Creating food in up close and personal demos

It’s autumn. Evenings become darker earlier and it seems a shame to simply go home when there are so many other options that are slightly out of the ordinary to enjoy.

And that is what brought FEAST With Paul together with the Really Helpful Club, an ever-growing network of entrepreneurs and people who want to use their services based on solid personal recommendations. We devised an evening of me preparing and serving food, demystifying certain cooking techniques, and also talking about my MasterChef experience. It seems that no matter how many series are broadcast, there remains a healthy appetite for knowledge and a peek behind the scenes.

The evening started off with warm bread and chicken butter with a fennel-citrus salt for sprinkling. I first served this in 2015 on New Year’s Eve and everyone loved it. People look at me incredulously when I say that I love to brake off a piece from a crusty loaf and run it around a tray that has been roasting a chicken. The runny juices and the more caramelised bits that need little coaxing from the bottom of the tray are like concentrated chicken in a bite. I guess creating a butter you can spread makes it more socially acceptable but the taste sensation is the same.

Miso-glazed prawns

The first part of the evening that generated real curiosity and excitement was the miso-glazed prawns. This was a dish I put together specifically for this event as I wanted to show people how to use a blowtorch for something other than DIY.

Blowtorching miso glazed prawns

Blowtorching miso glazed prawns

 

And this is what they looked like, served with Sriracha mayonnaise, once I had demonstrated how quick it was to make mayonnaise from scratch.

Miso glazed prawns with Sriracha mayonnaise

Miso glazed prawns with Sriracha mayonnaise

 

Cooking the perfect steak

Sometimes, the food that gives the greatest pleasure, the simple things, can seem hard to get right. Cooking a steak is one of those things. As soon as the steak came out, the questions came thick and fast. Which cut am I using? Why that cut? I almost always choose sirloin, is that OK? How long to you cook it on each side? You’re resting the steak. Why, and how long would you rest it for?

Ribeye marinated in garlic and thyme

Ribeye marinated in garlic and thyme

 

This was a ribeye. I like it because of the amount of fat marbling. I don’t eat a lot of read meat so, when I do, I like to spoil myself with a cut that is full of flavour. I also choose a thick steak from a nearby butcher in Tooting which has always provided quality meat for me. Why there isn’t a butcher in Wimbledon is a topic for another day. I marinated this for a couple of hours with thinly sliced garlic, sprigs of thyme and some light olive oil. Because this steak will start its life in the pan at a high temperature, there is no advantage to using extra virgin olive oil. Did you notice I didn’t add salt?

This is how I cook my steaks. I prefer thicker steaks so I can achieve that seared colour while still keeping the inside pink. If in doubt, go for a narrow, thicker steak in preference to a wide thinner steak.

  1. Heat a dry frying pan, starting at a low temperature, then increasing the heat to high until it starts to smoke.
  2. Wipe the garlic and herbs from the steak to prevent them burning.
  3. Sprinkle salt on one side of the steak and add the steak, salt side down, to the dry pan. Remember: we are oiling the steak, not the pan.
  4. LEAVE IT ALONE. If I’m feeling impatient, I take a little walk around the kitchen so I am out of reach of the steak and won’t be tempted to touch it. After two minutes the steak should be ready to turn.
  5. Sprinkle salt on the upper side of the steak, then turn it over.
  6. Leave for about thirty seconds, then turn the heat down to medium.
  7. Add a couple of knobs of unsalted butter to the pan, along with the reserved garlic and herbs.
  8. Baste the steak while keeping it on the heat. If you have a meat thermometer, the centre should register 50°C for rare and 55°C for medium*.
  9. When the steak has reached the temperature you prefer, place it on a plate, top with the garlic, herbs and a pinch of salt and loosely cover it with foil. The temperature will rise by about a further 5°C while the steak rests.
  10. LEAVE IT ALONE. You can rest your meat for up to half the cooking time. The heat has shocked the meat. resting time allows it to relax and become juicier and more tender than if you ate it straight from the pan.
Steak with oyster mayonnaise and rocket canape being assembled

Steak with oyster mayonnaise and rocket canape being assembled

 

Lemon meringue tartlets

There was some interest in how to make an Italian meringue. I think most people were mentally skipping to the end when I would be shipping out the blowtorch again. However, as soon as someone said that her Italian meringues always collapsed, an element of jeopardy was introduced and people were watching intently.

