Masterclass with Theo Randall at the Intercontinental:
Guest Article by Natalie York:
Arriving at the Intercontinental we were ushered through to the gleaming kitchens of Theo Randall’s restaurant. Having never really observed the inner workings of a top professional kitchen before I would have been quite happy just watching the plates go by as chefs walked briskly between stations, never looking rushed or chaotic but almost militaristically well drilled. In a sea of grey metal ovens and white uniforms it was the food itself that really stood out, offering the only colour with piles of deep green chard, red onions and, in one corner, a huge lemon yellow tart.
It is no surprise that Theo Randall’s kitchen seemed like a showcase for his ingredients. The chef has made a name for himself, at the River Café and now here at the Intercontinental, by highlighting the best seasonal produce and using simple Italian methods to present them in an unfussy, uninhibited way. Now he is one of the several chefs presenting dishes for the London Restaurant Festival “Sunday Best” menu and I went along to watch him prepare his guinea fowl stuffed with prosciutto and marscarpone.
We kicked off looking at the guinea fowl sitting plucked and ready on the sideboard. With a perilously sharp knife Theo set about separating the wings and breast from the rest of the carcass, pointing out how to let the structure of the bird do most of the work for you, following the line of the bone with the knife. Of course the carcass wasn’t thrown away as it can always be used for stocks and soups later on. After this the guinea fowl was stuffed with prosciutto and a good-sized spoonful of creamy mascarpone before being fried briefly in a very hot heavy bottomed pan. This filled the whole kitchen with the most phenomenal aroma as the skin browned to a golden crisp, even the cameramen at this point were starting to look enviously down their lenses!
As the fowl was sputtering in the pan Theo produced a new ingredient, pagnotta bread made from semolina. The pale white loaf had a dense crumb and a chewy texture, it’s made from the same flour used to make pasta and looks similar to ordinary sourdough. The secret to pagnotta is that, when fried, that white, chewy texture quickly becomes a crunchy, dark, indulgent treat. Theo deftly lifted the two pieces of guinea fowl and popped a slice of pagnotta under each. This left the bottom side of the bread to fry in the bird’s fat whilst the soft top side soaked up the juices.
With the bread in place the fowl went straight into the waiting oven to cook through whilst we turned our attention to the rest of the dish frying chanterelle mushrooms with garlic and parsley and adding blanched and fried swiss chard. As you can see the recipe represents some of the best products around this time of year and later Theo emphasized the importance of keeping firmly to what was seasonally available. The effect when the plate was finally all piled up and ready to serve was of a rich and frankly gorgeous looking collection of inherently autumnal ingredients. It smelled amazing and looked brilliant with the warm browns of the guinea fowl, golden mushrooms and glossy chard. A quick and easy sauce was produced from juices and crunchy scrapings left in the pan mixed with more mascarpone and a decent slug of lemon juice. After it was all done we piled in, forks dueling for mushrooms and crunchy bits of bread (I was merciless). The best way was to eat it was make sure you got a little bit of everything, bread, chard, mushroom, fowl and sauce all in one mouthful. The taste of so many different layers, each cooked fairly simply, coming together created a rich, flavourful combination whose appealing meatiness came as much from the mushrooms and the bread as the guinea fowl itself. The textures were fantastic, it was almost like eating a very luxurious cheese toasty as the creamy mascarpone contrasted brilliantly with the crunchy pagnotta bread. Luckily there was enough for everyone to have a good sized lunch with nothing left on the plate!
The recipe is below and I reckon its well worth trying out as a quick and relatively straight-forward main course with a proper Italian feel. After watching someone else I’m pretty keen to give it a go myself, and I’m sure boning the fowl is definitely as easy as it looks. Probably.
THEO RANDALL’S SUNDAY BEST RECIPE
Boned guinea fowl stuffed with prosciutto, mascarpone and thyme with Swiss chard chantarelle mushrooms
• 1 guinea fowl
• 4 slices prosciutto
• 150gr Chantarelle mushrooms – washed and trimmed
• 4 sprigs of thyme, chopped
• 150gr mascarpone
• 1 and ½ lemon juice zest
• 2tbls olive oil
• 4 slices of sourdough bread
• 400g swiss chard
Bone out the guinea fowl leaving the wing bone and the leg bone intact. Insert a sharp knife at the leg bone and cut around to remove the bone.
Take the juice and zest of one lemon and mix with the mascarpone.
Place the breast and leg skin side down on a chopping board. Pull the meat upwards leaving a cavity and place the prosciutto and a spoonful of the mascarpone inside.
Heat up a heavy based frying pan and add olive oil. Season the guinea fowl and place skin side down for two minutes or until the skin is golden colour. Drain any excess fat out of the pan.
Add one slice of sourdough bread or pagnotta bread to the pan. Place in the oven at 200c for 10-12 minutes.
In a hot frying pan add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, 1 tsp of chopped parsley. Add chantarelle mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the guinea fowl skin side up on top of the bread and serve with swiss chard and chantarelle mushrooms.
This event was part of the London Restaurant Festival which runs from 3-21st October. Natalie was a guest of the London Restaurant Festival and American Express at Sunday Best, but there are a range of exciting events during the Festival for American Express Cardmembers and for other members of the public. Sunday Best is an exclusive event for American Express Cardmembers. Find out more from their website.
Theo Randell offers regular Saturday masterclasses at his restaurant at the Intercontinental London Park Lane.
Intercontinental London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place
London W1J 7QY
tel 020 7318 8573