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The chef is a class of person who will never have to be embarrassed about having two kitchens. Professionally, they have at least one realm dominated by stainless steel, high-tech gadgets and stress. At home, it follows that the chef’s kitchen is often an anti-kitchen — a place where Michel Roux Jr, for example, would far rather eat sardines on toast than lobster mousse with champagne sauce.
We asked seven of London’s leading chefs, from Tomos Parry at hip grill Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair to Nieves Barragán Mohacho at Barrafina and Fergus Henderson of St John, what they like to make for themselves in their “second” domestic kitchen. And we also asked what they keep in their cupboards: their must-have essentials and the simple knock-up recipes that come from them.
Don’t be deceived by the modest-looking contents of some of these cupboards. Even in restaurant kitchens the provisions of food can appear unpromising. In cramped cold stores, on squeezed-in shelves and in odd recesses, the tubs of grains, slabs of meat, pickles in Tupperware and ad hoc cellars of wine look nothing like dinner.
At home, as at work, it takes a chef’s mind to pull it all together in style.
chef, Kitty Fisher’s
I don’t have much time to cook at home but when I do I enjoy simple food. After a very long shift, late at night, my preferred snack is bread toasted and rubbed with garlic, topped with squeezed tomatoes and lots of salt, with a beer to drink.
I always keep bread, garlic, good salt, tomatoes, eggs, tea and olive oil. But I am also partial to Super Noodles with spring onions. I use laver bread in lots of things too.
I often cook this one-pot dish at home; it’s simple and has lots of flavour, and it includes one of my favourite ingredients — wild garlic.
Chicken with wild garlic and onions
- Pan-fry the chicken legs and thighs in the oil until golden brown on both sides, then deglaze with some white wine. Remove from pan and keep the pan juices. In the same pan, sweat the onions, whole garlic cloves, thyme, wild garlic stems and slice of lemon, seasoning with salt.
- Add the wine and stock until the onions and garlic cloves are soft. Put the chicken back in pan with the onions; simmer with lid on until chicken is cooked (about 20 minutes). Mash the cloves in the pan and gently shake to make sauce. Add wild garlic; cook for a minute or two to wilt. Season with pepper and parsley. Serve with seasonal greens.
For me, tinned petits pois are among the finest things to have up your sleeve and even finer than frozen peas.
Charles Campbell, with whom I was once the chef in a dodgy nightclub, said that his favourite store-cupboard food was sardines on toast, eaten in bed in the dark. He was a very peculiar chap. I would not fancy doing his laundry.
Petits pois with braised lettuce
- Sweat off the shallots and garlic in butter.
- Add the bacon to fry for a few minutes, then pour in the tin of petits pois, including the liquor, and the little gem lettuce cut into chunks.
- Leave the lettuce to soften and braise, then serve with lamb or spoon up like a soup.
chef and co-owner, Arbutus and Wild Honey
Discovering that I had coeliac disease was a massive hammer blow. It took an age for me to stop eating gluten altogether and, once I did, my store cupboard needed an overhaul. My love affair with sourdough bread was over. Being married to a Parisian who makes wonderful sourdough didn’t help.
Luckily, I’ve found a great replacement, and now I always have a fresh loaf from Wild Thexton to hand — a bakery that provides some of London’s top restaurants with delicious gluten-free bread.
I start my day with gluten-free porridge oats — and I live off oatcakes. Sourcing exciting gluten-free alternatives has become my mission. It has led me to experiment with lesser-known products in flour form, for example teff, quinoa, amaranth, coconut and buckwheat. These products are extremely versatile in sweet and savoury recipes — a wonderful alternative to flour-based products. I find I’ve always got teff flour on hand for when I cook up a Sunday lunch for my family, who are also gluten-free.
Teff-flour tart with softened leeks, goat’s cheese and chorizo
- Combine the pastry ingredients to make a dough and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Line an 8in flan ring or individual fluted moulds. Roll out the pastry and bake blind at 170C until lightly browned. Remove baking beans and brush with beaten egg to seal any slight holes; continue to bake for another five minutes.
- Put the filling ingredients in the tart case; turn oven down to 150C and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until just set. Leave to cool, then remove tart ring. Eat ideally while the tart is lukewarm.
Michel Roux Jr
chef-patron, Le Gavroche
We all love tinned sardines and I am no different but as a chef I like to do something a little special. Make this and variations of it as a late-night snack or even as a full meal with a big salad. Healthy, nutritious, speedy and delicious. It’s important to have good bread, and the egg on top must be runny to make a rich creamy sauce.
