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 18 years, 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 has teamed up with Sugarvine to answer your cookery questions.
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? - Patricia Downes
Well I am rather biased when it comes to lamb I'm afraid as having lived in Devon all my life and having to look no further than out of my window to see fabulous lambs destined for our tables I can safely say in my humble opinion that West country lamb is the best and of course my personal favourite. It helps that I almost certainly know the farmer responsible for the welfare and ultimately the quality/value of his lamb. Could this ever be said for lambs purchased from the other side of the world, ie New Zealand? I think not and that's reason enough to leave on the shelf of the supermarket in its styrofoam `nappy`, Having eaten milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees in France which has the reputation for being the best in the world -- and the most expensive -- I found it to be a little bland in comparison to our regional best, despite its provenance. The problem with the lamb we have is that the cost of producing these fantastic creatures for our consumption is continually rising and subsequently the cost to us as consumers will continue to grow also.
As for cuts and their flavour, a slow-braised shoulder is pretty hard to beat but requires a little care and attention but offers great value in return for your effort. A far more flash cut would be the loin -- both boneless and skinless -- flash fried for no more than a minute each side. It's both decadent and tasty but mightily expensive. A boneless leg steak on a bbq with a feisty marinade of lemon and mint can work wonders too. With winter coming up a slow braised lamb shank with honey roast parsnips and creamy mashed potato is guaranteed to put a smile on your face when all is gloomy outside. Welsh lamb is also of great quality with an enviable reputation whether it be salt marsh lamb or lambs eating wild herbs and heather from the valleys and mountains.
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
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
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? - 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
Ask Matthew Mason A Question
Use the form below to ask Matthew Mason your question.
See recipes from chefs in the Cotswolds area.