My first introduction to multi talented Donal Skehan was on 24 Kitchen. Years ago, he cooked with and for Italian nonne, grandmothers. Not the easiest teachers in your kitchen. Since then I always asked myself if everything he made was so “buonissimo” In May this year I got the chance to ask Donal Skehan himself and was given the answer. For you it will stay a guess. Just like the title of his favorite movie, which seems to have a lot to do with the title of his cookbook Eat, Live, Go. Some keen readers may already have a clue. But it’s nicer to let Donal talk about it himself and reveal. So he’s invited to be my next guest in my series Talk & Table. Based on the answers he gives, I will conceive a recipe, that will please him and my readers. I suppose that it will have a traveller’s twist. Needless to say I will add a personalized wine pairing suggestion.
Who is Donal Skehan and what would you like to share with us?
I’m a food writer, TV host and passionate home cook! My aim is to encourage and inspire my readers and viewers to get in to the kitchen and get cooking!
You have quite a career, from television to writing cookbooks. Even singing. What is up till now you most impressive project?
After 10 years of writing cookbooks and teaching people to cook on TV my favourite project was a TV series called Grandma’s Boy- I got to cook with Italian nonna’s across Italy and learn about a culture from true experts!
Nowadays you are a culinary phenomenon How did you learn to cook?
I learnt to cook from my mom and my family, my parents both work in the world of food so I grew up surrounded by ingredients and good food. I loved watching food shows on TV growing up .When I was a little older, I would always attempt to recreate what I had seen- it really helped to grow my confidence in the kitchen.
You invest a lot of energy in defining new dishes and translating your experiences all over the world? In another life, would you do it again? Or would it be something else?
When I was 22 I had a real fork in the road where I was either going to push further into the world of music and the world of food and considering I’m a much better cook than I am a singer I’m certainly glad with the road I have chosen! If I wasn’t working in food I think I would still be working in the world of TV & Media.
Your dishes and recipes speak to the imagination, certainly with me. They are gorgeous. How do you do that?
Thank you! So lovely to hear- I get most of my inspiration from travel and seasonality but from the start of my career, presenting the food in a beautiful way has been the key. I always think through how I want the end dish to look and when I’m photographing it I often sketch out a rough idea of what the composition should look like. The creativity behind cooking and photography really speaks to me.
My parents were/are very French oriented, so I grew up in that tradition. The last two decades I feel there has been a shift from French to other, more fusion cuisines. I see this in your books too. Can you tell something about trends?
I have always been drawn to Asian flavours- my grandmother gave me a encyclopedia of Chinese cookery- and I spent my teens working my way through the recipes. When I finally visited Asia it was such a fantastic experience. In terms of food trends, the world of food goes through so many but often I find it comes back to real flavor and dishes that work rather than fad. I’m always open to trying new things but unless they make sense to my palate there’s no point in eating them!
More and more culinary startups appear. What do you think of the general quality. Has it become better the world wide culinary landscape?
There’s a huge interest in food across the world like never before and in general I think it’s a good thing but it does make it slightly more difficult to sort the good from the bad but the cream always rises to the top and I spend a lot of my time trying to eat good food that has heart and a story.
What do you miss in nowadays cuisine?
Confidence in ingredients- I think nowadays you have to work a lot harder to ensure you are using high quality ingredients, in the same breath though, traceability has probably never been of a higher standard.
Speaking of food, which one is your favorite dish? And of course which wine?
I love bold fresh flavours which I is why I am always drawn to Asian flavor, and Vietnamese is a cusine I always go back to- Bun Cha or a spicy beef and papaya salad are my absolute favourites. In terms of wine, I had an opportunity to spend some days with Margherita & Francesa Padovani the twin sisters who produce Fontarenza Brunello Di Montalcino in Italy- a glass of their wine is perfection!
And what would you never eat?
I aim to eat everything at least once!
If you would give a cooking class, what would you want to teach us?
To taste your food and to find confidence in the kitchen, that and to share my excitement for food from around the world.
Last but not least, what is your favorite movie?
Amélie, a movie that celebrates the little moments of joy in life, like the crack of crème brulée.
The recipe for Donal:
Due to the fact that Donal loves the crack of crème brûlée, I decided to make him a classic from my Burgundy repertoire from my cookbook Gereons Keuken Thuis: Oeufs en meurette, (sorry Donal, not translated in your tongue) For now translated as his reward recipe. Even kitchen diva van Boven was fond of this dish and borrowed it for an Easter spread in a Dutch magazine (picture) When I travel I always try to imagine how people cook nowadays and cooked before. This dish was inspired by the great poet Lamartine, who lived in the wine region of Southern Burgundy, France. Logically the wine will be a red pinot noir from the same area. Red, round and full of umami taste, like the wines of domaine Petitot in Corgoloin, near Beaune. Nice to know for Donal is that these red wines could pair with Asian, especially Japanes food too. Enjoy!
1 bottle of red Burgundy wine
100 g of bacon into cubes
100 g butter
250 ml of beef or vegetable stock
8 slices of bread, toasted
2 cloves of garlic
50 ml of wine vinegar
8 fresh eggs
salt & pepper
chopped parsley / chives
1 l of hot water
Cut the bacon into very fine small dices. Chop the shallots finely. Heat about 20 g of butter and fry the bacon and shallots briefly until brown. Pour 500 ml of the red wine and the 250 ml stock over it. Save the rest of the wine, 250 ml, for poaching the eggs. Reduce the sauce stirring from time to time until it’s half the amount. It will form a thick sauce. Toast the bread slices and rub them with the garlic cloves. Pour the remaining wine into a sauce pan, add water and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Note that it does not boil but slightly bubbles. Break the eggs one by one into a cup. Reduce heat to low and stir the boiling water so that there is a whirlpool. Add the eggs one by one and cook for 3 minutes poaching. Scoop out with slotted spoon. Do the same with the other eggs. Keep them warm in a bowl with warm water. It may be necessary to cut the rough edges of the eggs. If the sauce is well reduces, add salt and pepper and remaining butter into cubes to bind. Turn off the heat. Put the toasted bread slices on a plate, and place a poached egg on each slice. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle with some cut chives and parsley. Bon appétit Julia Child would say!
Video: Donal as Grandma’s boy.