Ask the Chef
Gabriel Gaté has learnt his craft from some of the great master chefs of France, knows the reality of being a family cook with little time, and communicates with dazzling success both the joy of cooking and how to make tasty food that is simple, easy and achievable.
Unfortunately, we're no longer accepting new questions, though feel free to browse our database of past cooking queries and Gabriel's responses.
What’s your best recipe with figs in it?
A few weeks ago, I cooked fresh halved figs in a little butter and sugar and a small piece of star anise until almost caramelised. I served it with roasted hazelnuts and vanilla ice-cream. It was delicious. Figs can be poached in a sugar syrup flavoured with vanilla or cinnamon, or in a red wine syrup. A fig tart or baked figs are also great. Baked figs can be served with roast pork or roast duck.
How does one tenderise rabbit?
Rabbit is very lean and becomes tender by long, slow cooking in a casserole dish (for about two hours). Rabbit is often cooked in a little wine, beer or herbs and spices, which helps tenderise the meat. The uncooked rabbit pieces can also be marinated, covered, with red or white wine overnight. Young rabbits (usually smaller) are more tender than older rabbits.
I love homemade puff pastry but it's such a lot of rolling. Is rough puff pastry a good substitute for topping a savoury pie?
Yes, a rough puff pastry will be fine on your savoury pie. Try to make it a few hours ahead. When I'm busy and need puff pastry, I buy the pre-made frozen Escoffier puff pastry. It’s excellent.
I’m thinking of doing a lemon and herb crusted salmon on a barbecue. Is this possible? How do you make the crust?
It’s usually better to use a crust on fish or meat you cook under a grill or in a hot oven. It’s simple to do: In a blender, mix 4 tablespoons of finely cut herbs (basil, tarragon, lemon thyme) with 1 clove of chopped garlic; 1 tablespoon of butter; 2 teaspoons of mustard; the zest of 1 lemon; 2 teaspoons of lemon juice; and 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Roll this paste between 2 layers of baking paper to a thickness of about 2mm, then cut the crust to size, to cover the top of the salmon fillets. Cook under the grill.
Lots of the dishes I’d like to try require white or red wine. What’s a suitable substitute?
Wine adds acidity and flavour to a dish. You can substitute red wine with beer in some casseroles. In some sauces you can use vinegar instead of red wine. White wine can sometimes be replaced with vermouth or sherry. If you don’t wish to use alcohol, use lemon, lime juice, or vinegar. In some preparations, like a red wine sauce for steak, there is no subsitute. So simply serve a different sauce, such as a pepper sauce or cream sauce.
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