Curtis Stone: Cooking up a storm

All-action Aussie chef Curtis Stone is gunning for television fame and Michelin Stars, says Chloe Scott. Should be easy with recipes like these. Photographs by Craig Kinder

"It takes you a while to get used to it," he says of leaving the testosterone-drenched kitchen for television. "I did a reality TV show in Australia where people set up their own restaurant. It was an interesting role, but you read a script into a black box, which I didn't particularly enjoy."

Stone continues, "I've just done a two-month trip filming the third series of Surfing the Menu with [fellow antipodean chef] Ben O'Donoghue. We go to eight locations to meet local food producers - and we surf in most spots," he adds, smiling. Stone left White to go full-time on television 18 months ago; "I've had too much on to cook in a restaurant."

His rise has been a fast one. He knocked on cantankerous White's door on arrival in the UK eight years ago and White employed him at the Cafe Royal that afternoon. When White's Mirabelle opened, Stone became sous chef and it was subsequently awarded a Michelin star. The TV offers started hurtling in, and now he is publishing a debut cookbook, Cooking with Curtis.

There is no doubt that he is doughtily ambitious. "I was playing Aussie Rules football, in a league similar to division two football here, but you can't juggle lifestyles. To be serious about food, I had to give it up. It's quite hard for other people to understand that."

Stone seems faintly disappointed with White, the forefather of celebrity chefs, who has given up his Michelin stars for family life. "I don't see much of him anymore, he's busy..." Stone trails off. "Marco is a legend," he continues. "He used to have the best restaurants in town and was the youngest guy in the world to win three stars, which reflects how * much time he spent in the kitchens. He only has one star now, at the Mirabelle [it used to have three]."

There is no animosity, just a lack of enthusiasm for White's current work - compared to his keen words on Gordon Ramsay, who he is friends with. "Gordon is amazing, a brilliant businessman. I think, in a way, Gordon has filled Marco's shoes - he has the best restaurants in town."

It would be easy to suggest that Stone is following Ramsay's career path. They both learnt under White, and Stone's television presence is a good way to get his talent noticed, especially as he is planning to launch his first restaurant in London next year.

But Stone is less pugnacious than Ramsay. He likes golf and is a big fan of shooting - and it was on a shoot in Yorkshire that the Raymond Blanc story emerges. The chefs were a few hundred yards apart, while shooting pheasants by a wood, when Blanc, aiming at one, shot a bit too close to Stone. "He nearly bloody shot me, the crazy Frenchman," he laughs, reminiscing.

"When I started here," he continues, "everyone was talking about game. Marco was a really big hunter and he used to shoot pretty much every day. The first to come in was grouse, but I'd never even seen one before."

However, Stone has clearly become accustomed to European food; "Most of my adult life has been here and my training is all European; mostly under White." So I ask if he has any plans to move back to Oz. "I don't know," he replies. "I'm a greedy bastard, and I'd like to be able to come and go." And then, of course, there is the temptation of America: "New York would be amazing to work in, and we have been in discussions with Discovery in LA about shooting a pilot." Perhaps even more exciting prospects prevail for the Australian prodigy. *

'Cooking With Curtis' is published by Pavilion, priced £16.99. To order a copy for £15.99 (including p&p), call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897

Warm salad of smoked lamb, with a Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette

Serves 4 as a starter

In this particular recipe the smoke flavour is very mild as I don't want it to overpower the delicate lamb flavour.

2tsp Maldon sea salt
2tsp paprika
1/2tsp crushed black pepper
2 x 250g/8oz loins of lamb
20g/3/4oz tea leaves
20 cherry tomatoes
80g/31/4oz mustard cress
80g/31/4oz wild rocket
40g/11/2oz mixed salad leaves

For the vinaigrette:

75ml/21/2fl oz Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
1tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
50ml/2fl oz grapeseed oil
50ml/2fl oz extra virgin olive oil

Rub the salt, paprika and crushed black pepper over the lamb loins and leave in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

To make the vinaigrette: place the vinegar and chives in a mixing bowl and, while whisking constantly, slowly add the grapeseed and extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Line the base of a double saucepan with foil and place over a high heat. As soon as the foil is very hot, add the tea leaves. Once the tea leaves start smoking, place the lamb loins in the top of the double saucepan, replace lid and leave for 45 seconds. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the smoke to infuse the lamb for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan. Remove the lamb from the saucepan and seal the lamb on all sides in the hot pan.

Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray and place in the hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.

Thinly slice the smoked lamb. Toss the lamb with the tomatoes, cress, rocket and salad leaves. Divide between 4 plates, pour vinaigrette over and serve immediately.

Roast wild duck with carrots, parsnips and a honey and balsamic glaze

Serves 4-6 as a main course

A wild duck has a gamier flavour than a tame duck and much less fat, so they are ideally suited to roasting.

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 wild ducks
4 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
2tbsp runny honey
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper to season

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place the garlic, thyme and bay leaves into the cavity of the duck.

Place the ducks in a large roasting tray and seal on all sides with the olive oil over a medium-high heat until golden brown. Remove the ducks from the tray and pour off half the fat. Add the carrots and allow them to colour slightly, then add the parsnips and toss together. Mix the honey and balsamic vinegar together in a bowl. Once the vegetables have coloured slightly, place the duck on top of the vegetables and brush the honey and balsamic vinegar glaze evenly over. Roast in the hot oven for 18-25 minutes, depending on the size of the duck, basting with the honey and balsamic vinegar glaze frequently.

Remove the duck from oven and leave for 8 minutes, brushing with the glaze.

If the carrots and parsnips are not coloured to your liking, leave them to cook while the duck is resting. Season with salt and black pepper.

Carve and serve the duck with the vegetables.

Scrambled eggs with black truffles

Serves 4-6 as a starter

If you can't afford the truffles, you can always substitute them with smoked salmon.

12 eggs
600ml/20fl oz double cream
1 black truffle
1tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
10g/1/4 oz butter
Bread, to serve

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and mix until combined. Chop half of the black truffle and finely slice the rest. Combine the chopped truffle in a separate bowl with the parsley and set the sliced truffle aside.

Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and add the egg mixture. Don't stir for 30 seconds, then start to gently move the mixture around the pan with a wooden spoon, creating curds of egg. Toast the bread and place the eggs on the toast. Garnish with the remaining sliced truffle and serve.

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