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FOOD: Ramsay's Kitchen favourites
Attacking, cajoling and ranting in his usual style, Gordon Ramsay has been back on our screens this autumn demanding our attention in Channel 4 series, Ramsay's Best Restaurant.
While on the hunt for Britain's ultimate eatery, he stops at nothing to get the best results. And to make sure his viewers relish the experience as much as he clearly does, Ramsay has produced a recipe book containing the dishes he discovered as he barked orders to top chefs throughout the land.
"I discovered that we have some of the best and most diverse restaurants on our doorstep, and this is a celebration of my journey to find the UK's Best eatery," he explains of his new book, Ramsay's Best Menus.
"Many of the recipes are adaptations of those dishes served by local heroes."
Rather than sticking to the traditional recipe and picture combination, Ramsay has developed a flick-book approach. Containing 52 menus and 156 recipes covering starters, main courses and desserts, the cuisine is wide-ranging, from British to Middle Eastern - and divided by season.
"The rationale behind doing a sliced cookbook was to show people that they can have a lot of fun mixing up menus. If you feel like having a Mexican starter, an Italian main course and a British pudding, just do it. Shake it up a bit, try something different."
As a diner, Ramsay says he'd like nothing more than a gentle mixture of Bruschetta with Cavolo Nero (black-leaf kale) and Parma ham, followed by Quail with Kohlrabi (cabbage) and Butternut Squash, and Chocolate Fondant to finish.
But fans of the show will know that despite his European choice of menu, he's already been particularly impressed by some Indian spices of late.
"Meeting the family behind the food at Prashad restaurant in Bradford was an amazing experience. They've worked unbelievably hard to turn it into one of the best local Indian restaurants in the country."
"The vegetarian Gujarati food they serve is incredible and shows how you can pack a dish with flavour without going anywhere near meat; I was extremely impressed by them."
After filming the TV series Gordon's Great Escapes, during which he visited India, the chef says he fell in love with spicy cuisine.
"Not only are the colours so vibrant but the tastes pack such a punch.
How the different regional cuisines have evolved so differently within the same country, I just found fascinating."
He adds that his latest quest to find Britain's top restaurant, chosen from nominations made by the public, has indulged his first love: the professional kitchen.
"It's right where the action is. I love working with incredibly dynamic people and seeing many of them develop into outstanding chefs is very exciting. Obviously cooking exceptional food that people enjoy eating is the best thing about the job, but I do just love being in the kitchen."
Ramsay adds that restaurateurs who don't listen to their customers drive him nuts.
"In my experience, far too many people think they know what their customers want and then are shocked when their restaurant isn't successful, it's simple common sense."
And despite these difficult times in which the economic viability of his own restaurant empire has been called into question, the chef is still positive that you can make a good living from food.
"There's still plenty of room in the industry - it's a case of understanding the business, knowing your market and offering a first class experience for all diners."
Try some of Ramsay's best restaurant recipes...
Cauliflower soup with saffron
500ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 pinches of saffron strands
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
25g butter 2tbsp chopped parsley Olive
oil, to drizzle
Pour the stock and milk into a large saucepan, add a pinch of saffron and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cauliflower florets and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until the cauliflower is just tender.
Using a slotted spoon, take out a quarter of the cauliflower florets; set aside. Put the rest into a blender, adding enough of the poaching liquid to half-fill it and whizz to a smooth puree (you may need to do this in two batches).
Return the puree to the pan and add enough of the remaining poaching liquid to obtain a soup consistency. Add another pinch of saffron and reheat gently, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Add more liquid if the soup is too thick.
Melt the butter in a pan, then add the reserved cauliflower and saute for a few minutes until golden brown. Toss in half the chopped parsley and fry until crisp.
Place the cauliflower florets and parsley in the centre of four soup bowls, then pour in the soup, to one side. Serve immediately, topped with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of parsley and a grinding of black pepper.
Pheasant and ginger casserole
2 oven-ready pheasants, about 750g each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and each cut into 3 chunks
2 large celery stalks, trimmed and each cut into 3 pieces 200g,
cipollini or baby onions, peeled
2x5cm pieces fresh root ginger, halved lengthways 1
head of garlic, halved horizontally
Handful of thyme sprigs Few rosemary sprigs
5 cloves 2 star anise (optional),br> 1tsp black peppercorns
Rub the pheasants all over with a little salt and pepper and lay them breast side down in a large cast iron pan or flameproof casserole dish.
Add the carrots, celery and onions, along with the ginger, garlic, herbs, cloves, star anise if using, and whole peppercorns.
Pour in enough water to come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pheasants and bring to the boil over a high heat. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and cook gently for 35-40 minutes until the pheasants are tender, turning them over halfway through cooking.
To serve, lift the pheasants out of the broth and either carve them into smaller joints or remove the meat from the carcass and break into shreds. Divide the pheasant and vegetables among warm bowls. Strain the hot broth through a fine sieve and pour into the bowls. Serve with chunks of rustic bread.
Spiced pan roasted apples and pears
2 firm apples, such as Braeburn
4 firm pears, such as Conference
75g caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
25g slightly salted butter
Splash of Calvados 100ml apple juice Creme fraiche, to serve (optional)
Core the apples and pears, then peel off the skins. Cut the apples into quarters and halve the pears.
Scatter the sugar over a wide, heavy-based non-stick frying pan and place over a high heat until it melts and begins to caramelise at the edges.
Add the spices, followed by the butter. Tip the pan from side to side to mix the caramel and butter together. Take care as the mixture may spit and splutter.
Add the apples and pears to the pan, cut side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes until evenly caramelised, turning them several times. Carefully add a splash of Calvados, standing well back as the alcohol may flambe.
Pour in the apple juice and let bubble until the liquid has reduced and thickened to a syrupy sauce. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Divide the fruit among warm plates and spoon over the caramel sauce.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, if you like.
Ramsay's Best Menus by Gordon Ramsay is published in hardback by Quadrille, priced £20. Available now.
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