Norfolk chefs reveal the kitchen tools they’ve used most during lockdown
- Credit: Archant
They’re used to being surrounded by high-tech kit and commis chefs - but what are the kitchen tools Norfolk’s chefs have been using in their home kitchens while their resturants and workplaces are closed by COVID-19?
The coronavirus pandemic may have removed Norfolk’s chefs from normal service at their beloved restaurants but it hasn’t stopped them cooking: and finding out the kitchen tools they enjoy using most,
From blenders to barbecues, special plates to wetstones, bread baskets to stand mixers, chefs from the county tell us what they’ve been using most during lockdown as many reopen to serve takeaways while others wait to discover when it will be safe to start welcoming diners back through their doors.
Chef proprietor Jaime Garbutt and wife Stephanie run Figbar and SALT in Norwich
“As with many families, lockdown has seen me in my home kitchen much more than usual. Though I love the cheffy equipment of Figbar and SALT, with two small children to feed, I have found that the piece of equipment that gets used daily is our Nutribullet RX blender. From pancake batter to smoothies, homemade nut butter to salad dressing, those blades break down anything I throw at them. I love to make a quick soup or a cheeky pina colada for my wife to make these sunny days feel like a garden holiday. This piece of machinery definitely has been our kitchen gadget of choice...though the most fun I’ve had is with my fermenter. We’ve been growing our own veg and I’m learning new ways to preserve.”
* Figbar, at 23 St John Maddermarket, is delivering and offering a pick-up service: visit www.saltnorwich.com/delivery.
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John ‘Grimsby’ Watt, baker, ran Pye Baker in Norwich
“My wife Sally and I try to stay out of each other’s way most of the day, so at dinner time I want to make it a little bit special. Good food, good conversation a good bottle of wine and eating off our best plates.
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“Ours were made for us by Jane Bond at Ollands Farm Barn Pottery in Worstead. I’ve known Jane for several years as she’s a volunteer at Worstead Festival where I’ve done cooking demonstrations for many years.
“In 2017 Jane showed some of her pottery at the show, she’d only been doing it for a short while but I was very taken by her style and asked if she would make me a whole dinner service. It was her first commission.
“Each piece is an individual with small differences but they fit together as a set. When you serve a good meal on them it makes it feel like it’s something very special. I’ve purchased other pieces from Jane and they’re are very special. Roger Hickman is now using Jane’s pottery in his restaurant.
* Jane’s pottery can be purchased direct from her Facebook page Jane Bond Ollands Farm Barn Pottery or contact her on 07841 764276. Grimsby is hosting live cooking videos on Facebook every day: follow him at John Grimsby Watt.
Richard Hughes is chef director at The Assembly House in Norwich and runs The Richard Hughes Cookery School
“Like the builder with the permanent pile of bricks in the drive, I’m not a chef who deigns to cook at home. However, not being able to cook, see my kitchen team and spread the love through food has meant I’ve only had one option: I’ve been cooking for family and neighbours daily.
“We moved house the day before lockdown so my new neighbours have been blessed with cakes and bread on their doorsteps. It’s keeping me awake at night: they might think this is the norm!
“I’ve enjoyed cooking at home, all be it in a kitchen that’s unfamiliar to me. I’m not sure my wife has loved it: my work fury is easily transferable, be it that the fridge isn’t in order, things aren’t covered and dated, I can’t find a piece of kit, someone has put something back in the wrong cupboard or there’s two of something opened.
“I’m quite an impatient kind of cook, I like to see results fairly quickly. About three years ago we purchased a KitchenAid. My wife wanted it because it “looked nice”. “Matt our head chef gave me some of his sourdough starter, and so I was peer-pressured into making a loaf, a task that has now become a daily occurrence. I’m baking for breakfast, for next door and for our bird table.
“Matt, of course, makes his by hand, I however rely on the formidable mixer, a 20 minute knead becomes five minutes. I love the structure of the day: feed the Mother, make the dough at 5pm, knock back and mould at 9pm, pop it in the fridge (have a meltdown because I can’t fit it on a shelf), get up and bake it at 7am the next day. So my KitchenAid has finally come into its own.
“A wetstone, purchased for £17, has become another crutch during these turbulent times. Instead of whittling a stick whilst reflecting on life, the swish of the sharpening of the blade has become the soundtrack to early evening.
“A sharp knife is one of the great joys of kitchen life, and a hundred knives garnered from our deserted cookery school have benefited from a little love, care and attention. “If you love cooking, and your efforts have been blighted by blunt blades, buy a wetstone: it will transform your knife – and your life.”
* The Assembly House and the Richard Hughes Cookery School are posting regular ‘how-to’ cooking videos and recipes on Facebook and Instagram.
Gary Hunter, who lives in North Norfolk, is Deputy Principal at the UK’s leading culinary and hospitality school in London, Westminster Kingsway College.
