Expert Interview Series: Andy Hunting of Andy's Kitchen Talks About His Favorite Meats, Ingredients, and Cooking Accessories
Andy Hunting is the inspiration behind Andy's Kitchen, one of the top food blogs in the United Kingdom. We had a chance to chat with Andy about his favorite recipes, ingredients, and kitchen items. Tell us a bit about...
Andy Hunting is the inspiration behind Andy's Kitchen, one of the top food blogs in the United Kingdom. We had a chance to chat with Andy about his favorite recipes, ingredients, and kitchen items.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to start a cooking blog?
I've always enjoyed cooking, and my late Mum was a huge inspiration to me, since we always enjoyed proper cooked meals every night and nothing went to waste. So I grew up on proper comfort food and delicious desserts and puddings.
Not having any training in catering, I learned all I know from reading cookbooks, watching cookery programs such as Ready Steady Cook, the original Masterchef, 2 Fat Ladies, and Delia Smith, but mainly from getting in the kitchen and doing it. But we never stop learning, and over the years I have made so many mistakes with cooking and with the blog - but you only learn from the mistakes that you make.
I started my blog in February 2010. It originally started as a place to post my favorite recipes and cooking tips, but it has grown to be one of the most popular food blogs in the UK, which I am very proud of. Through the blog, I have had the chance to become a demo chef, festival organizer, and recipe developer, and I have met a lot of my food heroes along the way.
Since you're also a "demo chef," could you tell us precisely what that is and why you enjoy doing it?
I am a partner in a company called "Crabstock Festivals® Ltd" where our main aim is to promote the fantastic Seafood & Shellfish that is abundant in the waters of this great island that we live in. So we go around the country giving cookery demonstrations using some fantastic fresh ingredients such as brown crab, lobster, hake, oysters and lots more. While I am cooking up tasty dishes on stage, my business partner and fisherman Adi Bartlett is on stage beside me showing the audience how to filet fish or pick a crab using a teaspoon and rolling pin.
I love being up on stage and performing for the audience; whether there are just 5 people or 500, the feeling and the buzz is still the same. But the best part of the demo is when the public gets to try our dishes and we get to hear their responses. When people say that you have inspired them to go and find a local fishmonger and try one of the dishes I have demoed, it feels so worthwhile and rewarding.
What are some unusual or unorthodox ingredients that you like to cook with?
A few years ago, I was sent some pig cheeks to develop a recipe with. This was a completely new ingredient for me, but wow, what a flavor! I slow cooked them overnight and then turned them into a ragu, which was delicious. If you like pulled pork, then you will love pig cheeks, but they do need long slow cooking. I now use pig cheeks regularly and they are a very economical cut of meat.
Since beef is arguably the most versatile meat, could you tell us how you like to cook and prepare beef?
The first thing I would suggest is to find a local butcher. He or she will be able to suggest the best cuts of meat and also offer suggestions on how to prepare and cook the meat. Your good quality beef is so versatile from tartare to steaks to stews that there is so much you can do with it.
Picking a favorite way of cooking is quite hard, as I love a good rump or T-bone steak cooked medium-rare (please don't have your steak well done). But my all-time favorite beef dish is just a simple beef stew, probably because it reminds me so much of growing up. We always knew when autumn/winter was upon us because you would walk in from school and you would be hit with the beautiful smell of beef stew. Even now when I smell a beef stew, I smile and I am full of happy memories. Any leftover stew would then be turned into a beef pie, with some boiled potatoes thrown in to bulk the dish out.
Could you tell us why your blog features camping recipes? Do you love camping, or did you just think that you could improve on the standard camping fare?
A few years ago, I went through a phase of buying vans to convert into camper vans so we could go away on the weekends and enjoy the great outdoors. On the weekends we did enjoy away, it became apparent to me that most happy campers were content with warming up tinned food or eating out. But to me, the idea of cooking in the great outdoors was exciting.
Driving around and finding a local farm shop and buying some lovely fresh ingredients was fantastic, and you were also supporting the local community.
I would cook up such delights as Boston baked beans, tasty and sometimes quite exotic salads, great barbecue, and lots more.
Do you mind sharing a recipe with us that's ideal for sharing with friends or serving at a party or gathering?
This is one of my most popular recipes, and it's really versatile because you can play around with the ingredients. So here is my recipe for "Christmas Chocolate Brownies," which involves using up your leftover holiday chocolates.
Ingredients to make about 18 brownies, depending on how you cut them:
250g chopped chocolate
200g unsalted butter, chopped
200g caster sugar
3 eggs (medium size)
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
As many Christmas chocolates as you want to use, chopped in half.
1. Preheat the oven to 160/Gas Mark, and line a baking tin with a piece of foil or baking paper.
2. In a medium size microwave-safe bowl, heat the chopped butter and dark chocolate on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir until blended. You may need a further 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly so that you do not cook the eggs when you add them.
3. In another bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until light and creamy.
4. Add the melted chocolate to the whisked eggs, then add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
5. Now sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix well. You can now add the chopped up chocolates and mixed spice.
6. Using a spatula, scrape the lovely chocolate mixture into the baking tin.
7. Put the tin in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. You can check the brownies by pushing a cocktail stick or knife in the middle of the mix; when pulled out, you should see some of the mix still sticking to the stick or knife. Just don't overcook the mix or it becomes very dry.
8. Take the brownies out of the oven and let the tin stand on a wire rack until it has cooled down. Once cool, take the brownies out and cut into squares.
When experimenting in your kitchen, what utensils, tools, or items must you have within reach at all times?
Good quality saucepans are a must. I've always got various spatulas and wooden spoons at hand.
When roasting meats, I always use a digital thermometer, so I know the meat will be cooked to perfection.
You would not believe the amount of mess I make in the kitchen, and I go through so many tea towels. I use them once to clean down, then out comes another one. By the end of my cooking session, the floor is strewn with tea towels.
Since you also have experience in reviewing kitchen gadgets, could you tell us about an item which you recently reviewed that impressed you?
I get sent lots of kitchen gadgets to review, but my favorite and most used is the "AnySharp Global World's Best Knife Sharpener." I have never really liked using steel to sharpen my knives and have tried many other knife sharpening devices; but this one I found to be the best, and it guarantees that my knives are always sharp.
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