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JamesLowe/©JLowe

THE GAME-BRITISH & SCOTTISH CHEFS: JAMES LOWE

The Brits have been preparing for some time the after Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White cuisine. Not that there is a british style but we can certainly say that the emerging chefs are pro-locavore and that they are sourcing the best products of the island of Albion. In the very cosmopolitan London, the influences of young chefs are many, which give them a unique culinary personality.

I had the pleasure to discuss with the other two members of the Young Turks (Isaac McHale, Ben Greeno) a past few months, and to finish off and complete the trio, I invite youto discover the excellent chef James Lowe.

In talking with James Lowe, I discovered an ‘’Électrons libres’’ (probably as McHale & Greeno) with a very simple philosophy, an iconoclast with strong opinions about ‘’sa cuisine’’ and the gastronomy in general. Some thought that the chefs develop after several years only.

Lowe’s cuisine is strongly influenced by his time as Head chef of St John Bread & Wine and his work with the chef Fergus Henderson, but also with its passage in the kitchens of Fat Duck and noma. He shares with Henderson the philosophy ”Nose to Tail’ and it is completely guided by market products, the British market’s of course!

Follow this chef, its events, its future restaurant because that will be for chefs like James Lowe that we will go to a restaurant in a few years: a simple cuisine, creative food, a strong personality and a social conscience in harmony with its environment.

 

 

 

Q+A WITH JAMES LOWE (www.youngturks.co ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

JLowe- I would say that my food is a very commonsense’ in attitude, it’s heavily produce driven, quite pared back and uncomplicated. I like using British produce the majority of the time because I’m proud of being British and I honestly believe that we have not only some of the best, but also some of the most interesting produce in the world.

2-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your concept The Young Turks?

JLowe- With the Young Turks we wanted to draw attention to a new kind of British cooking, one that focused on our excellent native produce, brought vegetables to the fore and sought to be creative without being pretentious or complicated. We want to encourage collaboration and helpfulness and use it as a platform to share ideas as a way of moving forwards.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

JLowe- Well, my parents love telling everyone that ‘all I used to eat was bacon’, so I’m going to go with that. A bacon sandwich is certainly still one of my favourite things!

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

JLowe- I would say that there are certainly suppliers that I use often, I have specific farms that I buy pork, lamb and beef from. Then there are the suppliers that take on the ‘middleman’ role, these people are massively important since they are able to find and tell
you what is currently at its best. When it comes to foods I would say that it varies with the seasons. In winter I use all sorts of game and load my menus with it, whereas in the summer I do far more vegetables dishes.

5-(Scoffier) Do you share the philosophy of Fergus Henderson ‘’Nose to tail eating’’? Do you have another chefs or anybody else that inspires you in your cuisine?

JLowe- Absolutely, Fergus is brilliant, my first meal at St John was one of the things that made me want to be a chef.  I think ‘Nose
to Tail’
fits in with a common sense approach to foods, it’s very satisfying to break down an entire animal and fit all the parts into your menu in various ways. Heston (Blumenthal) has also been a huge inspiration, both in terms of eating at The Fat Duck before I started cooking, and talking about food and restaurants whilst working with him.

6-(Scoffier) I saw that you have strong opinions on the restoration and the cuisine, and it is a difficult business! How do you see your first restaurant: small, fine dining, several important partners?

JLowe- I’d like the style of the restaurant to be fairly similar to the food: pared back, unfussy and honest. The menu will be around £30 for four or five courses at dinner and more of a list menu at lunch that would allow people to snack or eat more quickly. I’m hoping that people will be as receptive to the idea of no choice in a restaurant environment as they are at one of our events. I also want to somehow recreate the vibe and atmosphere that we have at a Young Turks gig in the restaurant – it’ll be a real challenge to maintain that energy in a permanent location.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu with Isaac McHale for each event?

JLowe- Each time we plan event we look carefully at what produce is available at that time and then where can we get it from. Next, we look at where we’ll be working and what limitations that places on us. The inevitable restrictions are what make the menu writing
process for a temporary event so interesting. The food has to fit the venue and be feasible to pull off to our standard. As an example our last event was on a car park rooftop in a very small kitchen equipped with a small oven and a massive grill, so we based the food loosely on a Turkish Ocakbasi, but done in our way.

