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Learn to cook outside your comfort zone

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The Best of Pinterest UK awards kicks off this month starting with food and drink, which will celebrate the best British content on Pinterest  – from chefs to bloggers to local producers and restaurants with categories such as Comfort Food and Food Trends. We met with guest judge Tom Aikens to sample his pancakes and find out more... 

How did you come to be involved in the Best of Pinterest UK? 

Pinterest is a great place to find food ideas and inspiration, so it felt like a natural collaboration. It’s useful too, because we can see which of our menu items people are taking pictures of the most. It’s fun to see. 

Is it useful for amateur cooks too? 

It’s a good way for people to see what food trends are out there. There are boards that focus on a particular food item, ingredient or dish, like breakfast. The fun thing is people can be as specialised or as broad as they want. 

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Which categories are you most excited about? 

I’m always cooking with my two little girls, so I’m looking forward to judging the sections on cooking with kids and the brunch recipes. Kids get very animated when it comes to food and it’s nice to see how they react. Kids are very visual, and they might not eat a food just because of its colour. Even I’ve had: “Daddy, I’m not eating that!” 

What advice would you give to home chefs who want to be more ambitious? 

Don’t play safe. Cook outside of your comfort zone, otherwise you’re just going to do the same things. We all have firm favourites we bring out at a dinner parties, but it’s nice to try something a bit more edgy, or more time-consuming. We only get better by pushing ourselves. 

We all have firm favourites we bring out at a dinner parties, but it’s nice to try something a bit more edgy

What seasonal ingredients should we look out for at the moment?

There’s a lot of good game about. For people who don’t like overly flavoured meats, venison is a good one because it’s not like a game bird that’s been hung a long time. Pheasant is the most similar to chicken; you prepare it in the same way and cutting it up isn’t too fiddly. You can roast it whole. 

Do you do the cooking on Christmas Day?

Yes, but I don’t always do turkey, I change it up. Sometimes I do a ham or a nice bit of beef. We take it in turns as to which families we spend Christmas with so it depends on who’s there.

If you look at the new places opening, they’re quite gutsy, earthy places

You opened Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea 10 years ago. What’s the biggest food trend you’ve seen in that time?

When we opened in 2006, I was one of the first to make using British suppliers the focal point of the concept of the restaurant. And that really caught on. Foraging, on land or sea, is another notable one. A lot of things that started in restaurants have trickled down to supermarkets. 

What food trends can we expect in 2017? 

I think people will want to eat more street food, things that are more off the cuff, things with a food truck background that people have flipped into a restaurant. If you look at the new places opening, they’re quite gutsy, earthy places.

Tell me about those ricotta pancakes...

At the weekends I always cook something with my girls and pancakes are one of the favourites. These ones I like particularly because they’ve got a slightly different taste and texture to them, they’re quite quick and easy to make and they’re light and fluffy. They’re not like the classic American pancake that’s thick and stodgy – because they’re made with egg white they’re always nice and light.


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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes 

Ingredients:

  • 112g plain flour
  • 4g baking powder
  • 1g bicarbonate of soda
  • 1g salt
  • 180g yogurt
  • 1 large free-range egg, separated
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 90g smooth ricotta
  • Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

Method:

  • Step 1: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and 5g salt.
  • Step 2: In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolk, sugar, ricotta and lemon zest.
  • Step 3: Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until blended. Whisk until smooth.
  • Step 4: In another bowl, whisk the egg white with 1g salt until soft peaks form, then using a spatula, carefully fold the egg white into the batter until just mixed.
  • Step 5: Spray your pan with oil and place one ladleful of the batter into the hot pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until small bubbles appear on the pancake surface and the bottoms turn golden brown (about four minutes).
  • Step 6: Carefully turn the pancake over and cook until lightly browned on the other side (about 90 seconds).

Lemon syrup base

Ingredients: (Makes 10 portions)

  • 70g lemon juice
  • 60g water
  • 750g sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemons
  • 1/2 vanilla pod split and scraped
  • lemon grass
  • lemon balm

Method

Place all ingredients except the zest into a pan. Bring to a simmer, add the zest and re-simmer. Whisk well then leave to infuse and let it stand before use, keeping in the vanilla pods but removing the lemon grass and lemon balm.

For more great recipe ideas from Tom, view his Pinterest profile here. Plus, to be in with a chance of winning  an Apple iPad Air 2 click here.


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