Archive for February, 2011

Recipe: Welsh Rarebit for Tom Doorley

I was supposed to do this ages ago but completely forgot! Sorry Tom!

Ok so here is what you need

100g of strong cheddar cheese

2tsp of Branston pickle (only use the small chunk one)

1tsp of HP sauce

2tbs of butter

4tbs of good ale (you can use stout but I think its too strong a flavour)

1tbs of flour

1tbs of mustard powder

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour and mustard powder and allow to cook out

Now add the ale to make a roux

You can pretty much add all the ingredients at this stage and combine to make a thick paste.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper

Toast one side of a thick slice of crusty bread and then spread on the untoasted side and place back under a hot grill.

Once it starts to bubble and brown up its ready.



The Last Man Standing

I haven’t written a blog piece in a while, I should probably have written something directly after the Irish Times did a piece on me but I was too busy looking a gift horse in the mouth! For those of you who missed it, if you live in Cork it’s probably because my Mother bought every copy you can read Marie-Claire Digby’s article on me online at this link

Through this blog I have been fortunate enough to come into contact with like-minded (or warped minded) individuals who have decided to try and grasp a life long dream and embark on a career as a chef. One was Lennie Nash the other was Lesley Connelly, both like me left very different careers to enter the kitchens and both like me blog about their experiences. Lennie’s blog can be found here and Lesley’s here both are very worthy reads and provide insight into this surreal world of professional cheffing (both also contain considerably less swearing than mine does).  Despite never meeting in person we have formed a sort of ad-hoc support group, basically we bitch and moan about the hours, the pressure and the pay and then try and convince each other it will all be worth while.

Lennie had taken a break from the kitchen when we struck up out first Twitter conversation but was planning an imminent return to the kitchen (well as soon as he is done eating his way round south-east Asia) and Lesley was toiling away in one of New Zealand’s top restaurants. She like me had developed the habit of going in early and working through breaks to try and keep pace with a busy kitchen. So last week when she told me via Twitter that she had decided to leave the restaurant I was stunned. She is not giving up her culinary dreams but has decided to take a different direction and has accepted a job offer as a chef on a small cruise boat in the south island cooking for 16 passengers, they will be very lucky to have someone with her passion for food preparing their meals and I have no doubt that her food will become a major draw for returning passengers.

So that just leaves me as The Last Man Standing.

Since the last blog post business at The Ship has continued to increase, we no longer have quiet nights and weekends are barely controlled mania in the kitchen. It is getting to the point that it is barely possible to prep enough stuff to get through the weekend. I’ve made more fucking burger mix than McDonald’s (better tasting too) and seen more buns than a proctologist and seen them all run out before service ends. This generally leads to a mad scramble in the kitchen to get more made. Of course when you run out of burgers and chutney at the same time at it seems the national association of burger eaters have turned up looking to be fed you have 2 choices, you get smart or you get fucked!

Now let me explain chutney, or at least chutney at The Ship. It’s a labour of love, it involves slow cooking onions to release their sweetness before adding peppers, 3 different forms of tomato, spices, the finest vinegars and lots of dark brown sugar. From start to finish it can take 8 hours or more! Yup that’s right 8 hours for that little ramekin of dark red delight that you dip your chips in and think “mmmm nice” before going back to demolishing your burger. Last Sunday week less than 30 minutes before evening service kicked off we had run out of chutney and burgers. This isn’t down to bad organisation or poor planning, plenty of both were on hand when we started serving diners we just got smashed during lunch.

I calmly turned to Damo and said “I can give you chutney in 15 minutes”. He looked at me in disbelief and said it simply couldn’t be done. I assured him it could, no it wouldn’t as good as our usual chutney but it would be a fucking damn site better than the chutney we didn’t have. I then told him that he might want to leave the kitchen so as to maintain plausible deniability on this one. When he left I grabbed 2 large tins of tomatoes, opened them and chucked them into a colander to drain off the excess liquid, I then grabbed some tomato puree, dark brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and erm…….. Branston pickle (don’t worry it was the small chunk variety, I may be a cowboy but I am not a Philistine) and chucked the whole lot into a saucepan. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and a pinch of chilli powder and put the whole thing on the heat to cook out the sugar and vinegar and added a healthy amount of Heinz ketchup before giving it 1o minutes and then slamming the lot of it in the blast chiller to cool it down in time for service. To coin a phrase “It’s chutney Jim but not as we know it!”

Over the last couple of weeks a few more of London’s foodie elite have passed through the ship. Andre Dang and Rachel McCormack were in for dinner, I only found this out when Osh popped into the kitchen and asked me to do an assiette of desserts for Rachel. Now I am known for many things but my skills as a pastry chef are certainly not amongst them. None the less I was determined to make a good impression so I quickly googled “asseitte” and then just pretty much made mini portions of 4 of the desserts on the menu and put them on a plate with some small scoops of ice cream and delivered it to the table myself.