Piping Italian meringue onto lemon tarts

Piping Italian meringue onto lemon tarts

 

As the evening progressed, barriers came down. The questions were still coming thick and fast, but people were inching ever closer as they were eager to see how many of the techniques they had shied away from were being demonstrated in a relaxed environment.

Lemon meringue tartlets

Lemon meringue tartlets

 

Calvados soufflés with caramelised apple and salted caramel sauce

This is a great way to end an evening. It’s light but tastes so indulgent. You have the gentle warmth of the apple brandy. There is the airy lightness of the soufflé. At the bottom of the dish is a surprise of caramelised apples which introduce another dimension just as you think you have the dish figured out. Finally, the salted caramel sauce turns this into pure indulgence.

 

Calvados soufflés with caramleised apple and salted caramel sauce

Calvados soufflés with caramelised apple and salted caramel sauce

 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I can’t thank Sarah and Caroline enough for putting the event together. Also Dominique’s home created the perfect environment for the 20 guests to mingle and gather around the island for an up close and personal look at their food being prepared.

 

* If you do not have a meat thermometer, you can use the finger test.

Rare: Hold the tips of your thumb and index finger together. Using your other hand, press against the ball of your hand at the base of your thumb. It should feel springy. A rare steak should feel the same way.

Medium: Hold the tips of your thumb and third finger together. Using your other hand, press against the ball of your hand at the base of your thumb. This is how a medium steak should feel.

Winter colds call for comfort food 

Colds. They sneak up on you, then just linger. You don’t feel better or worse, but they refuse to leave and insist on making even simple everyday tasks feel like wading through treacle. Everything is such an effort. 
It’s at times like this that I take to my bed and dream of comfort food. I may not want the dark rum-laced warm milk my mum used to give me as a child but I still want something that will give me a warm food hug. Almost anything with buttery mashed potato will do. As will my other half’s chicken casserole that is comforting because it is one part tasty and one part ‘I didn’t have to cook this myself’.
So, after a week of soldiering on through commitments, I took to my bed with litres of water to hand and thoughts of what I might have when I was ready to start eating again. 
This time, I think I even surprised myself. There was no chicken soup, stews or mash in sight. What I did with a welcome burst of energy was make ceviche. 
I’m not going to analyse it. But I imagine that as my body started showing signs of life, my tastebuds asserted that they did not want to be left behind. 
I always have cucumber in the fridge. I’ll have it fresh, salted and rinsed so it retains its bite, pickled or even as a soup. It’s probably better not to question how I have fresh sea bream, coriander and limes lying around waiting for me to come back to life. 
This took all of about 20 minutes. While the cucumber was being salted to draw out moisture so there was a crunchy foil to the delicate fish, I was filleting and skinning the fish. All the bones and trimming went to the freezer for stock at some point in the future. 
The red onions took about five to ten minutes. If you soak them in iced water, you retain the crunch while removing the harsh raw onion taste. 
Once I had sliced the fish, I poured over fresh lime juice and sprinkled some salt. By the time I had arranged the cucumber on the plate, the fish was ready. It was that easy. And so comforting.

  

Weekends mean cooking

How did you spend your Sunday?

