Tom Kerridge is a bloke.
He also happens to be a chef whose Hand and Flowers, outside London, is the only pub in the world with two Michelin stars. He is one of the U.K.'s most popular television cooks, known for his down-to-earth style of cooking and communicating.
He likes to speak his mind, even if that sometimes gets him into trouble. He landed in hot water last year with a remark that women might lack the aggression to make it to the top in cooking.
"That was an incredibly clumsy comment," he says. "People say daft things all the time. It’s only when you are in the spotlight that it gets highlighted.
"So it made this worldwide thing that caused the industry to look at itself, which is great because we all have to pay attention and take note. There are chef shortages, irrespective of gender. We need to look at the way we operate so that it is more attractive for people to stay in the industry no matter what their background."
Kerridge has a new book, Tom's Table, whose uncomplicated recipes and style reflect the man himself. Kerridge is warm and friendly. And until he gave up drinking three years ago, he was the life of any party. These days, he's more measured and reflective - though he's still likely to grab you in a bear hug.
The book features 100 familiar recipes that even the most amateur of cooks ought to be able to rustle up at home. Kerridge's theory is that even if you get things wrong, you are likely to pick up a few tips.
"There's nothing I would love more than if in 20 years' time that cookbook is still on someone's shelf in their kitchen, covered in grease and flour and dirt from being used," he says. "It is supposed to be cooked from."
The interview in Rotunda restaurant over, Kerridge steps outside to be photographed beside the Regent's Canal. A passer-by calls to him, "Don't fall in. I like your cooking too much."
How does he feel about the celebrity that has come from his appearances on TV programs such as Food & Drink?
"I absolutely love it, where people have seen you on the telly, where they say hello to you in the supermarket," he says. "But you can't think that makes you something that you are not.
"I am a chef. I've been a chef for 24 years. I'm a bloke that wears a white T-shirt and a blue apron in the kitchen and a (drug) dealer's tracksuit when I'm not."
Here are two recipes from the new book:
Weekend Roast Chicken
1 large chicken, about 2kg, giblets removed
1 unwaxed lemon, quartered
A small bunch of rosemary
For the brine
3.5 liters water
150g caster sugar
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 unwaxed lemons, sliced
For the rub
50 ml olive oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- First make the brine. Put all the ingredients except the lemons into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Transfer to a bowl or container that will fit the chicken, add the lemon slices and leave to cool. Once cooled, cover with cling film and refrigerate.
- Before you go to bed, place the chicken in the brine, making sure it’s fully submerged. Cover with cling film or a lid and place in the fridge. Leave to brine overnight for about 8 hours (no more than 12 hours or the chicken will be too salty).
- The next morning, lift the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with plenty of kitchen paper. Place on a rack in a large roasting tin and return to the fridge, uncovered, for another 6–8 hours to dry out the skin (ready to crisp up in the oven).
- Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 140°C/Fan 120°C/Gas 1. Mix the ingredients for the rub together in a bowl, then smear all over the chicken, to coat evenly. Return the bird to the rack in the roasting tin, breast side up, and put the lemon and rosemary in the cavity.
- Roast for 3 hours, basting from time to time. The chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh area near the breast (but not touching the bone) registers 70°C, or the juices run clear when the same area is pierced with a skewer. For the last 10 minutes, whack the oven temperature up to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7 to crisp and brown the skin.
- Remove from the oven and stand the bird upright to let the juices in the cavity pour into the tin. Cover loosely with foil and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes or so. Serve the chicken with the ‘gravy’ created by the juices in the tin, and seasonal vegetables.
White Chocolate and Pistachio Blondies
300g plain ﬂour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
100g shelled pistachio nuts, (bright green ones if you can ﬁnd them), roughly chopped
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
50g sesame seeds
150g butter, plus extra for greasing
300g demerara sugar
40ml rapeseed oil
40ml sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
Flaky sea salt, to ﬁnish
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 25cm square cake tin with butter and line the base and sides with non-stick baking parchment, letting some overhang the sides of the tin, to make it easier to lift out the cake later.
- Put the ﬂour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix well, using a balloon whisk, to combine. Stir in the pistachios, 100g of the chocolate and the sesame seeds.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a very low heat, then add the demerara sugar, rapeseed and sesame oil, and the eggs. Using the point of a small, sharp knife, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod directly into the pan. Heat very gently for 3–4 minutes, whisking constantly, to combine and warm through – don’t overheat or the eggs will curdle.
- Pour the warm mixture onto the dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined and the chocolate has melted. Finally, fold in the remaining chopped chocolate.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25–30 minutes, until cooked through. It should be lightly golden and quite ﬁrm to the touch. If a skewer inserted into the centre comes up slightly tacky that’s ﬁne, as it means the blondie will be nice and moist in the centre.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle on a generous pinch of ﬂaky sea salt. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then lift out, peel away the parchment and place on a wire rack to cool.
- Cut into squares to serve. The blondies will keep for 4–5 days in an airtight tin.
Extract taken from Tom’s Table by Tom Kerridge (Absolute Press, £25.00, Hardback) Photography © Cristian Barnett
Richard Vines is the chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines