Tag Archives: Chef But

Cooking with confidence…

cropped-covert-cook-school1.jpgWhen I initially set up as Hari Covert I never thought I would diversify the concept to then include my Covert Cook School offer.

I have always been one to willingly share a recipe or reveal how a dish is constructed etc.  So the Covert Cook School was only a natural progression. I have always loved the art of teaching and have done it on numerous occasions over the years.  I use to teach Asian inspired Fusion food at Ken Lo’s Cookery School and have fond memories of sharing the stage with my long term friend Kam Po But Noodles Butteaching my fellow Egon Ronay Inspectors classic Chinese dishes. Mr But’s Crispy Fried Shredded Beef became the bench mark for all like named dishes throughout the UK on our future inspection visits!

I have taught in Adult Education to absolute beginners and adolescent young ladies in a school environment. Each have been equally challenging and rewarding.

The young adolescent teenagers that get the benefit of my experiences are notable for their trepidation but also their amazement of the task they are made to execute.

This last year we got 18 of them to gut and fillet a freshly killed trout. The squeamish shrieks for me illustrated just how detached and desensitised to our food we have become. Then when I demonstrated and asked them to joint and bone a chicken for many I think the world had ended!

My Covert Cook School has over the past few years had a variety of students. A married couple keen to develop their repertoire, then a young fourteen year old lad from Singapore spent two weeks with us on a residential course designed especially for him. We helped develop his knife skills and introduced him to some of our fine local products as well as experienced a differing culture with a buying and eating trip to France. He recently paid a return visit along with his parents as he felt he had such a memorable time with us…

Just before Christmas we had an enquiry from a mum if we would be happy to take a seriously keen young twelve year old for one of our half day one to one cook school lessons. (It was to be a Xmas present for him)

Having now just met said young lad I was pleasantly surprised to see how keen he was and how well developed his palate is. Our lesson

Cauliflower Risotto
Cauliflower Risotto

now planned will incorporate some unusual combinations –e.g. Cauliflower Risotto with White Chocolate to the more basic but equally enlightening home baked Focaccia. His love of capers (a slightly unusual love for one of such tender years) has proved more challenging! (I do however think I have come up with something both palate challenging and different for him to sample on the day!)  He was both amused and amazed to learn they are the pickled seeds of the nasturtium flower.

So if you are an absolute beginner with little confidence or someone who has a real passion and desire to increase your repertoire we can tailor a class to suit you.

Mr HC with Chicken...
Mr HC with Chicken…

It can be on your own or with a partner/friend or even a small group (max of 4) where a demo can be followed by a lunch. We can also provide gift vouchers to use for a future lesson that make an ideal gift as well.

For more details just click this link and lets all get cooking with confidence!

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A Wong with Hom…

Now that heading sounds a bit weird I know but all will be revealed…

I am for my sins a graduate from what is now Oxford Brookes School of Hospitality Management (Was Oxford Polytechnic in my days!) at Oxford Brookes University.

I am also actively involved with their Alumni Association and get to go to assorted functions and events their Oxford Gastronomica organise throughout the year.

Well recently one of their esteemed ambassadors was in the UK for Chinese New Year and he was hosting a luncheon at A Wong a much lauded and on trend Chinese eaterie in Wilton Street Nr Victoria Station London. Ken Hom was in town and well I needed little persuasion to book my place at a lunch he was hosting at Andrew Wong’s gaffe!

It was quite an intimate affair with some two dozen diners ensconced in the basement bar of this restaurant. An introduction to the proceedings by head of School Donald Sloan was followed by a few words from Chef Patron Andrew Wong who informed us we were lucky to have him there as he wife was scheduled to have her baby that very day but in fact ended up having their baby on Christmas Day!

Any way we settled down to a real feast with firstly some Dim Sum style starters appeared –  Sui Mai and Har Gau as steamed dumplings. Then a plate of crispy prawn filled Wan Tuns and a Mushroom spring roll coated in Vermicelli… very delicate but also very tasty. The steamed dim sum had some great embellishment The Sui Mai with crispy Pork crackling and the Har Gao with some delicate citrus foam.

Then came a whole steamed Dover Sole – zingy fresh and expertly removed from the bone and garnished with the trinity (garlic, ginger & spring onion) Some lusciously pink prawns with a crispy fried garlic and spring onion topping were beautifully sweet tasting – shame it was only one prawn each!

Next came a Crispy Duck course that had some wonderfully novel twists on the standard restaurant serving. A paint brush came standing up in a shot glass ready to paint the steamed pancake with the Hoisin sauce. The normal cucumber and spring onion garnish was added to by small slivers of smoked duck and then some crispy fried pieces of dried bean curd. It was a clever and well thought out addition that gave the whole dish a new flavour dimension and texture.

