Kevin Dundon: “Recipes are there to inspire you, not to dictate to you”
Being creative in the kitchen can seem like a bit of a minefield at times. Long, complicated recipes would dishearten even the most experienced cooks and far too often we play it safe, repeating the same meals every week. However, with the right ingredients and a little inspiration, there are lots of ways to make meal time more exciting.
SuperValu’s recently launched ‘All Things Considered’ campaign is encouraging shoppers to look at the real value that SuperValu offers its customers, not just within the trolley but value that goes beyond the till. As part of this they are challenging the nation to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. This week’s challenge is to introduce some new flavours into your cooking and try out some new simple twists to your dishes that can completely change the taste.
We spoke to passionate foodie, celebrity chef and SuperValu ambassador Kevin Dundon about some of the simple ways you can try new flavours and dishes at home.
What are some essential herbs and spices to add to the cupboard?
For me, standard things in my spice larder would be turmeric, dried ginger, soya sauce, honey, cinnamon, chilli powder, curry paste, Tabasco, chocolate and cocoa powder.
If you are making a hot chilli, right at the end of your cooking, grate some dark chocolate into it. What that does, is it takes that spice-sharpness off the dish. It rounds the dish off and is a much smoother taste.
It’s also nice to have some dried herbs, just in case you don’t have any fresh ones on the day. SuperValu have a great range of own brand dried herbs at great value prices - I’m talking about oregano, cilantro (or coriander to those who aren’t familiar with cilantro!), flat leaf parsley, rosemary and I would always have some sage in there too. Sage is a great one to have because it works so well with pork, chicken and turkey.
Tarragon is interesting if you are doing some seafood or chicken, it’s got that lovely liquorish flavour. For example, a breast of chicken, pan seared on both sides, drizzled with some honey, some tarragon sprinkled on top and then put into the oven – it’s amazing!
What country or region do you take cooking inspiration from?
I love Asian food. One of my favourite cuisines would be Japanese. It’s very close to the Irish cuisine in the way that they are all about their own ingredients. That’s the king of the plate. Similar for us, our beef, pork, lamb and fish are superb quality and you don’t want to mask them too much with different flavours because they’re so flavoursome the way they are. I think we’re almost afraid to experiment and take the risk of trying new dishes sometimes, however, if you do then you can open up a whole new world of flavours and dishes that will give you a real experience of fine cuisine and flavours of the world that would excite any tastebuds. In addition, it is a great way to shake up our weekly meal repertoire.
A great Japanese dish to do, that’s quite interactive, is shabu-shabu. This is a real midweek supper, it’s really healthy and fresh and is something a little different.
You start by making a chicken stock and have that as a fondue in the middle of the table. Then you thinly slice some beef, pork, chicken and prawns, they would be raw on a plate. You would also have a bunch of different vegetables like spring onions, carrots, bok choy and daikon radish. You basically cook them yourself by dipping the raw meat in the hot stock, they only take seconds to do once they are sliced razor thin. You can also add some noodles and build your own ramen type dish.
The other Asian dish I Iove to do is a stir fry. For one, it’s a great way to clear out your fridge. I always suggest to people, if you’re doing your main shop on a Thursday, then on Wednesday go into your fridge, take out whatever you have, chop it all up and add a little bit of garlic and ginger. Get your wok pan super-hot, add a little bit of oil in there and then throw in your meat and vegetables.
A great trick for wok cooking is to remember that it’s a combination of heat and steam. Sauté off everything so it’s really hot and then put a tablespoon of water into it. Then, put a lid over your wok and steam your vegetables. Add a little bit of soya sauce, honey and some sesame seeds and boom, you’re done! Just serve it up with some rice.
Bobotie, which is a dish that originates out of South Africa, is another one that’s really interesting. It’s a mincemeat curry – traditionally we’d do a shepherd’s Pie or a spaghetti bolognese with mince but here’s something really exciting to add to your weekly meal planner. You sauté onions, garlic and your mincemeat until they’re brown, then you put in some madras curry powder or whichever spice you like, some cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and get them really working up. Then you grate a potato and apple into it, which really bulks it up.
