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