Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Temptation Tuesday - Tom Aikens and his food!!

This Tuesday Natasha Oakley introduces us to a perfect combination - men and food!

With such over-indulgence going on at the RWA national conference I'm fairly sure, as soon as our intrepid reporters return home, we'll be relaunching the PHS Diet Club. Remember that? The bit where we eat nothing nice and move a whole lot more???

So, before that happens I'm going to take the opportunity to remind us all what we'll be missing. And throw in a potential hero as well. How generous is that!

So, he is Tom Aikens, a British Michelin-starred chef who has a real bad-boy image. We did agree we like to redeem our heroes didn't we?

Born in 1970 into a family of wine merchants Tom is originally from Norwich. 2003 saw him launch his own restaurant (with his now ex-wife) which, to date, has won an incredible 22 awards. September 2006 he followed that up with 'Tom's Kitchen' and he's got plans for a upmarket fish and chip shop called 'Tom's Place'.

But back in April 2003 he was famous for just two things. The first being that at 26 he'd became the youngest British chef to hold 2 Michelin stars. The second was an incident in 1999 where he allegedly 'branded' a 19 year old trainee chef with a hot palette knife.

Tabloid headlines aside he did leave 'Pied a Terre' (and you know I would put in the accent if I knew how) and disappeared from the London restaurant scene. Among the things he did during this 'gap' period was being Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's private chef.

I swear there just has to be a story in all this!

'Tom Aiken'. the restaurant, is pretty darn beautiful (it's monochrome and designed by Anoushka Hempel). Should you wish to find it it's at 43 Elystan Street, Chelsea, and its modern French cuisine is pricey. In UK money you'd be spending about £75 a head.

But for that you get to eat 'rich liver stunningly presented alongside confit duck in a clear glass bowl with a delicate broath afloat with pea ravioli, goats' cheese emulsion, pea shoots and summer truffle'. I'm so going to use that somewhere.

'Tom's Kitchen' is also in Chelsea but less beautiful. You still get to pay something like £40 a head but you get to sit on hard wooden chairs at bare tables.

I've got to say that's the kind of thing I might use as well! :) Just look at those chairs.

Then you could try the hands on approach and hit the kitchen. Anyone for 'Pan-fried pork belly with scallop and squid, caramelised onions and a balsamic sauce'?


For the pork belly
450g/1lb pork belly
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves
1 celery stick
1 small bunch thyme
1 tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the caramelised onions
40g/1½oz butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 tsp caster sugar
2 sprigs thyme
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the balsamic sauce
4 banana shallots, finely chopped
200ml/7fl oz balsamic vinegar
250ml/9fl oz fresh chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the scallops and squid
8 scallops, sliced in half horizontally to form two discs
4 baby squid tubes, finely sliced into rings
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. For pork belly, place the pork belly into a large pan over a medium heat and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then drain off the water and return the pork belly to the pan.
2. Cover with water again and add the carrot, onion, garlic, celery, thyme, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two hours.
3. Carefully remove the pork from the pan and place onto a large plate. Place a large, clean tray on top, then place a couple of cans on top of the tray to apply weight. Transfer to the fridge and leave for one hour, or until cold and pressed flat.
4. Remove the pork from the fridge, remove the tray and weights and place onto a chopping board. Cut the pork into 1.5cm/½ thick slices.
5. Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. Season the pork slices with salt and freshly ground black pepper and fry in the hot oil until crisp and golden all over.
6. For the caramelised onions, heat a clean frying pan add the butter, onions, sugar and thyme. Fry over a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are just tender.
7. Turn the heat up and fry the onions until just becoming golden-brown.
8. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce until very little liquid remains, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
9. For the balsamic sauce, heat a clean frying pan and add the butter and shallots. Fry the shallots for 3-4 minutes, or until softened, but not coloured.
10. Add the balsamic vinegar and boil to reduce the volume by two thirds.
11. Add the stock and reduce again by two thirds, until a thick sauce forms, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
12. For the scallops and squid, season the scallops and squid with salt and black pepper.
13. Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil, scallops and squid. Fry the scallops and squid for 2-3 minutes, or until completely cooked through, turning the scallops over halfway through.
14. To serve, place a few slices of pork belly in the centre of each plate and top with a spoonful of caramelised onions. Place three scallop pieces on top of each, then top with the squid. Spoon the shallot sauce around the plate and serve.

That serves 4, by the way and takes a while but, according to Richard E Grant, it's gorgeous.

Oh - and Tom is single. Favourite holiday destination the Taj Coral Reef in The Maldives. Favourite hotel is La Maison de Marc Veyrat on Lake Annecy.

What do you think?

With love

This July saw the start of a brand-new series - The Royal House of Niroli.

The Mediterranean island of Niroli has prospered for centuries under the Fierezza men. But now, as the King’s health declines, and his 2 sons have been tragically killed, the crown is in jeopardy. Who will rule?

Penny Jordan's book, 'The Future King's Pregnant Mistress' is out in NA and UK right now.

Natasha's book, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' will be in the shops in October but if you don't want to wait it's possible to buy the entire set right now by clicking here.


  1. Wow Natasha -- I'm in awe of anyone who can cook like this! I can barely boil water. If anyone tries out this recipe, will you please let me know how beautifully it turned out?

    I'm looking forward to joining the PHS diet club!! After National I really need help, because I've totally forgotten what it's even like to have self-control! (Trish and Jenna can vouch for this, since they were at the Presents dinner!)

  2. hands-on approach in the kitchen? Hmmm......

  3. Single??? Hmmm I think I'll have to start hanging out in the Chelsea area.

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  5. Certainly eating in the Chelsea area, Biddy. :)

    I don't think he'd be the man for me in real life. He's very sporty. Just finished some kind of gruelling cycle ride for charity.