My mum was quite a good cook and she used a pressure cooker for beef bourguignon and stews. I think it’s a really important bit of kitchen equipment and often use it myself. It’s such a great tool for keeping the flavour in the dish. My earliest memory is of jumping up and down at one particular point of the kitchen floor so it would release the lid of the pressure cooker – to my mum’s great annoyance.
As a teenager I tried cooking lots of different food but the first full meal I ever cooked was Sunday lunch with all the trimmings: cauliflower cheese, buttered carrots and roast potatoes – the whole nine yards. It’s still one of my favourite meals.
I’ve become fascinated over the years by historic British cooking. I often flick through The Encyclopædia of Practical Cookery: A Complete Dictionary of All Pertaining to the Art of Cookery and Table Service, edited by Theodore Francis Garrett and published in 1890. Also, Harold McGee’s book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.
Salt. I know it may not be politically correct but salt can heighten the flavour of a dish and make bitter foods perceptively sweeter. It helps the al dente texture of pasta when added to the cooking water as well as curing foods, brining meat and fish, and drawing the juices from vegetables. Its versatility in the kitchen is unsurpassed.
I’ve just returned from a ski break in Courmeyeur, northern Italy, with my kids, and we ate at one of my favourite restaurants on a mountain, Maison Vieille. Everything from wood-oven roast suckling pig to a great pizza, washed down with a beautiful Tuscan red; the best preparation for an afternoon ski session.
It would have to be my chef’s knife. However, for the home cook, I think an oven thermometer is an essential tool to get recipes accurate. Once you start using one you will be surprised just how inaccurate your oven dial can be.
Roast chicken. It’s a family favourite, made extra juicy by brining the chicken before roasting, then cooking it for a long time – 3 hours at 90˚C. Brining is a fantastic technique for keeping in moisture. It involves a little forethought but minimum effort and it guarantees a juicy, succulent bird every time. And using a thermometer probe ensures the chicken is done just right.
Probably just a simple burger – but a perfect one.