David O’Brien | Notes From My Kitchen

BY Pratyush Sarup / Jun 21 2016 / 19:53 PM

Creating delectable springtime dishes exclusively for Bazaar Interiors, chef David O’Brien shows us how to make the most of this season’s produce

David O’Brien | Notes From My Kitchen

From designing a dinner in honour of Hollywood star Kevin Spacey on the rooftop of Sharjah Art Foundation, to serving up artfully-plated dishes at the launch of Dubai Design and Fashion Council, British chef David O’Brien has garnered a loyal following among the region’s foodies. Not an easy task given the number of Michelin star chefs vying for space in the GCC and the seasoned palates of so many of its dwellers. “Keep it simple, seasonal and fresh,” says David. “The key to great cooking – be it for five people or 50 – is to let the seasons guide you.”

David’s love for fresh, seasonal produce was instilled in him as a child

Before he moved to the UAE in 2006 to open Almaz by Momo, David was working in London with the Michelin-starred Galvin Brothers, heading up their acclaimed Baker Street outpost, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe. He’s also worked for culinary greats Micheal Kaines, Gary Rhodes, Richard Corrigan and Louis Outhier among others and is the founder of Ghaf Kitchen, the region’s highly sought-after caterer. From private parties to corporate events, Ghaf Kitchen is in huge demand as much for its mouth-watering dishes as for its beautiful presentation. David says,

“People come to us if they want something unique and boutique. Our job is to interpret the occasion and celebrate that in a creative way”

Like many a culinary powerhouse, David credits his parents for inspiring him to step into the kitchen. “I was born into a family of hoteliers,” he explains. “My father was a hotel general manager and when his job took him to South Africa when I was two years old, the family moved too. My mother was always the glamorous hostess welcoming guests and supporting my dad.” Being surrounded by cooks and glorious South African produce instilled his passion for great food, and his love of seasonal, fresh produce has grown stronger over the years, further honed by his craft. “In London, which is where I trained, you have the world as your market garden and nearly everything is available. England has the most amazing artisan producers and there is a real interest and need from the community to buy local and fresh.” He still insists on knowing the provenance of each and every one of his ingredients and is keen for the general public to adopt his attitude. “If ingredients and produce are treated with love and respect, food is going to taste better for it,” he explains,

“I really do believe farm to fork is best and people should question and understand where the food they eat has come from and how it was treated”

At home, where there are no corporate guidelines and client wish-lists to follow, David and his wife treat family and friends with relaxed get-togethers and unpretentious, wholesome cooking. “My wife Rosie did a starter of Severn and Wye smoked salmon with horseradish cream, a little black bread and pickled cucumber,” he says of the New Year’s Day lunch that they hosted for their family. “For the main course a slow cooked leg of lamb, dauphinoise potatoes and seasonal vegetables. That was an amazing treat. I’m lucky to share my life with someone who partakes in my love and appreciation of food.”


Fritto Misto and Garlic Aioli

Ingredients:  

(Serves 4)

150g polenta 

100g plain flour

100ml sparkling water

1 free range egg

12 baby squid 

4 sultan Ibrahim fillets, cut into thirds

300g salmon fillet, cut into cubes

20 white bait

100g mayonnaise

2 tsp confit garlic puree

100ml vegetable oil for frying

Salt and white pepper to taste

Method

  1. For the batter, mix the polenta with flour and season well with salt and pepper. In another bowl whisk the egg with sparkling water. Mix with seasoned flour, until it just comes together.
  2. Dip the fish in the batter and fry in a pan with oil over a medium heat until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
  3. For the garlic aioli, put the mayonnaise and garlic puree in a bowl and mix. Season well. Serve on the side.

Grilled Endives, Pecorino Cheese and Shaved Pear

Ingredients:  

(Serves 4)

1kg white endives

120g pecorino cheese

150g pears

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Remove the outer leaves of the endives, trim the root ends and cut into quarters.
  2. Coat with a slight splash of olive oil and season well. Place on a very hot grill, and broil for two minutes on each side, until they are semi-wilted. Allow to cool.
  3. Quarter the pears, remove their seeds and thinly slice each one lengthways. Keep in ice water with lemon juice until needed. Shave the pecorino and keep in the fridge.
  4. To serve, place the endives on a plate, add the sliced pears and finish with the shaved pecorino. Drizzle with olive oil and finish with pinch of salt.

Pizzette with Spinach, Soft Brown Egg and Anchovy

Ingredients:  

(Serves 8)

For the dough:

12g instant yeast

300ml water

425g strong plain flour, plus extra for working the dough

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

For the tomato ragout:

800g tin of plum tomatoes

100g celery

100g carrots

100g white onions

1 bay leaf

½ bunch basil, leaves picked

200ml water

2 tbsp tomato puree 

2 tbsp olive oil 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the pizzete topping:

250g baby spinach, washed and drained

8 free range eggs

16 anchovies in oil, drained and roughly chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. To make the pizza dough, mix the sugar and yeast with warm water and leave until it starts to become foamy. Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Slowly work the flour into the liquid until a sticky, elastic dough forms.
  2. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and knead it well, adding more flour if necessary, until it stops sticking to your hands. Knead for approximately 10 minutes more, until smooth and elastic. Divide into eight pieces and roll into balls. Lightly coat the balls in oil and arrange on a tray, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge for 24 hours.
  3. For the tomato ragout, finely chop the celery, carrots and onions and cook them gently in a pan with a little bit of oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, basil, bay leaf, tomato puree, water, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well, cover with a lid and cook gently, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaf and blitz in a blender.
  4. Remove the dough balls from the fridge and let them rest for about two hours or until they have doubled in size.
  5. Once they are ready, roll each dough ball into a rectangular shape, about 5mm thick. Spread tomato ragout on top of the dough and bake at 220°C for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, sautee the spinach in olive oil and season well. Drain in a colander.
  7. Remove the pizzete from the oven, add the spinach and break an egg onto each pizzeta. Return to the oven and bake until the eggs are soft cooked. Season the egg with freshly ground black pepper and salt, spread some chopped anchovies on top, cut into 4 fingers and serve immediately.

Chicken Wings with Ricotta and Sage, White Bean Mash and Pesto

Ingredients:  

(Serves 4)

FOR THE CHICKEN WINGS:

12 large chicken wings

60g ricotta cheese

1tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE BEAN MASH:

200g white beans, soaked in water overnight

50g shallots

40g butter

2.5 litres vegetable stock

1tbsp chopped parsley

1 lemon, juiced

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto to garnish

Method

  1. Debone the chicken wings, remove the skin and set aside. Mix the ricotta and chopped sage and season well. Season the meat and put a dollop of the ricotta-sage mix into each wing. Roll the wings and then wrap them in their own skin. Roll each parcel in cling film and poach in simmering water for 20 minutes. Cool down and keep in the fridge until needed.
  2. For the bean mash, finely chop the shallots and sautee in olive oil. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with the shallots. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the beans are cooked. Add the butter and lemon juice and season well. Blitz in a food processor.
  3. To assemble the dish, sear the chicken rolls in a hot pan with a bit of oil until golden brown and crispy. Reheat the bean mash and top with the chopped parsley. Make a bed of bean mash, arrange the chicken wings on top and drizzle with pesto. Serve immediately.

Words: Pratyush Sarup. Photography: by Aasiya Jagadeesh

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors