Desert island dishes
With David Francis
Regional operations manager, Blue Apple
A childhood favourite of mine that still ticks the box, my go-to snack when I’m in a rush. I like my Cheddar a little more mature now, but still a trip down memory lane each time.
Having worked in this great industry of ours for some time, I’ve been lucky enough to try several top chefs’ versions of this dish. All elements of the dish work perfectly together. Slowly braised veal shank on a bed of bone marrow-rich saffron risotto. The zesty gremolata helps to add freshness and cuts through what is a really rich flavoursome dish.
Traditional Sunday roast
You just can’t beat a Sunday roast. It’s great way to get the family round the table and is always a bit of an event in our house. Leg of lamb is my go-to joint and, especially in early spring, it’s hard to imagine a more flavoursome piece of meat. It’s best slowly roasted with garlic and lots of fresh rosemary until it literally falls off the bone, served with my daughter’s homemade mint and garlic sauce. Add fluffy roasted spuds roasted in the juices of the lamb and take your pick of seasonal veg. The lamb’s the real star of the show though.
The best food is often the simplest. This dish has always been one of my faves and one that I’ve made myself at home several times, but during a recent trip to Krakow more than one restaurant really showed me how it should be done. Classically served, filled with potato and soft cheese is my favourite, topped with sweet, sticky onions and sour cream. Simple flavours that work really well together.
The thing about a great dish is the ability it has to immediately transport back you to the moment you enjoyed it. Whether it’s a Portuguese cataplana or French bouillabaisse, a decent fish stew has to be on my list of top dishes. The best I’ve had was in the tiny fishing town of Ferragudo in the Algarve. We literally saw the boat come in in the morning, the restaurant owner bought the ingredients and we were enjoying it that evening in the harbour as the sun went down with a glass or two of the local rosé. This is a dish that when done properly has real depth of flavour. Top – but obvious – tip, order plenty of crusty bread to mop up at the end.
Cottage pie with buttered cabbage and baby carrots
As a winter warming crowd-pleaser, I can’t imagine a cottage pie is far from the top of everyone’s list. Good quality lean mince, flavoured with Worcestershire sauce, with onions and diced carrots (or whatever other suitable veg I’ve got in the cupboard or fridge. A touch of cinnamon in the mash is my secret tip, and the mash topped with grated Cheddar, obvs!
My all-time favourite dessert, as long as it’s cooked perfectly I don’t mind the flavours. Having said that, the lemon and blueberry one at Anthony Demetre’s Wild Honey a few years ago has stayed with me, served with a pistachio ice cream if I remember correctly. The perfect end to a meal.
My only bugbear with cheese is when there’s fruit added to it – why would you do that? Otherwise any cheese is fine with me, although a nice strong stilton and a creamy gooey camembert are obvious musts. Great for an evening with friends – remember when an evening with friends was a thing? – as it lends itself perfectly to grazing over the course of several hours. A glass or two of amarone is the perfect complement.
What one book would you take with you?
One Step Beyond by Chris Moon. A fascinating read about triumphing in the eyes of adversity, staying calm and taking the positives out of the most demanding of situations. I’ve read it several times.
And one luxury item?
Would it be cheating to say a tent!?
And what dish would you choose if you could only have one?
How do you choose your all-time favourite dish? If you pushed me, I’d probably say the ossobuco Milanese. If I’m treating myself, I’d match with a glass of barolo. Food heaven.