Interview: Tim Anderson

Mimi ON Jun 26, 2012 AT 10:50 am


Tim Anderson

Last year’s MasterChef winner Tim Anderson is the youngest ever champion of the BBC series. He has created the world’s most ‘well travelled’ dish, for foodie explorers Unearthed, using ingredients sourced from over 14 different countries  - including a savoury marshmallow on a biltong twig, served with loin of lamb and dressed with a rich chocolate and port sauce.

Since Masterchef what doors have opened up to you?

All kinds – every day and every week gets a little bit better in terms of what opportunities have come my way, all things I didn’t expect. I’ve been able to brew my own beers, work in restaurants like the Fat Duck. travel all over the country and I’m going to france next month to cook there. So it’s been a real wild ride. There’s no doubt that it has been worthwhile, even if I hadn’t won.

What it is about the Unearthed brand that made the collaboration of interest to you?

They’ve got a great range – because of those ingredients, it really lends itself to a number of dishes you can do. It enabled me to be really creative with it.

In terms of a brand – how are they to work with?

They’ve been really good. They’re quite keen to do something new, and bring something new to people, which is one of my priorities as well. They’ve been really encouraging as to what I can do creatively.  And it’s been nice receiving samples as well – as they’ve sent a lot of good food to me.

We’re you given quite a tight brief?

I was allowed to be pretty creative – more than expected originally. It was great. The more creative I can get – the better the results in the end.

How much time does you spend sourcing ingredients from other parts of the world?

I’m always trying new things. When I lived in Japan – and I still do this – my rule was that everytime I went to the supermarket I’d buy something that I didn’t know what it was. Living in a foreign country, that was easier to do – but I still do it here to an extent – especially when I go to china town or the ethnic supermarkets. I think that the more new ingredients that you can try – the more inspiration you’ll have and the better your food will be ultimately.

Do you find that you can still be experimental even with the most basic of foods?

I think big supermarkets these days are really good at giving people a selection of exotic ingredients, from Unearthed, but also from further afield, Japan, Thailand, the Caribbean etc. so I don’t think you really have to look that hard to find something new. You do have to look for it though – you should always save room on your shopping list for something that you haven’t heard of before. Something that looks interesting, even if you don’t need it or know how to use it.

Is there a knack to knowing what will and won’t work when it comes to new ingredients?

I think that you just have to stop and think about what you’re dealing with – if you try a new ingredient, you have to think about what it’s like and then go from there.  One ingredient that took me a while to get to grips with is Durian – a stinky fruit from South East Asia – a lot of people love it but I could never enjoy it as a fruit because it’s very cheesy. But when I started using it as a cheese and not a fruit, I started to really appreciate it more. I think there are very few foods that are so strange that you can’t think of something similar from your own background of foods.

What’s the most unusual food you have cooked with?

That’s hard because the ones that were once weird to me, are not any more! It’s funny because Monkfish Liver is something that I love to cook – though it sounds really strange on paper. A lot of fishermen in the UK, when they’re cutting their fish on the boat they just chuck it back out to sea but it’s actually a really good piece of meat. It’s often called the fois gras of the sea.  But you really have to know how to prep it and be very open minded. It’s very smooth and not at all grainy like some livers. It’s rather mild if you’ve prepped it properly. It doesn’t have a strong bloody taste – it’s rich and creamy and has a fish flavour but not too fishy. But you have to get past what it is if you want to enjoy foods.

Do you find that’s the case with lots of experimental foods?

I think that’s true of so many things. You just have to think about what a sausage is. It’s one of the weirdest things you could possibly eat. It’s bits of an animal minced up and stuffed within its own intestine. It’s only because we are used to it and we’ve had it for centuries that we think it’s ok. I mean look at how people react to haggis, which is just a big sausage!

What is your favourite cuisine. 

It has to be Japanese. I was in japan for 2 years whilst studying and I still cook with a lot of Japanese ingredients. There’s quite a lot about Japanese cuisine that I love, there is such a diversity of flavours and balance in Japanese cooking. They understand that you need to have depth to a dish. Deep flavours with something bright and lively on top. It’s the  layering that makes Japanese food really good.

What do you prefer to cook?

I like fine dining and I like modern cuisine, but at the end of the day what I want to eat – and what I want to cook tends to be a burger or a roast dinner – a bbq or fried rice. I’ve come to really appreciate people that make them. There’s a misconception that the simple stuff doesn’t take any effort and it’s really easy – but if you want to get it right, you have to really practise and know what you’re doing.

Are there any London food markets that you frequent?

Occasionally – although I just don’t get our very much! I’ll make a visit to wherever I am  when I’m in the area. Broadway Market on a Saturday  and I still like Borough market even though it’s a little touristy. If you can get there early on a Thursday morning it’s a great place to shop – it’s a little expensive but it has everything and it’s all really good quality.

The dish you have created for Unearthed is based on a traditional American campfire treat, Marshmallow toasted between two biscuits. How did you come up with the idea?

I’d been toying around with savoury marshmallows for some time – they’re a really good carrier for certain flavours, especially cheese. So when I got sent the goats cheese balls from Unearthed – that are actually very pungent on their own – I thught marshmallows would be a perfect carrier for them. So it all developed from the marshmallows really.

The dish is  a sweet/ savoury mix, but many people are wary of using chocolate in a savoury dish – any tips?

I would say be careful with it – start with small quantities of chocolate, you can always add more but can’t take away. Don’t go with cocoa powder – use a chocolate as cocoa can make your dish too bitter. Use a meat with a rich flavour such as lamb, beef and certain breeds of pork. Game works as well – I do a really nice wood pigeon dish with chocolate as well .

What are your favourite cookbook(s) at the moment?

The one I use the most is the Fat Duck cookbook. The recipes are so complicated and he covers so many techniques within them so whenever I’m trying to do something unusual or even basic really in the kitchen I can usually get some good advice from that book.

The gourmet ‘Around The World On One Plate’ dish will be exclusively served at The London Foodies Supper Club in Hoxton on 27th-28th June. There will be a number of tickets available to buy, at £20 for the four-course menu, simply tweet your interest to @foodsunearthed.


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