A Year of Kent Gourmet
Follow Chapter One’s Chef Patron, Andy McLeish, on a year long journey to discover the fabulous food Kent has to offer.
I’m Andy McLeish, Chef Patron at Michelin-starred and 4 AA Rosette restaurant, Chapter One in Kent. I’m a proud father of three and husband to my very patient wife, Tanya. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a chef and as a young lad, I had no idea the dedication that was needed to run a successful restaurant. The hours are grueling, working temperatures can be extremely uncomfortable and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve burnt or cut myself but… I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I simply love what I do!
I suppose it’s most young chefs’ dream at some stage in their career to work in a prestigious London restaurant. I had that dream once and lived that dream, but moving to Kent was the best career decision I made.
I’ve headed up Chapter One now for more than 12 years and have never looked back! Instead I’ve tried hard to integrate the restaurant within the community and by this I mean supporting local traders and producers. At Chapter One, we take a great deal of time in sourcing all of our products locally. However, whilst a good deal of products come from Kent, unfortunately it’s not always the case.
Over the next twelve months I’m going on a journey (and will take you with me) to try and discover more of what Kent has to offer and find quality produce that I can use at Chapter One. I’m sure it will have its challenges; we are a reasonably large restaurant, so therefore, the farm has to be big enough to supply our needs but also small enough to care about their product. This is very important to me.
Wouldn’t it be great to have local chicken, lamb, pork, honey, apples etc featuring regularly on our menu?
In my column I will not only share with you all the fantastic food that is available in the Kent area, but I will also share my simple, seasonal recipes for you to try at home. This month’s recipe is a dinner party showstopper! It’s my wild baked seabass in salt crust with grilled vegetables. It’s ideal for when you have guests coming round, as it’s not time consuming but looks as if you slaved over the stove for hours.
Hope you enjoy and do write in and let me know your thoughts.
Baked Wild Sea Bass in Salt Crust with Grilled and Spiced Vegetables (serves four)
1 whole wild sea bass 2kg (get your fishmonger to scale and gut and remove the fins)
2kg rock salt
500ml egg white
1 zest of lemon (grated)
2 bulb of fennel (sliced into 4-5 thick slices)
1 lemon (cut into 4 thick slices)
500g tender stem broccoli
2tblsp olive oil
1 large red chilli (sliced)
For the Sea Bass
- Preheat the oven at 180 degrees
- Place the salt into a large bowl and gradually add the egg white until you achieve the consistency of wet sand, then add the grated lemon zest.
- Take a large roasting tray and pour a little of the salt onto the tray into the rough shape of the sea bass. Place the fish on top of the salt, pour the remaining salt over the fish and smooth to totally cover.
- Place in the pre-heated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes until the crust is a golden brown in colour. Check by inserting a knife into the thick part of the flesh and ensure it’s cooked.
For the Vegetables
- Whilst the bass is in the oven, preheat a saucepan with salted water and at the same time pre-heat a griddle pan.
- Slice the fennel into 4-5 thick slices, cut your lemon into 4 thick slices and then lightly oil.
- Once the water is boiling, blanch the tender stem broccoli for 2 minutes and then cool.
- Place the lightly oiled fennel and lemon into the preheated griddle pan. Ensure a good colour by turning occasionally. When the fennel and lemon are coloured and soft, remove from the griddle and keep warm.
- After removing the fennel and lemon, add the tender stem broccoli to the griddle pan until slightly coloured.
- In a separate preheated pan add 2tblsp of olive oil.
- Slice the chilli then add to the frying pan of olive oil. Next add the fennel, lemon and broccoli season and fry for a few minutes.
- Serve with a little rock salt and pepper.
- Remove the fish from oven and place in the centre of the table. The crust will be very hard and can be broken and removed in front of your guests. The smell and presentation is amazing. A truly simple but impressive way to serve a perfect fish.