Theo Randall's Year in Food

Theo Randall talks us through seasonal ingredients and his favourite food to serve on special occasions.

Theo Randall's Year in Food

January has begun and a new year lies ahead – after the decadence of the Christmas period, what do you think makes a good foodie new year’s resolution?

Theo says: A good resolution would be to cook more seasonal vegetables and have at least three vegetarian meals a week. 

Rib eye steakEvery year we see our steak content rocket in popularity around Valentine’s Day – from beef cut to chip style, what would be your ultimate steak dinner?

Theo says: My ultimate steak dinner would be a grilled piece of sirloin or rib-eye that has been well hung and has a nice amount of marbling. Heat a griddle pan or barbeque and rub the fat over the pan or grate so that it melts. Place the seasoned piece of meat onto the griddle pan or barbeque and cook it for two minutes on each side, then leave to rest. Prepare a plate of different tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of sea salt. Serve the rested steak with a pot of mustard and the tomatoes - delicious! 

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

Theo says: Cooking on a budget is a lot easier if you use seasonal ingredients, make your own bread and use cheaper cuts of meat. Shopping at farmers markets are always a good idea in February as there are so many wonderful root vegetables being sold at that time of year, especially the wide variety of squashes.

Spring sees us celebrating Mother’s Day. What influence does your family have over your cooking? We’re talking first meals right through to what you like to eat with your family today.

Theo says: When I was growing up we would always eat together, my mother would always cook a meal for everyone and If you didn't like it - tough. Fortunately my mother is an excellent cook! My wife cooks at home more than I do because I am always working, but Sunday evening is a time when we all sit down together. No one is fussy in our house, but requests are always made. My son will eat anything and is very partial to fish, whereas my daughter, since she was little, cannot eat fish, so sometimes I will prepare two different meals. 

Pestle and mortarSpring is a time to clean our kitchens of clutter – but what piece of kitchen kit would you never part with and what’s your favourite thing to make with it?

Theo says: I love my olive wood pestle and mortar that is used to grind up spices for a really good curry. It is really sturdy so you can pulverise fennel seeds and cumin seeds for a good curry base. It's also great for making pesto but you have to give it a thorough wash otherwise the spices can reappear!

What’s your idea of the perfect Easter spread? From choice of egg to the finest roast dinner...

Theo says: My favourite Easter dish is my slow-cooked shoulder of spring lamb with olives, anchovies, rosemary and white wine. It is best served with some fresh purple-sprouting broccoli, dressed in olive oil. 

As soon as the sun shines, we dust off our barbies. How do you go about throwing a truly sizzlin’ barbecue spread? And what do you do when the weather fails you?

Theo says: For me, the best barbeque spread is boning out a leg of lamb and marinating it with rosemary garlic lemon and olive oil. Grill it off slowly so it's nice and pink and not too charred on the outside. Get some Desiree potatoes, cut them half way and slide in a fresh bay leaf then rub a little oil on the skin, plus a sprinkle of sea salt. Wrap them in tin foil and place in the embers of the barbeque before you start cooking. I would get some fine green beans, blanch them, then fry them with some garlic and parsley. Slice some red peppers and white onions and cook them gently until they become slightly caramelised, then add some chopped tomatoes, basil and red wine and cook until they are sweet. Blanch some Swiss chard and dress with olive oil and maybe a few simply cooked lentils dressed with olive oil and lemon. I would make a fresh salsa verde to serve with the lamb also - delicious!

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

Theo says: Melon, proscuitto, lovely bread and cheese, a bowl of panzanella, a chilled bottle of Valpolicella and, of course, lots of cherries.

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

Theo says: My ultimate food travel destination is Puglia in southern Italy. Apart from all the amazing fish restaurants, I will always cook gilt head bream stuffed with fresh fennel sticks, Datterini tomatoes, caper berries and green olives, cooked on waxy potatoes and seved with the delicious wild greens you can buy there. My daughter always loves the salsiccia di lecce, which is a sausage that is seasoned with cinnamon and cloves. 

September is back to school season – what do you think we should be teaching the future generation about cooking and eating? Were you an early kitchen dweller?

Theo says:  I think everyone should be taught how to cook. I think you apreciate food more when you know how to cook and will naturally have a healthier diet. Start them young in the kitchen and make it fun. Podding peas or peeling potatoes are good first jobs. Baking and bread-making is probably the easiest way to start off. That's how I got started I would always help my mother make bread.

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

Theo says: We get up and usually have a pot of coffee while we open presents then have a late breakfast that could be poached eggs and smoked salmon on poilâne toast. I like to cook duck at Christmas, with chestnuts and root vegetables. One year we had lots of people coming over so I cooked four big ducks and was preparing a big bowl of dark green cavolo nero. My daughter, Lola who was three at the time came up to me and had a good look at the four golden roasted ducks and the huge bowl of green, tough, bubbly cavolo nero leaves. She tugged my trouser leg and said "Daddy, I am not eating roast dog and I am definitely not eating crocodile skin". After a very late lunch, a long walk tends to happen as our dogs have had enough of watching people eat.

Primavera risottoLooking back over the year that just passed, what’s your favourite foodie season in terms of ingredients – and how do you like to cook the season's golden haul?

Theo says: My favourite time of year is spring because it's the first of peas, broad beans and asparagus, which in Italy is always described as 'primavera'. You can do so much with these ingredients, particularly with pasta. A plate of fresh tagliatelle with asparagus, egg yolks and Parmesan is so good, or a tagliarini with fresh peas and proscuitto.

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

Theo says: I think we are becoming more and more used to buying seasonal produce and are cooking more vegetables. I think you will see more menus with really interesting vegetable dishes being cooked. Fish and meat is becoming really expensive so the continued use of cheaper cuts and slow cooking will continue. I think in general people are becoming more interested in cooking and the provenance of produce, this will drive enthusiasm for new cooking methods and undiscovered cuisines. 

More from Theo Randall... 

Theo's Tuscan dinner menu: 

Acquacotta soup
Lamb shoulder with bay leaves & juniper berries
Torta del nonna

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