We love our In the Kitchen feature which give us the opportunity to have a peek into a blogger’s kitchen and this month we are very lucky to have been invited into Kevin Ashton’s kitchen. Kevin blogs at Chef Kevin Ashton and has cooked around the world for a long list of VIP’s including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, President Bush, President Reagan, former President Nixon, Vice-President Mondale, Edward Kennedy and many movie stars.
Kevin also enjoys performing cooking demonstrations in front of large audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, including the International Food & Wine Festival, Washington D.C, BBC Good Food Show and others.
Kevin was invited to write a weekly recipe column for the Sunday Mercury (part of the mirror trinity group),which he did for five years. In February 2006 he was bitten by the blogging bug which has expanded into food and travel articles for both newspapers and magazines (both trade and consumer).
Over to Kevin…
First and foremost my kitchen has to be functional. To have enough storage space and to be a pleasant environment. It’s a refuge from my rush around life of cooking and writing.
Living out in the countryside it was important to have both gas and electric and I chose a gas hob and an electric double oven. My gas is bottle gas from a huge tank well hidden in the garden. Having cooked on induction hobs and electric too, I still prefer the control and instance response of a gas hob, plus they keep looking good for longer whereas induction might need specialized cleaners or can look scratched and tired after a couple of years.
Having a large kitchen window is also important to me helping me relax because cooking at home should be enjoyable and relaxing.
When buying equipment I do try to buy carefully and look for equipment that has more than one function. Next I take a look at the reviews online, and then if possible go and find the item in a shop to get a feel for the quality etc (even if I end up buying on-line).
Right now my new best friend is my Andrew James 800 watt Multifunctional food processor. It has two sizes of bowls so you can process a large or small amount. It also comes with a grinder, to grind my coffee in the morning. A heavy duty liquidiser that can crush ice, 2 different types of juicers and of course 4 grating plates to grate cheese or vegetables. But the real test, is not just the ease of use but the ease of cleaning. If the cleanup is too much hassle it will just sit in the cupboard. Compared to other makes, I don’t know how they sell such good quality kit for such a low price?
And talking of price, whenever I am looking to buy pots and pans etc I would recommend you try one of the sites we professionals use such as Russums because so many of the foodie type kitchen sites charge too much, banking on your need for high quality and knowing you are prepared to pay a premium.
For example there’s a French make of saucepan called Bourgeat and they are used in every good professional kitchen. They use what’s called an annular weld to attach the handle and I have never in 35 + years seen one lose it’s handle even when the chef is bludgeoning the waiter who has just dropped your dinner on the floor.
I do have a lot of cookbooks especially since I started reviewing them, so relatives are banned from buying me any (only kidding). Some of my favourites don’t just give a recipe but tell a story about the people, such as The Yunnan Cookbook by Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia. Or Rick Stein’s Food Heroes where Rick’s anecdotes really draw you in to trying the recipe. I also have one or two treasures that have memories of my time working in the US, like Chez Panesse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters which still influences cooks and chefs 33 years later. But perhaps the cookbook I only share with a few friends is my copy of Jean Louis Palladin’s Cooking for the Seasons. For those unfamiliar with the name, Jean Louis was the youngest chef from Gascony to achieve 2 Michelin stars before moving to the US and opening up a small restaurant in the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. He went onto become an award winning celebrity TV chef but to speak to he was just a passionate cook. Sadly he died in 2001 but his book, which is a stunning oversized coffee table tome, can still be bought. Jean Louis worked with prize-winning photographer Fred J. Maroon and produced just one dish a day at Fred’s studio. Each dish was a one -off leaving no margin for error. Renown sculptor Jeffrey Bigelow was hired to design the acrylic surfaces that showcase dishes of startling beauty.
Vegetables & Herbs
In the garden I have 3 raised beds for vegetables and herbs, but as you can see from the photos they are in need of some pruning, but with the help of friends we just about keep it under control. Except for the Rhubarb crown, no matter how severely I hack it down in the late autumn the following year it grows back even stronger, so I’m constantly having to come up with recipes like this roasted rhubarb flan with cinnamon creme fraiche.