My travels with the channel 4 Pig have come to an end now. To recap, I got Tim Wilson of The Ginger Pig to cut up a side into the ten main cuts and then took those cuts to 10 chefs around the country. Over this week – two by two – I’ll be talking in more detail about my time with them and what I learned.
I shot over an hour for each chef, which I edited down to 5mins for Channel 4. This left a fair bit on the cutting room floor so to speak, which it seems a shame to waste. So where possible they’ll be off cuts and scraps of video as well as some photos – It’s what the pig would have wanted. The first two up are Ben Tish and Vivek Singh.
Ben Tish – Salt Yard, London
Ben was a lovely guy with infectious energy, gulping down an espresso and positively bouncing around his kitchen. Said kitchen however, was compact and bijou. It’s a real skill to move around a space like that without him and his two other chefs getting in each other’s way.
I picked Ben as I thought his style of cooking – tapas – would suit the tenderloin; quick and simple and small tasty portioning. The pairing with clams and apple I loved. Shellfish and pork somehow work well together. I normally baulk at the idea of a surf ‘n’ turf lobster-on-a–steak-combo. But here land and sea were in harmony. The menu roams around the Iberian Peninsula as well as crossing the Med to Italy to plunder its flavours too with six charcuterie offerings and five of cheese. All the classic hams are there. Serrano, Jamon Iberico, coppa, speck. Flying the flag for the UK on the menu is confit of Gloucester Old Spot pork belly with cannelini beans. Mind you braised oxtails with bone marrow and celeriac puree sounds fantastic too.
Ben repeated a mantra that I heard many times on the project; don’t over cook it. Lack of stock and a shy hand with the butter are where most people go wrong when cooking at home I believe. What’s more all the chefs I visited were generous with the salt and pepper.
The team behind the restaurant have also opened a butcher’s shop across the street, the black foot butcher, named after the breed of pig they stock I believe. The enterprise began as they we’re looking for somewhere to store bulk purchases of some of the Continental produce they’d ordered in. Ben also works in the butchers as well as the restaurant so is ideally placed to understand the needs of both trades.
Vivek Singh – The Cinnamon Kitchen, London
I met with Vivek Singh in his brand new kitchen located in the old East India Company spice warehouse. It’s only recently opened before Christmas and the new kitchen was bright, spacious and staffed by a brigade that ran into double figures. It’s a very modern and professional operation that reflects the area he’s in and the clientele he’s aiming to reach.
While we were waiting for the recipe to cook I had a nose round. Nestled amongst all the modern stainless steel surfaces were two massive charcoal powered tandoor ovens. I took the opportunity to ask why the naan breads always stick to the side and never fall into the coals. “Oh it can do if you’re oven isn’t hot enough or your dough not wet enough” Vivek told me. They also get very very hot, achieving something like 480°C. “One time a camera man put his camera in to get a shot of the flames and it melted his foam microphone cover”.
Vivek was also kind enough to offer me some lunch and so I got to chat to his other chefs about the food. What I thought was excellent was Vivek’s use of traditional meats, even cuts, but just augments through the flavours of the sub-continent. Rajasthani spiced roast red deer, (An homage perhaps to the Indian Gazelle which is found in that region) roast lamb saddle, mint-onion sauce, pilau rice, seared haddock, Devon crab and kokum crust. Yet it is the spicing that lifts these dishes up to the extraordinary, delicate and multi-layered and very tasty.
I got chatting to his pastry chef, 21-year-old James Mossman, about puddings. Nowadays diners are often skipping pudding no matter what the cuisine. Add to that the (misguided) perception that Indian cuisine doesn’t do desserts, and the fact James is a young white guy and the odds aren’t in his favour. Which is a shame because what is in his favour is his really good cooking. The little samples he did me, particularly the pineapple were extemporary. “All too often people thing of pudding in Indian restaurants is ice-cream in a hollowed out orange”. Not here it’s not.
The second thing of note was a lamb dish that was inspired by a description in a 1000-year-old text called the Mānasollāsa written by Somesvara II describing the cooking thin slivers of lamb on hot stones.
Vivek wanted to recreate this dish using his customer facing grill which on the day was staffed by a lovely bloke from Nepal who also rustled my up paneer in a long broad chilli. Anyway, the cooking is fantastic, the maitre d’ was a lovely Scottish lass, and the place is less ‘civil service’ than the Cinnamon Club in Westminster and a bit more business, you should go.
More images on Flickr