StyleNest talk to the man behind Corrigan’s and Bentley’s…Richard Corrigan and talks copper pans, oysters and food secrets.
Although his wife does most of the cooking at home, you can tell that Richard Corrigan is truly passionate about what he does. Inspired by his mum and dad, StyleNest spend five minutes with the lovely Richard to find out all about his Irish past, how to cook Dover sole and how one of the UK’s most respected chefs won’t say no to baked beans on toast.
You grew up in a farm in Ireland, how important is it to use locally sourced produce in your cooking?
It is extremely important to me that the food we use is sourced as locally as possible and from individuals rather than large companies. We work closely with our suppliers and I only use farmers and fishermen that treat everything they do with pride. Ingredients such as butter, bacon, cheese, charcuterie, sausages and salmon we source from only Britain and Ireland.
You’re renowned for your seafood and game dishes. Although people like to eat these dishes in restaurants, it’s sometimes quite daunting to cook them at home. Any top tips for our readers?
When cooking seafood or game dishes at home, keep it simple. I can’t think of many things better than a whole Dover sole, cooked simply in a pan in the classic way, with a little brown butter. But because of the size of them you really need a pan for each one. Cook the soles simultaneously in two pans. If you don’t have two pans, keep the first fish warm in the oven while you cook the second. Game meat is very lean, when cooking grouse cover with bacon rashers to keep moist. Also grouse is typically pricier in August, early in the hunting season, but prices lower considerably in later months which is fortunate as I believe the flavour improves as the weeks go on. A great way to mix up a Sunday roast is to serve grouse on top of fried bread and alongside liver en croute and blackberry sauce for a truly robust invitation into the cooler months.
You have recently been involved with the BBC for the Great British Budget Menu. Can you tell our readers a little more about this?
The BBC’s Great British Budget Menu aims to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our times: food poverty. Recent research estimates that nearly five million people in the UK are struggling to feed themselves properly and eat nutritiously. For part of the show, myself, James Martin and Angela Hartnett live with three households who are finding it hard to make ends meet. I visit a family of six in Mansfield who, on average, have just £1.66 per day to feed each member of the family. At the end of the show we are set the challenge of creating a Budget Banquet but have to stick to the same budget that their family lives on. We invite influential guests such as politicians, high street supermarket representatives, well-known faces and movers and shakers from the charity world to try the food and discuss the food poverty issue.
You have won many awards including a Michelin star, what has been your greatest achievement?
I think an amazing achievement of mine was to open two restaurants in a recession and keep them busy and successful.
You run a number of restaurants whilst also appearing on our screens on a number of cooking shows. What do you like doing to sit back and relax?
To relax I enjoy listening to Tom Waits, with a good bottle of wine and a bit of cheese. Having grown up on a farm I also enjoy fishing and hunting and then cooking what I’ve caught.
Can you give our StyleNest readers any exciting inside news on any current or future projects you might be working on?
We have just acquired a beautiful 100acre estate in Ireland to grow our own crops for the restaurants in London….keep you posted soon.
What advice would you give our readers who want to set up their own business?
To make any business a success you need lots of time, passion and energy.
What are your tips on encouraging kids to get cooking and eating healthy food at an early age?
I think there’s an appreciation about food and flavour that’s formed in your childhood and knowing the time and work that goes into producing good food, makes you hate to waste any of it. I think it is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children to play with food from an early age and to keep a healthy and balanced diet in the home – in my house we always have a lot of fruit. Eating together as a family is also important, in my house we share the table as a family, we sit around and I love all of that because when you share food, you share conversation.
For those who haven’t experienced your fine food, can you tell our readers what to expect on the menu at your restaurants.
Our guests come to Corrigan’s because of our confidence in using wild, foraged and sometimes unusual ingredients. You can expect such dishes as slow cooked short rib, with marrow toast and wild leeks and fillet of sea bass with anchovy & seaweed butter. At Bentley’s you can dine at The Oyster Bar and choose from a selection of shellfish, ceviche or classic dishes such as lobster bisque and fish pie. The Grill is a more formal dining area and serves dishes such baked lemon sole with mussels and sea vegetables and basil and cutlet of Iberico pork with morcilla sage & caramelised apple.
