Tell us a bit about how you got into food?
Funnily enough, I never once thought about being a Chef when I was growing up, I actually wanted to be either a professional rugby player or an artist. I completely fell into being a Chef but when I did I instantly fell in love with it too. My first chance to work in a professional kitchen came at the Viking Hotel on the banks of the River Ouse in York. Here, I was introduced to exotic ingredients like foie gras, truffles, sweetbread, wild game and whole wild fish.
Whilst working at the Viking Hotel, I recognised how important it was to get my qualification in Professional Cookery so I worked persistently hard on my days off to get my City & Guilds qualification. After three years of training, the Head Chef at the Viking Hotel insisted that I was to move on so I could spread my wings and my talent. The highly respected Middlethorpe Hall snapped me up and this was the moment in my life that I first spotted the hallowed Michelin Guide in the Head Chef’s office. From this moment I could instantly see where cooking might lead to and why it was vitally important to set the bar as high as I possibly could in the kitchen. The rest is history.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Never question the Chef. Even if they’re right or wrong. And keep your knives sharp – they’ll be your best friends at the end of the day.
Why is Scottish produce so important to you?
As a wee nation, food is at the top of what we do in Scotland. Our smoked salmon is beyond words, our haggis is unbeatable, our root veg is as good as anywhere in the western world. We make the best whisky, great beer, lovely baby vegetables, herbs and mushrooms. Scotland has grown very quickly in the past 20 years in terms of food and for me; we have one of the strongest food identities in the world. We’re very protective and proud of our produce, and quite rightly so.
Have you discovered any interesting and innovative products lately?
There’s new stuff coming out all the time but where the excitement really lays is with fruit and vegetables. Recently I’ve really enjoyed baby kiwi fruit and baby purple cauliflower. Also, beetroot that looks like sprouts and rainbow radishes – all delicious!
If you were abandoned on a desert island and could only take one Scottish product, what would it be and why?
Mr Armstrong’s Best Smoked Salmon from Stockbridge, Edinburgh.
I know you’re thinking that I could probably catch salmon in the sea but then I would have no way to cook it, or slice it. So my choice would be ready sliced salmon and hopefully I’ll be abandoned on an island full of lemon trees to create the perfect pairing.
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Classically Glazed Individual Lemon Tart, Black Grape Juice
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp. water
2 x 250g punnets of raspberries
100ml stock syrup
200g red seedless grapes
100ml stock syrup
To garnish and serve:
Hot frothy milk
To make pastry
1. Put the flour, butter and icing sugar in a bowl and rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add the egg and water and mix through until it comes together.
3. Roll into ball and rest for 30 minutes.
4. Once rested, divide into quarters and line four 10cm tart cases.
5. Bake blind at 180°C until cooked, set aside
To make lemon curd
1. Juice and zest the lemons and place into a pan with the sugar.
2. Put the cream into another pan then place both pans on the heat.
3. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl.
4. Once the lemon mixture and cream are hot, pass through a chinois over the eggs.
5. Whisk well and pour the mixture back into the cream pan. Place back on the heat, whisk until eggs are cooked, the mixture will become thick. Set aside and cool.
To make raspberry puree
1. Place the raspberries and stock syrup into a pan. Cook down for 30 minutes.
2. Blitz, pass, cool then put into a squeezy bottle.
For the grape juice
1. Blitz stock syrup and grapes, pass then set aside.
1. Fill the tart cases with the lemon mixture, level out with spatula.
2. Heavily coat tart with icing sugar and caramelise with a blowtorch.
3. Dot alternate yogurt and raspberry puree around the outside of the plate
4. Finish tart with dusting of icing sugar.
5. Serve grape juice on the side, topped with hot frothy milk and nutmeg.