Ask the Chef - Matthew Mason
Matthew Mason is Head Chef of The Jack in the Green at Rockbeare, near Exeter -- one of Devon's most exciting pub/restaurants.
No stranger to awards, Matthew is a former South West Chef of the Year and ex-Gidleigh Park apprentice. During the past two decades, he has helped transform the Jack from a rundown roadside pub into a beacon of superb cooking synonymous with exemplary levels of service and one of the UK's Top 100 Restaurants.
Matthew Mason and Paul Parnell have recently launched the Jack In The Green cook book. For the enthusiastic home cook there are 42 easy-to-follow recipes spanning eight different chapters and featuring the Jack In The Green story and their supporting cast of suppliers, customers and friends. To order a copy please visit Jack In The Green Cook Book.
Matthew has teamed up with Sugarvine to answer your cookery questions.
Sweetbreads - I used to love these in restaurants many years ago yet they are now rarely on menus. Please could you let me have an exciting recipe for them? - Jean Skinner
Jean, I too am a fan of sweetbreads , in fact one of my most memorable foodie memories is of a dish I ate at La Tante Claire (Pierre Koffman) involving a slow braised pig's trotter filled with chicken mousse, morel mushrooms and sauteed sweetbreads. . .delicious.
We currently have a Tasting Plate of Boccadon Farm veal on our restaurant menu which includes a piece of loin, slow braised shoulder faggot and some crispy sweetbreads. British veal sweetbreads are very hard to come but I prefer the plumper sweetbreads from above the heart as those of the thymus gland in the neck can be a little scraggy. Lambs' sweetbreads I find are much easier to get hold of. I must admit that I prefer my sweetbreads as an accompaniment rather than the main ingredient and whilst I have enjoyed them cooked from raw I choose to blanch mine prior to cooking. In 2009 I won the South West Chef of the Year and my winning main course was rack of lamb with sauteed sweetbreads and toasted hazelnuts and a fondant potato. For the sweetbreads I would always rinse well and place in a pan of cold salted water containing some sliced shallot, a celery stick, some cloves of garlic, carrot, onion, leek, bay leaves and white peppercorns a glug of white wine and a splash of white wine vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2/3 minutes, drain and leave to cool.
Trim the blanched sweetbreads of any fat or membrane, season well, melt a little butter in a small frying pan and cook the sweetbreads stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes over a high to moderate heat until golden drain and keep warm. Toast a few blanched hazelnuts in a little foaming butter and hazelnut oil and scatter amongst the sweetbreads and serve with a rack of lamb cooked pink.
An alternative would be to blanch the sweetbreads as before then coat in flour, egg and finally breadcrumbs and fry when required. Great for a prepare-ahead meal, maybe serve with some crispy bacon/pancetta lardons some dressed rocket and watercress leaves and a soft poached duck egg.
With spring just around the corner how about serving alongside some broad beans, peas, mint, morel mushrooms and some slices of roast chicken. Deglaze your roasting tray with a little Madeira to help your gravy on its way. Best of luck and happy cooking.
Do enzymes in foodstuff become depleted in the cooking process? If so, is there a way round this problem? - View Answer
I made an Indian chicken curry in a slow cooker, put about one-and-a-half kilos of chicken in but when I finished cooking the curry the chicken had almost disappeared. Please help. - View Answer
I have noticed a lot of chefs cooking their meat on greaseproof paper in the pan. Why? - View Answer
I have been having a lot of trouble cooking lamb shanks as they always come out tough. Tonight I had two lamb shanks weighing 710 grams that I wanted to cook in the oven. I first seared them in a hot pan to seal them and then placed them in a bed of vegetables in an oven tray and used about 250 ml of water to cover the bottom of the tray. I then covered the tray in tinfoil and placed in a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 1 hour and 40 minutes. The result was a disappointing, 2 tough lamb shanks. What do you suggest? - View Answer
Yesterday I prepared three fish pies, 2 prawns and one without. All the fish was fresh and had not yet been frozen previously. All three fish pies contained hard boiled eggs. I cooked all three pies and froze them quickly after cooking. Now I am worried about whether this is ok? Can I cook (reheat) these from frozen or do I need to defrost first. Either way, please can you advise on timings and temperature? Is there any risk in the way that I have prepared this food? - View Answer
Hello, I was wondering if you could help me. Making a dish that was on The View today that Mario made. Kinda like a paella but with noodles, he used smoked paprika, ginger and cinnamon. Love the first two, but not a fan of the cinnamon. What would you recommendation be for a suitable substitute? Thanks so much! - View Answer
What is the difference between Medjool dates and stoned dates in the supermarket and where would I get Medjool dates from please? - View Answer
