Tag Archives: Cooking

Do we really love food?

A recent BBC News headline caught my eye as I laid in bed supping my morning cuppa “Chef Angela Hartnett says Britons are not really foodies”

It is quite a bold statement and  I have to say an opinion I would totally concur with as there are many Britons that like to think they are but we really do lack the same food culture as our European neighbours Spain, France or Italy. (they are not without their faults as well)

The Germans are more like us whilst Asian cultures have far more developed understanding of food than we do. I have to say we have become better in the last 40 years but one of the points Angela Hartnett raises is the fact that our food culture is money driven from the “haves and have nots”

We are also so wasteful with food and totally unimaginative in using up those items past their best. The lack of skills in a kitchen both at home and now often in professional environment also means there is a need to develop the skills lost over time on how to manage our resources better. A good business practice as well.

Those BBC programmes “Back in Time” that looked at how families cooked and ate far more left overs and had a connection with food was a fascinating insight into how times have changed over the decades.

Having lived in cultures that appreciate their food, the seasons and their history it seems a real shame we do not teach from a very young age here in this country some basic principals. I fondly remember a few years ago seeing a class of primary school children (All under 5) in France being led into a Michelin starred restaurant where I was dining to come and sample some classic French ingredients like foie gras, snails and chocolate to have their palates educated.

I have for the past six years annually coached a group of young girls at a local school how to gut a fish and bone a chicken and it never ceases to amaze me how squeamish the majority are about the whole process and how unconnected they are from the food they enjoy.

I myself was a fussy child not eating many foods and it was not until I left home and started my studies and travelled more widely that I woke up to food and what it has to offer. It provides conversation, enjoyment and nourishment and is also useful in so many other ways.

If there is one thing we should teach in schools it is how to appreciate the food we eat and how we can cook it properly. I will keep doing my bit but unless we change and become a nation of foodies then alas nothing will change!

I also recently managed to watch a film on Netflix called “The Last Magnificent” about one of the first celebrity chefs in America Jeremiah Tower. It was an eyeopening and thought provoking look at how what we now take for granted is a relatively modern phenomenon. What struck me most was how as a child his parents left him to his own devices (he had a very privileged upbringing and it was this experience that helped develop his passion for food)

So my challenge for 2018 is to keep plugging away at trying to develop young palates and create a different culture towards food. I would challenge anyone who wants to join me on this mission will be most welcome to do so.

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All loved up…

hearts1Well that date is fast approaching when couples habitually inhabit those tables of two’s in a restaurant and look lovingly into each other’s eyes across the dinner table!

You can tell I am a fan of this night of romantic love big time – Not!

It is generally hype to fill perhaps a quiet week night (a Tuesday this year) and dreaded by restaurants when it falls on a weekend night as they fill up in under capacity!

I have such strong memories of a “Valentine Night” in a restaurant I was working in when a couple came in for dinner who had obviously had a row and I think the guy was there under duress.

They ordered two” well done” fillet steaks and requested they be served with peas (we were upmarket and served a medley of vegetables)

confusciusI sent the waitress back with the message “Old Chinese Philosopher Confucius says Man who eats “Meat and Peas” on same plate is very unhygienic”

The waitress thought for moment and then giggled and said I can’t tell them that… I said please try!

Some restaurants get all creative with overpriced pun induced menus using not in season produce – e.g. Asparagus, Strawberries etc or pink coloured foods! I even tried one year doing a Valentine themed dinner here for my Supperclub and found it a tortuous night so vowed never again!

cooking2I am much more in favour of seeing you all cooking something special at home and perhaps pushing the boat out with a meal lovingly prepared for a loved one. It makes much more a statement than splashing out on a substandard meal in a restaurant.

So this would be my suggestion on a good seasonal menu

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock with a Celeriac Remoulade

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Chicken Bhuna (cooked in a Slow Cooker)

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Tangy Lemon Posset

with homemade Shortbread Biscuits

cookingYou will note I have provided links for all the recipes so why not give it a go and impress a loved one and cook them up this special treat… it will not break the bank and I am sure it will impress the other half!

Failing that why not come along later in the month for our February dinner event that we are calling “Game On as we will be featuring assorted Game dishes from Venison to Guinea Fowl.  You can book the dinners here on our dedicated ticketing site!

Alternatively if you what to learn how to prepare these or any other dishes there is always the Covert Cook School where we can help you build your confidence and assist those untapped wooing skills…

Far better than going out with all those other sad ones!!!

Design – don’t you just love it…?

Well for this post I am going slightly “off piste” as they say…

p04lfbv7I recently stumbled across a programme currently airing on BBC2 called “The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes” fronted by actress Caroline Quentin (I have loved her comedic style) and award winning architect Piers Taylor.

I have to say if I had not followed the hospitality route in my career I think I could have possibly gone the route of being an architect. I have enormous respect for this profession as I believe well designed homes offer us something so amazing to live in and can also transform our lives.

The series is looking at homes around world that are designed in Mountains, Forests, Coastal or Underground environments – I cannot wait for the final episode!!!

Firstly the chemistry between Piers the architect and Caroline is so infectious. He is something of a purist whilst she looks for the more practical side of how the home will function as a home.

I have watched the first two episodes on catch up and cannot recommend them more highly as the ingenuity of the architects is amazing. The mountain top property in California that uses disused 747 plane wings as the basis of the roof is inspired and then the mountain top cabin on top of a Swiss mountain that can only be reached by cable car were great examples of clever design with their environment challenges.

In the Forest episode the two standout properties were both in the US in an area north of New York City (The Catskills) and have to be seen to be believed. Money seemed to be no object with one whilst the other one seemed to be an amazing family home in a much loved area, amazing.

It’s got me thinking of the similarities with the two professions of architect and chef. Both need to be aware of what works and combines well together and how combinations can influence and enhance the finished product. Well-designed delivers something memorable whilst over designed can frustrate.

Equally the presentation of a finished dish can provide something memorable but also the challenges of ruining the final look of the dish by over complication or sloppy presentation.

I love to sit, think and visualise (sometimes sketching) about how I will present a dish but always have a practical head on.

For me when plating food it should look good and invite you in to consume, embellishment is fine but needs to be relevant to the final dish. What annoys me most is that too much can only mean one thing that the dish gets cold or requires too many hands in its final presentation making it impractical to execute in a pressured environment. Many similarities to what is good architectural design.

Equally, I also like to think about the influence of colour and the plate or receptacle I am using will impact on the finished dish.

I know there is a website that bemoans the use of the more unusual website-logo-2017presentation of food – “We Want Plates”

If used correctly the more unusual can provide you with something memorable and I also firmly believe the humour can sell what can be a drab product. A topic for a future discussion perhaps!

The TV program has been inspiring and hugely entertaining, wonderful designed homes that are pleasing to the eye in some beautiful settings.

Not unlike well prepared food, presented in an imaginative way that eats well.

I am interested in what you all think, especially those of you in the design or architecture business!

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!