A cut above

Ja­pa­nese knives and pre­ci­sion scales take pride of place in the kitchen of Neil Rankin

The Guardian - Cook - - A Cook’s Kitchen - Neil Rankin is the head chef at Tem­per restau­rants in Lon­don and the au­thor of Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat (Ebury)

Ilive in a loft apart­ment in a con­verted match­stick ware­house in Bow, east Lon­don. The kitchen is tiny, so I’ve a lim­ited amount of stuff in there, which spills out into wardrobes dot­ted around the rest of the flat. Since I rarely cook for more peo­ple than my­self, it’s am­ple. It’s open plan, to the ex­tent that if I cook any­thing like a steak, the fire alarm goes off. It looks very neat here, but usu­ally there are about 1,000 condi­ments be­hind me.

I rec­om­mend a cast iron grid­dle pan (1) for cook­ing meat, you get a re­ally nice char – this is a Le Creuset one that my mum bought for me years ago. We use Ther­mopens at work, and I have this one at home (2). I think it’s one of the most es­sen­tial tools when cook­ing meat.

When you’re mea­sur­ing herbs and spices for recipe de­vel­op­ment, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to work with­out a pre­ci­sion scale (3) – I do a lot of my res­tau­rant recipe de­vel­op­ment at home, so this is one of the most used items in my kitchen. Nor­mal elec­tronic scales just don’t cut the mus­tard.

I have about 30-40 Ja­pa­nese knives (4) – it’s a lit­tle bit of an ob­ses­sion. It’s im­por­tant to cut things cor­rectly, to have the right knife for each job, and to keep them sharp. The big­gest is­sue I have when I go to other peo­ple’s houses is blunt knives – it takes ages to chop onions and slice roasts! This one was a birth­day present from my girl­friend – it’s beau­ti­ful. For me, a good knife needs a car­bon steel blade.

My sta­ple condi­ments in­clude lots of Ja­pa­nese sauces (5), fish sauce, soy sauce, XO sauce, and lots of fer­mented chilli sauces: I ba­si­cally raid east Asian su­per­mar­kets for ev­ery­thing I can find. The white packet is MSG (6) – I add it to quite a lot of things I cook at home. It makes things de­li­cious. I usu­ally cook very sim­ple rice and veg dishes, and like to pack in as much flavour as I can. I of­ten make cur­ries with what­ever I have ly­ing around, so I have lots of whole spices that I grind down too – hence the pes­tle and mor­tar (7), which is in use al­most ev­ery day. As does the mi­croplane (8), for zest­ing gin­ger, mak­ing gar­lic paste … with­out that my life would be a lot harder.

A child did this draw­ing of the Tem­per kitchen in Soho one night (9). He was sit­ting with his fam­ily at the bar one evening, dur­ing the month we opened. They had a re­ally good time, and he gave this to me at the end of the meal. It just says: “I love tacos.”

I have about 100 cook­books; this (10) is just a re­volv­ing sam­ple re­lated to what­ever I’m cook­ing at the time. I read cook­books for ideas to start me off, but I think home cook­ing is about hav­ing fun with in­gre­di­ents you like, and what­ever else you have ly­ing around. I don’t think you should hunt down ev­ery sin­gle in­gre­di­ent in a recipe; they’re more for in­spi­ra­tion.

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