Once the duck was cleared away we then had a slight pause before rice bowls arrived and then a plethora of main dishes. First a seared beef dish described as Yunnan Seared 40 day aged beef with mint chilli and lemon grass. (It got demolished before I could take a picture!) A masterful combination that had a real zing and freshness to it with quite an after kick to it.

A bowl of Singapore Noodles then arrived along with stir fried market Chinese greens. Then a really unctuous slow braised pork belly with lotus root and then another bowl arrived with Gang Bao Chicken with roasted Peanuts and a good chilli kick and then apparently a classic new years dish of a rice noodle cake with a bean sprouts. This was a real classic of flavour combinations and textures that was soft and chewy – in fact it was a bit of a “Marmite” dish amongst the other diners but I have to say I loved it.

To complete the meal once all was cleared away wooden boards arrived laden with what looked like little white peaches. These were in fact what could be described as one of Mr Wong’s signature dishes.  The recent Jay Rayner review on the establishment describes the dessert as possibly the best current dessert in London at the moment! It was I have to say quite honestly an amazing dessert. A crispy base to the dumpling that had a gorgeous duck egg based custard  hidden inside a soft delicate casing that beautifully oozed out of the bun as you bit into it!

This was a truly magnificent meal to celebrate Chinese New Year and the company of Mr Hom was equally welcome.  I am in awe of Mr Wong and now am keen to go back… I am celebrating a significant birthday this year and am already trying to plan as many return visits as I can.

My long time friend Chef Kam Po But who has guest cooked a couple of times with me is one I want to eat here with as I know he appreciates Andrew Wong’s talents and knows him well. If anyone wants to join me and But as this is very much a must visit establishment! Please just let me know and I will add you to the list! (You will have to pay your own way though!)

You can tell I enjoyed myself and when I finally left at nearly 5;30pm you just now when it has been a great lunch as much as great company!

Gong Hay Fat Choy

Memories of China… a report

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Well it was the third time we had invited Chef But to “Covert Towers” to prepare a sumptuous Chinese Banquet … It was well subscribed with two nights fully booked with new and returning guests.

I duly collected Mr B and his wife Sue from South Croydon after he had travelled down from his home in Wembley London and we headed off to nearby Wing Yip Chinese supermarket to purchase the more specialist ingredients we required for the dinners.

We sat down in the adjacent restaurant for a quick Dim Sum lunch before we went round the Supermarket picking out what we required… everything from a pile of Spring Green leaves and Chinese Bak Choy to tins of Yellow Bean Paste and jars of chilli sauces were piled high into the trolley.IMG_6593

As we paid up we headed back round the M25 to Kent and got stuck into the job of preparing food for the impending dinners… Legs of Lamb were butchered and prepared for poaching as they were to be used as the Mongolian Crispy Lamb, Beef Shin was chopped and poached off ready to be slowly cooked with a piquant sauce and water chestnuts. Dried Bean Curd was deep fried and then placed in a bucket of hot water to soften and then cut into bite sized pieces.

B then seemed to magic a pork and chicken minced meat mixture ready for stuffing into the dumplings and then within about one hour and twenty minutes he had made over one hundred dumplings. Blocks of Prawns were left to defrost… it was a late finish and then the next morning it was an early start as we prepared so much food for that evenings dinner. Prawns were made ready for the stir fry and then others were minced to be made into prawn toasts.

IMG_6592It was a long day as we prepared for the full house… we had a big menu. It was a full on service as we served everything from the Red Lotus Cocktail to the finale of some Taywell Sorbet and Ice Cream… and some rather yummy Silver Tipped Jasmine Tea supplied by Blends for Friends. Popular dishes seemed to be Sesame Prawn Toasts and then Slow Cooked Beef Shin with water chestnuts and dried bean curd. All dishes were quickly consumed and as last guests departed it was a quick clear up and off to our slumbers for another busy day the next day.

The Saturday night always seems a great deal easier… something to do with lessons learnt from the Friday I suspect. We still spent most the morning prepping and then after a quick visit to  a local cafe for some lunch we were back in the kitchen to finish off and get ready for another full house.

IMG_6651Mr But and his wife Sue had with the rest of the team worked so very hard to make it a very special couple of nights… Guests seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a lively couple of days … we hope you all enjoy the videos we have posted on our You Tube channel

We will have some photos to share with you all in due course and will create a gallery when we have.

Cheers

Hari C

Chef But to cook again at Hari Covert’s…

Noodles But

Well we are excited to report Chef Kam Po But formerly Executive Chef at Ken Lo’s Memories of China, Belgravia London has agreed to come back and present another two nights of his culinary prowess.

Chef But had been the Executive Chef of Ken Lo’s for some thirty years plus until his retirement a few years ago. He has been a friend for the same period and is god father to my daughter and we have done Chinese dinners in some truly amazing locations from the depths of the Hampshire countryside to the remoteness of the Isles of Scilly.

