Thursday, 20 May 2010

Desert Island Ingredients

Following an add (here) posted by Sam Shepherd on the Echo website requesting chef’s and foodies to pick their 10 “Desert Island Ingredients’, I got my thinking cap on.
Here are my 10 choices for ingredients I couldn’t live without, not the flashiest of lists but I hope you enjoy reading my explanations for them.

1) Eggs - A world without eggs would be a sad place. Imagine a full English without the perfect fried egg, smoked salmon without scrambled. Restaurants without soufflé’s, crème brulee’s or hollandaise. It goes on, Yorkshire puddings, mayonnaise, cakes!? And for my final example, imagine a childhood where your mum didn’t present you with possibly the most delicious thing you’d ever eaten. A soft boiled egg with soldiers. I rest my case.

2) Butter - As a chef with distinctly French leanings butter is rather an important ingredient to me, yes its unhealthy but god does it taste good. If you want the perfect pastry, white sauce or even bacon sandwich it has to be BUTTER. The other stuff “Margarine” (say it slowly to yourself, it’s a terrible word) is a swear word that is banned in both my work and home kitchens. And I don’t care I its been churned like butter, its still not bloody butter. If you make white wine fizzy its still not champagne is it?

3) Pork - The humble farmyard pig is a noble beast, no other animal gives quite so many wonderful products. Bacon, salami’s, hams, confit belly, black pudding, loins, chops, hocks, brawn, crispy braised ears, trotters, lardons, crackling, sausages! As Fergus Henderson so wonderfully named his book, the pig above any other animal deserves the motto of “nose to tail eating“.

4) Onions - Where would meat dishes be without an onion? Or soups? As the muscle behind the “Mirepoix” (carrots, celery, leeks and onions!) A-team, it is an indispensable cooking ingredient. I regularly use in excess of 20kg’s a week at work. It often feels like all I’m doing is brunoise (Classic French terminology for the finest of dices) in fact I have a favourite knife dedicated solely to my onion antics. I dare you to find a red meat or soup recipe that doesn’t require you to fry onions with browned meat or butter at the early stages.

5) Salmon - a personal favourite for me, both in working with it (to me there is nothing more satisfying than portioning a scaled and pin boned side of salmon with a razor sharp knife) and eating it myself. Be it smoked (hot or cold), quick cured, pan-fried, poached, char-grilled or eaten as sashimi I never tire of it. In fact if you’re ever eating from my kitchen and you see pan-fried salmon on the board, order it! Its become something of a signature of mine and I’ve grown increasingly more anal over the years on just how crisp the skin should be whilst maintaining that perfectly moist and succulent flesh.

6) Potatoes - To me, as much as a gold dust food type as the noble egg. The base carbohydrate to the entire western world. Potatoes are here to stay (hopefully), the humble spud is the most versatile of all the underground dwellers. I simply couldn’t live without my favourite overly buttery mash , dauphinoise or perfect goose fat roasted potatoes! You could never forgot the chip, the fondant or the rosti. Think of your favourite meal ever, its probably got a potato as part of it. True sustaining comfort food.

7) Beef - Bovine’s are wonderful quadrupeds, they give us milk, cream, butter and ribeye steaks! Fore-ribs, sirloins, fillets, rumps, topside, silverside, bone marrow, biltong, ox-tail, burgers, shin, cheeks, chateaubriand, bone marrow! Where would St John be without the latter? You wont find a restaurant or grill anywhere that doesn’t serve a mean steak! I love the way that when people cook at home, a steak dinner is still a treat. And that’s the way I see beef products, however often you eat them, they’re ALWAYS something special when you do.

8) Garlic - Garlic, garlic, garlic, where would the French the Italians or Greeks be without that little bulb? A side of garlic bread without garlic is bread, aioli is just mayonnaise and bolognaise is just mince and onions (alright that’s not true but if you take away tomatoes it almost is). Garlic makes boring food, not boring! A flavour that we all love, it makes our breath and hands stink and is included in at least one dish of every menu of every restaurant everywhere. A true flavour staple that no kitchen could be without. Amen.

9) Spinach - Well I had to include something green! And my favourite vegetable happens to be nutritious, inexpensive and most importantly delicious. Also, Popeye loves it, and what better recommendation do you need!? Simply teamed with butter, garlic and black pepper it is a full proof steak accompaniment, the “sag” in sag aloo and the key to the greenest, heartiest of soups. Eat more spinach and trust me, your life will be better for it.

10) Lobster - As luxuriant, unaffordable and illusive as they may seem, they are and will always be true indulgence. The king of the shellfish, their shells make the best fish stocks and soups, the claw meat the best spaghetti dish’s and the enormous tails the best, well the best, meatiest most complexly tasting shellfish extravagance you will ever eat. Whether they’re served hot, simply grilled with garlic butter, cold as the crown jewel of a fruits de mer with oysters and aioli or the classic that is lobster thermidore. Lobsters will always be the flashiest most delicious foodstuff you can ever eat.

The Echo version can be found here.

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