8-(Scoffier) I know you were in MAD event (August 2011), what have you learned? Before, have you been influenced by René Redzepi and the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto?

JLowe- The MAD symposium was very interesting, there were talks on plant neurobiology, agricultural policy and farming sustainability.  Combined with the energy of the people in attendance and some great meals in Copenhagen I think it would be hard not to come back inspired from the event.

I didn’t eat at noma on this last visit but I think René has certainly had an influence on me. I first ate there about six years ago and was amazed at the quality and type of produce that was on display, I felt that what he was doing in Copenhagen was definitely possible in the UK, surely the same sort of ingredients would be available over here? People are just so busy in the restaurant industry that it’s hard to stop, think and look around for alternative ways of doing things. I think that was also one of the goals of MAD – to make people stop and think about what they were doing, the consequences of their choices – and I’m sure most of us who were there have done.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized of your cuisine?

JLowe– Recipe: Raw forerib, oyster, elderberry capers and chickweed

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef or for The Young Turks? Do you think about write a book, a television show, an event outside of London?

JLowe- Personally, my main goal is to get my restaurant open, get cooking for people and to be busy. I’d like to do other things in the
future but for now I just need to get a site! As for the ‘Turks, we have invites and plans to do a few things outside of the UK including Australia with the TOYS crew, Sweden at Bastard restaurant and to cook in Paris, which I really hope we get round to sorting out because it would be great to take British food to these places.

RECIPE: Raw Forerib, Oyster, Elderberry Capers and Chickweed

RawForerib/©PaJorgensen

Ingredients & Progression Recipe

-400g Well marbled, aged forerib

-Dijon mustard

-Olive oil

-Unripe elderberries

-Coarse salt

-Cider vinegar

-3 native oysters

-150g vegetable oil

-Vinegar from elderberry capers

-Salt

-Beef dripping

-200g Sourdough

-Chickweed or wild watercress

Method

Beef

1. Separate the beef from the fat and connective tissue. Chop the beef fairly roughly into 5mm dice. Chop the fat into 2-3mm dice.

Elderberry capers

1. Pick the unripe elderberries after the blossom has fallen but before the branches (and obviously the fruit) turn red. Mix with twice the weight of coarse salt, cover and refrigerate for 2 weeks. Rinse the salt off the berries. Bring to the boil enough cider vinegar to cover the berries completely. Drop the berries into the pot, bring back to the boil and pour into preserving jars and seal.

 

Oyster emulsion

1. Open the oysters. Strain the liquid from the oysters and keep. Blend the oysters to a puree then add the oil at a slow rate (as if making
mayonnaise). Continue until the emulsion is very thick. Add some vinegar from the elderberry capers and salt to season.

To serve

1. Allow the beef to come up to room temperature (over 21C), add olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper to season. Place on the plate in a very shallow layer. Pour half the reserved oyster juice over the beef. Blitz the sourdough into crumbs and fry in the beef dripping until brown and crispy. Scatter these crumbs and the elderberry capers over the beef. Pipe blobs of the oyster emulsion evenly over the beef. Add a layer of chickweed or wild watercress tops.

 

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

The Young Turks/Chef James Lowe (London)

www.youngturks.co

PRESS REVIEW

1. A New Movement…, by Bruce Palling, WStreet Journal, April 2011

2. The Young Turks at Franks Cafe (Video), August 2011

3. Catch them if you can, by Nicholas Lander, Financial Times, April 2011

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2011

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Chef Anna Hansen/Photo: The Modern Pantry

 

ÉLECTRONS LIBRES-ENGLISH CHEF: ANNA HANSEN    

The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or as leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search. Anna Hansen is a good example of an ‘’Électron Libre’’.  

Anna Hansen was born in Montreal (Canada) and grew up in New Zealand. She first trained as a chef under Fergus Henderson (St John) at The French House Dining Room. In 2001, she started working with the chef Peter Gordon to open The Providores, a restaurant that won several awards. In 2005, Anna Hansen left Providores to focus on developing The Modern Pantry, but the restaurant open just four years later! Perseverance it is certainly one of her qualities… One must read the reviews and comments to see how her patience has been rewarded! 

