Life

Recipes: Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski on his obsession with eggs, adopting a dog during the pandemic, and why he can't live without therapy

I used to eat eggs once or twice a week. Now I'm at, like, five or six times a week. I've perfected the soft scramble. I used to get it right, like, two out of three times. Now I have 99.9 per cent accuracy, which is really nice

Antoni Janusz Porowski is a Polish-Canadian television personality, actor, author, chef, and the food and wine expert on TV series Queer Eye
By Katie Wright, PA

IT’S lunchtime in New York – almost dinnertime in London – and Antoni Porowski is making my mouth water with his tantalising description of one of the dishes from his new cookbook, which involves a generous dollop of mashed potato topped with a stack of skinny, golden-brown French Fries.

"It sounds so stupid and ridiculous and redundant, but I’m telling you, it’s ground-breaking,” he says, on a transatlantic Zoom call.

“Creamy mashed potatoes as a dip when the chips are, like, really crispy, it’s just so… it’s perfection.”

This particular double-carb delight was introduced to Porowski, who was born in Montreal to Polish parents, by supermodel pal Gigi Hadid at the launch party for his first book (2019’s Antoni In The Kitchen) at Manhattan institution L’Avenue.

“I thought she was crazy for it, and I didn’t quite get it. I just thought she was being quirky. But she was, as she most of the time is, 100 per cent right.”

The resident food and wine expert on hit Netflix series Queer Eye is keen to point out that his version of the French restaurant’s decadent potato dish is intended as a once in a while treat.

“It’s definitely not a symbol for the cookbook in general – I feel like a lot of the recipes are a lot more health-oriented. But that said, we all experience rainy days, and we all experience really good days where you want to celebrate. And that definitely is a more celebratory dish.”

Titled Let’s Do Dinner, the collection of recipes focuses on what the 37-year-old calls “the most important meal of the day” and does indeed feature lots of brightly coloured salads, veg-packed soups and nutritious Asian-inspired noodle and rice bowls, alongside comforting pasta bakes and juicy burgers, plus a whole chapter dedicated to eggs.

“I definitely got into an obsession with eggs,” says Porowski, when considering how his eating habits have changed since the pandemic began. “I used to eat eggs once or twice a week. Now I’m at, like, five or six times a week. I’ve perfected the soft scramble. I used to get it right, like, two out of three times. Now I have 99.9% accuracy, which is really nice.”

Aiming to reflect “what my life has been like since Queer Eye came out”, the actor-turned-foodie, who lives with his boyfriend Kevin Harrington, admits “I actually spend a lot less time in the kitchen than I used to” – or at least he did until the pandemic hit.

Filming the latest series of the hugely popular show with the rest of the Fab Five in Austin when “everything came to a halt”, Porowski decided to stay in the Texan city and foster a dog from a local rescue centre.

Four-legged friend Neon, is “a silly, dumb, lovable rescue”, who became “part of the family” when Porowski discovered you can’t take a foster dog out of state and chose to adopt her before he returned to New York. “I always thought I was going to end up with a corgi, I ended up with a pit bull mix. That’s kind of like a good symbol for life – it’s like that’s what happens when you’re making plans.”

As well as acquiring his beloved pooch, the other major benefit of the last 18 months for the in-demand food guru has been putting the breaks on his hectic work schedule.

“I was flying to four different cities in a week, not taking as much time to take care of myself as I would have liked, and then all of that just kind of came to a screeching halt and I was just left with my feelings.”

Porowski, who has never shied away from talking about mental health, took the opportunity to “work on myself”, doubling up on virtual therapy sessions each week, a practice he wholeheartedly recommends.

“Not to be dramatic, but I couldn’t function without it. I need somebody with an objective standpoint to just sit there and listen and be tough on me when I need [that], and to be gentle and caring when I need that as well.

“It’s something that’s been important to me since I was really young, and so I’ll continue talking about it. I hate giving unsolicited advice to people but therapy is my only caveat. That’s where I’m like, ‘No, literally everybody in this in this world could benefit from it’.”

More recently, he’s been speaking out about the oppression of LGBTQIA+ communities in Poland by joining forces with the Equaversity Foundation to raise awareness of the issue, and encourage his 4.3m Instagram followers to donate to the cause.

“While I have Polish heritage, I don’t know what it’s like to live in Poland, but I feel like I have a voice and I need to use it,” he says. “I have a responsibility to do that even if it’s, you know, from across the pond that is the Atlantic Ocean.”

Admitting he doesn’t have all the answers, Porowski witnessed “the power that Queer Eye has had even within the United States alone” and hopes to spread that message internationally.

“It’s a learning process for me too. [Previously] I would hear about these things, but I never felt like my voice really mattered. [Now] I think every single person’s voice does. The more I educate myself and the more I feel like I’m part of the process, the more I feel like I’m contributing,” says Porowski. “That’s my goal now.”

Let’s Do Dinner by Antoni Porowski, photography by Paul Brissman, is published by Bluebird, priced £22. Below are three recipes for you to try at home...

