How to cook a Michelin-star meal: JAN MOIR on the celebrity chefs beaming into your home, showing you how to turn leftovers into lockdown treats
Stuck at home, perhaps bored with home-schooling the kids, definitely missing their restaurants? Yes, yes and yes again.
Many top chefs and cooks have turned to the internet to rustle up tasty films showing how they are cooking and caring for their families during the lockdown.
For once these Michelin-starred gods are not tweezering herbs, indulging in molecular gastronomy or figuring out new and inventive ways of charging diners £30 for a portion of rib-eye steak and half a spud.
Instead, over on their Instagram accounts and YouTube channels, they are browning chickens, peeling carrots, mixing cakes and hiding slices of aubergine from the kiddies in vegetarian bakes.
I love these little films! Not just because they are packed with top-quality tips, they also show chef life in the raw, with children running in and spouses shouting in the background.
Many top chefs and cooks have turned to the internet to rustle up tasty films showing how they are cooking and caring for their families during the lockdown. Pictured: Martha Stewart
The first thing that these professional chefs teach us? That it doesn’t matter — just go with what you’ve got in the kitchen. One uses cashew nuts instead of pine nuts in his pesto. Another makes do without garlic for the first time in his adult life. One smuggles courgette into his bolognese sauce simply because ‘it needs using up’.
Everyone is focusing on economical, tasty meals to keep the family happy during lockdown.
As the chefs are cooking in real-time in their own kitchens, these cook-alongs are meant to be informative rather than entertaining, but end up being both.
It’s always a joy to watch professional cooks at work; to admire their economy of movement, their asbestos fingers, and that way they casually toss their pans to combine the ingredients.
Not to mention their efficiency, speed and military levels of organisation.
I also love that they are so scrupulously tidy — cleaning up as they go along, like no man ever.
Barefoot tips . . . and copper cupboards
‘There is no point in showing you all the cheffy stuff,’ says Jason Atherton. ‘I just want to show you stuff that is really easy to do.’
Sequestered in his ‘social-isolation kitchen’ with his wife and two children in South-West London, Jason (right) pads around barefoot, looking for things to fry in unfeasible amounts of butter, and garnish with what he calls ‘fresh Cornish sea salt’.
‘There is no point in showing you all the cheffy stuff,’ says Jason Atherton (pictured). ‘I just want to show you stuff that is really easy to do’
Can we pause for a minute to take in his kitchen? The chef, restaurateur and television regular has a double-door eye-level fridge, a restaurant-sized plancha grill next to his island hob, a glass-fronted chill cabinet, and are those cupboards made of . . . copper?
Cooking under lockdown conditions has made Jason realise that ‘we are too wasteful’. He pulls out some beef burgers with a sell-by date of March 25 and sniffs them. ‘It is now the 29th, but these are fine,’ he says.
He makes a ‘super-fast but not authentic bolognese’ using up courgettes, fresh peppers, tinned peppers, fresh tomatoes and a jar of arrabiata sauce. He ‘smashes up’ the burgers and adds them in.
He makes a leftover soup with ham stock, beans and bacon, garnishing it with cubes of bread and ‘black pudding from the freezer’. There is a chicken and chipolata casserole with Lea & Perrins sauce, broccoli with breadcrumbs and miso dressing, and stuffed mushrooms with pork steaks.
Top Tips: Hot sauce always saves a sad dish. Pickle your leftover vegetables. Most importantly, manage your fridge and food cupboards, so you know exactly what is in them every day.
The wife takes top billing
In Edinburgh, chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin sometimes gets his wife Michaela and four children to help. Tom will start off with something very simple — like leek and potato soup — but turn it into an amazing dish. By chopping the leeks and potatoes very small and cooking them fast before blending, he produces an elegant, vibrant green soup.
Tom (right, with one of his children) has published more than 400 recipes in four cookbooks, but admits the one most requested is his wife’s smoked salmon lasagne. In one cook-along Michaela shows how to do it, turning a packet of smoked salmon into an interesting family meal.
n Edinburgh, chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin (pictured) sometimes gets his wife Michaela and four children to help
Top Tips: The dirt in a leek is only in the green part, so slice that bit vertically then plunge into water to clean. Spear a clove of peeled garlic on a fork, and use it to turn cooking veg or mix salad dressings to give a perfumed hint of garlic. ‘Tom taught me this and it works,’ says Michaela, sounding surprised.
A really good stab at cakes
Tom Aikens, his wife and two children seem to be sequestered with another family somewhere. His Muse restaurant in London has been called pretentious, but here Tom is all about ‘good home cooking’.
He’s done roast chickens for Sunday lunch, Asian chicken broth, a fish pie enriched with hardboiled egg, cauliflower cheese, seven-hour lamb, fish and chips, French toast and a lemon drizzle cake.
Home-bakers are told to prick the surface of the cake with a skewer before pouring over the lemon syrup — but Tom (left) uses a carving fork and stabs it in with gusto. He makes a risotto using ‘manky vegetables from the back of the fridge’, chopping them very small to disguise deficiencies.
Tom Aikens (pictured), his wife and two children seem to be sequestered with another family somewhere. His Muse restaurant in London has been called pretentious, but here Tom is all about ‘good home cooking’
There is also a lot of really useful information about making sourdough bread.
Top tips: Blanch sweet potato fries in hot oil before finishing in the oven. Don’t use a metal whisk to make a roux as it can leave a metallic taste. Watch out for his trick with baking paper when lining a tart tin.
A whole shallot of love
Brooklyn-based Alison Roman is the cooking queen of Instagram.
The former pastry chef, cookbook author and columnist has seen many of her recipes go viral, including #TheStew, a vibrant chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric, and #TheCookies, a cross between shortbread and chocolate chip cookies.
Her best lockdown recipe is her caramelised shallot pasta sauce, which contains an entire tin of anchovies and a whole tube of tomato paste — but is multi-purpose and keeps for ages.
Brooklyn-based Alison Roman (pictured) is the cooking queen of Instagram. The former pastry chef, cookbook author and columnist has seen many of her recipes go viral
She says: ‘Coat pasta in it, smear it onto toast, spoon it over fried eggs, or drag roast chicken through it.’
The cooking Queen used to time inside
Actually I can barely focus on what Martha Stewart is cooking because of the envy-inducing majesty of the barn-sized kitchen at her farm in New York state. Copper pans hang from the ceiling while shelves are lined with glass flour jars and divine pale green china.
Martha, who once had an enforced period of self-isolation in jail for insider trading, suggests making a cheesecake for Easter. ‘Whoops, I almost forgot the eggs,’ she says.
Top tip: Once baked, prop open the oven door and leave your cheesecake in there to cool completely. This prevents unsightly surface cracks.
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