Home Cook Liverpool: Justino’s Head Chef Alfonso Cornelio shares his top tips and fave recipes
3 years ago
In the latest of our Home Cook Liverpool series, we return to wonderful Italy.
Alfonso Cornelio is head chef of Justino’s Ristorante and Bar in Aigburth, and he’s got some amazing recipes for you to try, along with some top kitchen tips to remember…
Alfonso Cornelio loves nothing better than working in a thriving kitchen, overseeing his team prepare creative dishes using the best quality ingredients, and constantly working on new ideas.
“For me it’s my calling. It doesn’t feel like work when I cook because it’s what I love,” he says. “And being surrounded by a good team, the best ingredients and lovely customers who have the same passion for food and drink.
“Given how important good food is in order to sustain us both physically and mentally, maybe you can understand why it’s my passion and purpose in life to produce the best in what I’m working with.”
Alfonso says he feels ‘totally in flow’ when he’s cooking whether that’s at home or at work.
“Time seems to just disappear. You get consumed, both by the preparation and the results and then there’s the best bit…sharing with family, friends and customers. It’s very rewarding.
“That’s not to say it isn’t hard work,” he adds. “It is. But that’s because you want to always do your best, for yourself and others you are making food for.”
Cooking is a really good discipline to learn, says Alfonso: “It allows you to emphasise your creativity and you can also leave a legacy. When you become a good cook, you can pass that on to your children and they will talk about you favourably forever!
“Right now, I feel even more gratitude for being able to work and pursue my passion as so many haven’t been able to do that. At least we are getting closer to being able to look after customers in Justino’s again soon. We’ve been really busy with takeaway orders and deliveries, but we all want to see each other again.
“It’s going to be quite emotional!”
Alfonso’s Top Tips
* Be creative in the kitchen but always do it within reason. Menu items are often based on tried and tested recipes and deviating too much will cause you to waste your ingredients.
* Don’t get distracted when you’re cooking. It does require focus so looking at your mobile phone and social channels with funny Memes or things that take you away from the process in hand is not a good idea. Think about the last time you burnt the toast!
* Use the best quality ingredients you can find and try and ensure they are local. It will always show in the taste of your dishes.
* Don’t reduce the nutritional benefits by adding artificial ingredients or too much sugar or salt.
* Many recipes can be tweaked by looking at them culturally instead. For example, if you have a favourite Italian dish, explore how it’s cooked in different regions of Italy, for example, in Sicily versus Milan.
King prawns cooked in lemon & white wine with garlic, chilli & cherry tomatoes and zucchini
400 g uncooked king prawns (peeled)
400 g chopped fresh tomatoes
400 g linguine
½ cup white wine
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 courgette (diced)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
a handful fresh basil (chopped)
a handful fresh spinach (chopped)
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika powder
salt and pepper
parmesan to garnish (optional)
To a heavy bottomed pan, add the chopped onions, the garlic, a generous dash of olive oil, and fry until the onions turn soft.
Add the white wine, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, chilli powder, paprika, courgette, and a generous pinch of salt to the pan. Reduce the mixture to a thick sauce over a medium-high heat — this should take 10-15 minutes or so.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine.
Reduce the heat a little and add a handful of chopped basil, and another of chopped spinach to the sauce and stir through.
After 5 minutes or so, add the uncooked king prawns. They should only need five minutes or so, or until the linguine has finished cooking.
Drain the linguine and add it to the sauce and toss it through the mixture and heat them together for a minute.
In pasta bowls, serve a generous heap of the linguine and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the dish, finally adding few basil leaves to garnish.
Braised Leg of Lamb – Italian style
1 (4-lb.) semi-boneless leg of lamb
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablesIpoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic heads, halved crosswise
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
3 rosemary sprigs
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28-oz.) can plum tomatoes, drained and crushed
1 cup pitted and halved olives
¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Season lamb with the salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large oven over medium-high. Add lamb and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 30 minutes. Add onion, garlic, anchovies, and rosemary and cook, stirring, until onion has softened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and partially cover.
Reduce heat to low and cook, turning lamb occasionally, until tender, about 2 hours. Stir in olives and capers and continue to simmer, uncovered, turning lamb halfway through, until lamb is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Remove lamb from oven and let rest at room temperature 10 minutes.
To serve, thinly slice lamb and arrange on a platter, spooning olive-caper mixture over top.