Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis inLondonrolled into the town last week and gave a hilarious 1 day course here at the Ballymaloe Cooker School. Jeremy is tall, 6 ft. something with large horn rimmed glasses, a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous sense of humour. His class was interspersed with scholarly quips and the food was completely delicious.
Jeremy has an impressive pedigree, he cooked with Alastair Little, launched Euphorium in Islington and more recently spent 18 years as head chef at the much loved Blueprint Café overlooking Tower Bridge – ‘Lifers get less’ he joked but he loved every second before he was head hunted by the Hart Brothers to head up their revamped Quo Vadis restaurant and club in Dean Street in Soho.
Jeremy, is a master of his craft. He doesn’t fiddle around with concepts or gimmicks. Not for him unnecessary ‘gewgaws’ on the plate, – there’s neer a foam, gel or streak of reduced balsamic vinegar in sight. Rather his food has the comforting timeless quality of classic Anglo French cooking with shades of Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David. He sources his primary materials with care and discrimination and treats them with a rare respect.
His smoked eel and horseradish sandwich on grilled sourdough bread is now legendary, “sweet, a little smoky, sour and a concentrated horseradish cream that bit my nose off!”, wrote an appreciative customer.
Slow cooked Belly of Middlewhite pork served in various guises is another of Jeremy’s favourite and he shared one version with us.
People also rave about his puddings, his divine Chocolate St Emilion tart, dark chocolate mousse with crushed macaroons was inspired by an Elizabeth David classic of the 60’s French Provincial cooking. As we settle into Autumn there are lots of steamed puddings.
No sooner had he arrived at theBallymaloeCookerySchoolthan he was bouncing around the vegetable and herb garden with glee, chuckling with delight at the end of Summer produce in the greenhouses. He doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’. We wished he could have stayed for a week but his restaurant in London Theatreland beckoned and he had to get back to his own stove next day.
Jeremy’s menu changes every day and some dishes twice a day which generates excitement for both the chefs in the kitchen and the restaurant clientele. By the way Quo Vadis is the perfect place to have a pre theatre supper inLondonbut of course not to be missed for a more leisurely lunch or dinner either, you’ll need to look ahead.
Here are just a few of the dishes we enjoyed from his course
Salt Cod, Artichoke, Potato, Mint & Caper Salad
To feed 6 trenchermen.
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) soft white salt cod, very well soaked, removed of much salt( I confess to only buying from Brindisa!!)
A small onion
A sprig of thyme
2 sticks of celery
6 small artichokes, cooked in white wine, olive oil & herbs
6 potatoes, cooked in their skins then peeled
A soupspoon of salted capers, very well washed and drained
A small handful of mint leaves
A small bunch of sturdy salad leaves
8 tablespoons of good olive oil
A lemon, juiced
Peel and chop the onion into large pieces along with the celery. Put these into a large pot along with the pieces of washed cod and the thyme. Pour in enough cold water until just covering the fish and vegetables. Place a disc of greaseproof paper over the surface. Bring this to a gentle simmer and let cook for 10 or so minutes until cooked, having a care not to over cook. Put the whole pan to one side and let cool.
Take a handsome great plate and on this lay the salad leaves. Take a wide bowl and sit alongside a chopping board. Slice the peeled potatoes and tip into the bowl. Likewise the artichokes and then the capers.
Lift the cooled cod from the pot and carefully remove all skin and bone from the flesh, keeping the flakes as large as possible. Place these in the bowl. Add in the mint leaves, spoon over the olive oil and lemon juice. Grind some pepper on top. Mix very gently, then heap upon the salad leaves.
Warm Salad of Pork Belly, Fennel and Herbs
A pork belly, approx 2-3kg (4½ lb – 63/4 lbs) in weight
1 tablespoons of fennel seed
4 cloves of garlic
A half teaspoon of freshly milled pepper
3 heads of fennel
2 medium sized onions
6 tablespoons of olive oil
6 tablespoons of white wine
A couple of handfuls of boiled, peeled potatoes
A few bunches of watercress or a lovely green leaf
Warm the oven to 240°C/450°F/gas mark 8.