I spent mine cooking. Now, there’s a surprise!
As real as a dish might seem while it is in my head or listed on a menu, I have always felt it doesn’t really come alive until someone else has tasted it. Now that we have tools like Instagram and Facebook, I have the chance to share dishes with a much wider group, more quickly.
The challenge here is making the finished photograph match what was in my head, so even if you ‘re not tasting it, I can still make the image lifelike enough to make you feel we’re sharing that plate of food and all your senses are being triggered. No mean feat.
I am preparing for my last pop up event of 2015. Details are on the website but, for those who haven’t or are not able to make it to central London, I wanted to give you a little peek into what’s coming up on 8 November and how some of my dishes come together. 
One of the starters is duck breast with a celeriac velouté and a hazelnut and herb crumb. 
The inspiration for this dish came from a couple of places. Firstly, I wanted to create a duck dish that would not suffer from being served to 30 or more people at the same time. As much as I love duck legs, there is something about a meltingly tender pink duck breast that I find irresistible.
This dish started to come together when I was at an awards ceremony in Sheffield. On the menu was a celeriac soup with duck and garlic croutons. It was lovely and reminded me that I don’t use celeriac as much as I should. The duck was shredded and hidden, like treasure, at the bottom on the bowl. 
The soup was rich and silky but as soon as I tasted the duck, I knew what I wanted to do. For me, I wanted to showcase the duck, so it would be centre stage in my dish; pink, tender and begging to be eaten. I knew that hazelnuts pair well with both duck and celeriac, so a crunchy crumb would rescue the dish from being too soft. Sometimes, simple is the way to go and there is nowhere to hide on a simple white plate. Everything really does have to taste good and everything on the plate has to be there for a reason.
Vegetarians have not been forgotten. I love working with mushrooms and thought a plate of earthy, wild mushrooms would pair perfectly with the celeriac and hazelnuts as well.

One of the lessons I took from my time in Sweden with MasterChef was to get a feel for the food and do what felt natural. This dish came together in just a couple of minutes. I think the mushrooms look great, almost falling over each other, and taste as good as they look. 

I hope you like the final dishes. 
If you would like to come for lunch and taste these, and other dishes, you can book tickets on my website
 
 Duck with celeriac and hazelnut crumb  

  

Reasons to love Paris #273: Pascale Beillevaire butter

I’m not good with dairy. I’ve just never been a fan. It didn’t matter if I was choosing sweet cereals as a child to disguise the taste of milk or, these days, wearing disposable gloves when grating strong cheese. Who knew that making a melted cheese and ham sandwich would become a symbol of selflessness?
That is what makes my love of this butter all the more confusing. 
My attention was drawn to the butter way back around 2010 by patissier and food writer David Lebovitz, an American who lives in Paris. 
As luck would have it, the shop in Paris where it is sold is only about five minutes’ walk from the hotel where we usually stay. So, for the past three years, I have been bringing some home with me after each of my frequent trips to Paris. 
I may only be in Paris for a long weekend at a time but, thanks to this butter, I can toast crumpets, close my eyes and be transported back to a place where simple things bring an almost sinful sense of contentment. You really need something a little bland like a crumpet to really appreciate the depth of flavour. The butter is hand-churned and incredibly rich to the point of almost being sweet. Flecks of sea salt act like little flavour bombs, creating the perfect balance.

 
I believe the maker, Pascale Beillevaire, which also makes cheese, now has a shop in Knightsbridge, central London, but something tells me it just wouldn’t taste the same.

  

Final lunch of 2015 announced

FEAST With Paul’s final lunch of 2015 will be at Little Water in Covent Garden on Sunday 8 November. Doors open at 12pm and lunch is served at 12:30pm.

 

STARTER

Duck breast with celeriac velouté and hazelnut crumb

Wild mushrooms with celeriac velouté and hazelnut crumb (V)

MAIN

Lamb fillet with red wine glaze, dauphinoise potatoes, hispi cabbage and chestnuts

Butternut squash risotto with fried sage (V)

DESSERT

Apple and calvados soufflé with salted caramel sauce

OR

Chocolate fondant with cherry compote and cream

If you would like to come along, you can book tickets directly from this website. Tickets are £25 for three courses, excluding drinks.

