Home Cook Liverpool: Gary Williams of Free State Kitchen shares his top tips and fave recipes - The Guide Liverpool

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Home Cook Liverpool: Gary Williams of Free State Kitchen shares his top tips and fave recipes


Home Cook Liverpool is back, shining the spotlight on some of Liverpool’s best-loved chefs. You can check out the full Home Cook series here.

This week Gary Williams, head chef and owner of Free State Kitchen in Maryland Street, gives us some of his favourite recipes and top tips from the kitchen…

One of Gary Williams’ first food memories goes back to spending time with his grandmother in North Wales. 

Gary says: “She was a fantastic cook, and I would watch her preparing food and baking from her Aga. I remember the most delicious toast slathered in Welsh butter, fresh scones straight from the oven and heart-warming stews and pies.

“I realised then, what great happiness food can bring and that is probably the main reason why I like to cook. The simple pleasure it can bring yourself and others.”

Cooking, says Gary, offers the chance to escape too, whether that’s from work, family life – or the monotony of lockdown!

“Cooking takes you away for half an hour or so, and you can clear your mind. Pour a glass of wine while you do it and it’s even better…

Gary Williams

“Cooking also comes with some delicious results (most of the time!) and enables you to bring people close – something that can be lost in modern life. Even if you don’t enjoy the cooking part, at least the results will be worth it and allow you to take time over a meal and bring your loved ones together.”

And he adds: “Good, tasty food will make you happy. In our current lockdown existence this is more important than ever. The everyday things should be celebrated as much as possible.

“Spending a little extra time over each meal to make it more special will provide something to look forward and cherish.”

Gary can’t wait to get Free State Kitchen open again: “We can’t wait to welcome people back after lockdown. 

“We miss the atmosphere and noise of a busy restaurant. Seeing friends meet up for the first time in so long will be very satisfying to see. The lockdown has totally stripped the vibrancy of the city centre so it will be wonderful to contribute towards that once again.”

Gary’s Top tips

* Watch YouTube cooking videos. While recipes are so important, they don’t always translate easily, and it is sometimes difficult to visualise specific stages of a recipe. Certainly, if you are making something for the first time, watching a short clip will help you massively. If you watch the video the morning or afternoon before you plan to cook it will be in your head.

* A quick way to peel garlic! Just place the cloves in a bowl and pour over boiling water so they are covered. After a few minutes, the garlic will peel easily by just rubbing the skin with your fingers and thumbs.

* Keep your knives sharp. Having sharp knives is not only safer (your knife is less likely to slip off a vegetable into your finger), it will make cooking so much more pleasurable when you can fly though all the chopping and slicing. Investing in a good sharpening steel and wet stone is so worthwhile.


The recipes will serve four people well unless specified differently.

Smoky Spiced Chicken Thighs


8 boneless and skinned chicken thighs

1 ½ tbsps vegetable or rapeseed oil

2 tspns smoked paprika

1 tspn turmeric

1 tspn ground coriander

½ tspn ground cumin

½ tspn ground cinnamon

¼ tspn ground nutmeg

½ tspn salt

½ tspn black pepper


Place chicken thighs in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, place all the spices and oil together and mix with a spoon or spatula to form a paste. If the paste is not loose enough to spread on the chicken add a little water.

Rub the spice paste all over the chicken, making sure it is spread all over each piece. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to a day. Try to give the spice paste at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Allow the chicken to come up to room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat grill to a medium high heat. Grill for 25 to 35 minutes turning every five to ten minutes. Once the chicken is crisp and fully cooked, rest for five minutes and serve. (It can also be cooked on a barbecue).

The chicken thighs are nice served with some rice or potatoes and a side salad. The chicken is also great in a sandwich or flat bread with salad, tahini and chilli sauce.

Korean Style Braised Beef Brisket


500 – 600g piece of beef brisket

1 leek or 1 medium onion roughly diced

2 bay leaves

2 tspn whole black peppercorns

3. garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

3 slices ginger about ½ cm thick

4 red chillies cut in half


6 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Korean soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp rice wine

Method: In a medium saucepan cover the beef with water and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. The scum from the meat will float to the top of the pan. Take the meat out and discard the water. Place the meat on a plate and clean the saucepan ready for the next step.

Place the partially cooked meat in the clean saucepan and add water to cover, the leek or onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and ginger. Let it boil and simmer, covered, for at least 1 ½ hours. The beef needs to be tender so check it before you drain the meat. If the meat is still tough, cook for slightly longer. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Strain the stock through a sieve or colander but reserve the stock.

Slice the beef into thick bite-size pieces. Place them back into a clean saucepan and pour some of the stock over (enough to almost cover the meat). Add the soy sauce, sugar and rice wine vinegar, mix well. Bring the pan to boil over medium heat and reduce to a low simmer. Continue to cook down the liquid, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. When the liquid is reduced about to the level of beef, add chillies, and cover the lid. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve hot or the meat can be cooled and refrigerated and eaten cold. If refrigerating, the beef should be kept in an airtight container and can be stored in the fridge up to a week if it is covered by the liquid.

I like to use this beef as a base for a Bibimbap or it can be served simply with stir fried vegetables and noodles or rice.

Salted Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Makes 12 brownies


225g chocolate chips or cooking chocolate

350g unsalted butter

90g cocoa powder

550g caster sugar

275g plain flour

6 medium eggs

2 tsps vanilla extract

1.5 tsps Maldon salt


Preheat the oven to 165°c (145°c for a fan assisted oven). Line a lightly buttered rectangular metal cake tin (approx. 40cm by 30cm) with greaseproof paper, draping the greaseproof over the edges of the tin.

In a large heat proof bowl, melt the butter with the chocolate over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Mix all the dry ingredients so everything is well combined. Whisk the egg and vanilla extract and add to the dry ingredients with the chocolate and batter. Lightly combine with a wooden spoon being careful not to overwork the mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the surface of the batter with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the batter evenly with Maldon salt.

Bake the brownies in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes, until the edge starts to crack. The centre should be slightly soft. Let the brownies cool at room temperature for an hour. Cut into twelve squares.

The brownies are perfect with coffee by themselves, or serve as a dessert by reheating in a microwave on a medium heat for 30 seconds and serve with cream or ice cream.

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