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Pub grub never tasted so good
6:00am Saturday 7th September 2013 in Lifestyle
Forget peanuts and pickled eggs, pub grub has had a makeover thanks to chefs like Tom Kerridge who is now sharing some of the recipes that have won him two Michelin stars. Andy Welch reports.
Pub food used to mean crisps, pork scratchings and nuts. If you were very lucky, it might run to a toasted sandwich.
Thankfully in recent years there's been a bit of a revolution and nowhere has that been more pronounced than at Tom Kerridge's pub, the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
Kerridge and his wife Beth took over the pub in 2005, and inside a year won their first Michelin star, plus a handful of other prestigious prizes.
Since then, they've grown their kitchen staff from three to 16 and become the first pub to be awarded two Michelin stars, while Kerridge has become a recognisable face thanks to appearances on The Great British Menu, Saturday Kitchen and various shows on the Good Food Channel.
Now he's releasing a book, Proper Pub Food, and there's to be an accompanying BBC TV series too.
"The book was originally going to be a Hand & Flowers cookbook," explains Kerridge, but that all changed when the BBC heard what he was doing.
"The book and series are all about dishes that are inspirational - great British produce cooked simply at home," he says.
"It's kind of like the starting point - the finishing point being where we're at in the Hand & Flowers. The flavour profiles and some of the ideas are similar. There's a big crossover in taste combinations."
The recipes include a spectacular chicken and celeriac dish, baked in hay and cider, which Kerridge insists everyone should try to make themselves.
"It's the perfect Sunday lunch dish for two," he says, "with the chicken taking on all the hay and cider flavour, and the celeriac going all buttery and fluffy. I love it."
Another favourite is salmon cured in gin, a decidedly English twist on the Scottish classic involving smoked salmon and whisky.
Delicious it might be, but it hardly sounds like pub food. "You say that, but the number of pubs doing this food is growing," says Kerridge. "And things like pork scratchings, traditional pub fare, pies too. They're phenomenal, done well.
"It's been very easy to dismiss pub food over the years - Scotch eggs and the like - because supermarkets took over Scotch eggs and made them horrific. But they were country pub classics.
"A sandwich can be just a sandwich. Something you buy from a service station to fill a gap while you're travelling. Or you could do it properly by buying some beautiful bread, amazing ham and cheese and pretty soon you'll be eating one of the best things you've ever tasted. It's about treating things with love, no matter how simple it might be."
Kerridge is not short of love and enthusiasm. He says he loves every brick in the Hand & Flowers, and looks on his team as a proud family rather than a kitchen brigade.
Listening to him describing some of the food they produce is enough to make you salivate at the prospect, although it's the eyes, rather than the mouth, that start watering when he describes his work schedule.
He's in the kitchen at 6am each day, prepping for both services, and rarely leaves before 10pm. While he was working on the book, he stayed until 1.30am - apart from the two nights of the photo shoot, when he didn't go to bed at all. Somehow, he also found time to film a five-part TV series with five recipes per show.
"Don't feel sorry for me," says Kerridge, smiling. "I don't consider it work, and to be asked to do a series by the BBC, well, it's just brilliant.
"I never get that Monday morning feeling, and I absolutely love what I do. I feel like the luckiest man in the world."
Here are three recipes from the book, including the aforementioned hay-baked chicken, for you to try.
Asparagus with duck egg yolk dressing and parsley
100g butter, cubed
20 asparagus spears, peeled and the woody ends of the stalks broken off
Salt, to taste
For the duck egg yolk dressing:
4 duck egg yolks
100ml white wine vinegar
1tsp English mustard powder
¼tsp smoked paprika
2 hard-boiled duck eggs, shelled and finely grated
100ml double cream
2tbsp capers in brine, drained and chopped
2tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus extra leaves to garnish
Pour a couple centimetres of water into a saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil.
To make the dressing, whisk the egg yolks, white wine vinegar, water, mustard powder, sugar, salt and smoked paprika together in a heatproof bowl that will sit on top of the boiling pan without touching the water.
Place the bowl on top of the boiling water and whisk until the mixture is creamy and doubles in volume.
Fold the grated hard-boiled eggs into the dressing, then add the double cream then the capers and parsley. Remove the pan from the heat and keep to one side.
To cook the asparagus, bring the water and butter to the boil in a frying pan over a high heat, stirring to dissolve the butter.
Add a pinch of salt then place the asparagus in the pan and simmer for three to four minutes until tender.