How far in advance can you make a red wine jus? - View Answer
I used to make shawarmas and roll it in butter paper. I need help on how to retain the sauces and mayo in shawarmas from getting dried, even after 12 hours. Any suggestion to retain the juicy taste and store it as fresh as possible? - View Answer
Whenever I cook new potatoes they always have black spots on after cooking. Can you tell me how to avoid this? - View Answer
I have had great success with your sauterne jelly recipe - but how is it served? I would like to do very small cubes of it in a pile. How is this achieved please? Do you just stir it up with a fork? - View Answer
Do you cover with lid or foil when you cook duck confit or do you cook uncovered - View Answer
I love chicken soup, but JUST chicken soup and recently enjoyed some in a restaurant but I very rarely can because I am extremely allergic to carotene, particularly root vegetables and also have a strong intolerance to salicylates, hence no herbs. I have had three anaphylactic shocks. I'd just like a recipe for chicken soups and broths with no root vegetables and minimal hens with low carotene and salicylate content. A tall order I know but HELP please. - View Answer
Please could you tell me the Indian spices needed to make a British Indian restaurant curry. - View Answer
I'm hoping to make cheese wrapped in streaky bacon for Christmas garnishes but am unsure what cheese to use? My brother in law and husband used to love these as a child but instead of buying something I'd rather try to make them. Any ideas on the best/tastiest cheese and do I simply wrap the bacon around it and stick them under the grill? - View Answer
I have come across a "tip" when making syrup cakes/pastries saying the "rule is either pour hot syrup over a cold cake, or cold syrup over a hot cake." I would like to know why? - View Answer
I have a recipe for baked turnips using Gruyere and heavy cream but I am dairy intolerant? What can I use instead? - View Answer
I love homemade biscuits. I make them with buttermilk and I use White Lilly Self Rising Flour. I also use Crisco or Lard. I was told that the mixture should be rather wet, however the biscuits are always very soft and crumbly. They do taste good, but why are they so crumbly and what do I need to do to keep them from being so like this? I'd like to make a sandwich, but as such, this is not possible. Please help. - View Answer
Hi, I'm a chef (of sorts) at a pub and I'm trying to find out the best way to make deep fried chicken, as in chicken in a basket. Currently I have a dry rub batter, not too dissimilar to KFC, but the problem is that when you deep fry the drumsticks, legs, etc the batter goes too hard and falls off before the chicken is cooked properly. Is there a way I can cook the chicken first, portion and seal it in the fridge then cook it to order so it doesn't take as long? - View Answer
What is the best type of potato to use for chips? - View Answer
Hi Matthew. Please can you tell me how long potato crisps will last if kept in a sealed container? - View Answer
Hi Matthew, I have a question about fresh cooking. When I go to a restaurant and the meal is cooked from scratch would all of the vegetables be also cooked from scratch after my order is taken? Or do some restaurants pre-cook vegetables and then heat them? This may sound obvious but we have debated this between friends for some time now and we can't decide on an answer. - View Answer
I want to make something like a duck confit where you shred the meat and wrap it in cling film, but I want to use beef. Can you give me a recipe for this? - View Answer
We're having a dinner party this weekend and I'd like to do a stuffed deboned whole chicken but I'm having problems finding any recipes. Can you recommend some stuffing combinations to try? - View Answer
My friend gave me a whole cod soft roe. She said I could freeze it which I have but I have no idea how to cook it. HELP! - View Answer
I live at a workers camp 4 weeks on, one week off. The camp food is appalling. The chef served out beef stroganoff which had sliced gherkins instead of champignons or mushrooms. I asked the chef why would he have sliced gherkins in the recipe which he then replied that is how the traditional recipe is made. Is this a fact? If so, it tastes so wrong with gherkins. - View Answer
What's a decent wine to use in Boeuf Bourguinon if I can't get Burgundy? I've used a Pinot Noir but wondered if a Merlot would have the same effect? - View Answer
I need veal stock for a recipe but can't seem to get it anywhere. Will anything else do, could I use a beef stock instead? - View Answer
St Patricks Day is approaching and I want to make a quirky dessert based on a glass of Guinness. Can you please tell me what type of 'black' food colouring would give the best colour intensity (ie liquid/paste/gel/powder and how much would I need to use to achieve jet black -- is that even possible?). I want to put three quarters black panna cotta in the bottom of the glass with a quarter of white on the top, complete with a shamrock of course. - View Answer
Hi Matthew, can you help please? If I want to cook 12 sea bream fillets for house guests and cook 6 and 6 in 2 batches, what temperature do I set my small oven to keep the 6 fillets warm without spoiling while cooking the others. I had, say, 45 degrees centigrade in mind. What would you suggest? - View Answer
