Introduction

Introduction

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

More than anything else, I would describe my cooking as produce driven. At the restaurant, we compose our menus daily – when the fresh produce arrives and we know for certain what is available and at its best. It is when I see the beautiful cream and crimson fleck of the first Castelfranco of the year, for example, that I begin to consider what it would work with – perhaps succulent fresh crab or the sweet bitter flavour of blood oranges, or maybe young pecorino or oven-roasted pigeon. It might be the particular colour of an olive oil or the sweet intensity of a type of vinegar that gives a certain dish its real character for me. Beautiful ingredients will take a dish to new heights. At the restaurant we follow the seasons closely. I believe that food eaten in its right season and grown as close to home as possible tastes far better than food flown in from afar. I also believe that nature provides ingredients in the same season that go together perfectly. Pairing seasonal produce is where I have the most fun in the kitchen.

My knowledge of produce – its history, place, variety and season, as well as learning how to prepare and use it – has come to me gradually over the years and I’m still on a voyage of discovery. I continue, for example, to learn about the varieties and nuances of flavour of all the different honeys. Year in, year out, I come across a different variety of bean, or salad leaf that I fall in love with and wonder how it was possible to cook without it.

Seeking out good produce has introduced me to many local suppliers and farmers over the years – we currently work with no less than 47 different providers. These people are important to me and my relationships with them have developed over time. They are experts on their particular produce and I learn so much from them. I’m fortunate to work in an industry where people are willing to pass on knowledge and information, because they have a genuine desire to share their passion.

As a small child, my mother would tell me that I asked too many questions and I really haven’t changed. I am endlessly inquisitive, especially when it comes to food, and have a burning desire to learn everything I can about produce and cooking. Plus, I seem to have an amazing capacity to forget and need to re-learn my craft, which never ceases to amaze me!

As a cook, for me it is important to move forward, to always maintain an inquisitiveness, to try new things. When employing a new young cook in the kitchen, I don’t look for speed, knife skills or even organisational ability, although the latter is on some level important. Instead, I am more interested in how they react to the produce as it arrives. Do they look excited and inspired? Do they handle ingredients gently with respect and appreciation? If the answers are yes, then I know we will work well together.

Since writing my first book, A Year in my Kitchen, my cooking has evolved in subtle ways that would probably pass unnoticed to anyone else. It has become simpler, more produce inspired. Flavours are now inclined to whisper than roar. Dishes are very definitely layered still, but those layers are lighter, cleaner and perhaps more ethereal. As I have grown in confidence, I find myself paring down my cooking, interfering less if you like. My intention is to make the produce taste even more of itself and the season to which it belongs.

More than ever I welcome in the new season’s produce, which arrives almost on a weekly basis through the year. It makes me excited and smile when the first peach of the year perfectly ripens in one of our greenhouses, or winter purslane makes an appearance after nine months of absence. Tomatoes are greeted with great cheer in midsummer, yet come late autumn I’m ready to pick cavolo nero after the first frost of the year. There is no better way of understanding what each season has to offer than to have a vegetable garden, however small.

My Favourite Ingredients highlights some of the rich and beautiful ingredients that I am privileged to work with through the culinary year. Most of the recipes are simple in their execution. For certain, there are no daunting or complicated techniques… just simple ways of combining good produce in order to maximise and fully appreciate its flavours. In keeping with my reverence for the seasons, starring ingredients are married with ingredients that are around at the same time, for nature cleverly provides perfectly balanced partners.

Many of the dishes are part of our repertoire at the restaurant. Pulses and grains, nuts, game, fish and shellfish, and seasonal fruits and vegetables feature strongly in our dishes, along with abundant fresh herbs and beautiful olive oils. This type of cooking requires a warm-hearted approach and attention to the senses, but most importantly of all, it calls for an awe-inspiring reverence of the bounty this earth creates. Enjoy...

I express myself through the way I cook. Food truly captures my heart, and the kitchen is where I feel confident and at home. Nowhere else do I feel so free, nor so connected at the same time. Food fascinates, seduces and entrances me. Produce in its purest form, in peak condition – tasting as it should – can lift and dazzle me with the excitement of its possibilities.

Cooking is not about being the best or most perfect cook, but rather it is about sharing the table with family and friends.

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