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Around The Kitchin Table

We talk to one of Britain’s finest chefs, Tom Kitchin, about festive food, seasonality and culinary memories. The Michelin-starred chef proprietor is the Harrods Chef of the Season, gracing our famous Food Halls with a collection of dishes-to-go and compiling Scottish food and drink favourites into a truly tempting Christmas hamper.

Did you have a favourite dish growing up?
Mackerel brings back great memories of being a youngster, out fishing at the weekends with my dad. I’ll never forget the joy of catching my first fish and taking it home to cook. To this day mackerel is one of my favourite ingredients, and now our elder two boys are at an age where we sometimes take them out fishing, I’m enjoying the chance to pass on that tradition to them. I always believe that food you’ve caught or foraged yourself tastes that little bit better.

What's your most memorable meal of all time?
I’m lucky enough to have dined and worked in some of the world’s most inspiring restaurants. However, last year I visited Denmark with my wife Michaela and we spent an evening dining at Noma. It was genuinely a wonderful experience; it is inspirational that Chef René Redzepi and his team started small and have grown organically. I have a lot of respect for any chef who has done that, and I respect and appreciate all the hard work that has gone in as my wife and I started small and have re-invested and grown our restaurant The Kitchin over the last 10 years. Noma’s commitment to its landscape, produce and culture is something I agree very strongly in.

How would you best describe your cooking style?
I’ve worked with chefs for a number of years, many of whom are considered some of the best in the world. I was trained in French cooking techniques, which has undoubtedly shaped my cooking style, but I’m absolutely fanatical about Scottish seasonality which has allowed me to evolve my own style of cooking. I seek out the very best produce from nature as soon as it comes into season. I let the seasons inspire and direct me in how I create my dishes; I never sit still and always push myself and my own ability, but rely heavily on nature’s input.

What has been the best moment in your career so far?
Definitely the day my wife Michaela and I opened our restaurant, The Kitchin in Edinburgh. We had always dreamed of having our own restaurant, so the day we opened our doors was an incredibly proud moment. We’re now 10-years old and work as hard as ever, but still loving it every day.

What do you do to unwind? Do you do all the cooking at home?
I never stop thinking about food, even when I’m on my days off or on holiday - our holidays actually revolve around food. I’m constantly thinking about new ideas, new recipes and taking inspiration from the places that my wife Michaela and I visit and places we go to with the family. I love nothing more than cooking at home for my four young boys on my day off or coming up with new dishes! I find reading cookbooks incredibly inspiring and relaxing, but since I’m also a huge Liverpool FC fan, I love taking my boys to matches.

What's the process in creating new recipes? How do you find your inspiration?
My menus and recipes have always been driven and inspired by seasonality. At The Kitchin we live and breathe our ethos ‘From Nature to Plate’, meaning everything we serve is as fresh as it possibly can be, delivered straight from land and sea. I prefer to not complicate my produce, and instead keep it simple and let the produce speak for itself. My mind is always buzzing with different ideas for dishes, but I really let the flavours and textures of the ingredients inspire my cooking.

How do you bring your Scottish heritage into your cooking?
By making the most of the abundance of fantastic Scottish produce that is available and ensuring my menus really showcase the very best ingredients that I can get my hands on. In the past decade, Scotland’s reputation for producing the finest quality food and drink has grown significantly. I want to be able to give my diners an authentic taste of Scotland, to help make everyone more appreciative of the wonderful flavours we have available right on our doorstep. In my eyes, Scotland really has the most beautiful larder.

If you could only have three ingredients in your cooking arsenal, what would they be and why?
I’m incredibly passionate about the game we have access to here in Scotland. The game season is one of the most exciting times in my kitchen and I love cooking different game birds and produce. Secondly, a really good olive oil and thirdly a top quality salt - both kitchen essentials to me.

