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THE GAME-BRITISH & SCOTTISH CHEFS: JUNYA YAMASAKI

The Brits have been preparing for some time the after 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 thought I’d come back later with another English chef, but circumstances have changed the schedule, so I complete a “Londoner trilogy” with the chef Junya Yamasaki. I know that many chefs already know very well Junya and Koya restaurant, I have heard only “good things” about him and his “small dishes” marked by simplicity and creativity.

It was during his art studies in Paris he began to cook, and it was under the teaching of Mr. Nomoto (Udon master) he learns the art of Udon noodle in Paris. Junya Yamasaki is a self-taught, but he made an “internship” with two of the most famous chefs of the moment, Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken Magasinet) and Dan Hunter (Royal Mail Hotel). In 2010, he opened with partners, Koya (London), a casual restaurant specializing in Udon noodle but quickly became a “must-go-to” for the “daily small plates” of chef Yamasaki.

But thanks to this interview, I discovered a creative chef in symbiosis with its products and very influenced by his japanese roots (Kansaï) and philosophy Shyojin Ryori. His “cuisine” is unlike any chef that I interviewed, except maybe 1-2 chef(s) from Australia/NZeland. A “cuisine” closer to the artistic improvisation and to the instinct of the chef, completely inspired by the products of certain suppliers. It may be a coincidence, but in the way, I think at chef Bertrand Grébaut (Septime). Just to illustrate, here are a few recent titles of his dishes: Nuka Fermented & Grilled Mackerel with Shiso Daïkon/Steamed Turnip in Dashi with Ramson Oil/Tofu, Chicory, Dandelion & Mustard Salad/Grilled & Hay Smoked Char.

Definitely a chef to follow for a long time!

_______________________________________________________________________

Q+A WITH JUNYA YAMASAKI (www.koya.co.uk):

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

JYamasaki– Our speciality is Udon noodle, but we also play a lot with daily changing/special black board/small plates Menu.

My “cuisine” is honest/natural/simple/minimal. Stylistically close to the popular and everyday home cooking, philosophically influenced by Zen and Shyojin Ryori.

Seasonal ingredients are essential, then we try to find our products locally, therefore some of our food become strange for the Japaneses, but familiar to the Europeans, that could be a challenge for us and exciting for the customers.

2-(Scoffier) Where did you learn to make the udon noodles/dishes?

JYamasaki– In Paris, under the Udon master Mr. Nomoto at famous Udon noodle restaurant called “Kunitoraya”.

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

JYamasaki– I’m from Kansaï, West side of Japan, which is famous for light seasoning. I love the tastes of fish caught and grilled by the river and I love the smell and taste of ripe tomato just picked from tomato plants.

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

JYamasaki– I like pickling the part of vegetable we normally throw away like turnip green and use it for seasoning. I also love the English game in general which I perceive like a true luxury.

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

JYamasakiFergus Henderson, Rosanjin Kitaoji as chef and some Zen monks (past and present) in Japan.

6-(Scoffier) Koya specializes in the classic udon dishes but you have a great reputation for your “daily small plates”? How do you develop (creative process) your daily menu?

JYamasaki– Very simple. First, I get fresh and local seasonal ingredients and then wonder what can I do with these ingredients today. It is the fresh ingredients that dictates our “small plates menu” everyday. I try to be open to all cooking methods but I also try to listen to the “voice of nature” and to the precious gifts and tellings of great predecessors and precious thinkers.

7-(Scoffier) Initially it was only udon restaurant, how daily specials meals arrived in the menu?

JYamasaki– True, but we had this in our mind before we opened the restaurant. We knew we have to enjoy cooking, not just do the same food to feed everyday, and this is the best way to do.The more we do, the more we have learned things, that is actually so exciting. That’s also why I want to do a “daily changing menu”. The literal meaning of Shyojin Ryori ( Zen Monk’s food ) is “make effort to progress everyday”.

I learned enormous amount of stuff in past three years, from both Japanese and European cooking, on the history of food and, it’s funny, I had to learn a lot about my own culture and heritage. Never thought about Zen aspect for example.

8-(Scoffier) Is this one of the aims to offer kaiseki-style meals in the future?

JYamasaki– It doesn’t have an aim to offer kaiseki, though kaiseki has a root to Zen and Shojin Ryori. It is just fascinating “cuisine”, vegan but full of understanding of food, creativity and the life.

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

JYamasakiRecipe: Stout and Honey Pork Belly

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for Koya?

JYamasakiContinue feeding the people with nice food of course, and at the same time I always want to learn more about the meaning and esthetic of eating.

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RECIPE: Stout and Honey Pork Belly
(Photo not available. The daily menu changes too often)

In KOYA, we have been serving “Braised Pork Belly with Apple Cider” from the day one, and it has been the biggest seller as a small plate menu. It is so addictive that I call it Pork Brownie. This version is the recipe that I came up with when I discovered fantastic local dark beers and honey in Faviken during a few weeks stage there. I cooked it as a staff meal on my last day together with “Rain Deer Dashi” Udon. And ever since, I put on our special black board menu sometimes. I even did with chocolate stout and orange as an half joke, but it was seriously good!

