Eric Chavot swears on Saturday Kitchen – I get traffic!

The Capital Hotel’s Eric Chavot played a blinder on last weekend’s Saturday Kitchen. He was amusing, watchable and enigmatic, and the dish he created looked fab. Shame he let slip the f-word towards the end of the show and thus gave the Daily Mail free rein to vilify him …

My terribly clever WordPress dashboard registered a healthy dollop of traffic around Eric’s name after the programme, which spurred me to explore the chefs and cookery writers delivering the best footfall for me on this blog. So, pop pickers, here is my top ten of Lewis blog foodies. Dah Dah, da-da Dah, der der der, der der der, Dah Dah, da-da Dah … etc.

But what does this tell me about the relative pulling power of food stars, and the nature of chefdom, apart from the fact that I should clearly cook a dish from Marcella’s classical Italian repertoire every night if I want to grow my audience?

First, isn’t it interesting that two of the darlings of the food scene, Fergus and Alain, are way off the pace? Both are great chefs, and Alain occupies a place in the stratosphere of chef legends; but clearly their entrails and extravagance haven’t struck a chord with my visitors. Could it be that few domestic fridges harbour foie gras or trotters?

Second, how revealing that the top three should be booktastic, all, Madhur and Marcella having forged long and glittering literary careers from producing standard texts, Jun having only weeks ago brought out a popular new tome, Simple to Sensattional?

The message is that producing books of recipes that are attainable, tasty and rooted in a specific regional cuisine ensures a loyal following. In years to come, Jun (a really nice fellow) might have built up such a canon or work. Meanwhile, I would expect his name to be searched on less and less in the coming weeks, as more of his peers bring out new books. Ah, but “Fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate”.

[The post was brought to you by Emily Dickinson and WordPress]

The legend of the Tarte Tatin

tarte-tatin-brotherhoodAin’t the Internet a marvel? One moment, I’m doing a quick search for a tarte tatin recipe so I can replicate the fantastic banana tarte tatin I had at the Capital Hotel this week; the next, I’m reading about an arcane French brotherhood created to safeguard the original recipe for tarte tatin, as made by the Tatin sisters in Lamotte-Beuvron in the late nineteenth century. The website of the Lichonneux Brotherhood tells how the dish was born when Stephanie Tatin, owner of l’Hotel Tatin with her sister Caroline, placed an caramelised apple tart into the oven upside down, by mistake. Each year, Les Lichonneux don traditional blue smocks and red scarves and meet to celebrate their famous locl dish. Below is the recipe they list on their site:

  1. Take a high-sided pie dish (24cm diameter).
  2. Butter it, using 150g of fine butter. Sprinkle 125g of icing sugar onto the butter.
  3. Peel 1kg of apples’ Cut them roughly into quarters and place them side by side with the curved side down then fill in the gaps with large slices.
  4. Start cooking on a low flame for 10-15 minutes, and monitor the beginning of caramelising to your taste. Then place in an oven at 180-200 for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Take out and arrange on a base of flaky or short pastry, slightly larger than the diameter of the mould, then put back in the oven for approximately 15 minutes.
  6. Once cooking is over, take out of the oven and allow to stand for a few minutes. Place a serving dish over your mould and turn it out quickly.

I’ve found another recipe, this time from Alain Roux of the Waterside Inn. Rosie from Fifty Four Food Miles kindly sent me this, from Jamie Oliver. And here’s a Gordon Ramsay tarte tatin of pears recipe. There are bound to be others on our cook book shelf …

Chef Eric Chavot sends me bananas at the Capital

bananasTwo nice men from the AA Guide took me for lunch at the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge yesterday. The chef there is a Frenchman called Eric Chavot. Eric is what’s known as a chef’s chef: not for him the fripperies of TV chefdom; he quietly plies his trade in London and is quoted as one of their favourite chefs by many of his peers. In an interview with me a couple of years ago, Marco Pierre White called Eric “the best chef in London without a doubt“.

The meal was superb. Scallops and bacon to start, rabbit fricasse with sublime wild mushroom pearl barley risotto, and – my favourite course – a fantastic banana tart tatin. I love bananas and I adore tarte tartin, so the dessert had my name all over it.This weekend I’m going to hit the cookery books and try to make one myself. Unless anyone out there has a good recipe for me to try?