Love him or loathe him, Scottish Gordon Ramsay is one of the world’s most successful chefs and restauranteurs with more awards and accolades than any other UK chef. His restaurants have been awarded 15 Michelin stars in total and his signature restaurant, ‘Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’ (Chelsea, London) has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001. The unfortunate reputation he has gathered for being aggressive and a perceived ‘hard arse’ can be blamed on the raft of shows he has fronted from ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, ‘The F Word’ and ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ to the American versions of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, ‘Kitchen Nightmares’, ‘MasterChef’, ‘MasterChef Junior’ and ‘Hotel Hell.’ In reality Gordon is in fact an extremely kind and generous man and boss who knows every one of his staff by name and treats all of them and their families to fantastic trips abroad every year, drowning them in lavish gifts to thank them for their efforts.
The same cannot be said for Jamie Oliver, sadly – he’s ironically known to act as Gordon Ramsay is perceived. (Don’t shoot the messenger!) Ramsay has described his early life as “hopelessly itinerant”; his family moved constantly due to the aspirations and failures of his father who was an at-times-violent alcoholic. In 1976 they finally settled in Stratford-upon-Avon where he grew up in the Bishopton area of the town. In his autobiography ‘Humble Pie’ he describes his early life as being marked by abuse and neglect from this “hard-drinking womaniser”. At the age of 16 Ramsay moved out of the family house into a flat in Banbury.
In the early 1980s he worked as a commis chef at the Wroxton House Hotel then ran the kitchen and 60-seat dining room at the Wickham Arms, until his sexual relationship with the owner’s wife made the situation difficult. Ramsay then moved to London, where he worked in a series of restaurants until being inspired to work for the temperamental Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s. After working at Harveys for two years and ten months, Ramsay, tired of “the rages and the bullying and violence”, decided that the way to further advance his career was to study French cuisine: he was offered the position of head chef (under chef-patron Pierre Koffmann) at the Three Michelin starred ‘La Tante Claire’ in Chelsea.
Shortly thereafter Marco Pierre White re-entered his life, offering to set him up with a head chef position and 10% share in ‘The Rossmore’, owned by White’s business partners. The restaurant was renamed ‘Aubergine’ and went on to win its first Michelin star fourteen months later. In 1997, Aubergine won its second Michelin star. Despite the restaurant’s success, a dispute with Ramsay’s business owners and Ramsay’s dream of running his own restaurant led to his leaving the partnership in 1997. In 1998, Ramsay opened his own restaurant in Chelsea, ‘Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’ with the help of his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. The restaurant gained its third Michelin star in 2001, making Ramsay the first Scot to achieve that feat.
GORDON RAMSAY’S PRAWN PAKORAS
Prawn pakoroa’s, also called pakodi, are prawns coated in a spicy batter and quickly deep fried. Originally from India, they can now be found across Asia and the Pacific. Cauliflower, courgette or carrots are delicious fried in this batter too. Serve these little beauties straight from the fry-pan so the batter stays crunchy and have a nice cooling yoghurt sauce along side.
350g raw prawns, shell on
2 green chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
For the batter:
150 grams flour
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp garam masala
100–125ml warm water
Shell and devein the prawns, leaving the tails intact. Place them in a bowl and toss with the chopped chillies and garlic. Next, make the batter by mixing the flour, salt and spices together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add just enough of the warm water to form a thick, smooth paste with a slow-dropping consistency. Leave to stand for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to the lowest setting and heat six centimetre’s of oil in a deep saucepan to 170–180ºC/gas mark 4. One at a time, hold the prawns by their tails, dip them in the spicy batter mix to coat, then drop them into the hot oil. Fry for three to four minutes, turning once, until crisp and golden brown all over. Drain on a baking tray lined with kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest. Serve immediately while they are still hot.
GORDON RAMSAY’S SPICY BEEF AND LETTUCE WRAPS
This refreshing, tasty recipe is easy-peasy and the mix can be made days before your event. Perfect over summer, these can be eaten as canapes, entrees or mains. Serve individually in gem lettuce leaves or ‘make-your-own’ style on a platter.
Olive oil for frying
200g lean minced beef
200g minced pork
Toasted sesame oil, for frying
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1–2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
Zest of 1 lime, juice of 1/3 lime
3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 little gem lettuces, separated into leaves, to serve
For the dressing:
1 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of ½ lime
1 tsp sesame oil
½ red chilli, thinly sliced
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
1–2 tsp fish sauce, to taste
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat a large frying pan and add a little oil. Mix the minced beef and pork together. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to ensure the seasoning is evenly distributed. Fry the mince in the hot pan for five to seven minutes until crisp and brown and broken down to a fine consistency. Drain the crisped mince in a sieve – this will help it stay crispy. Set aside. Wipe out the pan and add a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry with a pinch of salt and the sugar for two minutes. Add the drained mince and stir to mix. Add the fish sauce and heat through. Stir in the lime zest and juice, then add the spring onions, stirring for thirty seconds. Turn off the heat. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste. To serve, spoon some of the mince mixture into the lettuce leaves, drizzle with a little dressing and serve.