Amazingly, I’ll be celebrating forty years as a Chef soon and wow…how things have changed! When I first started cooking, chefs were mostly unsung heroes who stayed firmly tied their kitchens stoves and never ventured out into the dining room seeking approval every five minutes from their adoring fans. Nobody knew their names and nobody really cared. These days’ chefs are all over the place and you can’t seem to shut them up. You open a magazine or go on social media and it’s full of cooks desperately seeking attention and believing that they are the new rock stars. Even now when most restaurants around the world are closed and we are all in lockdown, there they are, the so called “celebrity chefs” making daily videos of themselves cooking from home to entertain and inspire us just in case we can’t live without seeing them for a single day.
But cooking and rock'n'roll are not as synonymous as many of us chefs; PR people and agents would have you believe. Being a chef is absolutely not rock'n'roll. The only chef who has ever come close to being a true rock star was Marco Pierre White. With his brooding good looks, long, flowing hair, sunken cheekbones, wild-eyed madness and that prodigious talent, his flame burned brightly for a few short years and then he was lost to the culinary world forever. But Marco now spends his dotage shooting pheasants, putting his name to a chain of steak restaurants and making commercials selling stock cubes on TV. You can’t imagine Johnny Rotten selling out like that, can you?
Over the years I’ve cooked for a few authentic rock legends including members of the Rolling stones, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (I’ll tell you my story about him one day!) and the awesome David Bowie. In 1983 Bowie was at the peak of his commercial success with Let’s Dance, the album that finally established him as a multi-platinum superstar and during that time he stayed at London’s Carlton Tower Hotel for a couple of weeks. He would hardly ever leave his room and other guests would often complain about him playing his guitar in the middle of the night. He would also ask the concierge to order sushi everyday from his favourite restaurant in New York. It was flown over directly on concorde and we would immediately plate it up in the kitchen when it arrived in a taxi straight from the airport and send it up to his room…now that’s being a rock star!
If ingredients were rock stars…chocolate would definitely have been inducted into the rock'n'roll hall of fame a long, long time ago. The simple truth is that, rather like The Beatles, very few people fail to realize the charms of chocolate and it’s one of the most popular ingredients of all time. Indeed many food scientists have reported chocolate to be the single most craved food the world over. I have to admit I’m a chocoholic, and dark, velvety chocolate is my particular vice. Dark chocolate is chocolate made without milk and should contain a minimum of 35% cocoa solids, at least 18% of which should be cocoa butter. However, the cocoa content can be as much as 80% and even 90%. I prefer mine to be around 70 to 75% for rich cakes, sauces or desserts.
Chocolate, cardamon & coffee creams with orange & cinnamon tuiles
This recipe is from my cookery book MODERN MEDITERRANEAN: sun-drenched recipes from Mallorca & beyond. It’s rich, decadent, sensual and definitely a dessert fit for a rock star!
Ingredients serves 6-8
- 80g dark chocolate
- 50g coffee beans
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 300ml cream
- 180g sugar
- 5 egg yolks
Lightly toast the coffee beans, cardamom & cinnamon stick and place them in a spice grinder or food processor. Pulse to a course powder.
Place the cream and coffee mixture in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and return to the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and add the warm chocolate cream. Pour the mixture back into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring continuously, until it thickens to a custard consistency. Pour the coffee creams into coffee cups or glasses and chill well before serving with a little lightly whipped cream on top. Garnish with orange & cinnamon tuiles.
Orange & Cinnamon Tuiles
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g golden syrup
- 100g caster sugar
- 150g plain flour
- Grated zest of one orange
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
Gently melt the butter. Place the flour, cinnamon, orange zest & sugar in a bowl and add the golden syrup. Whisk in the melted butter, cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas mark 6.
Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment or a silpat mat. Place three teaspoonfuls of the mixture well apart on the baking sheet and spread out to 8cm circles. Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven.
The cooked tuiles need to be quickly and carefully removed, one disc at a time, from the baking sheet, using a metal spatula. Curve each biscuit immediately over a rolling pin, and leave a few minutes until they are cool and crisp. Then remove them to a wire rack and cook the rest, continuing as above until all the mixture has been used up.
As soon as the biscuits are cool, store straight away in an airtight tin to keep them crisp.
Chocolate & Lavender tart
This rich, decadent chocolate & lavender tart works really well with red fruits and vanilla ice cream. If you can’t find lavender flowers you can substitute with a sprig of fresh rosemary or a few green cardamom pods. I sometimes make this tart with eucalyptus and it’s also a delicious alternative.
Ingredients serves 6-8
For the pastry:
- 120g plain flour
- 60g icing sugar
- 50g chilled butter, diced
- 1 whole egg
- 1tbsp cold water
- A pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 180g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100g butter
- 80g plain flour
- 140g sugar
- 6 whole eggs
- 1tbsp dried lavender flowers
- 2tbsp dark cocoa powder
For the sweet pastry:
Place the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, cold water and egg and pulse again, just enough to incorporate the egg. Scrap out the pastry and mix gently until it comes together to form a firm dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick. Line a 23cm tart ring with the pastry and rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).
Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and line the pastry case with a circle of baking parchment or foil and fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry blind for 10 minutes, or until just lightly golden-brown, then remove the paper and beans and return the tart to the oven to cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
For the filling:
Gently heat the butter, lavender flowers and chocolate in a medium pan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and flour. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and pass through a fine sieve. Place the pastry case on a baking tray. Pour the chocolate mixture into the pastry case, filling it right to the top and place in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Dust with cacao powder, cut into portions and serve with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.