I have this week being doing quite a lot of Tristan Welch style dining room schmoozing, well sort of like Tristan Welch if he had gained weight and fallen on hard times but schmooze none the less I have done. I spent some time on Thursday chatting to Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker and Lee Behan of Friday Food Club fame, I even got to cook Dhruv’s main course and was thrilled to see an empty plate in front of him when I walked over to chat. Lee for those of you who don’t know runs one of London’s finest supper clubs. Supper clubs intrigue me, I love the idea of cooking great food for an intimate and appreciative audience of diners and getting to chat with them as they enjoy the food. I want to cook at them, I want to do pop up restaurants fuck it I want to have a BBQ on an upturned oil drum in the middle of Leicester Square on a Saturday afternoon. Trust me I am a god on a BBQ, I will take any chef on a BBQ. I recently made a challenge to Chris Pople, one of London’s most prominent and respected food bloggers that I would attempt to usurp The Meat Easy as the maker of the best burger in London and will give details on that soon, I am looking forward immensely to putting my money where my mouth is.

Don’t get me wrong I love my job at The Ship, I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity and I work my ass off every fucking day to pay back the chance I have been given but I don’t to lose the side of me that turns an old metal watering can into a smoker or who puts 8 house bricks in a roaring fire for 2 hours then pulls them out to use as a make shift flat top. The more I adapt and understand the structure of a kitchen the more I want to indulge the wild side to my love of food, the side that does a cappuccino as a starter or a margarita sorbet with a pop rock rim on the glass. I want to continue to work at The Ship but on my off days I want to try new things, I would love to hear from people who have ideas or options that could help me do this!

Maybe Just Maybe Baby

Whisper it quietly, in hushed tones to empty rooms far away from any eavesdroppers but I just may make it as a chef!

I am as stunned as you are believe me, but at some point between Saturday and Sunday it kind of clicked. I can’t really explain it, ok well obviously I fucking have to try as this would be a pretty short blog if I didn’t. Last week as you know was Hell, no other word for it, by the time it ended I had pushed myself to and past breaking point, I was a wreck physically and emotionally.

I was, for the first time not excited about starting a new week in the kitchen. However when I got into work on Thursday there was a different mood about the place. Maybe they read my last blog or maybe they had seen how close I was to blowing my stack last week but something had definitely changed. I was hardly into my whites when Emma, who does a fantastic job at marketing The Ship despite being a Welshist, dropped by to tell me that The Irish Times had been on the phone and wanted to do an interview with me. Now obviously when Emma told me completely out of the blue that the biggest newspaper in my home country wanted to do an article about me my reaction was “hardly surprising, I am after all a culinary demigod” actually it was more like “yeah right, sure they do”.

It turns out they did want to interview me and did that just. I had pictured that my media interviews would take place over long lazy lunches in posh restaurant while myself and a reporter gave their expense account good battering. In reality it was a 15 minute phone chat, while sitting in the changing room surrounded by old whites, cleaning supplies and coats but it was still an interview with Marie-Claire Digby of the actual Irish Times. We chatted about how I got into cooking, who influenced me and why my blog contained so many swear words. Fucked if I know the answer to the last one! I was even asked could I have a photo taken in my whites and send it on.  I chatted to Osh about it and it was decided it was best to wait until Friday when the fresh delivery of whites came in, so I could look my best. To be honest I am surprised he didn’t suggest I wear a flashing sandwich board with the daily specials on it!

I worked 2 busy services on Thursday and got a some prep done for the weekend. On Friday looking positively shiny in my spanking clean whites I posed for my close up as Emma, who has been like my Girl Friday this week. demonstrated a previously unknown (well to me anyway) talent for photography. Needless to say the other chefs were incredibly supportive of my photo shoot and didn’t rip the utter piss out of me at all, no, no not at all. We faced a manic service on Friday night, but I felt I was ok, I was constantly reviewing the checks, trying to stay ahead of where I was. I was getting stuff ready to go in anticipation of Dave our head chef calling it away. I was even finding time to jump on the starter section and help out Fabio who was getting swamped. You see it was pay-day for most of South West London on Friday so having appeased their Visa guilt, the locals were living large and treating themselves to starters and steaks while they were flush with a months pay and were celebrating buying their TV back from Cash Converters. The last few days before they got paid of eating tinned beans and no lunch (or as I call it fur coat and no knickers week) had to be expunged from memory with 3 courses and a small lake of wine. At 10 past 9 the restaurant was rammed but the food was moving out of the kitchen at an incredible rate, Robbie the sous chef even turned to tell those of us on the pass to keep it up and we would clear the board by 10pm. A mere 10 minutes later though I dropped the ball, well not just the ball, I dropped both teams of players, the stadium and the burger van parked outside. I got distracted with an order of sliders that came in from the bar, I fucking love people who order tiny burgers in the middle of a fucking rammed bar / restaurant at 20 past 9 on a fucking Friday night (next time I am going to throw the tiny patties at them and lend them my lighter and tell them to cook the fuckers themselves as I am busy serving grown ups their dinner), and I missed two fishcakes. Completely missed them! It’s like they never fucking existed, they were like Steve Brookstein if he been dipped in breadcrumbs and deep-fried (go on Google him then go “oh yeah now I remember him” and then come back). This is bad enough but when you hear that they were on a check with 5 other mains which are all sitting prettily on the pass waiting to be sent out you just want to stick your head in the fucking fryer.

