Profile Details

Name

Steve Webb

My hometown

London, UK

Where I live now

Washington DC

Roots: Tell us a little about yourself

Something of a Mutt, born in London, brought up in the North East of Scotland, father from the Westcountry of England, mother and grandmother from Northern Ireland, sister and grandfather from south Wales. So food history wise I’ve had the very best (and worst) that the British Isles can offer.
I turned my love into a career and trained at one of the better cookery schools in London going on to work in some goor dreataurants in the city and a few out in the country.
My best cooking job ever was working as the private chef to the Earl of Dunraven in Ireland, an absolutely brilliant bloke, huge country kitchen all to myself and ingredients as fresh and local as they could possibly be. I ended up doing breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner seven days a week but loved every minute of it. There was always a surprise, be it crab or mackerel that had come out of the sea five minutes previous, or a bucket of foraged blackberrys that someone came back with. Even the day I staggered in horribly drunk at five in the morning to see a note requesting fresh devilled kidneys for breakfast that had come out of a lamb the day before and were still covered in hard, protective fat. That one required a cast iron constitution. But, hey, at least I really can say I’ve cooked for the crowned heads of Europe now!
Alas a back injury put a stop to cooking professionally but my love has never died, and it never will.

What is your family’s culinary heritage?

That’s a tough one. As my family are from all over, my heritage covers everything from haggis sausage and chips, through the Sunday roast, past cheddar and scrumpy, beyond soda bread and laver bread with a quick stop off at chicken tikka masala

Best family recipe? Share it!

I taught myself to cook as my parents were pretty appalling at it. It was either that or starve to death. However, they did instill in me a love of good roasted meats and as the simplest ideas are nearly always the best, I’ll share my method for roast chicken.

Serves 4
One 3-4lb chicken, the best quality free range you can find and afford
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 relatively small unwaxed lemons
String

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, wash the chicken thoroughly inside and out and trim any hanging, flappy bits of skin and fat.

Drain the water out of the chicken (you can do this on a slightly tilted plate left for 10 minutes or so) and pat dry with paper towels. Don’t leave it moist, water is the sworn enemy of crispy skin.

Now season liberally with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy, this is going to give you all that flavor. Massage it into the body not forgetting the crevices and the cavity.

Wash the lemons and dry, then to loosen them up, roll them on a chopping board or counter, pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand. Puncture your now extra juicy lemons all over so the juice can escape and pop them into the cavity. Now you can truss the chicken or if you don’t feel up to that, just tie the legs loosely together, you just want them not to spread apart too much and split the skin.

Now the magic bit. Put your chicken in a roasting pan breast side down. You’ll notice we don’t need to add any kind of fat at all. The chicken will have enough of its own and by starting with the chicken upside down it essentially becomes self basting without having to pump it full of chemicals. Roast this way for 30 minutes, and then turn it over, being careful with the skin. Cook for another 30 minutes and then crank the heat up to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 20 minutes or so to brown. Timing wise, you want to cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes per pound.
Once out of the oven, leave it to rest for 10 minutes or so. Fear not, it’ll retain its heat but any juices that have risen to the surface will seep back inside blessing you with flavor and firmness.

It’s rather jolly to carve at the table and perfume of roast chicken and lemons is quite intoxicating, as are the juices that do come out which are perfectly delicious. This is your pan gravy and it’s so rich and already a touch acidic that it needs neither butter nor wine. Just spoon them on over the sliced chicken.

I like to serve this with a simple green salad for freshness and if those warm roasting juices mingle the greens then you’re in for an added treat.

Favorite childhood food memory

Discovering the ethnic foods of London was always a treat. Good Chinese and dim sum down on Gerrard Street, this also fostered an eternal love of chili oil, ducks and hoi sin sauce. Blisteringly hot jerked anything down in Brixton. The heady aromas, savory flavors and mysterious supermarkets full of southern Indian delights down the Old Kent Road.

Favorite dish to share

After a night on the tiles with a gaggle of friends it was always a treat to make those of us who remained a full English breakfast. The wordless bonding and bleary eyed grins over a massive plate of fried things can create a link that lasts forever.