Restaurant review: POND Dalston

POND logo
I remember it well. It was 2004. The family was sat around mum’s kitchen table one Sunday after lunch and there was some music playing in the background.
Suddenly, my niece piped up “Why do you always listen to this old people’s music? I’m off to practice my song for my Christmas concert.” When she told us the song she was leaving the room to practice was ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, none of us had the heart to tell her she was singing a cover of a 20-year old song.
Fast forward to 2015 and I’m sitting in POND Dalston, a restaurant that is aiming to become synonymous with Hawaiian cooking.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of that day in 2004 when comfort was found in something old and familiar that had been given a modern twist.
The dark evening really lends atmosphere to what was a warehouse. As you look closer at the bar and the fittings around the room, you notice that the vertical metal sheets around the bar and the wooden planks used to create the illusion of a sky scape are two very familiar materials given a funky treatment that brings them bang up to date.
And so it continues with the menu. There is a mixture of the familiar, the intriguing and the plain unknown.
I immediately zeroed in on the chicken with a habañero glaze with kimchi and pickled chillies, but then we decided to go with the choices that used ingredients we knew less well.
It turns out, I like spam. Or rather, I love spam, coated in a dust made of dried shrimp, deep fried and served with a yuzu mayonnaise. They are served like potato fries, in a cup. You pick and eat and chat and pick and dip and eat and, before you know it, they’re gone.
NHC fried rice is perfect if you want a different take on an ingrained classic. You still take comfort from beautifully cooked rice and warming ginger, but there is texture from bean sprouts and seasoning from wakame (seaweed) to give you a dish that tastes light, bright and ever so moreish.
Alternating with my chopsticks between the NHC rice and a dish of wakame salad with a pungent dipping sauce of coriander, lime and fish sauce and I was happy as Larry. That dipping sauce was only supposed to serve as an accent to the salad but I could have had it by the bucket.
Not everything works perfectly, though. The whole charred avocado with ponzu rosemary dressing came stuffed with pickled mushrooms on quinoa with Japanese chillies and cashew nut cream. The idea of cooked avocado has never really appealed, so I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it, especially with the mushroom and the dressing. However, everything else on the plate seemed to prevent the avocado from shining which it deserved to do.
There are a couple of poke dishes to choose from. Poke simply means cut or diced and is usually served as a salad. We chose the poke of salmon and tuna with flying fish roe over the beef. The point of a dish like this is to let the freshness of the fish show through and the restraint shown with the citrus dressing does exactly that.
There isn’t anything restrained about the chef, Byron Knight. He delivers a confident menu, all while being fully hands-on in the kitchen and working the room to find out what people think of the food. His mile a minute pace is that of a man with a mission.
Byron sees POND as being at the forefront of Hawaiian cuisine and wants this venture to redefine that cuisine for Europeans. It definitely blows away any preconceptions of the more kitsch tiki movement that is most closely associated with Hawaii. Perhaps his greatest achievement is melding all the culinary influences on those islands (Japanese, Korean, French, Portuguese) and still managing to produce plates that are beautifully balanced and work well whether you are eating one plate or sharing several.
Oh, and I still ordered the chicken.
POND Dalston
Stamford Works
3 Gillett Street
Dalston
London
N16 8JH
Reservations: 020 3772 6727

Third pop up date announced: 4 October

We’re back for a third lunchtime session at Little Water in Covent Garden on 4 October. This time, I have put together dishes that will brighten your taste buds, give you a peek into a favourite childhood food memory and a dessert … well, I have yet to make this for anyone who was not speechless until it was all gone!

Entry is £25 for three courses. Drinks are not included. Arrive from 12pm. Lunch is served at 12:30pm

STARTER

Vietnamese duck noodle salad with roast duck leg, rice noodles, vegetables and a spicy dressing

Vegetarian Vietnamese noodles salad with shiitake mushrooms, rice noodles, vegetables and a spicy dressing (V)

MAIN

Jerk chicken thighs, rice and peas, sweet corn purée and roasted sweet corn with a nectarine, coriander and pickled red onion salad

Jerk king oyster mushrooms, rice and peas, sweet corn purée  and roasted sweet corn with a nectarine, coriander and pickled red onion salad (V)

DESSERT

Toffee apple soufflé
Apple and calvados soufflé with salted caramel sauce

To ensure you have the best experience, dessert will be served in two waves, 15 minutes apart.