Put it all into a casserole dish, beat three eggs with a little bit of salt and pepper, pour the eggs over the top, and bake in the oven for an hour at 160. You kind of get this omelette effect on the top of the dish. Serve it up with some rice and some mango chutney. It’s a great dish and SuperValu have a fantastic mango chutney in the Signature Tastes range.
Do you have any tips for people who are vegetarian or vegan?
One dish that we love in our own house is a potato omelette, from Spain. Take some rooster potatoes, peel them and slice really thinly. Then take one Spanish onion (the big white onions) and slice it. Throw them into a pan with olive oil, add some salt and pepper, for about five to seven minutes and cook them through until they are soft. They will start to caramelise on the outside so you will get this great flavour.
Transfer your potatoes and onions into a separate bowl with eight eggs and mix them all together. Then pour the mixture back into your pan - make sure its non-stick. Keep moving the egg mixture around until it starts to set and then turn it in the pan – you’ll end up with a nice thick cake. Serve that up with a tomato and onion salad and it’s fantastic. We would have that once a week.
Anyone who finds themselves eating white potatoes quite a bit, try swapping them out for some sweet potatoes every now and then – it will give your food a completely different taste and will shake things up. I like to mix some sweet potatoes into my regular potatoes and mash them together. It’s nice because you get the combination of the sweet potatoes, which are healthier, and the regular mash potatoes which we all love.
We also make an amazing pavlova for vegans. When you’re not allowed something you really want it, so this is one that is super to make, again practically for vegans. You take a can of chickpeas, strain off the juice and use that as an egg white. It’s one-part chickpea juice to two parts sugar, a spoon of cream of tartar and you beat that for about 10 minutes in a bowl. It will look identical to a meringue. You then put it on some grease proof paper and cook it at 140 degrees for about 55-60 minutes. Take it out, cool it down and serve it up with some fruit or a nice fruit sorbet. You can also do them in little cases so you get little mini meringues or beat some coconut cream and pour that over it.
How do you stay inspired to keep creating new dishes?
I travel quite a bit. I like to experience the local cuisine where-ever I go so I always ask to chat to the chef and see how he has made the dish. Also flicking through magazines, and it’s not that you are replicating anything, but you might see something like a picture of a beet and you start to think ‘I could make something out of that’. You might have seen an ice-cream a couple of pages before and you go ‘what about a beetroot ice-cream?’.
When I go into the likes of SuperValu, the first thing I do is I pick up my protein and I build my dish around that. I never go in with a set idea of what I’m going to cook. I might go to the butcher counter and see a fantastic Hampshire pork chopped, for example. Then the first thing I would think is ‘What goes really well with pork? Apple! Maybe I’ll cut some into wedges and caramelise them on the pan with some baby potatoes’. Speak to your butcher about meal options with your favourite cuts of meat, and if you’re feeling adventurous why not get them to recommend a completely new cut, one you haven’t tried before. They’re the experts so who better to help you make your meals more exciting?
When I think of dessert, I go back to my childhood. I go back to things that I loved as a kid, and still love. It’s just letting your imagination go wild. For example, I would look at a Jaffa Cake biscuit and I make a dessert out of that. What I do is make a sponge for the bottom. Then I make a chocolate mousse and fill a dome-shaped dish with it, add some orange marmalade in the middle and then freeze it. Afterwards I turn it all out and pour a homemade chocolate ganache (dark chocolate with cream) over top.
I think it’s really important that you cook from your heart and remember that recipes are there to inspire you, not to dictate to you. So, even though you look at a recipe and say I like that - but you mightn’t have everything that’s in that recipe – it will still work out.
SuperValu are asking the nation to ‘Consider Something New’ - something that’s always been on their to-do list but that they haven’t got around to doing yet. It could be buying own brand products to save money, making healthier food choices or picking up one or more Irish products to support your local food producers because - All things considered, it's SuperValu.
All things considered, its SuperValu. For more information on SuperValu’s #Allthingsconsidered challenge visit their website.