating this dish, whether at lunch or dinner, you want to put it into the oven a ‘meal’ before: so for lunch, you want to put it into the oven at 8am, and for the evening I would put it in at around 2pm. It will take between 6 and 7 hours to cook, but it is one of those dishes that do not need any attention at all so you can forget it whilst you tend to something else.

  • 1 shoulder of lamb, about .25kg in weight
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic bulbs, cut in half, plus extra sliced cloves if marinating
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 8 medium onions, peeled
  • 250ml balsamic vinegar
1 Before you cook the lamb leave it out of the fridge for a good hour , so that the meat is at room temperature.
2 Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
3 Rub the olive oil into the meat and season with salt and pepper. Place the meat in a large casserole with the whole peeled onions; the latter can be drizzled with olive oil and seasoned as well. Place a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan, then place the casserole into the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the lamb and onions have coloured.
4 Remove the casserole from the oven, then add about 8 sprigs thyme along with the seasoned and oiled halved garlic bulbs. Reduce the oven temperature to 110ºC/ 225ºF/Gas 1/4, and return the meat to the oven. Cook for 5 hours with the lid on.
5 Add the balsamic vinegar, remove the lid, and continue to cook for a further 1-1 1/2 hours.
6 Remove the garlic from the casserole and keep to one side. Place the casserole on to a low heat to reduce any excess liquid. Baste the lamb with this during the reducing, along with the onions. Just be careful that they don’t stick or burn.
7 Serve the soft meat cut in pieces with the onions, some of the jus, a few cloves of garlic, and some nice mashed potato.
Serves 8

Preparation time 24 hours if marinating the lamb
Cooking time 6-7 hours

Thanks to Rachel Lampen for her contact with Tom Aikens