My cupboard is full of tins for emergency snacks or to make little bites with drinks: sardines, mackerel, cod liver, anchovies, pâté and tapenades sit alongside a host of home-made pickles, chutneys and jams.
The ultimate sardine toastie
- Spread the mustard on one side of both slices of bread, mash up the sardines and add the thinly sliced shallot, fill the sandwich and press well. Drizzle a little oil in the pan and cook the sandwich over a medium heat.
- I place another pan on top to press, flip over when nice and brown. Pan fry the egg in butter, place on top of the sandwich and splash on the Worcestershire sauce.
executive chef, Chiltern Firehouse
I have three kids, so all my special ingredients are kept in a dark and hard-to-reach cupboard; you almost need a flashlight when you go in there. I have quite a lot of obscure Japanese condiments — I used to live round the corner from a Japanese café-store and I have 30 to 40 different products. There’s some quite random stuff: Chef Massimo Bottura did a small production of balsamic vinegar and he gave me a little bottle — there’s no label on it but it’s very high grade. I have all kinds of crazy olive oil too.
Because of my schedule I can’t be as adventurous as I used to be: I cook a lot of Italian and Japanese for the kids. I started making these soft scrambled eggs at home. Now it’s a breakfast dish at the restaurant.
Soft scrambled eggs with courgette, spinach and Parmesan
- Start by breaking the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk gently. You don’t want them to be fully blended — it’s nice to still have a bit of separation between the whites and the yolks. Set aside until ready to cook. Cut leek and courgette in half lengthways, then slice them thinly. Heat a frying pan on a medium-to-low heat, add olive oil and sweat the vegetables for about a minute until soft.
- Then add the whisked eggs, baby spinach, lemon zest and three tablespoons of Parmesan; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on a very low heat, stirring gently with a wooden spatula to make sure the egg doesn’t stick. Depending on how you like your scrambled eggs, cook until you are happy with the consistency. We like to serve them pretty soft at the Firehouse.
- Serve with freshly shaved Parmesan. And with toast if you want!
chef and co-owner, Koya
Japanese teas and herbal teas are always among my store-cupboard essentials; some are very precious to me as I buy them from tea shops in Japan.
At home I often make miso soup. This dish is inspired by the regional miso soup in the south of Japan, where it is served cold. But of course here in Britain I mostly make it hot!
Smoked mackerel and sesame instant British miso soup
- First grind the toasted sesame seeds well — ideally in a suribachi Japanese pottery bowl with a surikogi wooden stick. You can buy these from the Japan Centre in London; otherwise use a coffee grinder. Then add the smoked mackerel and the miso on top of the sesame and grind together. (I use about the same amounts of miso, sesame, mackerel and tofu — but you can change however you want, really!) Grind until it’s all mixed into a paste but keeping some grains.
- Spread this paste thinly around the inner surface of the suribachi. Hold the bowl upside down over the flame of the gas hob to grill the surface of the miso paste — this gives a nice grilled taste to the soup. If you don’t have a suribachi, spread the paste on an oven tray and grill lightly in oven. Crumble the tofu and put it in the bowl with the grilled miso. Pour boiling water over this mix to make a fantastic dashi broth. Garnish with finely chopped spring onion.
Nieves Barragán Mohacho
executive chef, Fino-Barrafina
If I come home late at night, I’ll make a chilli garlic pasta, something very quick. Good piquillo peppers are amazing, and for me it’s very easy to make something with them — they’re always on the menu in our restaurants. I love anchovies and I always make sure I have really good ones; sun-dried tomatoes, confit artichokes, white asparagus too. I shop a lot at Brindisa and at I Camisa on Old Compton Street. And I often go to Borough Market and Maltby Street as they are on my way home. I buy 20 jars of everything so I never run out.
Artichoke and chickpeas
- In a large saucepan, heat 80ml of oil and add the garlic and onion. Sweat for a few minutes until soft. Add the cayenne pepper whole and stir, then add the tomato passata and reduce by half.
- Julienne the peppers and add to the pan, turning down heat. Keep the juice from the jar to one side. Add paprika, stir, then add sherry and evaporate the alcohol. Add the dry mixed herbs and stir.
- Cut the artichokes in half, and again save juice from jar. Add the artichokes and the chickpeas (including water) to the paste; pour in the pepper and artichoke juice; stir. Cook for 3 -5 minutes. Season. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.
Photographs: Richard Nicholson