17 Jan 2012


Probably the most popular restaurant dish out there, a great steak takes some beating and more often than not a great portion of hand cut chips to go with it. My first memory of ordering a steak was going out with my mum and dad to a local Berni Inn! In their heyday Berni Inns were the place to go and be seen, start off with a great prawn cocktail, then choose a rump, sirloin, fillet or my dad would order a great big t-bone, they would be served with chips, onion rings, grilled tomato, field mushrooms and a great classical sauce like a diane or peppercorn and sometimes the flambé table might come out, fantastic times, finish with a black forest gâteau and a nice creamy and boozy coffee - happy times, what a great restaurant, what happened to them I wonder? Interesting though that prawns, steak and chocolate are still all very popular, I used to call it my Mr. Saturday Night Menu!

A simple grilled steak cooked on a very high heat needs to have great depth so choose a nice and thick cut, best to medium rare for the right taste, flavour and tenderness as this heat being breaks down muscle. Cooking the steak on a chargrill, a la plancha or a josper grill is best because of the intense heat and I like the option to choose my own potato dishes, vegetables and sauces. The best cuts for a simple grilled steak are new York strip loin, sirloin entrecôte, heart of the rump, t-bone, porterhouse, rib eye bone in or out and a great chateubriand, in my opinion these are the best cuts of beef for the job - no fillet you say! 

Well, fillet steak is a great favourite of mine, very little fat, very tender but lends itself best to a sauté or pan fried dish where you can create a fantastic dish by cooking a really great centre piece of fillet steak like a tournedos, in lovely foaming butter with sprigs of thyme, rosemary and bay leaf with garlic, till medium rare then make a delicious sauce with shallots, armagnac, peppercorns, beef stock and cream, served with rosti potato, celeriac mash, leaf spinach, onion jam, wild mushrooms, crispy bacon, truffles, what a dish! So for me give the fillet more of a sauce style creation with some nice little chefy tweaks !

As for my favourite places for a steak there’s Wolfgang Pucks new CUT steakhouse in London, also The Hawksmoor and the new 34 by Caprice Holdings is good, Tthe Champney Inn by Clive Davidson in Scotland, Peter Luger in Brooklyn there porterhouse is very special. My all time favourite steak dish comes down to two a steak 'au poivre' cooked by Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum in the 80's and my most recent trip to CUT where the new strip loin was amazing!

Finally what makes a great steak, it must come from a great beast with real family heritage and a breed of animal reared for the job in hand, like long horn, Aberdeen angus, Limousin and Charolais, kept on a fantastic farm, cared for and nurtured, really well fed, a mixture of barley, grass and corn is best, no stress, just relaxed at all times. Carefully taken through the next stage to the butcher who will have sourced exceptional animals, he then prepares the meat into large joints / pieces to be hung for several weeks, the meat is matured, then cut into steaks, for chefs to complete the journey to our guests> I like a big bold red wine with my steaks something from Napa Valley (so massively big) or a great pint of Lord Marples from Thornbridge in my silver tankard, great Sheffield steaks! Well our steak menus at Artisan and Relish are pretty good with inspiration from the Berni Inns, to Wolfgang and Bibendum !

Happy grazing      


17 Nov 2011

We are in the dawn of a new era!

The age of craft and boutique beers is upon us. Many people are passionate about these amazing beers,  people who for years have been drinking wine realise the great flavours that beer creates, whether enjoyed with food or not.
Incredible times, obviously the beer culture in Belgium with its speciality beers, the culture in the United States of producing fantastic ales and lagers, Northern France for its bieres de garde, the great pilsners of eastern Europe and Germany, the passion of Australia and the amazing renaissance of the United Kingdom in the micro and craft brewery’s, spanning the length and breadth of the nation.
So for me it is much more than a quick pint, it has the depth, complexity and structure to rival that of wine, it is steeped in history, as old as civilization itself and that’s why beer is as important to us as a society, it is in our culture and should be enjoyed and explored.
For a long time we have had a great choice of craft beers in our long list of places, from Thornbridge cask and keg products to other great beers like Duval, Brooklyn, Chimay, Coopers and all the others. So we have a passion for food and drink, offering a lovely craft beer list, talking about which beer goes best with which dish.
A great nutty and sweet English pale ale cleanses the palate or a refreshing white or wheat beer served on ice with orange and coriander is a fantastic alternative. What a way to start your meal instead of the ubiquitous G and T or a glass of fizz.
Then maybe onto hoppy Jever from northern Germany or a frambroise, an amazing fruit beer from Belgium.
Soup is very popular but obviously liquid! Don’t put a liquid with a liquid forget about beer or wine in my opionion just enjoy the soup and get extra bread for dunking.!!!!!
With all starters for me try Indian pale ales, something hoppy, fresh and holds a big punch. If you are eating smoked fish try a smoked beer it will either complement or contrast the dish. I really like a high quality Czech pilsner with that perfuming character, a great combination.
With fish my favourite is cherry beer, especially with turbot, buttered Cornish spring greens, fresh Jersey Royals with parsley- amazing.
Meat is a big one though, it must have a beer packed with aroma and flavour, the new wave pale ales from the States are great, also the mega powerful trappist ales from Belgium or a lovely Vienna Red with great depth and clarity. With beef, pork, venison and lamb go for the big boys delivering a big punch.
Cheese is great with beer, the perfect partner. Soft cheese with Belgium beers, and for the stronger, firmer cheeses hoppy aromatic pale ale goes best.
For pudding you need a beer with a high level of sweetness, such as German bock, stout, or Vienna sweet lagers. My favourites are fruit beers using raspberries, cherries, peaches or bananas; they really do come into their own with a pudding. My all-time favourite is a chocolate stout from the Brooklyn Brewery.
So as we look at 2012 for something new for us to develop we have decided to use beer much more in our cooking, not just in steak and ale pies or in beer batters, but in jellies, chutneys, bread, casseroles and braised, ice-creams, sorbets and dressings. We are not putting it in for the sake of it, but for the enhancement of flavour, improve the product and let our chefs shine and develop new tastes.
So we have a busy few weeks in the development kitchen to perfect these new dishes.

