New book Chefs At Home reveals what the UK’s best professional cooks have been making and eating during the pandemic. Below, culinary stars Selin Kiazim, Clare Smyth and Nieves Barragán Mohacho share their go-to lockdown dishes.
It’s no exaggeration to say that alongside seeing our loved ones, getting a culture fix and jetting off on holiday, one of the things we’ve missed most during the pandemic is going out to eat. From leisurely brunches to date-night dinners, it was perhaps the doors closing on our favourite restaurants, pubs and cafes last year that brought home the realisation that our lives were on hold.
As Mark Lewis explains, the shutdown of these much-loved spaces has emphasised just how much they enrich our lives. “We play out our biggest life events in hospitality venues,” says the chief executive of the charity Hospitality Action. “They’re where many of those moments that make life worth living take place.”
Needless to say, the closure of bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants didn’t just limit our social lives. When lockdown began in March 2020, people working in the industry were plunged into mass unemployment and financial peril. For those whose livelihoods were disappearing, Hospitality Action – which supports hospitality workers who have experienced a setback – became a lifeline.
At the same time, professional chefs across the country began to get creative in their home kitchens. Almost exactly one year since the start of the first lockdown, the fruits of their labours have been compiled in forthcoming book Chefs At Home, a celebration of the relaxed yet imaginative home cooking that has carried UK chefs through the pandemic.
Featuring recipes from food world luminaries including Heston Blumenthal, Thomasina Miers and Angela Hartnett, Chefs At Home is filled with dishes designed to bring comfort in tough times – from snacks and starters to main courses, desserts and bakes. Even better, 100% of royalties will go towards directly to Hospitality Action, to help the charity continue its vital work supporting hospitality staff around the UK.
Ahead of the cookbook’s publication on 31 March, we have three recipes from its pages to share, courtesy of three of London’s top female chefs. Start with the halloumi loaf recipe by Selin Kiazim, the head chef and owner at acclaimed modern Turkish restaurant Oklava in Shoreditch: it’s a simple yet addictive savoury bake that you’ll have to resist eating all in one go.
Looking for an easy, comforting dinner recipe? Try the charred chilli chicken by Clare Smyth, the founder and head chef of Core by Clare Smyth in Notting Hill. Former Gordon Ramsay protégé Smyth made her name (and scored three Michelin stars) with seasonal British fine dining, but this rich and fragrant rice dish draws heavily on flavours more commonly found in Asian cooking: think fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, coriander and peanuts.
Finally, Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s torrijas are a beautiful way to round off a Sunday lunch at home. Born in Bilbao, Barragán Mohacho is now the chef and director of Michelin-starred restaurant Sabor in Mayfair – and this creamy, citrusy dessert dish, featuring caramelised milk-infused brioche and an orange liqueur sauce, is a delicious Spanish twist on bread and butter pudding.
Sample these recipes now, then order Chefs At Home – the UK’s beloved restaurant industry will thank you.
Selin Kiazim’s halloumi loaf
Selin says: “This is such an easy loaf to make and it’s great to have in hunks for breakfast or as a snack with a cup of tea. It proved a firm favourite for us at home during lockdown. You could use a mixture of olives and halloumi, or just straight olives, if you prefer – just pit them and roughly chop before adding to the mixture.”
- 500g plain flour
- 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
- ½ tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- 125ml extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 x 225g blocks of halloumi, cut into 1cm cubes
- 1 tbsp dried mint
In a large bowl mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add 400ml of water and half the olive oil to form a thick batter.
Add the onion, halloumi and dried mint and mix well.
Use the remaining olive oil to heavily grease a 900g loaf tin. Place the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place for about 2–3 hours, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/Gas mark 6–7.
Place the risen loaf, in the tin, in the oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a lovely crust has formed. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely, before cutting into portions.
Clare Smyth’s charred chilli chicken with jasmine rice
Clare says: “This is a super-easy, quick and delicious recipe that I have cooked at home for more than 20 years. Since opening Core, it has also become a team favourite as a hearty meal before dinner service. As the days get colder and you are looking for a meal that delivers warmth and comfort, is easy to prepare, with a few, inexpensive ingredients, and can be shared happily among family and friends – this is the one.”
For the chicken and rice:
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
- 300g jasmine rice
- 250ml vegetable oil
- 4 red chillies, halved lengthways
- 80g fresh ginger root, peeled and finely diced
- 80ml chicken stock
- 240ml light soy sauce
- 180ml rice wine vinegar
- 4 spring onions, sliced
- 40g coriander, leaves and stems chopped
- 120g peanuts, toasted and chopped
For the marinade:
- 350ml light soy sauce
- 350ml rice wine vinegar
- 60g cornflour
First, mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Then, add the diced chicken, turn to coat and set aside in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.
Place the jasmine rice in a saucepan with 600ml of water and cook according to the packet instructions. Once the rice is cooked, drain if necessary and cover to keep warm.
Place a large, deep frying pan or a wok over a medium–high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the chillies and cook until they start to blacken, then using a slotted spoon, remove them from the oil and set aside.
Remove the chicken from the marinade. Add the pieces to the hot oil and fry until golden. Add the ginger, then cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Bring the liquid to the boil and cook for a further couple of minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a big bowl. Top with the spring onions, coriander, nuts and finally the charred chillies. Serve with the rice alongside.
Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s torrijas with orange sauce
Nieves says: “Usually you’d use old bread to make torrijas – it’s what people used to eat when their bread went stale – but I like to use brioche, as it’s more buttery, and naughtier. You can make the orange sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to a week. The dessert can be served hot or cold.”
- 250ml whole milk
- 250ml double cream
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 175g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- juice of 1 lemon
- 250g brioche (about ½ a loaf)
- knob of unsalted butter, to caramelise (25g-ish)
For the orange sauce:
- 1 orange (preferably Seville)
- 40g caster sugar
- 50g Ponche Caballero or Cointreau
- 1 cinnamon stick
First, make the orange sauce. Peel the orange without including any of the pith, then cut the peel into shreds. Divide the orange into segments and remove the membrane and any remaining pith.
Put the orange peel and segments into a pan on a low–medium heat with the rest of the orange-sauce ingredients and 20ml of water. Stir together gently. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring all the time – the mixture will start to break down and become almost like marmalade. Add a splash more water if it looks like it needs it – it should be thick, not too runny. Set aside while you make the torrijas.
Put the milk and cream in a pan with the cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and infuse the milk, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, cut the crusts off the brioche (discard the crusts), then cut the brioche into thick (3cm) slices. Cut the slices in half to give 3 x 3cm chunks. Put the bread into a container in a single layer and pour over the infused milk. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
The next day, the brioche should have soaked up all the milk. Put the butter into a frying pan on a medium heat. When it’s melted, sprinkle over a little sugar, then add the brioche pieces to the pan. Caramelise the brioche pieces, turning until golden brown on all sides and sprinkling with more sugar as you turn – they should be crispy on the outside but milky within.
Spoon the orange sauce on to a plate and put the torrijas on top – serve just as it is, or with vanilla ice cream.
Chefs At Home: Delicious Family Recipes From The UK’s Leading Locked Down Chefs (£26, Jon Croft Editions) is out 31 March. Pre-order here
Photography: © Kris Kirkham