The UK celebrity chef Ed Baines is heading to the UAE this month to host exclusive masterclasses inspired by his latest cookery book Best of British.
Ed Baines: the master chef
What will cooking enthusiasts learn from your sessions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
Well, I’ll be cooking recipes from my new book, which is a collection of dishes that people eat in Britain today. What I’ve focused on is “the detail”. For example, one of my favourites is a beef and smoked oyster pie – the “detail” is in how to make an excellent pastry and the perfect filling. At the end of the day, people will make something that’s rewarding, fun, tasty and, most importantly, memorable. Most of us eat three times a day with little recollection, but we’ll remember an exceptional meal for the rest of our lives.
So what will be on the menu?
It’s quite eclectic. There will be an upmarket take on a prawn cocktail, using lobster and a white truffle mayonnaise. And great classic British salads using beetroot, onion and parsley – old-school -Victorian-style. With it being spring time, I’ll be cooking some seasonal lamb with fennel dauphinoise. Plus, a couple of authentic Indian dishes – which are hugely popular in the UK. I have an absolutely blinding recipe for tandoori chicken, for example. Then, some traditional puddings with a twist, such as a steamed sponge pudding with blueberries and maple syrup.
Why does British cuisine get such a bad rap?
It’s a stigma from the war and rationing, to be honest. Before the First World War, there were such good ingredients available and the climate was perfect for growing. The country is still exceptional for producing livestock and incredible game; being an island also means that the seafood is phenomenal and I think all these things were celebrated up until the first war.
Many of your peers have opened eateries in the UAE. Are you looking into that?
Yes, we’ve been in discussions with some people in Abu Dhabi. In England right now, things aren’t easy economically – the finance is just not out there. So it’s good to get involved with individuals who want to take what we do here [in the UK] there [to Abu Dhabi] and it’s something I‘d like to pursue.
Some celebrity chefs profess not to eat at any restaurants but their own. Is that something you subscribe to, or do you like to see what the competition is up to?
I don’t really view myself as having competition because what we do at Randall & Aubin (www.randallandaubin.com), in London’s Soho, is unique. As long as I do what I do, very well, I’m happy. I admire others, but it’s hard as a chef to go to an extremely expensive restaurant because you know all the tricks. I’m not a fan of culinary architecture. Food should be presented beautifully on the plate to look like it still relates to Mother Nature and not Norman Foster’s office. I do admire Raymond Blanc; I love his style and think he has a wonderfully natural approach to cooking.
If you could cook for one person, who would it be?
Elvis Presley. He had such an appalling diet, but he loved food so I’d like to introduce him to my style of cooking as so much of it is healthy, clean and extremely tasty. Having a deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich is the devil’s work.
The most memorable person I’ve cooked for was Ayrton Senna about 20 years ago. He put the menu down and said: “I don’t want to order from this – you choose.” He was extremely complimentary and had a wonderful wit and-confidence.
• Masterclasses at Jones the Grocer in Dubai on April 23 run from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and cost Dh995. Cooking demonstrations and book signings will take place from 5pm to 6pm and cost Dh295. Masterclasses at Jones’s Khalidiya outlet in Abu Dhabi will take place on April 24. The same times and prices as above apply. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800JONES (56637)
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