Ken Hom's Year in Food

The food legend talks us through his food calendar, from Chinese New Year to truffles at Christmas.

Ken Hom's Year in Food

We’re all about healthy eating at the start of the year – do you have any of your own healthy eating tips for our users?

Eat what is seasonal. Steaming is a very healthy but delicious way to eat fish or scallops, for example. You can't go wrong with stir-frying fresh vegetables with garlic and ginger.

Ken Hom steamed fishChinese New Year falls in the early months of the year. Talk us through how you celebrate in food.

We tend to eat foods that are symbolic of the year ahead. Always a whole fish at the table for prosperity; chicken for fortune; hairy seaweed with dried oysters for good things to come; vegetables for our Buddhist heritage and noodles for longevity. It's two weeks of banqueting and eating with family and friends.

Try one of Ken's traditional Chinese recipes

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for a slap-up meal. What’s your idea of a romantic feast for two?

Caviar to start, then a simple light meal of steamed scallops with fresh chillies and ginger and a lovely fruit compote. You need to keep it light, otherwise you'll be too sleepy!

Every year we see our steak content rocket in popularity around Valentine’s Day. What would be your ultimate steak dinner?

I would take a thick wagyu steak and marinate it in teriyaki sauce for at least a day, then grill it with salt and pepper, simple as that.

Our users go 'flipping crazy' for Pancake Day – what’s your serving style of choice come Shrove Tuesday… and where do you stand on the filling situation?

I find pancakes a bit heavy but I love them with a savoury filling such as chopped mushrooms in a cream sauce.

Chilli pastaWe tend to tighten up our food spend in February. What are your tips for cooking on a budget?

Shop seasonally, eat less meat and more vegetables. Don’t skimp on seasonings – they're quite inexpensive. It's amazing how chillies can perk up a simple noodle or pasta dish.

Spring sees us celebrating Mother’s Day. What influence does your family have over your cooking? 

I always found my mum’s cooking deliciously comforting and simple. Her Chinese sausage with steamed rice, topped with a fried egg drizzled with oyster sauce is still one of my all time favourites. I like to cook it for family and friends.

Spring is a time to clean our kitchens of clutter –  but what piece of kitchen kit could you never part with?

Of course I could never live without my wok or Chinese cleaver. I make practically everything with those two pieces of kitchen kit.

What’s your idea of the perfect Easter spread? 

I love to serve an organic roast chicken with stuffing and potatoes cooked with duck fat, a simple green salad and a light fruit pudding at the end.

Soy sauceAs soon as the sun shines, we dust off our barbies. How do you go about throwing a truly sizzling barbecue spread?

I tend to make pork ribs by marinating them overnight in soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. Then I cook them in a very low oven for a long time until they're really tender. Once the barbie is hot, I put on my secret BBQ sauce and finish them off. I also tend to grill all my vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

And what do you do when the weather fails you?

No worries! I have a kettle barbecue with a lid and my brollie!

What would we find in your picnic basket on a hot summer’s day?

All sorts of chilli sauces, chilli flakes, truffle salt and mayonnaise. It's always filled with sandwiches of all sorts, especially pain bagnat, a sandwich filled with tomato, basil, anchovy, garlic, olive oil, hard boiled eggs - heaven on earth!

Summer time means a nice relaxing holiday for lots of us – what’s your ultimate foodie travel destination, and what do eat when you’re there?

I spend summer in my home in southwest France, eating duck confit, truffles, foie gras, pig’s trotter, ripe tomatoes and plenty of salad.

September is back to school season –  were you an early kitchen dweller?

I grew up working in my uncle’s restaurant kitchen surrounded by great food and cooking.

We love a touch of ghoulish cooking on Halloween, and we particularly love creating a spooky pumpkin. What’s your tip for carving a pumpkin – and what do you do with the surplus flesh?

I have never been good at carving a pumpkin but I love stir-frying the surplus flesh with minced pork in a black bean sauce. Served over plain rice, it's so satisfying and delectable.

SausagesBonfire night is all about bangers, parkin and gathering around a fire with marshmallows – what do you cook when the fireworks are flying?

Lots of fresh sausages! I hate marshmallows!

The year culminates in the ultimate foodie event – Christmas. What’s your favourite foodie Christmas present?

A small basket of fresh black truffles.

Talk us through your Christmas Day experience – from breakfast choices right through to the post-lunch snooze on the sofa.

I am never awake in time for breakfast but love cooking and eating lunch. For a number of years now, I have celebrated Christmas Day in my home in Bangkok. We tend to have lots of Thai dishes washed down with plenty of wine. The lunch usually lasts until really late afternoon around 5pm... then we get ready for cocktails! Very relaxing.

Everyone loves a party to celebrate New Year’s Eve. What’s your choice of tipple to raise at midnight? And what’s your ultimate party menu?

Always Champagne! Then caviar, truffle sandwiches, roast wagyu fillet with truffle sauce, potatoes cooked in duck fat, green salad with truffles, then New Year cakes and cheeses!

Looking back over the year, what’s your favourite foodie season in terms of ingredients – and how do you like to cook the season’s golden haul?

Winter, because that is when truffles are in season. I do a simple fresh black truffle sandwich with country bread, spread with salted butter, and simply roasted in the oven.

Looking to the year ahead, what trends do you see emerging in the food world?

More interest in lesser known regional foods from Italy, China, France and Thailand. A return to good simple cooking and hopefully away from molecular cooking!

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