If you would like to come along, I would recommend booking early as the last two lunches sold out. Tickets are available from the Attend an event section.

What is the best way to top a sell-out week?

When my second popup sold out, I wondered if this week could get any better.

Well, it just did.

I am thrilled to announce that I will be the guest chef at the Phoenix Artist Club in London’s West End for three nights from Wednesday 26 August to Friday 28th.

I feel honoured to have been asked because the Phoenix is steeped in the history of the creative arts.

It is a magnet for anyone working on stage and screen, looking for a place to unwind that is full of character. Harry Potter scenes were filmed right outside its doors. The venue itself, below the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road, served as the the theatre’s original rehearsal and dressing rooms. Sir Laurence Olivier made his stage debut in Noel Coward’s Private Lives from these very rooms. And it is from these same rooms that I will be serving my menu.

There will be a choice of starters, mains and desserts as well as some freshly made bar snacks if you just want to pop in for a drink and a nibble. Sit, surrounded by decades of memorabilia, much of it signed, and take in the atmosphere.

The bar is nicknamed ‘shuts’ – by all the performers who go there after they have finished their own shows – because it never does.

You never know who might drop in after appearing on stage to give an impromptu performance. You can just turn up for drinks or dinner, but why not book so you don’t risk missing out?

Phoenix Artist Club
1 Phoenix Street
London
WC2H 8BU

Dinner service from 5pm – 9:30pm

You can book through the Opentable website or app.

Here is the menu we are offering.

Bar snacks

Chicken and rosemary popcorn – £1
Serrano ham croquetas with smoked paprika aioli – £5

Starters

Beetroot-cured salmon, pickled cucumber, horseradish mayonnaise, homemade rye crispbread – £6
Twice-baked blue cheese soufflé with pear curd and a watercress and hazelnut salad – £7

Mains

Roasted cod, potato millefeuille, onion purée, roasted shallots, pickled mushrooms – £15
Roast chicken, pommes Anna, carrots with braised lettuce, peas and bacon – £14
Roasted cauliflower with potato millefeuille, cauliflower purée, roasted walnuts, samphire and a caper and sultana dressing – £13

Desserts

Chocolate fondant with rapsberry coulis and cream – £5
Apricot frangipane tart with custard – £5

 

 

Second pop up sells out!

It felt great waking up this morning to find that my pop up restaurant event for Sunday 23rdat Little Water had sold out.

Developing a menu, cooking my food and serving it to people who say how much they have enjoyed it is one of the most fulfilling feelings.
Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket and to everyone who has been so supportive of this crazy dream.
And, as if things could not get any better, there is more great news to come …

Good news: a second pop up is coming!

Following the sold-out success of our first pop up event in July, FEAST With Paul is back on 23 August for a second lunch date at Little Water, in the heart of Covent Garden.

This time, there is a vegetarian choice for the starter and main courses. There is also a choice of dessert for those who do not like alcohol.

Entry is £25 for three courses. Drinks are not included.

STARTER

Twice-baked Roquefort soufflé with pear curd, watercress and hazelnut salad (V)
Vodka suggestion: saffron

Chicken, leek and mushroom terrine with pear curd, watercress and hazelnut salad
Vodka suggestion: sea buckthorn

MAIN COURSE

Pork belly with chilli caramel sauce, rhubarb chutney, jasmine rice, herb salad
Vodka suggestion: lingonberry

Open mushroom ‘lasagne’ (V)
Mixed mushrooms, layers of wilted Savoy cabbage, with pickled and crispy mushrooms, black truffle crumb and black garlic
Vodka suggestion: tarragon

DESSERT

‘Gin and tonic’ (V)
Lime curd, gin and lime mousse, tonic jelly, popping candy, candied lime, juniper shortbread.

Please note: the dessert uses no gelatine.

The first pop up was hugely enjoyable and just what I wanted – people coming together over good food. Demand for the second date is sure to be huge, so grab a ticket before they all disappear!