The 2 question I get asked the most by people after they ask me what my favourite dish to cook is:
“Do I watch cookery program’s?” – “No” is my standard answer to this one.
“Do you want to be on Master Chef?” – I once had a phone interview for Master Chef where their first question was “What’s your favourite dish to cook?”
However ask me if I buy cookery books and that’s a whole different conversation.
People love my cookbook collection and are always asking me what my favourite recipes from them are. Those who know food will see Thomas Keller, Ramsay, Tom Kedridge, Jamie Oliver (sorry), Larousse & El Bulli on my shelves. When they spot my Woman’s Weekly 101 recipes for chicken (I don’t even know if their is 101 recipes as I’ve never read it) I say I got it for free. Those that have visited recently will see the new addition to my collection – Heston’s Fat Duck Cookbook (£10 eBay).
So the biggest surprise to people is that I don’t use these books for cooking. Cookbooks (in my opinion) have 2 fundamental problems:
1 – They use too many ingredients in recipes and end up costing the chef too much money to produce a dish.
2- The recipes don’t work. Imagine the scene. You have slaved away for 20 years, 6 days a week, 18 hours a day in a hot kitchen. You have mastered the classic techniques and gained many awards. Your offered a 4/5 figure sum (only proper writers get the 6 figure sum deals) to write a cookbook. Do you sell all your secrets? Of course not. You leave a little bit out here and there. People will almost get the dish but blame them self if it doesn’t work.
Over the years I have collected cook books like when I was spotty teen in the 80’s/90’s collected football stickers (got, got, got, swap). Over time my collection has amassed to around 100 cookbooks.
To me these cook books are like pieces of art work that sit on my bookshelf with an order of hierarchy to where they are positioned on my shelves (the order isn’t anything OCD like alphabetical based on how many times the book uses Ingredients) it’s just how much I rate the chef and does it fit).
As I mentioned in a previous post I have a habit of not reading my cook books as much as I should so you could imagine how annoyed I was when a bought a book recently and half of the recipes were taken from a book they wrote a few years back.
Had I of realised this when I was buying the book I would have put it back the same way I put back any cook book that has a sandwich recipe in it. Who needs a recipe for a sandwich? Well anyway if celebrities can do it and sell books on the back of it why can’t I?
Bacon Lettuce & Tomato on Thyme Bread & Home Made Crisps.
For the bread
550g White bread flour
1 Teaspoon fine sea salt
14g Dried yeast (normally 2 packs)
1 Tablespoon caster sugar
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml Lukewarm water – don’t add it all at once
Handful of thyme
1 Punnet of cherry tomatoes halved – other tomatoes can be used
2 Bulbs of garlic – sliced as thin as possible
2 Sprigs of thyme
For the mayo
250g Mayonnaise – shop bought (life’s to short to make it)
50g Wholegrain mustard – use more if you like it stronger
Watercress, rocket or iceberg lettuce
10 Slices of streaky bacon
Sieve flour, salt in to a bowl. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, pour into the bowl, Using your hands bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, working the rest of the flour in knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Failing that use a mixer with a dough hook.
Place the ball of dough in a bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove dough, knead the air out and roll in to rolls weighing 150g, Leave to prove up and bake at 200°c until the bottom is hollow when tapped (30 minutes).
Place your tomatoes in an oven proof dish with the sides facing up. Top each tomato with a slice of garlic, pinch of salt and a pinch of thyme. Place in the oven at 100°c until they have wilted and are sweet (about 90 minutes).
Mix mayo & mustard together.
Slice the potatoes as fine as you can (use a mandolin if you have one), wash the potatoes until the water runs clear. Dry the potatoes on some kitchen paper. Place the potatoes on a plate that has a piece of kitchen paper on it. Brush with oil and sprinkle some salt on them. Microwave for 2 and a half minutes and then turn them off and repeat. If not brown enough cook for a minute at a time.
Putting it together
Cut open the bread, spread on a nice layer of mustard mayo. Layer up 5 slices of the bacon (more if you want a bigger sandwich). Add tomatoes and salad leaf (I used watercress for a peppery taste).
Eat and enjoy.