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Celeb chef Tony Tobin lights up bonfire night recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:28 24 October 2011 | UPDATED: 13:55 30 September 2014

Tony Tobin cooks up some seasonal treats

Tony Tobin cooks up some seasonal treats

Celebrity chef and former Surrey Life columnist Tony Tobin reveals his own brand of culinary fireworks

Best Surrey fireworks displays

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Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2009

Celebrity chef and former Surrey Life columnist Tony Tobin reveals his own brand of culinary fireworks

IT'S THAT time of year when the telltale smells of bonfires and fireworks, and correspondingly terrified dogs and excited children, mark the change of the seasons.

You’ve swept the fallen leaves into piles, pulled out the high-tog duvet and spent weekends in the garden looking forward to evenings warmed by the glow of a real wood fire. So – with a fiery theme established – let’s consider cooking with an open flame. 

Despite all our culinary evolutions and technological kitchen wizardry, we remain drawn to cooking with real fire – we’re back to men and barbecues again... There’s nothing like
a few flames to ignite our hunter-gatherer instincts. 

Taste-wise, we all know how wonderful a marinated steak can be straight from the barbecue – the chargrilled taste cutting through the natural earthiness of the beef. Or – further down the food chain – how succulent sardines can be when cooked on a driftwood fire on the beach or a supermarket insta-BBQ in your backyard. Imagination is an important ingredient for our taste buds and a real flame anywhere is often enough.

Round the campfire
I remember my days as a young lad at camp, enjoying the great outdoors, learning how to read a compass and follow a trail… getting lost and finding a local pub – you know the sort of thing! But the best part was always the fire in the evening, toasting fluffy marshmallows on a long stick over the flames, until they were black and bubbling on the outside but oozing sweet stickiness on the inside. Roasting bananas has remained a special treat for me and my kids – split it in half lengthways in its skin, fill it with a chocolate flake, wrap it in foil and plonk it in the glowing embers. After a few minutes, you have the sweetest, naughtiest mess on your hands (face, clothes etc). Heaven.

Barbecues aside, the sensory pleasures from food and flame are not just summer experiences. Four centuries after Guy Fawkes’s little wheeze – and long before the expenses scandal made it a more widespread desire – we still mark the Gunpowder Plot with food as much as fireworks.

A hot mug of pumpkin soup, flavoured with garlic and herbs, to wrap your hands around. Sausages sizzled until their skins darken and split as the juices caramelise to give that crispy coated carbon savoury taste on your first bite. Jacket potatoes with butter bubbling in the smouldering embers at the edge of the bonfire. Can you picture it? Can you taste it?

And while your potatoes are cooking, why not pop a few fresh chestnuts, scored with a sharp knife, into a pan alongside them to roast? They only take a few moments in the embers at the edge of a fire to transform from crunchy nuttiness to tender sweetness inside their shiny shells – the perfect accompaniment to a glass of warm mulled wine. In my book, bonfire night – as you can probably tell – is not just for the kids!

Fanning the flames
Now, how about bringing some of that flame into the kitchen…

Picture crêpe Suzette: delicate sugar pancakes drizzled in Grand Marnier liqueur, set alight in front of your guests. Yes, you may need an extinguisher handy, but there is no better theatre you can lay on for your guests than orange and purple flames dancing across the pan, and the intoxicating alcohol evaporating to leave a rich, caramelised sauce.

Or, if you feel nervous about uncontrolled flames, just make careful use of a blowtorch rather than the grill to caramelise the top of a crème brûlée. Use icing sugar or cassonade, set the flame to a needle point and let the flames lick across the sugar for a few seconds until a sweet, crunchy layer sits in perfect contrast to the soft, creamy custard base beneath.

You’ll have sensed my enthusiasm for this magical mix of fire and food. I hope it brings a flicker of happy memories for you, too, as all food should. Now, if you’re inspired, you can fan the flames of your own invention by trying my recipe for Flambéed Peppered Steak below.