“Lockdown has presented the Hunter household with somewhat of a culinary dilemma. We had our kitchen stripped out a week before the UK Government announced closure, meaning that we are still making the most from an old Aga (on its last legs) and two hastily erected camping bench tables to do all our prep work on.
“So my ‘go to’ piece of kitchen equipment isn’t a gadget, as much as it is a bare essential, back-to-basics, outside wood-burning oven.
“Now, those who know me will recognise my guilty addiction to owning and acquiring more outside cooking ovens and stoves than an Army Regiment Field Catering Corps. But this situation has really given me the excuse to stoke up the fire and bake sourdough breads, almond and chocolate croissants, new season asparagus and Baron Bigod tartiflettes, slow-roasted Herdwick Lamb Shoulder and of course, legendary amongst family and friends– sourdough pizzas finished off with shavings of our own summer truffles.”
* Visit www.westking.ac.uk.
Andrew Jones runs Farmyard restaurant in Norwich and The Dial House B&B and restaurant in Reepham with wife Hannah Springham.
“I couldn’t choose between my barbecue and my Thermomix, but they couldn’t be more different. My BBQ is nothing like my beloved Bertha, just a bog-standard garden centre barbie that we picked up a few years ago. It sits on the patio all year-round gathering rust but in the right hands churns out a pretty respectable meat feast, if I may say so myself.
“Recent highlights have been an insanely marbled Norfolk Wagyu rump-steak from Worstead estate and chicken wings slowly smoked over a chunk of crab-apple wood from a tree that had blown over in the garden the winter before last. Otherwise destined for the log burner I let it smoulder on top of the coals to give my wings a smoky hit, a noble end for a bit of wood.
“My Thermomix is the other end of the scale however: it connects to the wi-fi and tells you off if you don’t power down properly. I say ‘my’ Thermomix: I’m currently looking after it at home before we can get back to work. It looks a bit out of place next to the toaster, it’s a bit like having Formula One car in your gran’s garage.
“It’s been making us the silkiest soups and purees out some, frankly of past-its-best veg from the back of the fridge.
“To the home chef, it’s essentially a posh blender but it comes into its own knocking out quite excellent Piña Coladas. Now the sun’s out, blend your pineapples people – it’s Piña Colada time! I highly recommend a side of foot-in-paddling-pool action with this dish…”
* Farmyard will be offering take-out dishes starting with Father’s Day sharing Beef Wellingtons with beef dripping roast potatoes and red wine jus – for more details and to pre-order, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Dixon is chef proprietor of The King’s Arms in Fleggburgh and 2013 Norfolk Chef of the Year.
“I would have to say my favourite kitchen lockdown gadget and the one I used the most was my rattan sourdough proving basket.
“The basket give it a perfect shape and makes the loaf far more consistent for a perfect crust. We make different breads everyday here at the restaurant, and you would think I would’ve enjoyed not getting covered in flour, but to be honest making bread, especially sourdough bread, is so rewarding to do.
“From nursing the ‘starter mother’ - mine is now a couple of years old - to the finished loaf, the texture, the smell and of course the taste is unbeatable and is well worth the extra little time.”
* The King’s Arms has a Dine Like Kings three-course set menu takeaway menu ready to be easily cooked at home and a separate takeaway menu. Find out more at www.kingsarmsfleggburgh.com.
Richard Bainbridge is the chef proprietor at Benedicts in Norwich, which he runs with wife Katja.
“With two young children and with spending more time at home, I really wanted to try and learn something that would benefit my life at home and that I could also take back to the restaurant before we reopen.
“I brought the Big Green Egg barbecue back from the restaurant where I use it for quick, fast cooking rather than the slow-cooking I’ve been learning over the past 10 weeks during this amazing weather.
“I’m doing Texas-style cooking, really simple food using fantastic meats, fish and vegetables and Norfolk wood. It’s about the quality of the product rather than making it over-complicated with rubs and sauces.
“It’s been a revelation to me. Katja will tell you how terrible I was at barbecuing, how I burn everything because I cook at 150 miles an hour, but I have been honing my technique and I have loved having that time to really concentrate on what I am doing.
“I’ve been using lots of lovely, perfumed Silver Birch wood: it’s quite floral and smokes beautifully. I’ve cooked pork from down the road, lovely brisket, a sea bass I bought straight from the fisherman at Sheringham, aubergines, artichokes…
“Barbecuing has changed me as a chef and I will take that back with me to the restaurant. Our Father’s Day takeaway will be a spectacular barbecue with homemade coleslaw, pickled dill cucumbers, our own cornbread, slow-cooked pork belly and brisket – even barbecued nuts!
“I’m trained in French classic cooking but this is something entirely new for me, a style of cooking that goes back centuries: cooking with fire. It’s been special for me to have the time to really learn about it.”
* Benedicts is offering set-menu takeaway dishes and a Father’s Day barbecue special. For more details, visit www.benedictsreadymeals.com.