Eating In: Table manners

There are too many chefs throwing tantrums these days, says Michael Bateman. Happily Philip Howard isn't one of them. His style may be unassuming, but the results are exceptional

WHAT kind of a modern chef does Philip Howard call himself? He's never been seen on television food gameshows cracking eggs and jokes. He doesn't throw pots, pans and insults at his staff. He doesn't stride out of the kitchen to eject diners from their seats.

So what sort of a modern chef is he? Well, very unassuming, but nevertheless one of the top dozen in the country. Though only 32, he actually believes his place is in the kitchen, improving his cooking skills - skills which rate a considerable eight out of 10 in The Good Food Guide and which have won him two rosettes in the Michelin guide.

Unusually for such a high flier, Philip is Anglo- Saxon through and through. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved to Connecticut in the US before his parents settled in London. However, it wasn't until he went to university (to read microbiology at the University of Kent) that he had even the faintest idea of pursuing a career in food.

It was there, while sharing digs with two mature students, that he started to cook. "It's one of those things. I really enjoyed it, minute in, minute out," he says. Cooking may be an art but it is very much a scientific process, too, and his course work fed his passion.

Take one example: salt - the most used (and abused) ingredient in the kitchen. It alters the taste and character of everything. If you understand the chemistry you'll know when to use it while frying onions. Salt draws out moisture, so if you sprinkle it on onions when you begin to fry them, it makes them sweat. The moisture evaporates more quickly and they will sweeten without colouring (starches in the onion turn to sugar).

Conversely, fry your onions without salt and they will quickly seal in the heat, crisp up and brown. Then you add the salt at the end as seasoning. A tiny change of method leading to very different results.

His parents, who had paid up handsomely for "20 years of extremely expensive, posh education" were bemused when he said he wanted to cook. But they introduced him to a family who had a chateau in the Dordogne, and he cooked there for one lovely summer. He was hooked.

A year's travel in Thailand, Indonesia and Australia strengthened his resolve. On his return, he wrote to the best restaurants and Albert Roux gave him a job in their City catering division. A year later he took his wife to dinner at Harvey's, where Marco Pierre White was performing his miracles. "I had never eaten a better meal. At the end Marco came out of the kitchen to talk to the guests, and I asked him whether I could have a job."

He had an inspirational year working with Marco and spent the third educative year of his self-imposed "university course" at Bibendum with Simon Hopkinson. All this hard work paid off when Marco introduced him to Nigel Platts-Martin, who set him up at The Square. Four years later, he won his first Michelin star.

Philip describes his style as straightforward, but he means straightforward as in classic French cuisine. Sourcing ingredients is his passion, and he claims to have more suppliers than any chef in town. "If you buy outstanding ingredients, cook them with some finesse and put them in posh surroundings, people will give you the benefit of the doubt," he says, with unnecessary modesty.

His strawberry jelly is a perfect example of how delicious a simple recipe can be.To make it, simply put 500g (1lb) whole strawberries into a bowl, add 250ml (8fl oz) water and 125g (412oz) sugar and stir. Cover with clingfilm or a lid and set over a pan of simmering water for two hours. Poured through a sieve, this will yield 400ml (14fl oz) of juice. Soften the three leaves of gelatine in cold water and add to the strawberry liquor. Chill until set.


POACHING EGGS: Break the egg into a cup of vinegar and leave for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and then poach in simmering water. The vinegar hardens the protein in the white of the egg, keeping it compact and dense.

MASHING POTATOES: For more flavoursome mashed potatoes, buy large potatoes and bake them, unpeeled, on a bed of coarse salt until the skins are crisp. Scoop out the centres and mash with warm milk and butter in the usual way.

KEEPING PUReES GREEN: Prevent chive oil, avocado puree, apple sorbet or apple juice from turning brown by adding a powdered Vitamin C tablet to the blend. It acts on the chlorophyll to stop it from oxidising.

USING UP CHEESE: For tasty appetisers, mash up any left-over cheeses in a blender with an egg yolk or two, spread on to thin rounds of toasted day-old baguette and grill.

FRESH HERBS: If your stir-fry lacks flavour, finish it with a handful of chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, coriander and basil. It will immediately jump into life.


Serves 4

350g/14oz tuna loin, trimmed into cylinders 3cm/112in across

4 golf ball-sized tomatoes on the vine

80g/3oz green beans

12 anchovy fillets

1 dessertspoon of tapenade (black olive paste)

8 new potatoes

4 eggs

50g/2oz mixed salad

2 tablespoons French dressing (1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil)

salt & pepper

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Blanch the tomatoes, stalks on, for 10 seconds in boiling water. Peel, season and drizzle with olive oil. Season the tuna and cook very briefly in olive oil in a hot pan (the centre should remain raw), and cut into eight slices. Cook the green beans in boiling, salted water until tender. Refresh under running water and reserve. Cook the new potatoes in salted water, allow to cool slightly, peel carefully, drizzle with the dressing and allow to sit. Cook the eggs in boiling water for seven minutes exactly, refresh under running water and peel carefully - they will not be fully hard-boiled. Cut in half and season.

To serve

Place the ingredients as follows, in the style of a clock face: place the tomato at the top of the plate, then put a dessertspoonful of tapenade, then half an egg, then a slice of tuna, then a little bundle of green beans, then a potato, then anchovies, the other half egg, another potato, and finally the second slice of tuna. Mix the garlic, shallots and dressing together, mix some with the salad leaves and place in the centre of each plate. Drizzle the remainder around the edge of each plate. Serve immediately.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?