Life

Tom Kerridge: Being a chef is a way of life – it's not something you can do on a Zoom call

You can travel the world with a barbecue. You can have Korean-style kimchi as a side garnish... you can have fantastic Indian cookery… The beautiful thing about it is there's no real rules

By Katie Wright, PA

Tom Kerridge has timed his new book for the arrival of summer

FEW industries have suffered more during the pandemic than hospitality. Thousands of restaurants and pubs up and down the country have been forced to shut their doors for good, following months of lockdown restrictions.

While none of Tom Kerridge’s eateries have suffered the same fate, it’s clear the chef has a huge amount of sympathy for his fellow restauranteurs.

“It’s very sad. There’s bound to be more [closures] as the furlough scheme ends and that support system goes away,” he says, in his familiar West Country accent. “There isn’t much we could do about it, apart from take the huge amount of losses and come through the other side.”

For Kerridge – who owns a handful of restaurants and pubs, including The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, the first ever pub to receive two Michelin stars – and his staff (affectionately called the ‘Pirates’), working from home just wasn’t an option.

“There’s so many other industries where people can have conversations online and that’s fine and their business has been able to work. You get into hospitality and it’s a vocational job, it’s something that’s a way of life, it’s not something you can do on a Zoom call.”

When we speak, just before outdoor dining opens up again in the UK, the 47-year-old is knee-deep in preparations for the reopening of The Butchers Tap and Grill beer garden, and raring for “the noise and the buzz of restaurants. The energy, the space, the people being able to smile at each other when you can actually see a smile without a mask…”

Not that the chef, who grew up in Gloucestershire, has been sitting around twiddling his thumbs up until now.

“To be honest, I’ve been as busy during the whole of lockdown as I am when the restaurants are open,” he says.

“When you own businesses, you’re never ‘off’. We’ve constantly been driving as many things forward as possible, trying to work out what we’re doing, how can we get to reopening, being proactive about everything.”

Beyond the challenges, Kerridge, who lives in Marlow with his wife Beth and five-year-old son Acey, has been able to appreciate some aspects of lockdown life.

“The chief bonus is that I managed to spend a lot more time with my little man, hanging out a bit more, learning to ride a bike and all these sort of things that I may well have missed if I was fully immersed into restaurants.”

Outdoor Cooking: The Ultimate Modern Barbecue Bible by Tom Kerridge, photography by Cristian Barnett is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, priced £22

And now he’s launching his next book, perfectly timed for the arrival of summer. Outdoor Cooking: The Ultimate Modern Barbecue Bible is Kerridge’s ode to al-fresco cooking, which he particularly loves because it allows him to socialise at the same time as serving up delicious food.

“You’ve got your friends and family around, there’s people hanging out… for me it’s a great space to be. You’re immersed in it, you’re not just stuck in the back.”

Not that he’s one to hog the barbecue tongs, however: “No, I’m quite happy to let other people have a go! Although I do thoroughly enjoy when you’re outdoors, that social bit of cooking.”

Plus, he loves the variety of an international melting-pot menu. “You can travel the world with a barbecue. You can have Korean-style kimchi as a side garnish, and then you can have American-style barbecue stuff, you can have fantastic Indian cookery… The beautiful thing about it is there’s no real rules.”

His favourite barbecue bite from the book is the perfect example, blending American, British and German dishes to create The Ultimate Hot Dog.

“It’s a large sausage that’s got a little bit of curry powder dusted all over it, and then it’s wrapped in bacon and served with a German mustard mayonnaise. So it’s kind of like a hot dog that everybody knows, but the best thing about it is that it reminds you of pigs in blankets at Christmas.”

These days, Kerridge is a whizz with his trendy Big Green Egg barbecue, but he doesn’t have fond childhood memories of hamburgers and sausages sizzling over hot coals in the back garden.

“I grew up pretty much in a single-parent family with my mum and me and my younger brother, so we weren’t really barbecue aficionados. It wasn’t something we really got into.”

That upbringing is partly what motivated the chef to team up with Marcus Rashford on the Full Time Meals project, providing weekly affordable recipes as part of the footballer’s End Child Food Poverty campaign.

“Both myself and Marcus have very similar backgrounds in terms of upbringing – our mums had two jobs, it was a single-parent family,” Kerridge says. “It was kind of that idea of trying to reach the same sort of people and kids that we grew up with.”

The campaign hopes to get children excited about cooking, with the focus being on meals that are kid-friendly and nutritionally sound but, most importantly, filling – like tortilla pizzas topped with red pepper, courgette and sweetcorn.