I was all over the place after that, I just couldn’t get my rhythm back and struggled badly through the rest of service. I had been on a little high before that, I had started to feel I was getting a handle on the section and getting on top of service but after that I was a fucking wreck. I wanted to slink from the kitchen, I knew that I had fucked the rest of the service for everyone and the dreams of a near legendary 10pm Friday night finish was in ruins. Gutted isn’t the word for it, I felt like I had fumbled an easy catch under my own posts only to see it picked up by the opposition winger who canters in for a match winning try as the final whistle goes.

Saturday was prep day but quickly became burger day, something about this weekend meant everyone wanted a burger, between Saturday and Sunday I made 30 kilos of burgers, or to give it an exact scientific term “a fucking boat load of burgers” and we sold every last one of them. I worked on Sunday roast prep with Damo, who arrived bright and early and fully rested first thing on Saturday morning. It was tough going getting everything ready as well as keeping the pass supplied during a seriously busy day. We still got everything squared away and the last thing I did was marinate the beef for Sunday lunch.

Then came Sunday, it may have been known as the Lords day but not any more pal. I own that fucking day, it’s mine now, God can have Tuesday if he wants. I got in early, about 20 past 9 and got straight at it. I poached some cod for fishcakes as we were completely out, got some burger buns ready to allow them prove and bake them off and then I was told I could cook the beef. Normally the beef is cooked in “sous-vide” or in a water bath but not this day, this day 3 massive black frying pans were heated to the point of melting before the beef was introduced, flames leapt up past the salamander as I seared the beef joints 3 at a time in a fury of flame and roasting fat, I must have looked positively demonic as I danced between the pans turning each piece of meat at exactly the right moment. Then I transferred them to roasting dishes and only at this point did I season them, rubbing the salt and pepper deep into the beef.

This set me up for the day, my confidence came flooding back, as the crowd arrived for lunch I was up and moving. Damo and I were plating the roasts in the back, normally a daunting task but we were all over it baby, I was finding time to knock up a salsa verde, make a 15 kilo burger mix, as well as shaping the burgers. Checks were being dealt with in moments, not once did anyone come in from the pass demanding to know where dishes were. We were delivering them to the pass, we were holding back on occasion to make sure the pass were in step with us, this is unheard of on Sunday’s. Unbeknown to me Ben Greeno, formerly of Noma was in for lunch and dropped in to say hi, it turned out he had the beef, I casually enquired as to how it was and he said it was really good, I calmly informed him that I had cooked it start to finish. I say calmly, inside a voice was yelling “Ben Greeno said the beef that you fucking cooked was great, why are you standing here, run you bastard, run to the restaurant, jump on a table and do your patented celebration dance!”. Luckily for the sake of my cool hand presona and the poor people who would have had to try carry on eating while I danced on their table I managed to resist the urge.

After that there was no stopping me, I even learned to fettle while helping Muzzy, a supremely talented chef and serial actress shagger, deal with a dessert ticket. He told me to “fettle those sticky toffee puddings into the autosham” and I did like a natural. Then when disaster struck at 5pm, when I was due to take my break I simply said “I will work through my break and fix this”. We had no desserts, I mean fucking none, but a little over an hour later and thanks in large part to me we had apple and pear crumble and a plum tart for diners to gorge themselves on. I never felt so good in a kitchen, getting more compliments later from others who had eaten the beef made me almost light-headed, but it was the respect I got from the other chefs that made my day. There was a “fuck it, you know this guy might just make it” in their eyes, even Robbie went a whole 12 hours without telling me to speed up. I finished early as a reward and went to the bar to have a well-earned pint. The money is still shit and I know I can’t live on it, but right now I don’t want to think about that, now I just want to think about Sunday and what it felt like to be a proper chef.