Sunday, 21 July 2013

TV chefs: Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc and eating out at home

At Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow
In our house TV chefs fall into two categories: those to be admired and those to despise.  Rick Stein and Raymond Blanc are in the first group but we switch channels when Delia or Jamie Oliver appear.  Actually that's not quite true: I've watched Jamie's 30 minute Meals when my personal chef is out of the house, but I do feel Jamie spends more time assembling expensive ingredients than cooking.  It was refreshing therefore to watch a repeat of Raymond Blanc's latest series this morning ('How to Cook Well' I think it's called) and see him give instructions on how to poach an egg properly and then making clever little cling film parcels of salmon and dill and poaching them.

One upon a time, pre-child when we had two full-time salaries coming in, we visited Raymond Blanc's 'Manoir au Quatre Saisons' restaurant, though we didn't stay in the rooms but in a more modest establishment down the road a bit.  It was a fabulous meal - we had the 'Menu Gourmand' - though I can't remember the details.  Was it worth the £177.40 it cost?  In 1996? (Kept the bill in a scrapbook)  Maybe for the memories, the experience, but not the food itself, no matter how delicious it was.

So last week in Padstow we thought we'd visit the restaurant of another food hero, Rick Stein.  I suppose it's because of Rick Stein that we went to Padstow in the first place.  Like many others, I loved his original programme based there.  We watched the series; bought the book; envied the lifestyle and admired his dog Chalky.  Padstow has no doubt benefitted from his influence but I'm not sure he's that popular there now.  It seems he's divorced now and has moved to Australia with his new family.  Yet Padstow is full of Stein's establishments- hotel and bistro, cafe, fish and chip shop, deli, patisserie, gift shop: he's certainly done very well as a TV chef.   He's back in Padstow next week to do signings of his latest book on Indian cooking and is doing the rounds - on Woman's Hour the other day.

We booked in at lunchtime as it's cheaper then and had the £38.50 menu.  With a fruit cocktail for Kate and a bottle of wine it cost around £160 for the three of us.

I liked my starter best  - lobster and fennel risotto with lemon oil.  Didn't take a picture of it as it looked a bit like porridge.  I love lobster but was disappointed to have only a few minute pieces.  But it was absolutely delicious.  Below is Kate's starter of sardines which she liked too.  My main course of cod in a butter sauce with samphire was also perfectly cooked and the puddings tasted as good as they look.  Worth it?  Maybe.  But then the Salt and Pepper Squid I had in the 'Old Ship' down the road was just as good.  And cost less.  And they welcome dogs.

Kate's Berry Pavlova

My Key Lime Pie
I'm just as happy eating at home.  Last night we ate outside with a friend who was visiting and had Goat's Cheese and Red Onion Tart, followed by Chicken Caesar Salad all lovingly prepared by my superstar chef husband.  Absolutely lovely and a match for the TV chef restaurants.  My contribution was growing the Little Gem lettuce which formed the basis of the salad.  And doing the washing up.  The only downside of eating out at home.

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