Remove the asparagus from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Divide among four plates, drizzle the dressing over and garnish each plate with parsley leaves.
Serve immediately, with the extra dressing on the side.
Hay-baked chicken and roasted celeriac
1 chicken, about 3kg
6 fresh bay leaves
2 bulbs of garlic
600ml cider or scrumpy
3tbsp rapeseed oil
1 bunch of thyme
1 lemon, halved
2tbsp malt extract
600ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small bag of hay (Tom recommends asking a friendly farmer - it will taste better than buying it from a pet shop)
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
Place the chicken on top of a piece of muslin, large enough to wrap around it, and season with salt and pepper. Put the bay leaves on top of the chicken.
Break apart the cloves of garlic from one bulb, but don't peel them. Give them a bash with the back of a knife and sprinkle them over the chicken. Wrap the chicken tightly in the muslin, then put it in a large flameproof casserole pot.
Pack hay all around the chicken and pour over half the cider. Cover the pot and place it in the oven for one hour, checking occasionally that the liquid hasn't evaporated. If it needs topping up, use the remaining cider, and then some hot water, if necessary. Pierce the muslin with a knife and stab the chicken in the thigh joint to check if the juices run clear. If not, return the pot to the oven for a further five minutes. Afterwards, leave the chicken to rest in the pot, covered, for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the celeriac and rub it down with a green scouring pad to make it very smooth and rounded. Heat the rapeseed oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. Add the celeriac to the pan and fry for 10-15 minutes.
Once the celeriac's nicely browned, add the butter to the pan with the thyme and the remaining garlic bulb, cut in half through the equator. Baste the celeriac in the butter, then place the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it's tender all the way through. Baste again three or four times during the cooking time.
When the celeriac's tender, remove the pan from the oven, give a good squeeze of lemon juice over the top and season with salt and pepper. Do not discard the garlic and thyme.
Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a chopping board.
Pass any liquid from the pot through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Add the malt extract and bring to the boil. Add the chicken stock and continue boiling until the liquid reduces to a sauce/gravy consistency. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Unwrap the chicken from the muslin and remove the garlic and bay leaves. Use a blowtorch to brown the skin.
Serve the chicken whole on a platter, with the whole celeriac and the gravy in a jug. Add the thyme and garlic from cooking the celeriac as a garnish, if you like.
Let diners carve the chicken and cut the celeriac themselves.
Lemon posset with fennel biscotti
(Serves 6; makes 20 biscotti)
450ml double cream
130g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
For the fennel biscotti:
450g plain white flour
2tsp baking powder
340g caster sugar
190g butter, softened
100g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
1tbsp fennel seeds
Icing sugar for dusting
Mix the cream and sugar together in a saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir for one to two minutes until the bubbles are quite large. Add the lemon juice and whisk thoroughly.
Pass this mix through a fine sieve into a bowl and leave to cool for about five minutes. Then, skim off any air bubbles then pour into your serving glasses. Leave to cool completely, then place the bowls in the fridge for at least two hours.
To make the biscotti, preheat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3 and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Sift the flour and baking powder together and leave to one side until needed.
Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one by one. Next, stir in the flour mix then fold in the almonds and the fennel seeds.
Divide the dough in half and shape into two logs, each about 20cm long and 10cm wide, on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.
After 10 minutes, slice both pieces of baked dough widthways into biscotti, each 1-2cm thick. Lay the biscotti on a wire rack then return to the oven on the rack and bake for a further five minutes, or until they're crisp and dry.
Remove from the oven and immediately dust with icing sugar. Leave the biscotti to cool completely. They'll store in an airtight container for three to four days.
When the lemon posset is set, serve with biscotti on the side.
Three of the best
:: Camper Van Toaster, £39.95, www.prezzybox.co.uk
Perfect for laid-back souls who like to bring a little fun into the kitchen, comes with an adjustable setting and toasts two pieces of bread at a time.
:: De'Longhi Scultura Toaster, £99.99, John Lewis
It may look a bit like a Dalek but this top of the range toaster is a gadget lover's dream. Toasting four pieces of bread at any one time, the removable crumb tray and 'extra lift position' makes it practical as well as stylish.
:: Swan Metallic 4 Slice Toaster, £69.99, www.swan-brand.co.uk
This simple but stylish four-slice toaster includes a variable browning control, a defrost function and a handy removable crumb tray.
:: Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food is published on August 29 by Absolute Press, priced £20. A BBC series of the same name begins on BBC Two in mid-September
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