Missing restaurant food? Then make it at home – by following the advice of top chef Oli Martin.
He won the festive edition of MasterChef: The Professionals recently and his restaurant at Hipping Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale has an impressive four AA rosettes, so he knows his way around the kitchen.
Here he offers top tips to help elevate six classic home-cooked comfort-food dishes to a restaurant standard, including pasta and sauce, sausage and mash, and fish and chips.
Full English fry-up
Do not substitute Heinz Beans, is one of Oli’s fry-up tips. Along with cooking the mushrooms in the bacon fat (stock image)
Oli hard at work at Hipping Hall
Oli’s first tip for giving your fry-up a peppering of pro-level pizzazz is to ‘use all the fat from the bacon to cook your mushrooms – or pour it on top of your roast tomatoes’.
He continues: ‘Grilling the bacon on the middle shelf is better than the top one, it allows for the heat to transfer more evenly and crisp-up the bacon before it’s burnt.
‘And don’t substitute Heinz Beans.’
Pasta and sauce
‘Always add a bit of the salted pasta water to the sauce, this helps season it,’ says Oli (stock image)
Hipping Hall ‘stands proudly in the upper reaches of Lancashire’
Firstly, let’s deal with a pasta myth. Oli says that oil on top of the pasta water to stop it sticking is just ‘a waste of good oil’.
He continues: ‘Always add a bit of the salted pasta water to the sauce, this helps season it. Finish cooking the pasta for the final couple of minutes in the sauce. The pasta will really soak up the sauce then.
‘Don’t drain your pasta in a sieve/colander, spoon it directly into the sauce, you want to keep some of those starches on the pasta and the excess water on it helps season the sauce.
‘I always finish my pasta dishes by pouring over a good glug of olive oil and balsamic.’
Sausage and mash
‘Warm the milk/cream before adding it to the mash,’ counsels Oli (stock image)
Posh: Oli’s four-AA-rosette restaurant at Hipping Hall
‘Take your time and caramelise some onions for the gravy, that’s what really makes sausage and mash extra-special,’ says Oli. ‘And a little splash of honey and soy into Bisto gravy is a game-changer.’
Many people pierce the skins of sausages before cooking them, but Oli says ‘you want the skins to hold in all the juices’.
And the mash? ‘Boil the potatoes in plenty of water,’ says Oli, ‘add too little and all the starches from the potatoes will thicken up the water and your mash won’t be light and fluffy.
‘Warm the milk/cream before adding it to the mash, it’s less likely to go lumpy then.
‘And a good dollop of whole grain mustard in the mash with some chopped leeks is a nice way to finish it.’
Roast chicken and potatoes
‘Do buy good quality chicken, the flavour difference is immeasurable,’ stresses Oli (stock image)
One of the luxurious Hipping Hall bedrooms
‘Use plenty of butter when roasting the chicken,’ says Oli. ‘I only baste it once every 10 minutes for the first 30 minutes then not at all for the final 20-30 minutes, this helps the skin get nice and crispy. Let the chicken rest for half the amount of time it roasted for. This will keep the bird nice and juicy.’
He adds: ‘Chicken is never dry, it’s usually just overcooked. People are too scared about raw chicken so often overcook it. Have some faith. It’s easy to tell if it is raw when you cut into it.
‘And do buy good quality chicken, the flavour difference is immeasurable. Afterwards, don’t throw the carcass away, find a good chicken soup recipe, it’s mega-easy and sorts lunch for the next day.’
Fish and chips
When cooking fish and chips, Oli recommends adding a glug of gin or vodka in the batter (stock image)
Hipping Hall dates back to the 15th century
Oli’s steps for the perfect fish and chip comprise seasoning the fish before it goes in the batter, boiling the potatoes before you fry them and adding a touch of salt and curry powder into the batter, which is ‘a lovely subtle seasoning’.
He also recommends adding a glug of gin or vodka in the batter – ‘it evaporates a lot quicker and allows the batter to become crisper’.
He adds: ‘Don’t over-whisk the batter, working the glutens too much will make it less crispy. And do buy fresh fish. Everyone likes fish and chips slightly different, so don’t be afraid to experiment.’
Making a Sunday roast? Heed these words from Oli: Not resting the meat long enough will totally ruin it (stock image)
Take a leaf or two out of Oli’s book
‘Give yourself plenty of time when making a roast,’ counsels Oli, who reveals that it’s best to make the batter for the Yorkshire puds the night before, as ‘allowing the glutens to rest will help with the rising of them’.
And there’s no need, he says, to get the Yorkshire pudding tins red hot before adding the batter – ‘just make sure they aren’t stone cold’.
He continues: ‘Brining [soaking in salty water] your meat helps to season it whilst cooking and lock in the flavour and keeps it nice and tender. Not resting the meat long enough will totally ruin it. And boil your potatoes before roasting them, it’ll get them extra crispy and fluffy. Plus, use all the juices from roasting the meat in the gravy.’