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And he tells us why he loves his job so much – and can’t wait to welcome customers back!
There’s little more that Gareth Penn loves than being in the kitchen, and the wealth of ingredients at his fingertips makes his job more exciting than ever.
“I love the array of endless ingredients and their seasons, and the amount of produce available to us now in the 21st century,” says Gareth, “At Delifonseca the network of local and international suppliers means the possibilities are endless which give you an open page for being creative, whether it be cheese from five miles down the road to charcuterie from Spain, and pasta from small suppliers in Italy.
“A week rarely goes past without new produce coming our way.”
That means he can be creative – and so can you. So be a bit daring in the kitchen!
“Don’t be afraid to use recipes as a rough guide. Their timings can be very useful as in roasting harder vegetables and cooking slow meats to extract the flavour and get the correct texture, but explore adding things you may not have often used before – like putting celeriac into a beef stew, and adding herbs and spices into dumplings (lemon thyme & mace, garlic & marjoram).
“It only has to be a subtle addition to make a big change. You won’t always get it right, but you will have fun experimenting.”
Lockdown has been hard for chefs like Gareth and restaurants like Delifonseca, but it has had its highlights too.
“Just last week I found myself scrolling through old social media posts looking for something and it reminded me of the year that has gone. There were things I had completely forgotten about, like the VE Day Picnic last summer with the ox tongue terrine.
“I hope by this summer we can welcome guests back and they can feel safe in our environment. I think people will treasure the whole restaurant experience much more as sometimes you need something to be taken away for you to appreciate it. It may be something you took for granted before but now eating out and the ambience will be the brilliant occasion it was made to be.”
* Use ice (it’s free after all ) to refresh cooked vegetables at home, especially greens but also carrots and new potatoes too. Blanch in salted water until cooked then drain in a colander and dunk into an ice-cold water bath, this retains the bright colour and texture of the vegetable but, more importantly, it retains the important nutrients that the vegetables provide.
This can be done in advance then when you’re ready to eat they only need quickly heating, even if it’s a quick blanch in boiling water or even a ping in the microwave – the colour, flavour and vitamins will still be there.
* Spag bol hack: make your bolognese how you usually would – everyone has their own way – but when cooking the spaghetti, try boiling for 30 seconds in water, then draining and cooking the pasta out in the bolognese sauce. The starch from the pasta will thicken the sauce, and it will also absorb the tasty liquid. This was shown to me by an Italian chef and I can’t believe I’d missed the trick of something so simple for so many years.
* Use lots of herbs. They are cheap to buy, but also cheap and fun to grow. If you have children it’s also educational. You can grow them outside but also on your kitchen window sill. Personally, I like to be creative and use old decorative olive oil tins and things like that, then just snip with scissors and add to salads, cooked meats, in fact, just about anything.
* Enjoy yourself in the kitchen. Don’t see cooking as a chore, but a fun part of the day. Put some music on do it together if you have a partner, you will have fun and this seems to rub off on the food (don’t ask me how but it seems to taste better if love and care went into the preparation).
This is a great way of using the bananas which are starting to brown, and also brilliant way of keeping the pudding moist.
Large mug of black tea
(simmer for 5 minutes in a pan)
1 tsp of bi carb
6oz muscovado sugar
6oz Self Raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
300ml double cream
50g black treacle
50g muscovado sugar
Method: Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the two eggs, dates and liquid, and then the flour and bi-carb.
Add 2 medium or 2 large bananas (depending on required strength) and the vanilla essence. Mix and turn into a lined bread tin, bake 30 mins gas mark 5.
Cool in tin, remove and slice in to 5 or 6 portions.
For the sauce: Boil the double cream, black treacle and muscovado sugar to make a hot caramel.
Serve with ice cream.
3 clove smoked garlic
extra virgin oil
500g new potatoes
200g smoked pancetta
200ml creme fraiche
100 ml white wine
240g Reblochon cheese
Method: Par boil new potatoes, refresh in ice cold water and slice into thins.
Cut pancetta into lardons and roast in a tray until crispy (you don’t need to add oil, it will create its own).
Saute the potatoes to get colour in a hot non-stick pan with the fat you drain off the pancetta, add sliced shallot, garlic and butter, turn heat down and soften. Add the wine and reduce slightly, then add the creme fraiche, boil and thicken with the cornflour, add oregano, salt and pepper and, finally, the pancetta.
Turn into a bread tin and top with slices of Reblochon, then bake at 20 mins on gas mark 5.
Serve with hot crusty bread.
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