k Rick Stein k
k Talks DJing, the perils of sea bass and having a crafty McDonalds k
This week we caught up with one of the finest chefs in the world, Rick Stein OBE. A real honour to grab some time with the great man as he is in the middle of his latest book project ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ – a nautical food journey through the Eastern Mediterranean which will be released this summer accompanied by a major new six part BBC show. “There is nothing more exhilarating than fresh fish simply cooked” says Stein and at LoveFoodIbiza, we couldn’t agree more..
Rick, welcome to LoveFoodIbiza. We live in Ibiza where paella still rules supreme. When it’s good it’s really good, when it’s bad it’s really bad. What are the key elements to make the finest paella?
It was a great privilege when I filmed in Spain in 2010 to be shown how to make proper paella around Valencia. As far as I could tell, the best ones are made with a good stock flavoured with tomato and pimenton, rabbit, chicken, green beans and white Judion beans, like butterbeans and, for total perfection, the dish is cooked over orange wood. Seafood paella is also common. I think the seafood in it often suffers from being overcooked. The best one I had was actually from Santander in Cantabria made with prawns, clams, mussels and langoustines.
Your nephew Julius who the world of music knows as Judge Jules is one of the world’s most famous DJs. Once upon a time you too used to DJ…who were the artists that Rick Stein would be spinning back in the day? And when was the last time you took to the turntables?
Lots of Tamla Motown, the Stones, James Brown, almost anything on Atlantic Records. ‘All Right Now’ by Free, ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles, The Allman Brothers and anything from Layla and other assorted love songs, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Eagles. The last time I took to the turntables was at a Seafood Restaurant staff party about 20 years ago.
The Mediterranean family ethos seems to be mirrored in the Stein household and business, everyone is working towards the same goal and looking after each other at the same time. As time progresses, are you finding yourself more and more guided by your son’s opinions, how proud are you of the way they have dealt with having a famous dad?
I suppose it is one of the inevitabilities of getting older but I occasionally catch what could only be a tiny glimpse of eyes rolling from all my sons. I try to keep up to date but I can’t. Just as in my mid 30’s I began to lose touch with what was going on in music but we all get on very well and share ideas. The two youngest, Jack and Charles, decided at an early age to enjoy the pluses of having a famous Dad like going to nice restaurants. Edward, my eldest, has always found it a bit tricky. These days I think he is just sympathetic to me being noticed everywhere.
You championed sustainability and were rightly awarded Three Star Sustainability Champion status in March. What are some of the ways you are currently researching to make things better?
As far as fish is concerned we are always keeping an eye on what fish to be featuring which are sustainable. Right from the beginning I‘ve always tried to recycle and reclaim. At one stage, my brother designed what looked like a toast rack to sit in the kitchen extraction system to channel heat through constantly circulating water. It didn’t work. These days all our food waste goes to energy generation and we have our own equipment to convert cooking oil into diesel for our company vans.
You are an ambassador of keeping fish in it’s simplest form. What have you witnessed on your travels which you thought was a real crime against fish?
Looking back, I was an early criminal in a crime against fish. Much before the Fat Duck I wrote a recipe for anchovy ice cream in my first cookery book.
What fish is the most challenging to prepare? And the most delightful?
Funnily enough, any chef who has worked for me has probably come unstuck with sea bass. Not only does it have spines along its back but it also has sharp ones on each gill cover which everyone forgets about. So that when you de-scale them by scraping them from tail to head, your knuckle is always perfectly placed to be spiked. It is excruciatingly painful, I always call it a rite of passage, needless to say, that the bass is a wonderful eating fish.
If you could change one thing about fishing and the ocean…what would it be?
That’s easy. If only there was a worldwide agreement to conserve fish and police illegal fishing.
What is the greatest fisherman story you love recalling to friends around the dinner table?
It’s not really a fisherman’s story, it’s about the first time I went filming in a trawler out of Padstow. It was only a mere force eight gale so nothing too spectacular but I and the TV crew were (a) scared and (b) awfully seasick. So that in the middle of the night, filming the net being opened and all the fish sliding onto the deck, which we did repeatedly with each trawl, necessitated all of us getting up from our bunks, doing the filming as quickly as possible and going below to be sick again. The only thing that kept me from being truly panicky was the fact that the skipper spent most of his time sitting in his skipper’s seat in the wheelhouse, often with his feet up on the instrument desk, reading The Sun.
Not many people know this, but Rick Stein is really good at…
Notwithstanding my incredibly successful nephew, I actually like choosing music at parties. I’ve never really talked about this to Jules but I think it’s all down to taking pleasure in seeing people enjoy themselves and that’s exactly what I do in cooking.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what one fish would you hope would be in the surrounding waters to catch?
I know it’s asking a lot but it would be Dover Sole or Sole as it’s called anywhere but the UK. It always seems to me the one fish that anyone, whether they like fish or not, would love. Its firm texture and boneless fillets are second to none. No wonder it’s probably the most expensive fish in the sea apart from, that is, the Japanese Fugu puffer fish which, as many people know, can cause instant painful death if not prepared properly.
What is your guilty pleasure dish?
Once a year, at Christmas, I call into McDonalds half way between Sydney and my beach house at Mollymook in New South Wales and order a Grand Angus Burger – it’s gorgeous.
And finally Rick, when Jules and Amanda come down for a family lunch or dinner, who is in charge of the music…and who is in charge of the wine?
No question, Jules is in charge of the music. He really knows how to make people get up and dance. And choosing wine to me is like getting the right music.