Ingredients

-Pork belly (The amount you need)
-Braising sauce mix:
water 500ml
stout 300ml
honey 150ml
-Ginger
-Onions

1) Cut the belly pork into big brick size, or buy the bricks of pork belly. Sear them all around in hot frying pan.

2) Boil them with medium strong heat in water for about 1,5 hours (this is to render the fat and leave only collagen in belly). Let them cool down till the room temperature in the boiled water and keep in the fridge. The water will be set like jelly and the belly meat will be kept in it easily for a week if it is properly refridgerated.

3) Take the amount of belly blocks as you want to cook from it. In Koya, we cook quite a lot everyday, but at home you can accommodate with the size of casserole that you have. Cut them into chunk of cubs (3-4 cm) and layout in your casserole. Do not lay one on top of the other.

4) Cover the belly with the braising sauce mix with some ginger and whole small onions, then braised with medium heat till the sauce gets reduced and get the silky texture. It will usually take around 2 to 3 hours.

5) Serve with hot mustard.

FURTHER INFORMATION

KOYA/Chef Junya Yamasaki
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG
info@koya.co.uk

PRESS

1. Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012

2. The Skinny Bib (Review), Oct. 2010

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2013

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THE NORDIC WAVES-SCANDINAVIAN CHEFS: KIM AGERSTEN

The Nordic Waves is the term I used to describe this group of chefs from all of Scandinavia, mainly from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway. These chefs known for 4-5 years at international level have particularly been at the forefront over the past three years due to the recognition of New Nordic Cuisine and the emphasis on a cuisine close to nature and the local products. All this, without relying on the status attained by the restaurant Noma and Chef René Redzepi. But beyond fashions and trends of the moment, I discovered a high concentration of young chefs, innovative, creative, open to the world and all dedicated to their garden and immediate environment.

It is in an environment dedicated to the creation and beauty in the kitchen as the chef Kim Agersten served his apprenticeship. In spite of the passages at noma, Daniel (NYC) and WD-50, Agersten always returned in the kitchens of Mielcke & Hurtigkarl where he has worked for over 5 years (Now, Head chef for 2 years). There are more than a year, chef Jakob Mielcke mentioned to me the importance of Agersten in the creative process of dishes for M&H.

Kim Agersten has an aesthetic very close to nature, pure, in which one perceives the gestation period before reaching the final result. Despite the primacy of local products of high quality, the cuisine of restaurant is based on the best products from around the world, much like the chef Pascal Barbot, who said in a documentary: “My terroir is the world …”.

There are many ‘‘diamonds” in kitchens around the world, but what is difficult is to maintain this environment, the quality and creativity over a long period. Jakob Mielcke made sure to give Kim Agersten the environment to develop his own style and now he is reaping the benefits. Mielcke & Hurtigkarl is a great restaurant that often goes ‘‘under the radar” outside of Denmark as it does not use an exaggerated ways the social media and the media in general. But I can assure you that we will follow them for a long time with Chef Kim Agersten in the kitchen.

Q+A WITH KIM AGERSTEN (www.mielcke-hurtigkarl.dk):

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

KAgersten- Food is so emotional. For me food is about expressing emotions. Sometimes it can be powerful and complex. And sometimes it can be simple and graceful. So i guess you can say that my philosophy is to be honest. It’s not always about pleasing people. It’s about inviting people in to our universe, and hopefully they will feel some of the same things I felt when creating the dishes: surprised, provoked, dreaming, reminiscing, happy etc. If I can touch each guest and in the end of night people feel moved in some way that makes me happy.

I think one of the main characteristics of my cuisine is that it’s always playful in a way. When Jakob Mielcke first started to talk about this restaurant, he wanted to bring the garden and the nature in to the restaurant, and we always did it in a very personal way. Not afraid to bring Japanese, Spanish, Korean, French, etc. ingredients in to the way we interpret the nature and garden surrounds us. Local produce has always being the base of my cuisine.

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

KAgersten- I have many memories. One of them is waiting for the strawberries to be perfect and picking them before the birds in my parent’s garden. I remember them as the best strawberries of my life, eating them with cream and sugar. So good!

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

KAgersten- I would say seaweed, ever since my obsession with Japanese cuisine started a couple of years ago. There are so many different variations of seaweed. I always use combo in my stocks to bring out the umami flavor. We get a lot of seaweed from a guy on Vancouver Island, who makes the most beautiful apple smoked dulce seaweed. It’s almost like eating a good jamon!

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

KAgersten- I don’t have a mentor. But when i started cooking i was very inspired by people like Michel Bras and Pierre Gagnaire. I wouldn’t say their food inspires me today so much, more the philosophy and energy that surround them.

5-(Scoffier) You have had experiences abroad (Noma, WD-50, Daniel), but you are always returned to the restaurant Mielcke & Hurtigkarl (or Hurtigkarl before), why exactly?

