I am one of those lucky people that have a Michelin star chef as their Dad. And do I go on about it. Back in the day, Dad used to have ‘the restaurants to go to’ in London, frequented by people such as Mick Jagger and Gary Lineker – perhaps searching for non potato-based food fulfillment. He was a Judge on Masterchef when I was very young, but found it a ‘terrible bore’ as he had the flu and couldn’t really taste anything anyway.
Over the years I have eaten a lot, and I have eaten well. Aged 9, my peas came in the form of a ‘sformato’, my cheese a twice-baked soufflée. I have learnt a lot as well: chocolate can be savoury, and it is possible to make a nice soup from a carrot, a chicken bone and that unnameable thing in the fridge.
Life as a chef isn’t always the plain sailing, sit-back-relax-and-eat-a-pork-chop kind of life that Rick Stein might make it out to be. Having fed the 5000 with paupiettes of pork Dad will himself eat half a tin of baked beans for lunch, or a boiled egg. And there have been disasters. On the busiest day of the year he arrived to find half his restaurant underwater. He proceeded to empty it with a bucket, all the while being mildly electrocuted. He tested the temperature of boiling caramel with his finger (we’ve all been there!) and once a misunderstanding resulted in the shop-front of the next door boutique being covered with an exploded bag of pig’s blood.
Here are his top ten tips. I told him to bear in mind that this is a) aimed at students and that b) truffle oil is not a cupboard staple.
ET: Extra Tip
DDQ: Dad’s Direct Quote
- The essentials: 1 clove garlic, 1 carrot, 1 onion and 1 stick of celery are the basis to any veg or meat dish. Chop everything up. ET: brown the vegetables first without the garlic to caramelise; this brings out more flavour. EET: herbs: bay leaf and thyme, if you can get hold of them.
- When cooking veg, pasta or pulses on the hob, to save fuel and speed up the process, boil water in the kettle first. Only use just enough hot water to cover the veg – and don’t cook green veg too long as you will lose all nutrients (cauli and broc only take 4 mins). ET: always save your veg water for soup or stews– it retains its nutritional value and tastes nice.
- Always look for the latest best-before-date, and then ignore it anyway because it is all lies.
- Season as you go through. Make sure the salt is dissolved before you add more. ET: Use stock cubes instead of salt as a seasoning agent (they are very salty so there is no need to add more). EET: Ready-made stock is better than the cubes, but better still is home-made…
- Stock: If you roast a chicken, keep the bones for a stock. Simmer gently along with number 1 for an hour. Drain and keep veg for soup.
- You can freeze pretty much everything. DDQ: ‘except cream’. Note: Things with cooked onion in tend to go off quicker.
- Say good-bye to sticky frying-pans! Firstly, do not use metal on a non-stick pan as it will scrape off that precious non-stick stuff. Secondly: When using a sticky frying-pan and cooking with butter, make sure its very hot. When the water has boiled away from the butter, turn down the heat and then use. No stick!
- Easier to peel a clove of garlic if you press it with the flat blade of a knife. DDQ: ‘I hate peeling garlic’.
- To make a salad dressing, start with a basis of mayonnaise as it is already an emulsion (known for being difficult to make without separating). Then add oil, mustard, honey and salt & pep.
- Ketchup. Oh the uses! Mix with olive oil to create an easy sauce. Add to tomato-y meaty sauces but balance with something slightly acidic, due to its sugar content. Add to baked beans. Eat half a tin for lunch to maintain Michelin star chef status.
Top Tip to Impress for Less: Cook chicken with an unreasonable amount of garlic. Pretend that you are serving guinea-fowl. That high-flying critic is still non the wiser.
And to finish: Here is a recipe from his cookbook whose title is ‘just about the quickest ever chocolate pud’. This is true. Perfect for a last-minute Valentine’s panic pudding!
300g chocolate (dark is best, but whatever your preference)
300 ml cream
Melt choc. Whip cream. Mix. Chill.
If anyone would like to learn more, such as how to knock together a saddle of venison or a fish quenelle, you’ll be pleased to know – as are all the Bulls – that you can buy his cookbook ‘Classic Bull’ on Amazon, for £0.01.