Hi, I’m David and I’m development chef here at Blue Apple. I absolutely love making and tasting new flavours for our customers and now I’ve been asked to share my favourite recipes and give you a little insight into my role and what I get up to day-to-day.
In my capacity as a development chef I write recipes, train our chefs, prepare and present food for our sales team and generally have the best time doing it!
I’m not a chef who shuns modern cuisine and on trend foods, but I’m slowly tiring of our home cooked classics becoming a treat as other dishes take centre stage, so over the last couple of months I’ve been championing English food, from the humble Scotch egg (not actually Scottish!) through to classic, old-fashioned faggots which I updated by wrapping in a delicious crépinette. In many other countries they try really hard to celebrate their national dishes and put them on a pedestal during religious or national holidays. For me it’s all about being authentic and celebrating our own food culture whilst still embracing new ideas!
As an example, I recently spent some time with one of our chefs who has Italian roots and the two of us were preparing to make lasagne for a presentation. He wanted to make it using ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan; all lovely ingredients and extremely authentic, but I explained to him that although he wanted to make the dish using traditional methods it would be the supermarket and home cooked version made with béchamel sauce that would really connect with the clients we were presenting to. When it came to making the dish he followed his heart and made it the way he knew best and produced a lovely lasagne but took my advice by finishing each dish with a splash of béchamel to ensure the dish stayed moist during cooking. It went down a storm!
His passion for staying authentic to his Italian roots really struck me but also made me realise that we have slowly lost or diluted the main ingredients that make our English classics wholesome and full of flavour. Over the years Lancashire hot pot has gone from delicious, rich lamb cutlets to cheaper lamb mince and the debate on which meats are used in a cottage and shepherd’s pie rages on! It’s time for us to rediscover our own culinary heritage.
In preparation for this blog I looked at a couple of ingredients that I have started to celebrate in my cooking. Check them out:
Watercress is slowly becoming more popular in restaurants as it is quintessentially English and is so much cheaper than rocket. Like rocket, it has a peppery, bitter taste that is a great domestic alternative to include in British dishes. It’s also highly nutritious and full of vitamins; the Victorians even named it ‘poor man’s bread!‘
Whilst doing my research I also came across parsley root which just isn’t really seen any more. They are pale and creamy-white like a parsnip, but less yellow, and are thin and slender like a carrot. They lack that woody part to their roots that large parsnips have, being tender all the way up like a carrot. They taste predominately of parsley, but also of celeriac and parsnip.
All I would like to see are some more traditional dishes on our menus and a good representation of all the good things that are best made in an English kitchen, from the Victoria sandwich to the steak and kidney pudding.
Talking of steak and kidney pudding…… I used to make these in one of my first jobs. I made around 40 every single day at a wine bar in Holborn. I was shown how to make them by a lovely lady called Maureen who had a recipe that had been passed down over the years and was still being made well after she retired. When I got the chance I would get fresh suet from a deli in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. It would sell the suet under the counter and on request, because it was unrefined. The suet would have flecks of beef and the flavour and the results once cooked were amazing. I think I’m going to make some over the weekend now!
Here’s a quick recipe you can try at home that’s inspired by traditional English cuisine, but with a twist. I’ve recently been cooking with chicken liver as they are so rich and far less iron-y than the more commonly used carves or lambs livers. This is a great little dish for a starter that’ll impress your friends!
Firstly, place the chicken livers in a bowl and add the milk. This is an old fashioned way to cleanse the livers. Leave for an hour then remove the milk and set the livers aside.
In a hot frying pan place a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil. Add the potatoes flat side down to encourage a nice golden colour, cooking until they are nicely browned and remove from the pan.
Add the drained livers and the diced shallot and sauté evenly for around 3 minutes, then remove the livers and set aside. Add the lardons of bacon, frying until crispy and remove from the pan. Add a splash of brandy to the pan to clean it (if you’re feeling brave you can ignite the alcohol) then stir in the Dijon mustard and add the cream. Once the brandy cream starts to bubble, place the livers and bacon lardons back in the pan and allow to simmer, seasoning well.
Toast the sourdough and place into the centre of your plate, scattering the Jersey royals around. Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the livers and sauce over the bread, eating immediately.