With Ultimate Cookery Course I’m not setting out to turn you into Michelin-starred chefs. I just want to teach you how to cook and enjoy good food at home. I’m going to strip away the complexity and show how anyone can produce mouth-watering recipes. Put simply, I’ll show you how to cook yourself into a better cook.
The best thing you can have in a kitchen is confidence. Being able to act boldly and decisively, to have the confidence to ramp up the seasoning, for example, or to turn the gas up high and use the heat to your advantage – that’s the real secret. That’s what takes your cooking to another level…
PORK CHOPS WITH PEPPERS – Serves 2
You’ll be amazed at how two such simple things can taste so good together. The sweet and sour peppers really cut through the richness of the beautifully sautéed chops and make for a really good, quick supper dish. As always when frying chops, leave them to rest as long as you cooked them so that they can tenderise and reabsorb their juices.
*2 pork chops, about 200g/8oz each *Olive oil, for frying *2 garlic cloves, skin on, crushed *Small bunch of thyme *Butter
For the sweet and sour peppers:
*Olive oil, for frying *1 red onion, peeled and sliced *2 red peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced *Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper *1 tbsp caster sugar *3 tbsp red wine vinegar *1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil *Small bunch of basil, leaves shredded
1. First prepare the peppers. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar and sauté over a high heat for 4-5 minutes until soft and coloured. (Make sure you can hear the vegetables hissing in the pan. If not, the pan isn’t hot enough and you’re in danger of boiling the vegetables instead of frying them.)
2. Add the vinegar and let it bubble for a minute or two until it has reduced and the peppers are soft. Turn down the heat, add the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and continue to cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Decant into a bowl and set aside to infuse. Wipe the pan clean, ready to cook the pork.
3. Using a sharp knife, make cuts into the fat of the chops, about 5mm deep and at 3-4cm intervals, making sure you don’t cut into the meat. (This will stop the meat from curling up during cooking and will make it cook more evenly.) Season the chops really well on both sides, pushing the seasoning into the meat.
4. Place the cleaned-out frying pan over a high heat until hot and add a dash of oil. Add the chops, garlic and thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes until coloured. Turn the chops and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, pushing the thyme under the chops and breaking up the garlic a little.
5. Towards the end of cooking time, add 3 knobs of butter and baste the chops with it as they are cooking, to speed up the cooking process and keep the chops moist. (Push the fatty edge of the chops towards the back of the pan to help render the fat.) Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and place with the herbs on top of the chops.
6. Transfer the chops to a plate, and rest for 5-10 minutes, spooning over the basting butter now and again. Serve the chops on top of the peppers with the resting juices and a little juice from the peppers.
PAN-FRIED SCALLOPS – Serves 2
Scallops are cooked when the outside is golden brown and the centre is just going from translucent to opaque. Any longer than 2 minutes on each side and they’ll go tough, so it’s essential you stand over them and remember the order you put them in the pan. The simple salad goes equally well with crab or lobster.
*Olive oil, for frying *6 large scallops, cleaned *Juice of 1/2 lemon
For the salad:
*1 sharp apple, eg Granny Smith *2 handfuls of lamb’s lettuce *Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon *Olive oil *Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. First make the salad. Peel, core and cut the apple into julienne strips. Mix with the lamb’s lettuce and season with salt and pepper. Add some of the lemon zest (keeping a little back to garnish) and squeeze over the juice. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and mix well.
2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat until smoking hot, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Lay the scallops out on a board, pat dry with kitchen paper and season one side with salt and pepper.
3. Think of the frying pan as a clock face and add the scallops, one by one, seasoned side down, in a clockwise order, then fry for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Season the unseasoned side of the scallops, then flip them over in the same order you placed them in the pan and repeat the process. Squeeze the lemon juice over the scallops and give the pan a good shake.
4. When the scallops are cooked, tip the contents of the pan onto a plate lined with kitchen paper. This will instantly stop the cooking process, while the kitchen paper will absorb any excess oil.
5. Divide the salad between 2 serving plates and arrange the scallops around each pile. Garnish with the remaining lemon zest and serve immediately.