Simon Rogan: 'Truffle oil is a cheat's way out as it masks a lot of flavours'
Sunday 27 November 2011
My earliest food memory... My mum's curries. They weren't expert – she would use sauces and packets rather than constructing her own curry paste or anything like that – but they were tasty. My favourite, though, was my mum's stews with loads of vegetables and nice, big, fat dumplings.
My store-cupboard essentials... Bread – at home I like to eat tiger bread or just a good-quality white crispy loaf. Also, good sandwich fillings, such as ham, mayonnaise and chicken and some fish fingers in the freezer. A fish-finger sandwich with a bit of ketchup and mayonnaise is snack heaven to me.
My favourite cookbook... In terms of home cooking, I like Nigel Slater's stuff, particularly his recent one, Tender, in which he cooks from his own vegetable garden. We've got our own garden at [my restaurant in Cumbria] L'Enclume, so I felt a connection with what he was doing, which is really admirable, especially where he lives [in London]. Professionally, I have been inspired by Michel Bras's Essential Cuisine. I share an affinity with him, in that his philosophy is about promoting particular ingredients from his local area in the Aubrac region of France, which is very similar to L'Enclume, where we try to use only north-west English produce and promote wild herbs and things like that.
My favourite food shop... The Natural Kitchen in Marylebone [London]. It is a general grocers, which is full of lovely ingredients, particularly concentrating on the organic and ethical, and it's a great place to have a coffee.
My top table... The Bluebird Café which is on the shore of Coniston Water in Cumbria. It's a lovely café, named in honour of Donald Campbell, who died on the lake while trying to break the world water-speed record in his Bluebird K7 boat. It serves simple, home-cooked food, and, looking across the water, it's one of the most beautiful places you could possibly eat. Also, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris: the guy's a god, and was a big inspiration to me early in my career.
My desert-island dish... It's got to be a close toss-up between a fry-up and Thai green curry. Up in the north-west, we're quite blessed with Thai restaurants, funnily enough: there area couple of good ones in Kendal and one in Lancaster which we'll go to, as it's a cuisine I tend to leave to the experts.
My guilty pleasure... A classic Vienetta. I had a taste for it in my childhood, and that's carried through to my 10-year-old son, so we both like tucking in as a treat. I'm also strangely attracted to Ginsters pepper steak slices. If I'm passing a service station, or even popping into Tesco, I might pick one up. I eat them cold: I'm a right minger!
The strangest thing i've eaten... Jellyfish, which I had at a restaurant called Dos Palillos in Barcelona. The only way I can describe it is it's like eating crispy rubber bands. It wasn't pleasant; I definitely wouldn't eat it again.
My pet hates...Truffle oil – I think it's a real cheat's way out because it bombards the dish and masks a lot of flavours. And okra, too. I've always had a thing about the shape of it, and the juice that comes out of it. It's quite snobby, but I also hate repetition – going to a restaurant and having a tasting menu and finding the same ingredients in different dishes and that it hasn't been well thought through.
My tipple of choice... Gin and tonic. It doesn't matter what gin: I'm an expert in them all. Most nights when I finish work I'll have one while I catch up with the news. That's my alternative to cocoa.
Simon Rogan is a chef and restaurateur, known for the Michelin-starred L'Enclume and London's Roganic. He will be sharing some of his culinary secrets at this year's Taste of Christmas, a one-stop shop for those preparing for the festive season, taking place at London's Excel from 2 to 4 December (tasteofchristmas.com)
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