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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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I donít know if any of youíve been following Hellís Kitchen that was on TV recently, but when it was screened in the US, it caused quite a stir. The British are used to seeing Gordon Ramsey and other chefs screaming and swearing at people, so itís nothing new to us.

Now Gordon is looked upon as being one of the best chefs in the world in recent years, holding the prestigious three-star Michelin award. Now, in the chefs and restaurant loverís world, three stars donít come easily. They come with a massive amount of commitment and passion towards excellence.

Gordon is one of two chefs in the UK, himself and Marco Pierre White. Legends in their own lifetime, known for their passion-at-any-cost approach. Highly volatile individuals known to have physically thrown staff, customers and food critics alike out of their restaurants for trying to interrupt their ultimate goal.

Iíve met them both a few times and eaten in both their restaurants and had some of the best meals Iíve ever eaten. A memorable Mushroom Ravioli with Black Truffles, Cr'me Brulee with Fresh Granny Smith Apple Juice, Risotto Nero and Red Snapper Dish with Girolles, to name but a few.

I myself have worked in some of the best kitchens in London where Iíve had clogs and plates thrown at me in the early years; in fact one of my friends had a plate thrown at him that broke one of his ribs. Iíve worked in kitchens where the chef has dented all the fridges and stoves where heíd kicked and punched them in a temper. Although Iím not anywhere as bad as most, Iíve been known to throw the odd plate or potato and clear the pass of plates and trays out of complete frustration when the service is going down big style! When Iíve waited too long for that Poulet de Bresse to come out of the oven or that Fillet Mignon was well done and not medium.

A high-pressure restaurant kitchen can be and regularly is a highly volatile place. Lots of screaming, shouting and swearing but in fairness, the more I think about it, I suppose thatís what I miss the most about kitchens in India. There isnít anywhere near the passion and emphasis on near perfection here as there is in the west. Because the customer more than likely dictates what he or she eats over the year, menus have become so large to try to keep everyone happy that weíre at a stage that none of the dishes on the menu is completely perfect every time. Menus in Europe tend to be small but everyone is willing to try anything. Something to think about'

Nothing much to do with the story, but the recipe for this week is one of my favourites from my London days and one Iíve been asked for time and time again.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Soak 800gm of potted dates in 400ml of boiling water, with 1tbs instant coffee powder and 2tsp of bicarbonate of soda, for around an hour. Meanwhile, you can grease and sugar either six small moulds or one large pudding basin.

Once the dates have been soaked, in a clean bowl cream together 250gm of brown sugar and 250gm of butter. Once you have reached a light creamy texture, add the eggs, slowly one at a time making sure that each one is thoroughly mixed in. Next, fold in the date mixture and gradually fold in 300gm of sifted flour and 15gm of baking powder.

Spoon this mixture into your moulds and cook in an oven around 140O C in a baking tray with around one inch of water in the bottom. Cover the whole thing with baking foil and cook for around 45 minutes, 1 hour and 30 minutes for the large size.

For the toffee sauce, in a saucepan bring to the boil half-a-litre of cream and 500gm of dark brown sugar and allow to simmer for around five minutes. Allow the pudding to rest for 15 minutes after baking and serve immediately with the toffee sauce and a good blob of vanilla ice cream. Amen!

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