Sunday, 15 April 2007
The Big Show Off
Well, what a weekend. First my brother Darren's superb news. Then I was kindly invited to participate in the Eat, Drink and Enjoy Festival which has been held this past week in Newcastle and Gateshead. So there I was on Saturday, all miked up with the giant screens and speakers, doing a 3 course meal in front of the Saturday punters in Eldon Square, Newcastle.
Maybe it was the nightmare of MasterChef and all of it's nervous tension that has toughened me up. Or maybe it is because I am starting to become a lot more confident cooking and speaking in front of people, as it is now part of my job within the Expochef team. But either way, I felt great. And despite a very hot smoking pan episode due to the unpredictable burners we were using, it all went well and I left a very happy man.
As part of the show, I was asked to basically make whatever I wanted. I decided that I wanted to keep on with my theme of creating food that anybody can make. Nothing flash, no complicated or mesmerising techniques. Just good seasonal British produce cooked and presented well. I emphasised to the crowd my desire to get people back into the kitchens. That cooking should not be something people are scared to do and that we should all make every effort to eat more healthily using seasonal local produce. It has been amazing how many people I have met this year that need assistance and I am honoured to have been told by complete strangers that I have been an inspiration to them. I guess that if a rough old Geordie boy like me can do it, anybody can! And I am a firm believer that it is never too late to start.
I made a simple pan fried salmon served on Puy lentils (okay, non-British but I love them!) and spring onions, with a watercress, pear and walnut salad and a simple horseradish and lemon dressing. It is a favourite in our house, and judging by the queue at the end to snaffle my produce, the crowd loved it too. I can't see how anybody can't enjoy a good piece of crispy skinned wild salmon, complimented with a fiery horseradish sauce. The flavours are wonderful and compliment each other perfectly. A crisp salad using some new local watercress partners the fish superbly.
I hope that the points I was making got across to some people. As well as entertaining and cooking, there is a serious element to my show. This kind of meal does not cost much, it is healthy and tasty, anybody can do it and it works. We all owe it to ourselves to get fitter and healthier and be ambassadors to our children and peers alike. If the latest Government white paper on tackling obesity is going to get across to the everyday U.K. nation, it has to be uncomplicated and achievable food we are attempting. Now get in that kitchen and get cooking!
Salmon with a Watercress, Pear and Walnut Salad
Serves 2 and 1 child
2 pieces of salmon fillet, skin on
4 handfuls of Puy lentils, washed
3 Spring onions
Ready made horseradish sauce (or make your own simply by grating some horseradish into a little creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice)
A handful of walnuts
Salt and Pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C, GM8.
2 - Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in the lentils and cook for approximately 15 minutes. Drain. Slice your spring onions and combine with a little horseradish sauce. Taste for seasoning.
3 - Heat an oven-proof non-stick pan with a little olive oil. Slash the skin of the salmon a few times, season and place skin side down in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the skin colours, then flip and place straight into a hot oven. Cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on how pink you like it.
4 - While the salmon is cooking, make a little dressing with the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbs olive oil and black pepper. Slice the pear into thin slices and combine with the watercress, walnuts and the dressing.
5 - Place a small pile of lentils onto a plate and place the salmon on top. Drop a little salad beside it and drizzle some of the horseradish around the plate. Beautiful!