Miso noodle soup with mushrooms, peas and greens

(serves 4)

150g soba noodles

3tbsp toasted sesame oil, plus more for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, gently smashed and peeled

2tbsp finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger

450g mixed wild mushrooms, stems trimmed if using shiitakes, caps halved or quartered if large

Kosher salt

300g frozen peas, thawed

150g baby spinach, mizuna, tatsoi or mixed Asian greens

75g white miso paste

1tbsp soy sauce, plus more for serving

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Red chilli flakes, toasted sesame seeds and/or micro greens for topping (optional)

Method:

1. Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander placed over a large bowl. Set aside the soba water. Rinse the noodles under cold running water, drain, and set aside.

2. Measure the soba water and add more water if needed to make two litres. (Or discard any extra soba water.)

3. Heat the oil in a large wide saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for one minute. Add the soba water, increase the heat to high and bring just to a low boil. Stir in the greens and immediately remove from the heat.

4. Scoop 60ml of the broth into a bowl and whisk in the miso. Return the mixture to the soup, add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Divide the noodles among four bowls. Ladle the soup over them. Top with the spring onions. Drizzle over sesame oil and soy sauce and top with red chilli flakes, sesame seeds and micro greens, if desired.

Roasted cabbage steaks with apple-Dijon vinaigrette

(serves 4)

For the cabbage steaks:

1 medium red cabbage, trimmed

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

1/2tsp dried herbes de Provence, thyme or oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

55g walnut pieces

170g quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 bay leaf

For the vinaigrette:

3tbsp apple sauce

1tbsp apple cider vinegar

1tsp Dijon mustard

1tsp honey

1/4tsp kosher salt

1/8tsp freshly ground black pepper

75ml extra-virgin olive oil

3tbsp raisins, chopped dried apricots, dried cherries or chopped dates

30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)

115g soft goat’s cheese for serving (optional)

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Cut about 1cm (1/2 inch) from one long side of the cabbage to create a flat edge (so it won’t roll) and place cut side down on the chopping board. Cut four 1cm-thick lengthways slices from the middle of the cabbage outwards (to get the largest pieces) to make cabbage ‘steaks’ (reserve the rest of the cabbage for another use). Arrange the steaks on the prepared baking sheet with the core ends towards the corners of the sheet so they get the most heat. Brush with the oil. Season with the dried herbs, half teaspoon of salt and quarter teaspoon of pepper.

3. Cover the sheet tightly with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Uncover and continue roasting until the cabbage steaks are golden and tender, 25-30 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a small baking sheet and bake until fragrant, seven to nine minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool, then roughly chop.

5. To cook the quinoa, bring 500ml water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa along with the bay leaf, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain any excess water. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the quinoa to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

6. Whisk together the apple sauce, vinegar, Dijon, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil.

7. When the cabbage is ready, sprinkle the dried fruit over the top, return the pan to the oven, and cook for about five minutes more to plump the fruit a little.

8. Spoon the quinoa onto plates, spreading it out a bit. Arrange the cabbage steaks on top. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with nuts, parsley and, if desired, flaky salt to taste, and then the cheese, if using.

Breakfast for dinner pizza with eggs, courgette and spicy salami

(Serves 2 or 3)

225g fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1 (400g) tin whole peeled tomatoes, drained

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

Kosher salt

450g shop-bought white or wholemeal pizza dough, divided in half at room temperature

Plain flour, for dusting

50g sliced spicy salami, cut into strips

1 small courgette, cut lengthways into thin strips with a vegetable peeler

55g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

4 large eggs

Grated lemon zest, fresh basil, or red chilli flakes or cracked black pepper for serving (optional)

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 260°C/500°F/highest gas setting, with a rack in the lower third. Press the mozzarella slices between sheets of kitchen paper to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

2. Puree the tomatoes, oil and a quarter teaspoon of salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.

3. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat while you prepare the pizza. Cut a piece of baking parchment about 33cm (13ins) long. Put one piece of dough on the parchment and, with lightly floured hands, stretch it into a rough 4-4.5cm (11-12ins) round or oblong. Spoon 75ml of the tomato puree over the dough, leaving a narrow border all around. Arrange half of the salami on top, then top with half of the courgette strips in a crisscross pattern and half of the mozzarella and Parm. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the pizza, still on the parchment, onto it. Return it to the oven.

4. Bake until the crust is just beginning to turn golden and the mozzarella is melted, five to six minutes. Crack two of the eggs on top of the pizza, season the eggs with a pinch of salt, and bake until the crust is golden and the egg whites are just set, seven to eight minutes more. Meanwhile, prepare a second pizza with the remaining dough and toppings. (You will have leftover tomato puree.)

5. Remove the first pizza from the oven and slide it onto a chopping board. Brush the edges of the crust of the finished pizza with a little olive oil. Top with a sprinkling of Parm and a little grated lemon zest, basil, or red chilli flakes or cracked pepper, if desired. Bake the second pizza while you’re enjoying the first. When the second one is ready, sprinkle with the toppings and serve.

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