“If you’re not eating very much and you only like pizzas, well, here you go, this is a really nice way of making pizzas but this way you can get a bit of veg on it,” Kerridge says, well aware of the challenges faced by families in need.

“It’s all well and good if we’re sat in our middle-class world saying, ‘This is the healthy stuff’ – the healthy stuff is quite often the most expensive.

“From our point of view, it’s about very simple, quick and budget-friendly ways of creating great food that you can then adapt. It’s making sure kids can have something to eat and not go to bed with their tummy rumbling.”

Outdoor Cooking: The Ultimate Modern Barbecue Bible by Tom Kerridge, photography by Cristian Barnett is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, priced £22.

Ultimate hot dog

TOM KERRIDGE'S ULTIMATE HOT DOG

Ingredients:

(makes 4)

For the barbecue burnt onions:

3 large onions, finely sliced

3tbsp vegetable oil

For the pigs in blankets:

4 jumbo sausages

2tsp (heaped) mild curry powder

12 rashers of streaky bacon

For the German mustard mayo:

100g thick mayonnaise

40g German mustard

3tsp finely chopped shallot

10 cornichons, finely sliced

2tbsp dill, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:

4 long hot dog rolls

8 large slices of dill pickle

8 thick slices of smoked Bavarian cheese

A bunch of spring onions, green part only, finely sliced

Method:

To cook the onions, place a cast-iron pan on the hot barbecue and add the oil. When it is hot, add the onions with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well and cook for about 20 minutes until softened, dark and caramelised.

Meanwhile, prepare the sausages. Poke a metal skewer through the length of each sausage and lay the skewers on a tray. Season with the curry powder, trying to get an even coating all over the sausages. Wrap each one in bacon, using three rashers per sausage, and secure the bacon with a couple of cocktail sticks. Lay the bacon-wrapped sausages on the hot barbecue and cook for about 10 minutes, turning every minute or two.

While they are on the barbecue, mix the German mustard mayo ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste; set aside until needed.

Once the sausages are cooked through, lift them off the barbecue and place on a tray.

Remove the cocktail sticks and metal skewers.

To build the hot dogs, cut the rolls through the middle and spoon in plenty of caramelised onions. Add the bacon-wrapped sausages and top with the pickle slices and cheese. Place the hot dogs on a sturdy baking tray on the barbecue, put the lid on and leave for a minute or two so that the cheese becomes all gooey and melted. Transfer the hot dogs to plates and spoon on the German mayo. Scatter over the spring onions for freshness and serve.

Tom Kerridge's Spicy Fish Skewers

TOM KERRIDGE'S SPICY FISH SKEWERS

Ingredients:

(makes 8)

8 skinless salmon fillets (about 125g each)

2 large garlic cloves, grated

2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated

Juice of 1 lime

200g Greek yoghurt

1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1tsp ground turmeric

1tsp ground cumin

2tsp ground coriander

2tsp sweet smoked paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pickled red onions:

2 small red onions

125ml water

125ml white wine vinegar

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

To serve:

Naan bread or roti

A handful of coriander leaves

1 long green chilli, finely sliced

Lime halves

Sweet chilli sauce

Method:

Prepare your pickled red onions an hour or so ahead. Thickly slice the onions and place in a clean jar. Put the water, wine vinegar, fennel and cumin seeds, salt and sugar into a small pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Pour the hot pickling liquor over the onions and leave to cool slightly. Pop the lid on and place in the fridge to pickle. To prepare the salmon, cut each fillet into four equal-sized chunks. Place these in a bowl with the garlic, ginger and lime juice and mix well.

In another bowl, mix the yoghurt with the spices and some salt and pepper. Add this spiced yoghurt to the salmon and mix well again. Leave to marinate in a cool place for at least 20 minutes, or up to an hour. Meanwhile, if using wooden skewers, soak eight, 16cm long, in water for 30 minutes. Once marinated, thread the salmon onto your skewers, putting four chunks onto each skewer. Place the skewers on the hot barbecue and cook for two to three minutes on each side until golden brown and lightly charred. Meanwhile, warm the roti or naan on the edge of the barbecue. Once cooked, transfer the skewers to a warm plate. Serve the skewers on the warm naan or rotis. Scatter over a little pickled red onion, some coriander and sliced green chilli. Serve with lime halves for squeezing over, and sweet chilli sauce on the side.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Categories

Life