Chef But is a true master at blending dishes to be balanced in flavour, texture and colour. He has constructed a menu once again that will demonstrate all of this and to top it all off at the end of the dinner he will once again demonstrate the art of Hand Drawn Noodles. His skill in this is legendary as he has made countless appearances  on TV from The Generation Game to BBC Food & Drink and ITV This Morning.

This is a unique chance to sample some truly great Chinese food in a relaxed and sharing manner and will as always be totally oversubscribed!

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and simple nibbles before getting guests to sit down to a mammoth banquet. The meal will begin with a range of starters, Crispy Smoked Chicken served with Crispy Seaweed (not actually Seaweed), Sesame Prawn Toasts, Kuo-Tieh Dumplings – a little steamed pork dumpling that are then fried to give a crispy bottom served with a simple soy and ginger dipping sauce. Finally a baked fresh Scallop served in its shell with a piquant black bean sauce.

We will then serve a soup to guests – normally served at the end of a meal here though as a bit of a palate cleanser it will be a delicate Cantonese Hot & Sour Soup.

Next we will then serve what has become something of a signature dish for Chef But. Mongolian Crispy Lamb is a marinated braised leg of lamb that once cold is deep fried until crispy and served with a yellow bean sauce and lettuce leaves like the crispy duck and pancakes. It is a clever dish of textures and flavours and for many lighter than the Duck & pancake variety.

Moving onto the main course dishes we will then serve the following. Chef But will cook them and dish up as quickly as he can but they will generally come as and when they are ready. We will serve a Slow Cooked Beef Shin with water chestnuts. This is a real winter warmer dish and not found on your average Chinese restaurant menu, the beef shin is slowly cooked in a rich soy and spiced broth and then served with crunchy water chestnuts. Stir Fried Chicken Breast in a yellow bean sauce with crispy Almonds. Stir Fried King Prawns with Snow Peas (Mange Tout). Then depending on what we can purchase a fillet of fish done “Peking Style” in a light egg batter that is first fried then steamed with a sauce made from spring onions, garlic and ginger – the “Holy trinity” in Chinese cuisine.

We will serve a fresh vegetable either Pak Choy or Choi Sum (depending on our market purchases) topped with Oyster Sauce and some plain boiled rice.

To complete the meal Hari will be doing the pudding and he will showcase some exotic Asian flavour ice creams and sorbets from local producer Taywell Ice Creams. We will serve Jasmine Tea or if some want a coffee to complete the banquet.

Finally after all of this you will be treated to the hand drawn noodle demonstration by Mr But… this magical process is thousands of years old and we recommend you bring your cameras or phone cameras to capture it all as if you blink you will miss it.

Since we announced these dates spaces filled very quickly and we are now fully booked for both nights.

If you want spaces or be on our waiting list please complete the booking form at the end of this post.

Arrival  7:30pm – Welcome Drinks and assorted Chinese Nibbles

Dinner Served 8:00pm – prompt

Suggested Donation £55.00 per person service not included (Guests to bring their own wines/drinks – Glasses, Water and Ice Buckets provided.)

Menu

Sesame Prawn Toasts

Crispy Seaweed

Kuo-Tieh Dumplings (Pot Stickers)

Crispy Smoked Chicken

Baked Scallop with Black Bean Sauce

吃 嘛

Cantonese Hot & Sour Soup

吃 嘛

Crispy Mongolian Lamb with Lettuce Puffs

吃 嘛

Slow braised Beef Shin with water chestnuts

Stir Fried Chicken with Yellow Bean Sauce and Almonds

King Prawns with Snow Peas (Mange Tout)

Fish Fillet “Peking” Style with Ginger & Garlic

Chinese Vegetables with Oyster Sauce

Steamed Rice

吃 嘛

Assorted “Taywell” Asian Sorbet & Ice Creams

吃 嘛

Jasmine Tea or Coffee

Please complete the following form to reserve your spaces. Please note we are already fully booked for both Friday and Saturday and now only have a waiting list for cancellations or potentially a 3rd night.

Gong Hei Fat Choi… Happy New Year to you…

Well it was a busy day for yours truly yesterday as I was lucky enough to be asked to help set up and arrange a special appearance by chef Kam Po But who was our guest chef back in August 2011.

Chef But with Phillip & Holly

He was on the ITV This Morning show as part of their “Chinese New Year” celebrations. A quick demo of his prowess at making hand made noodles was then quickly followed by presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby having a go themselves! Check out the demo here If you go to 01.05.00 it should be about the spot in the programme! You can still see the demo he gave at our dinners on You Tube.

It was fascinating at seeing how the programme is put together and it seems like organised chaos but very professional in it’s execution.

Full swing...

I did talk to Mr But about doing a return visit to our supper club later in the year and so watch this space!