Enjoy food and drink (in particular beer)


24 Aug 2011

Game on!

The start of the game season, the Glorious 12th, when grouse season begins in August, this beautiful little bird gives a great distinct flavour and quite strong in taste. Classically chefs would roast the grouse on a trivet then serve it with watercress, game chips, red current jelly, seasoned crumbs, with the game liver made into a pate served on a crouton. Roasted root vegetables served in the juices from the roasting tray, all washed down by a great claret, an big bold Italian Tuscan, a Napa Valley Zinfandel, a fruit beer, or try mead, the great old English honey beer. Grouse was a very regal rich dish, but where would it be cooked? Well The Ritz in London, Wiltons of St James and a few of the other great traditional classical restaurants like Rules of Covent Garden.

So the game season is on. Grouse is certainly an acquired taste, very expensive and rare to find, and from a chefs point of view difficult to get right. But there’s an amazing variety of choices pheasant, 
wild rabbit, partridge, hare, teal, mallard, wood pigeon, boar, venison, wild pigeon and woodcock, plus a few more not so well known varieties.

Game is exceptionally healthy, full of vitamins, minerals and irons. It is very lean, because all game is active. When cooking care must be taken because game can become dry and tough, roast it with plenty of basting and wrap it in bacon, it also lends itself to casseroling.

I really enjoy a great game pie, a rich ragout of hare with
papperdelle pasta, a wild rabbit risotto with parma ham and sage, pigeon salad with crispy bacon and black pudding or venison with a bitter chocolate sauce. Game makes great sausages, try a venison burger for a change.

So come on my foodies or budding Jamies, Gordons, Delias, or Nigellas get cooking, get creative and cook game this autumn.

Game is tricky to get hold of but try Round Green Farm near
Barnsley or the Chatsworth farm shop. Some of the country pubs can be a hub for game with the local farmers or hunters, you never know what a couple of pints may bring.

Many years ago when I was a cook one of my signature dishes was roast saddle of venison, celeriac mash, Mr Koffman’s cabbage, a venison gravy flavored with bitter chocolate and raspberry vinegar, an amazing dish borrowed from a great restaurant called Le
Tante Clare.

Happy cooking


22 Jun 2011

So my trip of a lifetime! To Lyon “the stomach of France”.

How did it go? Well here goes.
Adrian and myself (Adrian is my business partner at Thyme Café, former college mate and my 1st chef at Smiths in Crosspool, over 15 years ago, a great guy, chef and well-travelled bon viveur) we set off from Sheffield, to St Pancras, to Paris, to Lyon, then taxi to Roanne, why Roanne? Well the family Troisgros have had a 3 star Michelin restaurant there for over 40 years. Roanne is about an hour’s drive from Lyon, our thoughts, well it would be rude not to go. Roanne is a small town, but Troisgros is a world renowned name in top flight gastronomy.

The hotel is fantastic, pure class, simple, elegant and modern, immaculate in every detail, the food in truth was without doubt one of the greatest dining experiences of my life. The ingredients where perfect, flavours and tastes exceptional, truly world class, it was sublime. Not classical yet not modern, just food of the Troisgros, amazing. So the detour was well worth it.

Now off to Lyon!?
We caught the train from Roanne to Lyon, then checked into the Sofitel, a great hotel, brilliant rooms and superb staff. Lyon is a stunning city on the banks of the Rhone and Seine rivers, it is steeped in history and architecture, the buildings are amazing.  As the leading food area in France we wanted to experience the bouchons, bistros and the world famous Le Halles market. These where all good and interesting, but not quite what we thought, maybe our choices and recommendations where not so good, but I can recommend,The Paul Bocuse bistros in Lyon, North, South, East and West. Four separate bistros, each serving food from the North of France, South of France, West of France and East of France. However one of the main reasons for this trip and how it all started was a long time wish to eat at Restaurant Paul Bocuse, the 3 Michelin starred Grandfather of Chefs, a living culinary history. The food is rich, grand and amazing. We were fortunate enough to meet the old master himself, a fantastic treat and a lifelong dream achieved, it was a memorable evening.