In a world where the best and the youngest are inspired by the Spanish stars (Adria, Arzak, Aduriz etc.) or by the Danish great chef René Redzepi, Anna Hansen’s cuisine is truly unique! Considering all the interviews that I did for this Serie, I have not yet seen one that masters savors so so well. She mixes, in a perfect harmony, a wide variety of product for a perfect new Cuisine Fusion. Often those products are from South East Asia or Asia (coriander,turmeric, tamarind, lemon grass, sambal, ginger, fish sauce, miso etc.) mixed with local and fresh produce. Anna Hansen is a rare talent in the culinary world! 

  

Q+A WITH ANNA HANSEN (www.themodernpantry.co.uk ): 

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at The Modern Pantry and what is it main characteristics? 

AHansen- The greatest influence in my life of food was my Danish grandmother, my Mormor. My family is Danish on my mother’s side and I spent many happy hours with Mormor in her kitchen during my childhood. Mormor’s cuisine was typically ‘immigrant’ in her skill at adapting a recipe by replacing unavailable ingredients with something else. Her understanding of and respect for an ingredient’s flavour was amazing. 

Fergus Henderson came next. My Mormor always said that anyone with all the right ingredients in front of them could cook well but to be a great cook required the skill of being able to create something delicious, even splendid out of very humble ingredients. I think this is why I appreciated Fergus’ approach to food so much. His philosophy of unadulterated flavours and textures no matter how humble was inspiring. 

I then met Peter Gordon whose approach to food was unique and at polar opposites to Fergus. Peter taught me to experiment and not to be afraid to try what seemed outlandish combinations then. To have an open mind. 

These two encounters in conjunction with my travels over the years and my fascination with all flavours unknown have lead me to where I am now, to my culinary philosophy which is driven by the desire to please and excite the palate. My larder is global. There are no cultural or culinary boundaries in my kitchen. 

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable? 

AHansen- Liquorice. My Auntie’s would visit from Denmark and bring packets of liquorice lozenges for my grandparents and Mum, some with salt, some without. I loved them all and this has stayed with me for life. I love all similar flavours such as fennel, tarragon, star anise, aniseed etc. and use them daily in my cooking. 

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes? 

AHansen- I am a big fan of tamarind and miso in all its incarnations, fresh turmeric and curry leaves, umeboshi plums and yuzu juice. 

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine? 

AHansen- There are many chefs who have inspired me over the years such as Fergus Henderson, Peter Gordon, Christine Manfield and David Thompson but my main source of inspiration these days is my chefs. Their enthusiasm and fresh thinking keeps me on my toes and helps drive my creativity. 

5-(Scoffier) I seen your cuisine at Modern Pantry and your special menu at The Loft Project; It’s influenced by Asia cuisine (Sri Lanka, Vietnam). Do you study in these countries or you’re self-educated? 

AHansen- I am self educated. I travel (although not as much as I would like to!) and research ideas or dishes I like then create my own take on them. Sometimes the outcome has no relation to my original idea but that is what it is all about! 

Aubergine Crispy Shallots/Photo: The Modern Pantry

 

6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu? 

AHansen- As well as travelling I am always on the lookout for new ingredients and although I cook fusion cuisine I am very driven by seasonality which in itself I find inspiring. We have a forager for example who visits us once a week with all kinds of delights. Certain dishes on the menu will then be designed to incorporate what he has brought us. 

I also become obsessed with things which then lead to inspiration and recipe development. My signature dish, the sugar cured prawn omelette for example is truly representative of my approach to cooking. I find ingredients that I like and then see how many different things I can do with them. Or I try to replicate a process or ingredient (in this instance a dried shrimp) that I love. There are many failures along the way but every now and then you get lucky and come up with something that has the perfect balance of flavour, texture and aroma. I think the sugar cured prawn omelette achieves this. It began with me trying to make my own dried shrimps. 

7-(Scoffier) I know that the chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) take a lot of time choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces? 

AHansen- Unfortunately, I do not have time to visit the markets. Instead I have developed a very close relationship with my suppliers, some of them very specialist such as Martin the forager, who make sure I am receiving the best produces and let me know about anything new they get in. 