I had belly pork in a restaurant recently that really was wonderful. The meat melted in the mouth and the crackling really crackled. How is this achieved please? I have a 1.5kg belly pork in the freezer, ready scored by the butcher, so how is the best way to cook it? - View Answer
I want to make a really healthy slice but I don't know how to bind the ingredients so it's not crumbly. I didn't want a cooked slice but would consider it. The ingredients I want to use are crushed or ground nuts (including LSA and almond meal), phsylium husks, dried and fresh fruits, rolled oats, coconut, various seeds, spices and honey. Can you tell me how to make my perfect slice? - View Answer
Is there a huge difference in the flavour of English, Welsh and New Zealand lamb as my sister claims that she can tell the difference? Also which cuts have the most flavour? - View Answer
How do you make whisky sauce to go with chicken stuffed with haggis. - View Answer
Hi Matthew, hope you can help - we are having guests over on Sunday and instead of a traditional roast, I am going to cook fish (starting with chilled shellfish and aioli). I would like to try gurnard for the main course but want something that tastes/looks great but will not involve a great deal of last minute prep. Would like to keep in the general Mediterranean theme. Any suggestions for a dish with accompaniments would be welcomed as would your speedy reply if you can. - View Answer
I recently had a meal in a local restaurant and ordered the Spiced crab, avocado, prawns, ginger and pink grapefruit. It tasted fine apart from the prawns were completely tasteless. When I questioned it, I was told that they were poached to remove the flavour and were only on the plate for texture as they didn't want them to overpower the crab. Am I being ignorant, or would this be the case? I am sure there must be something else that would have complimented the crab and given texture? - View Answer
Hiya, just a quick question on spring/summertime desserts. What do you suggest/recommend as a quick, easy dish that can be prepped to order, is seasonal and minimises waste?! I've done all sorts over the years, from rustic/de-constructed cheesecakes, to your run of the mill summer puds, but wanted to try something new! - View Answer
Liquid glucose, where or how do I get it so it's like a thick paste, not liquid? - View Answer
I have a friend staying over in Australia for a few months from Manchester and I would like to know what to cook for her for back home 'comfort' food. That is something to make her feel like she's back home without being there, if you get what I mean. - View Answer
My British boyfriend, who lives here in the US, longs for the genuine apple pie that he can only find in England when he visits once a year. He calls the American version 'cinnamon pie with chunks of apple'. Do you have a recipe for apple pie -- sans the cinnamon and cloves -- that I could make for him? Thank you! - View Answer
I watched the programme Edwardian Farm and scones called Cut Rounds were made. Have you a recipe for these? - View Answer
Please recommend the best oil for use in a chip fryer - View Answer
Hi Matthew, do you have a good steak and kidney pudding recipe please? - View Answer
Which side of the aluminium foil should you put next to the food -- is it the dull side showing on the outside of the dish/food? Does it really make any difference? I tend to think the shiny side reflects the heat more so put that facing the food for cooking and the dull side for wrapping to store. Or am I just being picky!!?? - View Answer
Hi from the Half Moon Inn, Clayhidon. What to do with foie-gras? We see you have a duck confit terrine with foie gras on the menu at Jack in the Green. Any chance of sharing this recipe please? - View Answer
Hi Matthew, I run the restored Orangery Cafe at Tapeley Park in Instow and sell a lot of cream teas. We do make scones, but as the cafe is set in a vintage style and I wanted as much on the menu to be traditional Devon recipes, I have been serving Cut Rounds as advised by several local elderly people that this is how cream teas were served throughout their childhoods. As Cut Rounds are basically a bread roll, I wanted to write an explanation to customers but can't seem to find anything on the web. Can you help at all? - View Answer
I'd like to make watercress soup - have you got a good recipe? I want to retain as much colour and goodness as possible. - View Answer
I bought some venison from my local butcher at the weekend and realised I have no idea what to season it with. What's the best way to bring out the flavour of the meat? - View Answer
It's my wedding anniversary soon and I want to cook something easy yet stylish. Any ideas would be a help? - View Answer
Just wondered why the crust on my Beef Wellington always goes soggy, no matter how hot I make the oven. Please help! - View Answer
Last Sunday, I enjoyed a lamb shank at your restaurant and wanted to recreate the dish at home however my local supermarket only had New Zealand lamb and no shanks whatsoever. - View Answer
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