The most successful female chef in the UK today (she balks at this, but it's true), Angela Hartnett learned her trade standing shoulder to shoulder in some of the country's finest kitchens, often for 18 gruelling hours at a stretch, with Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing. She won her first Michelin star in 2004 for her work at The Connaught, was awarded an MBE for services to the food industry in 2007 and now owns and runs the much acclaimed Murano in London's Mayfair. Not bad for someone 'the boys' thought would last two weeks at best in the Ramsay kitchen environment known as 'Vietnam'.
In her new book, A Taste Of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes by Angela Hartnett, out this month, Angela takes time out from fine dining, drawing inspiration from her childhood experiences of home cooking with her Italian grandmother, to give us a quick weekday supper bible that we could all do with in our lives.
Angela, congratulations on the book – what do you hope people get from it/say about it?
I suppose that everything in it is quite accessible and do-able. There are one or two more complicated dishes in there, but hopefully people will find it very approachable.
If you had to choose one recipe from the book to represent you, which one would it be and why?
Something quite simple – maybe the seared steak with rocket (recipe below).
It's well documented that you put in horrendously long hours while establishing yourself within the Ramsay empire. Is life a little easier these days now that you're your own boss?
Not really, no. I did put in the hours and still do, but even before I owned Murano, if I wanted time off, I took it. I'm still in the restaurant every day, but that's where I want to be.
You're the most successful female chef in Britain – do you feel a responsibility to 'bring on' other female chefs?
If someone comes for a job at the restaurant I go for whoever is the best person for the job and wouldn't hire someone just because they're a woman. Having said that, I think it's good to have a balance in the kitchen: at Murano there are four or five female chefs out of a total of 12 people in the kitchen and that's a good balance.
Which are your favourite restaurants to go to if ever you have an evening off?
José on Bermondsey High Street – I went there for tapas this weekend and it was great. Also Zucca, again on Bermondsey High Street, is great. Then there are the classic places – J. Sheekey, St John Bread & Wine – there are so many great places – you do well to get a bad meal in London these days.
What are your go-to quick and easy suppers if it's just you at home?
Just something really simple like a bit of roast chicken and some salad.
What's the best meal you've ever eaten and where did you eat it?
Jean Georges in New York, that was amazing. I was also at Nomarecently and that was brilliant. Then there are meals I've had at the local trattoria with family and friends – it's not always about the food being fancy, it's often about who you're with.
Do you enjoy your tv work or would you prefer to spend the day in the kitchen?
I don't particularly want to be on tv all the time, I don't crave that, but it's good to have a balance. And it definitely helps in terms of bookings!
If you had to eat the same meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Roast chicken and potatoes – I love chicken. It would have to be a nice chicken though, not a battery one. I wouldn't have pudding, I'd have cheese.
If you weren't a successful chef what other job might you be doing?
I'd love to be a forensic investigator – I think what they do is amazing; being able to look at a crime scene and tell how and when someone was murdered – I think that's incredible.
Angela's new book, A Taste Of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes by Angela Hartnett, from which the following recipe is taken, is published by Ebury Press and is out now, priced £25.
Murano, 20 Queen Street, London W1J 5PP. Tel: 020 7495 1127.
Seared Steak With Rocket
4 large Portobello mushrooms
1 large shallot, sliced
4 thyme sprigs
60ml white wine
4 x 150g rib-eye steaks
1 bag of wild rocket leaves
salt and freshly ground
For the parsley butter:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
zest of 1 lemon
70g (unsalted) butter, at room temperature
Make the parsley butter. Mix the chopped garlic, parsley, lemon zest and butter together in a bowl. Place the mixture on a sheet of cling film and then roll it up to form a cylinder. Twist the ends of the cling film to keep the butter tightly packed and leave it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas mark 4.
Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth and place them in a roasting tin. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, drizzle over some olive oil and then add the sliced shallot, thyme and white wine. Cover the tin with a sheet of foil and bake in the
preheated oven for 15–20 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue cooking for about another 5 minutes until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated. Leave the oven on for finishing the steaks later.
Season the rib-eye steaks with salt and pepper and brush them with a little olive oil. Heat a griddle pan and cook the steaks for about 1 minute until grill lines have formed. Rotate the steaks and cook for another minute so that a second set of grill lines form, 'crossing' the first set. Turn the steaks over and repeat the cross grilling on the other side. If at this stage the meat is not cooked enough, finish it off in the oven. Once the steaks are cooked, set them aside to rest for 5 minutes.
When ready to serve, dice the parsley butter and place a few dice over the steaks. Place the steaks in the oven for 2–3 minutes, which should be just enough time to melt the butter and reheat the meat. Place a mushroom on each steak and spoon the shallot and white wine cooking juices over the meat.
Serve with a fresh rocket salad, seasoned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.