Saturday, August 28, 2010

A beautiful revelation

weekend today August 28 - 29, 2010, FOOD, PAGE T4
Don Mendoza,, 05:55 AM Aug 28, 2010

PHOTO: TV chef Rachel Allen really loves how much she is an inspiration to many across the globe. And she loves our beef rendang ...
weekend today August 28 - 29, 2010, FOOD, PAGE T4

MORE than perhaps a Michelin-starred chef might be able to, the television chef - armed with a stockpot of eureka moments and a gorgeous personality to match - seems to manage the seemingly impossible. Which is to inspire people to cook.

Also, celebrity chefs like Rachel Allen are beautiful to watch.

PHOTO: Learn how to bake cherry crumble cake with Rachel Allen

Viewers watch TV to escape the confines of a slightly monotonous reality, and coincidentally find real life inspiration wrapped up in a convenient ensemble of useful tips paired with a genuinely easy but no less sumptuous mixed bag of clever recipes.

For Rachel Allen - TV chef, journalist, cookery teacher, author, designer and, yes, mother of two boys and a girl - it is also partly why she finds doing what she does more gratifying than running her own restaurant.

She explained: "The fact that I'm teaching people to cook - through cooking classes, my books and my TV programmes, and arming people with the skills they need to throw together a simple or not so simple meal for friends and family - that's really gratifying."


And who can blame her. This 38-year-old multi-tasking Irish kitchen goddess is the author of six bestselling cookbooks, which has sold in excess of a million copies worldwide. In fact, her most recent tome of tantalising recipes sold 250,000 copies in the first six months of its release.

"I love it when people come up to me and tell me that they have started cooking since buying my books or watching my programme," she added.

Fans here had the opportunity to do just that when the Irish celebrity chef visited Singapore recently to promote the Rachel Allen: Home Cooking series, her latest programme to air on BBC Lifestyle.


So how does she do it all and still manage to stay inspired?
The answer to that would be undoubtedly as multifaceted as the charming chef herself, who also told Today that she just loves what she quite clearly does best.

"I love that it enables me to travel, and I am constantly getting inspiration from all over the world," she said.

We did enquire if she had dreams of owning and running a food business - a local restaurant close to fresh indigenous Irish produce perhaps - and her answer was a simple "no, not at the moment ... I'm just happy doing what I'm doing".

This level of satisfaction that she finds in her work is notable, but it does not stop her from exploring new things. Like a rendang dish, evidently.

Today wondered about the regional and global influences on her cooking and asked her how much of it is Asian. "At present, probably about 10 to 20 per cent of it," she admitted. "But after this trip (to Singapore), that may increase a bit."

So the one dish that's currently a big inspiration for her? "Beef rendang ... I've had it before in Ireland but it wasn't as it was here."

It will probably not replace a roast chicken with chorizo stuffing as her family's favourite dish anytime soon. But given Rachel's fast growing popularity, her clever adaptation might just give the classic Irish beef stew a run for its money.

weekend today August 28 - 29, 2010, FOOD, PAGE T4

What is most unique and exciting about Irish home cooking?
For me, it's really about the produce that we have in Ireland - we have amazing produce ... There has to be an upside to all that rain!


So we have really good dairy, really good cheese, and great vegetables and fruit which are fairly easy to grow at home. A lot of people grow their own and this is becoming even more popular.

Some of the favourites that you will be sharing on your new show?
The dark sticky gingerbread is something I absolutely adore - that's one of my favourite things to have with a cup of tea or coffee - just a little slice is fine.

I also love the raspberry swirls if I'm being a bit indulgent, or for a cosy Sunday lunch in, you can't go wrong with the roast chicken with chorizo stuffing and the ginger and limeade.

What are some of the most exotic dishes you've managed with relative success?
I go through phases of being more adventurous than others. My husband shoots a bit in the winter, so when he comes home with birds, I pluck them and roast or pan-fry them. And I did try former French President Francois Mitterand's apparent last meal - a bird inside a bird inside a bird, roasted.

I put a snipe inside a duck once, and also cooked the duck feet, but they weren't so great. So I do like to experiment a bit. I've also tried chicken feet here and quite liked them.

Does your husband cook at home?
Yes, he cooks a lot. He loves cooking and he's quite adventurous, too. But we often come back to favourites or play on favourites like shellfish ... We love shellfish!

In fact, last night when I was talking to him, he was cooking some shrimp ... We live by the sea so we can get these quite easily.

Will your sons be equally great chefs ... like mum?
I hope they'll always really appreciate food and be able to cook for themselves and their friends because it's such a nice thing to do. At the moment, the two boys want to be footballers. In fact, Lucca, the younger one, wants to be a footballer and a rock star, but I can't say ... Might not work - slightly different lifestyles.

Catch Rachel Allen: Home Cooking on Fridays, 8pm, on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub TV Ch 432).
By Don Mendoza,, 05:55 AM Aug 28, 2010