John Quil­ter hates din­ner par­ties, loves cook­ing with cof­fee

The Guardian - Cook - - To Finish -

part of my liv­ing room. It’s quite big, but feels small be­cause of all the stuff I have in there. I keep my spices in test tubes on a test-tube rack. I’ve got mini shelves on stilts so I can get more in, un­derneath and on top. I col­lect jam jars for stor­ing stuff: left­overs, be­cause I al­ways cook more than I need; dry goods that I buy in bulk and de­cant … The kitchen is where I spend a lot of my time – my favourite week­ends are based around my kitchen. I have an is­land in the mid­dle that lets me prep while look­ing out of the win­dow into the gar­den.

My kitchen is …

my chef’s knife. I got it when I en­rolled at chef’s school when I was 17. It’s got my name on it. It’s my dear­est pos­ses­sion.

My favourite kitchen tool is …

dried chill­ies: scotch bon­net, chipo­tle, gua­jillo, piquin … I love the dif­fer­ent heats and flavours. I use chipo­tle chill­ies in my cow­boy-style baked beans for the smok­i­ness; ha­baneros for heat in a slow beef short-rib recipe to go with waf­fles. An­cho or gua­jillo give a rich and fruity choco­latey flavour in my beef brisket chilli for na­chos.

My storecupboard sta­ple is …

al­ways have, with­out ever de­vi­at­ing, good cheese, quince jam and pick­led onions. I some­times add things to that, but al­ways those things.

When I’m starv­ing I …

street food. If you’re cook­ing street food, you don’t have lots of stuff, or space. So you tend to fo­cus on two or three

My culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion is …

things and do them ex­tremely well. It’s very spe­cialised, very fo­cused: the best pad thai, the best cheese­burger …

I use cof­fee all the time in food. Mak­ing stock usu­ally in­volves roast­ing meat or veg, then boil­ing it in wa­ter, and strain­ing it – which is ex­actly how you make cof­fee. So cof­fee is ac­tu­ally a stock and it can be used as one. I made a chilli a cou­ple days ago with beef cheeks, soak­ing the chill­ies in cof­fee first.

My best-kept kitchen se­cret is … When I’m in­vited to din­ner I al­ways take …

a smile. I love cook­ing with friends, es­pe­cially out­doors. I go surf­ing a fair bit and af­ter­wards I love be­ing round friends, cook­ing. I de­test din­ner par­ties – the idea of one per­son slav­ing all day over a showoff meal, then ev­ery­one turn­ing up just to eat. I think food is about love, and there is hap­pi­ness and love to be had when you’re all in­volved.

fresh air. Food tastes bet­ter out in the open. When you drink wine, you suck air in while you drink it, which makes it taste the way it does. So it’s phys­i­cally, as well as emo­tion­ally, true.

Ev­ery­thing tastes bet­ter with …

tend to be led by what’s in front of me. I go to my butcher or fish­mon­ger, then shop around what­ever hero in­gre­di­ent I get.

When I go shop­ping I …

I’m mak­ing blue corn tacos with beef cheek and queso fresco. With a glass of mal­bec.

For din­ner tonight …

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