My kitchen essential: I’d be lost without . . . my stockpot
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If you’ve ever slaved over a hot stove, it probably involved a stockpot. The stockpot is the starting point for most home-cooked recipes — and it’s no different in a professional kitchen.
From kitchen porters chopping vegetables to start a stock, right through to head chefs tasting the finished product before it goes on the plate, every single person present relies on them to create delicious dishes.
I started working in kitchens when I was 14 and always the first job of the day was to get the stockpots going. After a slow overnight cook, the pots would be decanted carefully in the morning before the cycle could begin again.
Vegetables, meat and alcohol were added at precise intervals to create amazing stocks, which in turn formed the basis of many dishes created in the kitchen. Bubbling away all day and night, the stockpot is surely the hardest-working utensil in the kitchen.
It also plays an important role in cuisines all over the world. After catering college, I went travelling, which gave me the chance to eat everything from Vietnamese phos to hearty, slow-cooked South African stews — all of which were born in a stockpot.
I have been lucky enough to work with some terrific mentors and they have informed and shaped the way I cook today.
From Phil Howard’s famous langoustine bisque, which I learnt to make when we worked together at The Square in Mayfair, to the exquisite grouse sauce made every August at The Kitchin in Edinburgh, the stockpot is where so many great recipes begin.
Even today, when I walk into the kitchen of Fenchurch all these years later, the smell of stocks boiling takes me back to my early days as a kitchen porter, filling and decanting endless pots of stock.
At Fenchurch, our stockpots are in constant use, making everything from basic sauce bases to more complex concoctions, such as the duck consommé I served in my savoury tea-inspired starter for BBC2’s Great British Menu.
I have so much respect for this humble piece of equipment, which can produce simple suppers, Michelin-starred plates and everything in between.
Daniel Fletcher is head chef at Fenchurch Restaurant, Sky Garden, operated by Rhubarb; skygarden.london/fenchurch-restaurant
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