Peel the onions and chop into large pieces along with the fennel and the lemon. Toss this with the garlic cloves and the chilli and lay in a roasting tray large enough to just hold the piece of pork belly.
Score the skin of the belly.
Pound the fennel seeds and pepper until ground. Rub this into the pork.
Sit the belly on the vegetables. Pour the wine over and then the olive oil.
Bake the pork in the oven for ten minutes or so until it darkens and the crackle begins to form. Cover the tray with tin foil, securely and lower the heat to about 120°C/230°F/gas mark ¼ and let cook gently. This can be overnight in an even gentler oven or for a minimum of 8 hours.
Come the time to serve, place the pork on a board and cut into coarse pieces. Decant the vegetables onto a handsome dish from the roasting tray. Strew the leaves around and then the potatoes then tumble the pork over this, then any crackling that may still be on the board. Spoon over any residual juices.
Ps………a thought, there is a happy moment that you may add lovely things that may suggest themselves from the garden such as herbs and any rogue vegetables such as beetroots, carrots beans, mint and or parsley.
A Warm Salad of Clams, Mussels and Squid
So simple and lovely a dish, clams appearing in our fish merchants with heartening regularity and requiring little more than washing well to rid them of grit, their cooking being little, not unlike mussels.
To serve 4
6 razor clams
6 handfuls of surf clams and/or palourdes
6 handfuls of mussels
400g (14 oz) squid, cleaned by an obliging fishmonger
50cl of white wine
2 small onions
50g (2 oz) unsalted butter
A clove of garlic, peeled and chopped very fine
A handful of flat leaf parsley
In a pot, melt the butter gently. Peel and finely chop the onions and add to the pot and let cook gently until softened without colour, say 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, beard the mussels, pulling away the little black tuft to be found where the shells are clamped tightly shut. The shells that remain open should be discarded. Set the mussels in a vessel under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Place the clams in a bowl and do likewise.
Slit the squids lengthwise and rinse under the tap to wash away any grit therein. Use a sharp little knife to score the squid all over and then cut into little strips about 3 cms long.
Drain all the shellfish from their waterfall. Tip the mussels into the pot along with the white wine, up the heat to a boil and cover with a lid. When the mussels have steamed open after about 4-5 minutes, remove from the pan and tip in the clams. They will cook in 3-4 minutes then need removing also, to be replaced by the razor clams, these requiring but 3-4 minutes also to steam open. Remove the razor clams to a chopping aboard. Pull the clams from the shells and cut away the dark grey that is the stomach roughly in the middle of the length of the clam. Lightly wash the clams free of any grit. Chop the razor clams into quite thin slices. Cut the lemon in two then squeeze into the pot with the remaining cooking liquor. Chop the parsley fine and likewise add to the pot. Add several grinds of the pepper mill and stir well.
Heat a frying pan. Dress the squid in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a small handful of squid to the hot pan and fry for a minute or two only. Tip into the pot. Wipe the pan then repeat the process until all the squid is cooked. Lay all the clams and mussels on a handsome dish, strew the razor clams over shellfish then spoon over the squid and the dressing from the pan. A few spoonfuls of good olive oil spooned over is a lovely addition at this point.
250g (9 oz) plain flour
150g(5 oz) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 large egg
1 dessertspoon cold water
250g (9 oz) dark muscavado sugar
250g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened
Juice & rind of 2 lemons
100g (3½ oz) golden syrup
80g (3½ oz) maple syrup
500g (18 oz) best walnuts, coarsely chopped+
Tart Tin 30 cm (12 inch)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Make the pastry in the time honoured tradition and let rest at least 2 hours or overnight which is always best.
Line a 30cm deep tart case, with a removable bottom, with the pastry. Rest in the fridge for half an hour then blind bake for 20 minutes or so until set and quite dried but not well coloured.
Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat well. Pour the eggs slowly into the eggs and sugar, very slowly. Warm the syrup slightly and then pour gently onto the eggs, butter & sugar. Fold in the walnuts with the lemon zest and juice. Tip the batter into the tart case and bake for 45 minutes until bronzed and lightly cracked at the edges.