So my trip, Troisgros was amazing, world class, Lyon a beautiful city, Sofitel a top hotel, Bocuse a living history, the other bits a little disappointing.
Can I bring something back, yes; it’s all in the ingredients.
Till next time

20 May 2011

The pairing of food and beverages

I certainly feel that with great food or that ultimate dining experience, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. For breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner it is imperative to make the right choice, it can take the ordinary to the extraordinary. The flavour of food, almost without fail, reveals the true quality of wine and beer and, in turn, the food is complemented by gaining the full depths of the diverse tastes created by the drink. 
As with all great things experimenting with different food and drinks is a personal journey, what we like is just that, what WE LIKE!
I firmly believe the more ideas you have, the more diversity, the more you will be surprised with which foods go with which beer, wine, cocktail, tea or water, the best way to have a great food and beverage pairing is to have lots of ideas and tastings, in the end you will be delighted with your discovery, so why not start tonight around the dinner table!
Without a doubt the pairing of food and beverages is very challenging professionally because today we have so many options to choose from, the classics: a great steak with a red wine, a lovely craft ale with a big pie, a glass of Italian Vin Santo with biscotti or, my favourite, dandelion and burdock with fish and chips,
I am presently working on a new project pairing award winning craft beers with my style of food, it is very challenging and exciting, making me push my thoughts and knowledge to the maximum, it’s a great project, lots of fun and how lucky am I? Beer and food!!
I will keep you all informed how I get on 

18 Apr 2011

I am just putting the finishing touches to my trip of a lifetime!

In June I'm going to Lyon in France with my good friend and business partner Adrian Cooling. Lyon is often described as “the stomach” of France, famed for it’s Les Halles market, it’s bistros, brasseries and bouchons, an all round foodies paradise, amazing charcuterie, as pretty as Paris but without the tourists!

The chef of the century, Paul Bocuse, has his empire in Lyon, often thought of as the founder of modern French cuisine and without doubt the greatest chef of his era. Paul Bocuse will have had the ultimate accolade of three Michelin stars for fifty years within the next couple of years and, at eighty five, he still oversees his restaurant, amazing! Myself and Adrian are booked in for dinner, we shall be sampling his signature dishes and hopefully meet the great man? Fingers crossed! 

We are also booked in to the gastronomic temple of the Troisgros family in Roanne, about 100 miles east of Lyon. La Maison Troisgros is regarded as possibly the finest restaurant in the world, holder of three Michelin stars for over 40 years, now third generation, they also have an amazing wine list, 2,000 bins and 40,000 wines in stock, a great hotel, it has been a real dream of mine to go to Bocuse, Troisgros and Lyon since I started cooking over 25 years ago, I’m so excited, I can hardly wait!

Lyon is all about grand fine dining, it is all about different forms of eating from simple market stalls, the classics, the grand masters and the up and coming young Turks. I think it will be a real trip of adventure and discovery. When we decided to go to Lyon I needed to make sure that we discovered all aspects so I contacted a friend of mine, a Lyon native, the mega chef from New York, Daniel Baloud. Daniel has many restaurants and bars all around the world plus one of the finest in New York which has three Michelin stars. Daniel kindly gave me a list of his favorites which I will share with you, I'm sure he won't mind !?

For myself and Adrian this is a great opportunity to learn and experience the diversity, soul and the food of Lyon and bring something back to the most important part of our businesses - our staff and our customers.

Bon appetite 

14 Apr 2011

Buy British, cook British and drink British!

For chefs it’s an incredibly exciting time produce wise at the moment, the first of the new seasons asparagus is available which is so quintessentially English, I don't think you can beat the quality and flavour of this unique product. The clocks have gone forward, spring is here and the first great ingredients are here, amazing! I love asparagus, simply steamed, served with a great hollandaise sauce or chargrilled on country bread with shaved parmesan and a good olive oil or buttered asparagus, soft poached hens egg with another stunning ingredient, my personal favourite, jersey royals - try these simply crushed with chorizo and basil, so happy times !

The thing with all great ingredients is let the asparagus be the star, buy the best grade stuff from a named farm and eat plenty, serve with a great Malborough Valley Sauvignon blanc or with a glass of Thornbridge New Zealand Hop Kipling.

Look out for Great British produce this year, it is the best in the world if eaten in it's correct season, prepared with the respect it deserves, let the flavour and taste be the champion. Take a step back and just think no other country has asparagus, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, shellfish, beef, lamb, pork... like we do, it’s the best - that's why unfortunately we export so much to France and the USA and we get sold the crap from other countries, so fly the flag, embrace the seasons, buy British, cook British and drink British!