Which are some of your favourite restaurant haunts from around the UK?
I like Hix, it’s interesting and intimate. I like it particularly because my kids like to go there. I hear all different things about Hix Belgravia but I ask my kids where they want to go and they keep consistently saying to me – Hix Belgravia. For a luxurious dinner with my wife, Le Gavroche is where we’d head and even more so when Silvano was there. This would be my luxury comfort evening, when I’m feeling flush and spoiling myself.
What helps to inspire you to create new dishes? Is it places? People?
I think both. When I was growing up my mentors were my mum and dad. They gave me the inspiration of the joys from simple food when I was growing up. My father was a small farmer in rural Ireland. He brought home the odd local farmer and poacher. I was brought up between the orchards and the fields. That’s where my appreciation of the simple things began.
What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Heinz baked beans on toasted soda bread. This has to be the ultimate, ultimate snack food.
As a chef you spend hours in the kitchen, do you still get pleasure cooking at home or would you prefer to go out to dinner?
My wife does most of the cooking at home. When I do cook it’s usually fish pie, it’s my wife’s favourite. Add Grimsby smoked haddock and Morecambe Bay brown shrimp to butter, onion, garlic, white wine, thyme, milk and flour, with Irish potatoes roughly mashed on top. You have to prepare it the day before, but then you can simply sprinkle on some breadcrumbs, roast in the oven and finish off under the grill. Serve with Colman’s mustard on the side.
What advice would you give parents to help prepare time efficient, nutritious and tasty meals for the family?
Tinned food can make meals go further. Buy tinned beans, kidney, chickpeas and tinned tomatoes value ranges. And watch carefully for offers on tinned fish in shops – tinned sardines taste great. Tinned fruit is also delicious and a great source of nutrients and a great winter backup.
Any top tips for mums who aren’t confident cooks? Any secrets how to get little ones excited about veggies?
What I noticed from taking part in Great British Budget Menu is that there is a distinct lack of cookery reference books in homes. You need to study and learn, read and absorb to learn how to cook. Also taste your food. Taste it and taste it and taste it. People don’t taste what they cook, and then they put it on a plate and say “Oh, this doesn’t taste so good.” They haven’t seasoned it or spiced it, and they end up with food that tastes of nothing. And they get demoralised and disillusioned, and they order a takeaway next time. Introduce your children to lots of different vegetables from a young age. If your children refuse to eat them raw then hide them in recipes such as a grilled vegetable pizza, autumn casserole or apple and avocado smoothie.
You host cookery classes at both Corrigan’s Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill. How comfortable in the kitchen do you need to be to attend and what should our readers expect?
Classes are suitable for novices and cooking enthusiasts alike. At Corrigan’s, participants can expect to pick up skills such as filleting fish, plucking and roasting game birds and the secrets of a soufflé. At Bentley’s, guests will learn from infamous oyster expert, Mr Oyster Boy, who has over thirty years experience. From how to shuck, dress or serve an oyster to how to fillet a tricky type of fish. At the end of both classes, guests get to enjoy a three-course lunch with matching wines chosen by the restaurant’s knowledgeable sommelier. And leave with a goody bag including recipe cards, apron and my cookery book as a memento.
Timesaving appliances are being launched every day with cupcake makers and chocolate printers. Do you welcome modern tools of cooking in your kitchen or do you miss the former more traditional approach?
I’m not one for the latest everything. I depend upon a decent frying pan. We’re one of the few restaurants that still rely on our pans – everyone’s into their slow cookers and gadgets and this and that. I still love my copper pans and my cast-iron frying pans.
What inspirational chefs do you admire?
Albert Roux is amazing. His dogged determination to just keep going is an inspiration.
Do you have a motto in life?
Work hard and play hard, put passion in everything you do or don’t bother.