KAgersten- I have always been very happy here. It’s as simple as that. Working together with people that really love what they do gives a good creative energy in the kitchen. Jan Hurtigkarl and Jakob Mielcke gave me the perfect tools to develop as a chef and find my own style. But also as a leader in the kitchen, which sometimes takes some different skills than cooking skills. And i learned that from them also, so i guess you can say that Jan and Jakob in a way are my mentors…

Today, I spend most of my time creating new dishes and finding the best products available – what any chef wants to do really.

6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (inspirations) your recipes and how did you work with chef Jakob Mielcke (to create)?

KAgersten- Inspiration can come from so many things: a place, a feeling, a beautiful product. Sometimes I taste something which triggers my imagination. Like i said it’s very emotional!

Jakob and I have a very unique creating process because we think very different from each other and get inspiration from different things. But we always end up going the same way. We have worked together for more than seven years which is unique in its self in this industry. I think that gives us a great advantage, always pushing each other to create.

7-(Scoffier) Are you a part of the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto?

KAgersten- I support the manifesto but I am not a part of it. I will always use local products and forage as many things as I can myself, but I am also very fond of some things that you cannot find in Denmark. I could never see myself cooking without using yuzu or making my own kimchi.

8-(Scoffier) Is there a movement or a chef as you watch carefully now?

KAgersten- Maybe it is not so much of a movement, but I think it is very important that more and more chef are thinking about sustainability and raising awareness about it. It is one of our biggest responsibilities as chefs to know what we are cooking and know where it comes from.

The food industry is getting greedier and greedier, producing more discount products for the consumer to buy at lower prices and always hiding the truth about how it was produced, how unhealthy it is or that they had to chop a piece of the rainforest down to make it. It is so important for us as chefs to think about sustainability and treat the products we use with respect!

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

KAgersten- Recipe: Dark chocolate and hops simcoe hops – a chocolate dessert reflecting the garden as it is looking right now, using hops as a fresh and bitter ingredient. I made a very balanced chocolate dessert, making sure that it’s not too sweet and heavy as chocolate desserts often are. At Mielcke & Hurtigkarl we serve it with a stout from Mikkeller called Black Hole, brewed with coffee and vanilla.

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about writing a book, a television show, a restaurant, others?

KAgersten- We are always setting new goals at M&H, constantly evolving. Creating a unique dining experience and severing our guests delicious and beautiful dishes very night is a goal getting repeated every day. And that is very satisfying to me as a chef.

We have a lot of new projects in 2012.

 

 

 

RECIPE: Dark Chocolate and Hops Simcoe Hops

DarkChocolate...

Ingredients & Progression Recipe:

Chocolate ganache

-91 g. milk

-91 g. cream

-91 g. chestnut honey

-23 g. water

-250 g. 70% chocolate

1. Bring milk, cream, honey and water to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Mix it together with a hand blender and cool down.

Pear Sponge cake

-210 g. pear purée

-360 g. egg whites

-340 g. egg yolks

-60 g. sugar

-70 g. fluor

1. Blend everything together with a hand blender and put it in a chiffon bottle. Fill a plastic cop 2/3 with the dough. Bake it a microwave oven at 900w i 40 sec.

Airy chocolate

-250 g. 90 % chocolate

-250 g. 70 % chocolate

-200 g. walnut oil

1. Melt everything together and cool it down to room temp. Put it in a chiffon bottle with 3 shots. Spray it in and cool metal container and put in the freezer. When it’s frozen, break the chocolate in to smaller pieces.

Pickled green walnuts

1. With a fork put small holes in the walnuts. Put them in cold water for a month. Change the water very day. Taste the walnuts, and if they are still very bitter continue to dilute them. When they are done, cook them in light sugar syrup. Add spices if you like. Pickle them in the sugar syrup for at least 4 months.

Chocolate crumble

-500 g. sugar

-500 g. almond flour

-300 g. flour

-220 g. bitter coco powder

-350 g. butter

-30 g. salt

1. Mix everything together and vacuum pack the dough. When it is cold, grate it on a cheese grater and bake it at 180 degrees for 8 min. When plating the dessert, mix the crumble with chopped whole coco beans and candied chocolate malt.

Powder

-50 g. bitter coco powder

-50 g. chocolate malt powder

-20 g. Fennel seeds powder

Chocolate and hops ice cream

-500 g. water

-30 g. fresh simcoe hops

-500 g. milk

-200 g. 75 % chocolate

-100 g. trimoline

-100 g. bitter coco powder

1. Mix the water and hops and let it rest for 20 min. Sieve the water. Bring the water, trimoline and coco powder to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Mix in the hops water and put into pac jet containers.

-I used fresh bronze fennel on the dessert because it is very nice with the anise notes to the dessert.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Mielcke and Hurtigkarl/Chef Kim Agersten

Frederiksberg Rundell 1,

2000 Frederiksberg

Denmark

www.mielcke-hurtigkarl.dk

PRESS REVIEW/LINKS

1. Condé Nast Traveller, 25 Reasons to go to Copenhagen

2. Video, Inside Mielcke & Hurtigkarl

3. Best Emerging Chefs, Jakob Mielcke

(NOTE: Credit for the photos: Kim Agersten & Mielcke & Hurtigkarl)

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2012

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