26 June 2016

The latest addition to my knife wallet

WHEN IT COMES to making great food it's essential to have the right tools at your disposal.  I have tried many different brands and types of chef's knives in my time as a chef and home cook but always go back to my first love - Wüsthof Classics.

When I started my first job in a kitchen, one of the best lessons chef taught me was to go and buy a bag of carrots and keep cutting them into various shapes until I achieved the desired level of consistency.

I bought my Wüsthof 8" Classic chef's knife (there are many different shapes and sizes but you tend to find an 8" chef's knife will be the one you use most) when I was still at college after enjoying using my lecturer's set of Wüsthofs.  At the time it cost around £100, which seems a lot of money for one knife but such is the quality and craftsmanship of Wüsthof products, I still have it today - eight years later - and it's just as sharp as when I first picked it up.

Recently there was a new addition to my knife wallet in the shape of the Wüsthof Classic santoku knife (7").  Holding a blade that feels comfortable in your hand is essential, particularly if you are going to be chopping for a substantial amount of time. The ergonomic handle just feels like an extension of my arm and having a knife with a bit of weight to it gives you confidence in the quality of the knife. I just don't trust lightweight knives!

The balance of this new knife is perfect, as I found previously with my 8" knife and their weight lends well for cracking bones if doing butchery work.  I do find Wüsthofs maintain their sharpness very well, which is a definite plus as using a steel can be difficult. I have always maintained it using a Wüsthof diamond steel and by taking it to my local butcher to sharpen on his stone.

This santoku features little hollows that ensure food doesn't stick to the blade when chopping finely. The razor sharp blade is constructed from forged high-carbon stainless steel so when you start chopping, it glides through whatever is in its path - just make sure it's not your fingers!

Talking of cuts, if you are going to have a mishap, it's far better to do so with a sharp blade like this than a blunt one as it will yield a clean cut.

With so many kitchen gadgets available these days, it's very easy to fill up your cupboard and drawers with a tool for every kitchen task under the sun.  However, being a practical cook has taught me that most of these toys are actually unnecessary and that most jobs in the kitchen can be done with a just a few trusty knives and a little bit of practice.

While it might seem a lot to shell out around £100 for one knife, it is really worth it.  It will last forever and will never let you down.  Wüsthof has been making knives for the professional chef and the enthusiastic home cook for over two decades - they know a thing or two about quality products.



You can purchase Wüsthof products as well as a huge range of other cookware from Haus http://www.inthehaus.co.uk/.  Happy shopping!


15 June 2016

Recipe: Heritage tomato omelette

I RECKON YOU can tell a good chef from a bad one by the way they make an omelette. It's such a classic skill and the beauty is really in the simplicity of it.  I often rustle one up for breakfast as it's quick to do and provides plenty of protein to fuel your day.  I'm using heritage tomatoes here because they're a food that just makes me happy, ultimately, but it's a very versatile dish that you can use whatever you have lying around in the fridge.

It's important to use the correct pan for this.  You need a non-stick one large enough to evenly spread a fairly thin layer of the beaten egg so it will cook quickly. I actually have a specific pan just for omelettes! It happens to be the base of Sarah's old egg poacher, but it's the perfect size for this!  I like mine classically baveuse, but feel free to cook it longer if you don't.

Happy cooking!

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Ingredients (serves 1):

3x large free-range eggs 
Small splash of milk
Knob of butter
Handful or Heritage tomatoes, sliced
Half a ball of mozzarella, torn
Chilli sauce
Sea salt
Black pepper

Served with a dressed rocket salad and chilli sauce in this instance

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Method:

1) Warm your grill up. Melt a small knob of butter in your omelette pan, just so it coats the surface and no more.

2) Beat your eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk.  Place into the pan and continually stir with a fork or spatula to allow even cooking.  Make sure to pull it away from the sides and into the middle, too.

My trusty pan has seen a bit of action in its time
3) When a thin 'skin' has formed on the base, place the cheese on top and place under the grill to melt for a minute or so.  

4) Season at this point and sprinkle the tomatoes over the centre of the omelette.

5) Now to the fun part! Hold the pan at a 45-degree angle and gently free the top of the omelette from the pan with a spatula.  Adjust the angle of the pan as you go and gravity will ensure it folds over.

6) Place a plate on top and confidently flip the omelette out.  Add more of the tomatoes on top and serve with desired garnish








6 June 2016

Recipe: Nan's ultimate cheese toastie

A FRIEND OF mine recently asked me how to make the ultimate cheese toastie and I couldn't see past my nan's version, 'cheese dreams'. I don't know where the name came from, but I would hazard a guess that it was from her travels to the States in the 80s and 90s when grandad worked over the pond. 

These days, it seems to be on the menu of many a street food joint - and it rarely comes cheap.  Nan used to serve us this recipe for breakfast when we were little, but it's such a perfect comfort food that it really works any time of day.  Naturally, I like to use the finest cheddar and Keen's is my choice for the ultimate cheese toastie. Now in their fifth generation, the family have been making award-winning cheese in Somerset since 1899.  The nuttiness and slight mustardy notes, as well as its melting qualities, mean that this cheese gives an exciting range of flavours during the eat.  

The beauty of this is you get a crunchiness from the crust, a gooey cheese filling and also a richness from the bread where the butter has been absorbed.  I like mine with a big dollop of ketchup on the side, just to cut through the richness.  


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Ingredients:

2x slices of bread (I used a white loaf from Bayne's, sourdough works really well, too), preferably a day or two old
1x free-range egg, beaten
75g, cheddar, grated
25g unsalted butter


Method:

1) Arrange the grated cheese evenly over the surface of the bread.  It's amazing how much you can cram in if you squish the cheese together - the cheesier the better.

2) Cut the bread into halves or quarter depending on size.  Melt the butter in a non-stick pan.

3) Dip the bread in the egg mix and place into the foaming butter.  Cook for around 1 1/2-2 mins per side.

4) Serve with ketchup