What's on the menu for Christmas this year?
In the same way we do throughout the year, we like to try different things so our Christmas centrepiece changes from year to year. We love to get all of the family together, so we’ll usually make traditional roast turkey as well as a lovely roast ham or even a whole fish. It depends what ingredients take my fancy and if there are any special wishes from family members. I really enjoy Christmas and don’t mind doing all the cooking.

My wife Michaela is Swedish so we also celebrate Christmas Eve in a big way, which is traditional in Sweden. We feast on smoked salmon or gravlax, herring, mustard-glazed ham and vegetables or Michaela’s smoked salmon recipe, which even made its way into my book Kitchin Suppers.

For us, the most important thing is spending time with family and friends, taking our time to enjoy good company and good food and taking some time off.

What's your perfect Christmas tipple?
Yer Ben – it’s an ale I’ve created in collaboration with The Isle of Skye Brewing Company. We worked closely together to create a beer that is the perfect accompaniment to food, so it’s great for the Christmas period.

What do you find inspiring and exciting about food and drink over the festive period?
It’s the smell, flavours and tastes of Christmas dishes that excite me the most. For me, nothing signals Christmas quite like the smell of fresh gingerbread, mince pies and mulled wine filling the house.

Who would be your ultimate Christmas dinner guest?
My wife, of course. I always treasure a meal and a chat with my wife.

How did you go about selecting the items for your hamper?
I worked very closely with the whole team at Harrods to create a hamper that showcases lots of great Scottish food and drink: classics like smoked salmon and whisky, as well as a local Edinburgh Gin, Isle of Skye ale and some top quality game. I wanted to create a hamper which was fresh and exciting, but that also had most of the traditional touches that we all associate with Christmas and I think we have achieved just that.

What's next in the Tom Kitchin world?
To continue to grow as a chef and develop the businesses. I will continue to share our passion for the very best Scottish produce and ensure every single guest at our restaurants has the most memorable experience when dining with us. There’s a whole list of things I want to achieve so who knows where we will be in ten years’ time?

For a comforting suppertime treat, cook up Tom’s recipe of steak pie (see image in gallery above) using his own ale, crafted in partnership with The Isle of Skye Brewing Company. 

Steak & Yer Ben Pie (Serves 4)

1kg stewing steak, cut into 2–3cm pieces
Flour for dusting
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for cooking
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
250g button mushrooms, cleaned
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Bouquet garni
250ml red wine
500ml Yer Ben craft ale
250g ready-rolled puff pastry
Eggwash (1 egg yolk, beaten with ½ teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
1 tall piece of bone marrow, on the bone

1- Heat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2.
2- Dust the pieces of stewing steak all over with flour and season with salt and pepper.
3- Heat a heavy-based ovenproof sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil.
4- Brown the steak in two batches for 4–5 minutes until well caramelised. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
5- Return the pan to the heat and add another drizzle of oil.
6- Add the onion, carrots and mushrooms, lower the heat and sweat gently for 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and bouquet garni.
7- Pour in the red wine and let it bubble to reduce by half, then add 500ml of Yer Ben.
8- Bring back to the boil and then return the steak to the pan.
9- Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven.
10- Cook for 3 hours or until the steak is tender and the liquor has reduced and thickened.
11- Raise the oven setting to 180°C/Gas 4. Transfer the beef stew to a pie dish, discarding the bouquet garni.
12- Place a piece of bone marrow in the middle of the dish.
13- Roll out the pastry to fit the dish with enough to overhang, then drape over the stew.
14- Dampen the rim of the dish with water, then lift the pastry over the top of the stew.
15- Press the edges of the pastry onto the rim of the dish and trim away the excess pastry.
16- Brush the pastry all over with the remaining egg, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and bake for around 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.
17- Leave to rest for 10 minutes, then serve the pie with seasonal vegetables and teaspoons for the bone marrow, for those who want it.

Tom Kitchin’s range of dishes-to-go is available in the Harrods Food Halls until Saturday 24th December. Shop the Tom Kitchin Collection Hamper in the Harrods Food Halls and, along with other foodie delights, below.

Journey into the delicious story behind famed chocolatier Godiva.

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