Introduction

Introduction

By
James Martin
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 184949 318 5
Photographer
Tara Fisher

Doing a show like Saturday Kitchen means that I’ve quickly got used to fast cooking. Most dishes have to be cooked within 7 or 8 minutes, and the pressure is really on. So when I was asked to do a book on fast food I jumped at the chance, and of course it made a great partner for my last one, Slow Cooking.

As you probably know, I grew up a farmer’s kid, and because of that, British food and its seasons are central to my ethos of cooking. It’s so important to get not only the best flavour, but also the best value, and buying food in season means that it’s at its most abundant, and therefore at its cheapest. We can look forward to the arrival of seasonal foods such as Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus, and many others can be added to the long list of tasty treats.

But it’s not all about waiting for the best produce: the dishes in this book make good use of the vast array of good-quality ready-made food available on supermarket shelves. What I’ve tried to do is to give you clever shortcuts to ease the burden of cooking. Shop-bought stocks are great, ready-made custard can be made into a simple passion fruit soufflé that takes just minutes, and instant mashed potatoes transform smoked haddock fish cakes into a fast supper. We all do it, and chefs who say they make everything at home and simmer beef bones for 48 hours to make stock aren’t telling the truth! Spending 18 hours a day in a restaurant kitchen teaches you a thing or two about not cooking that kind of food at the end of your long day. Let’s face it, we’re all leading busy lives, and if I’m honest, this is the food I really cook at home.

Many of the dishes have been inspired by my trips away. One of the great joys of this job is being able to travel and discover food scenes and recipes to bring back to the UK. There are a few dishes I came across in the US, such as the Whoopie Cakes from Dumbo in New York City (it’s an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and the Ice Box Cake from the bakery that features in the TV show Sex and the City. We have much to learn from our friends across the water when it comes to fast cooking – it’s not just doughnuts and burgers! Further afield, I had one of the best street food dishes I’ve ever tasted in Singapore: the chilli crab, a dish that’s really worth trying. In the middle of the Indian Ocean I had a lunch of seared tuna with coconut chilli chutney that was so good I went back to the same place to eat it more than half a dozen times! Closer to home, there are dishes I picked up during the time I spent training in France when I was younger. Using sorrel in a quick sauce was one of the first things I learned, even before learning to say oui or non.

Other dishes are inspired by the time I’ve spent presenting Saturday Kitchen, which I think has to be the best job in any kitchen. I get a small insight into all the great chefs of the world, a peek into their kitchens and a good look at the way food is heading. Thomas Keller, Michel Roux Snr and Daniel Boulud are just a few of the chefs I’ve been commis chef for on the show over the years. The ingredients they bring are inspiring too, such as fantastic maple syrup, or new cheeses I’ve never tried before, like the Ogleshield cheese that’s made from Jersey cows’ milk on a small farm in Somerset. Hints, techniques and dishes from them and other chefs are dotted around the book for you to enjoy – as well as my own of course! And for that I want to thank the team who make the show, the chefs from around the world who continue to join me on it, and the great guests who’ve come along too.

But cooking at home is what this book is all about: simple suppers made in minutes, without compromising flavour. Whether you’ve got people coming for dinner and not much time to cook, or just need a quick and tasty after-work supper, there are plenty of ideas here. They’re all simple dishes that are achievable by every home cook. Speaking of home, all these dishes were cooked and the photographs taken at my house, along with my small team of merry helpers. Well, I say merry – they started off that way, but by the end we all looked a bit harrassed, mainly because of all the washing up! But we did it without using fancy equipment; there’s no liquid nitrogen, foams or gels here. I’ll leave that for other books – this is just quick, honest grub. It’s not going to cost a fortune to get the ingredients, nor will you have to trawl the internet in search of ingredients from far-flung places. There are more than 100 dishes here for you to enjoy: all of them can be cooked in less than 20 minutes, and they all taste far, far better than the convenience food that many of us have become used to. They’re all adaptable, too: in Starters you’ll find lots of ideas for light meals and lunches, and in Mains you’ll find that all the accompaniments you need for a complete meal are built in, but you can leave these out if you want something lighter, or if you’re serving a starter beforehand. You can think of the recipes as blueprints to which you can add your own variations, and I’ve suggested where you can do this in the introductions.

So off you go – get down to the shops and have a go! I hope you enjoy using this book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Happy fast cooking,

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