  • Tony Tobin is executive chef at The Dining Room in Reigate (01737 226650)

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Flambéed Peppered Steak

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground

  • 4 x 175g fillet steaks

  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard

  • Sea salt

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 50g unsalted butter

  • 50 ml Irish whiskey

  • 4 tsp beef stock

  • 3 tbsp double cream

To serve:
Buttery baked potatoes
Autumn salad leaves

Method:

1. Grind the peppercorns and place them in a fine sieve. Shake briefly to remove excess pepper powder and spread the ground peppercorns in an even layer over a small plate.

2. Spread a little Dijon mustard over both sides of the steaks and coat with the peppercorns, pressing firmly to ensure that they adhere to the meat. Season with a sprinkling of salt and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over a moderate heat and add the steaks. Cook for two minutes on each side for rare steaks, three minutes each side for medium steaks or about six minutes on each side for well done, taking care not to move the steaks around once they are in the pan, or the peppercorns will fall off.

4. Pour in the whiskey and set alight. Once the flames have subsided, remove the steaks from the pan and keep warm.

5. In a small saucepan, combine the beef-stock and cream and boil over a high heat for a couple of minutes. Pour any juices from the frying pan and the resting steaks into the mixture and stir well.

6. Place a steak on each plate and spoon over the sauce. Serve with baked potatoes laced with butter and a mixed autumn salad.

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Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2008

Below, I have included two Bonfire Night recipes that are easy enough for everyone to try. Meanwhile, for anyone not sure of where to get hold of the giant Catherine Wheel Cumberland sausage shown, just nip down to Robert & Edwards, the wonderful butcher in Reigate, who created the one in my picture for me.
 

Battered Toffee Apples

Ingredients

  • 6 firm apples l 225g cup of plain flour (maida)

  • 2 tablespoons cornflour l 1 teaspoon of baking powder

  • 300g brown sugar l 4 tablespoons of cooking oil

  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

  • Oil for deep frying

Method

 

  • Mix the plain flour, cornflour and baking powder in a bowl.

  • Add water and stir into a smooth, thick batter.

  • Peel, core and cut the apples into bite-size pieces.

  • Coat the apple pieces evenly with the batter and deep fry in hot oil until they are golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

  • Then put the brown sugar, oil and 1 cup of water into a pan and cook over a high flame until the mixture starts to bubble.

  • Reduce the flame and allow it to caramelise without stirring. If required, shake the pan gently to prevent the sugar from burning around the edges of the pan.

  • When the syrup is light brown in colour, remove it from the flame, add the sesame seeds and mix well.

To put it all together...

  • Fill a serving bowl with chilled water and keep aside.

  • Dip the fried apple pieces in the caramel syrup and coat evenly.

  • Remove and immerse them in the bowl of chilled water

  • until caramel coating hardens then drain and serve all the pieces in a bowl immediately.

***

Bonfire Mustard Skins

Ingredients

  • 4 large baking potatoes

  • Butter

  • Wholegrain mustard

  • A chunk of mature cheddar

  • Salt

Method

  • Bake your potatoes until the skins are crispy

  • Cut each potato in two and empty out the skins, putting the mash to one side

  • Mix the mash with a tablespoon of butter, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of good wholegrain mustard

  • Refill the skins with this mixture and grate the mature cheddar over the top of them

  • Pop these into a pre-heated oven at 170 degrees for 20 minutes

  • Serve with a lit sparkler in each!


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Add a bit of fizz

There is one recipe idea that I haven't put above because it relies on both your sense of humour and that of your guests on Bonfire Night. Do you remember when you were young (at least when I was young, so hopefully it'll ring true with a few of you) there was a craze for little sachets of a sugary sherbety substance that would start popping when you put it in your mouth? Well, you can still buy it via a Ye Olde Sweets website by the name of www.aquarterof.co.uk, a repository for all those cornershop sweets from your childhood that are still being produced somewhere. This magic ingredient can be added at the last minute to trifles, sorbets and jellies to give your Guy Fawkes dessert some extra fireworks. Just be careful with your quantities because I've seen people think that their filling is exploding when caught unawares.



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