I am also very particular about operating a responsible restaurant in terms of sustainability and as such spend a lot of time ensuring that wherever possible we are doing what we can. Sometimes that can mean we have a very limited choice when it come to fish for example or that we pay a higher premium for our meat but it is very important to me and a lot of our purchasing revolves around this. 

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which? 

AHansen- No, I do not. 

The Modern Pantry/Photo: http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk

 

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Anna Hansen and The Modern Pantry? 

AHansen- Sugar cured prawn omelette, spring onions, coriander, smoked chilli sambal. 

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others? 

AHansen- At the moment I am still focused on building up The Modern Pantry as we have not yet been open two years. Maintaining consistency in all areas of the business is a full time occupation! I am also writing The Modern Pantry Cookbook which should be published early next year. It is not so much a restaurant cookbook as a look at what is in the modern day pantry. My aim is to get people to think outside the box but in a way that is simple and every day. For example most people have a packet of miso in their pantry or a bottle of fish sauce. One for making soup, the other for making a Thai curry but both can be used for so much more. 

  

RECIPE: Sugar Cured Prawn Omelette, Spring Onions, Coriander, Smoked Chilli Sambal 

Omelette/Photo: The Modern Pantry

 

INGREDIENT & PROGRESSION RECIPE 

Sugar cured prawns: 

-24 New Caledonian prawns peeled, split lengthways and de-veined 

-1 lemon grass stalk bashed gently with a rolling pin or other suitable implement and chopped in to 4 

-30 g peeled ginger sliced 

-3 lime leaves shredded 

-1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes 

-1 tbsp soy sauce 

-1 tbsp fish sauce 

-100 g sugar 

-15 g Maldon sea salt 

1. Mix all ingredients together well and leave to marinate for 24 hours then rinse and pat dry. Refrigerate in an air tight container until ready to use. 

Smoked chilli sambal: 

-2.5 lt rapeseed oil for frying 

-250 g sliced red peppers 

-250 g sliced white onions 

-250 g whole ripe cherry tomatoes 

-80 g garlic, sliced 

-80 g peeled ginger julienned 

-25 g dried shrimps ground in a spice grinder 

-1 large dried chipotle chilli soaked until soft in hot water (remove the stalk) 

-125 ml tamarind paste 

-40 ml fish sauce 

1. Heat the oil in a pot to 18oC then deep fry the red peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes separately in small batches until they are a rich golden brown – almost burnt looking – draining them on paper towel and then tipping them in to a large bowl as you go. Fry the ginger and garlic, in separate batches also, until just golden brown. 

2. In a small frying pan fry the ground shrimps in a little of the fryer oil until aromatic and add to the bowl along with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. 

3. Now blitz the sambal in batches in a food processor until almost smooth emptying it out in to another bowl as you go. Once you have done this mix the processed sambal together thoroughly and leave to cool. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. 

Omelette: 

-12 eggs 

-1 bunch of spring onions sliced 

-1 green chilli sliced into super fine rounds 

-1 bunch of coriander picked 

1. For each omelette whisk two eggs together in a small bowl with 1/2tsp of sambal and a small pinch of salt. 

2. Heat a knob of butter in an omelette pan over moderate heat and when it begins to sizzle add 6 prawn halves. Toss these in the pan until almost cooked then pour in the eggs. Swirl the pan once or twice then reduce the heat. 

3. Sprinkle over 3 green chilli rounds and a small handful of spring onions. When the eggs look almost cooked use a flat heatproof rubber spatula to fold the omelette in half. 

4. Slide on to a plate and keep somewhere warm while you repeat the process. 

Serve: 

1. Garnish each omelette with picked coriander and a spoonful of the sambal. 

  

FURTHER INFORMATION:       

-The Modern Pantry/Chef Anna Hansen 

47-48 St John’s Square,  

Clerkenwell, London 

www.themodernpantry.co.uk 

  

-Review :      

1. The Guardian, January 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/03/modern-pantry 

2. Menu for The Loft Project, June 2010, http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk/pdf/The_Loft_Project_3.pdf 

3.  Stuff Magazine, March 2010, http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/3523232/London-chef-named-New-Zealander-of-the-Year-in-Britain 

  

Tous droits réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2010

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