Your Cooking Questions Answered by Masterchef's Sven-Hanson Britt

Friday, March 13, 2020

Over on Instagram, we gave you the chance to ask Miele Ambassador and MasterChef's own Sven-Hanson Britt your cooking and baking questions. From 'How to make the perfect gravy?' to 'What's the secret to making a light and fluffy sponge cake?'- we received a selection of great questions, and Sven has delivered his expert answers!

Introducing Sven-Hanson Britt

In 2014, Sven was a finalist of MasterChef: The Professionals and this year, he went on to be crowned the winner of MasterChef The Professionals: The Rematch. Since his first appearance on the show, Sven has taken up the position of Executive Chef with Miele and is now working towards the opening of his own restaurant and bar, Oxeye London and Bar Rex. You can find out more about Oxeye and Sven's journey towards securing a central London premises here.

Photo credit to Miele.

How do you make a good cheesecake without gelatine?

"So, you have two options for a baked cheesecake. You could make a classic, baked, dense cheesecake, or, there's a Japanese style cheesecake where you whisk egg whites, then whisk egg yolks into a meringue and fold it all through. If you're baking either of those in a bain-marie or steam/steam-combination oven then it should bake properly, and one little tip I would give is that when it's cooked, don't open the oven door straight away- let it cool as the oven is cooling down and this will stop it collapsing!"

Any tips for what to do with leftover Sunday roast?

"Well, it depends what elements of the dinner you have left over. So, if you've got some potatoes left over (not very often in my house!), roast potatoes mixed together with left over greens can make an amazing bubble and squeak, or a great hash.

"All of your leftover meat, whatever it may be, could be used to make some really nice croquettes. You would need to take your potato and mash that down, then combine with your flaked leftover meat and add some seasoning to bring it to life and a bit of spice. The Japanese have deep fried croquette which is delicious- it has some soy and fresh spring onion and they serve it with something called Bull Dog sauce, which is basically like HP sauce, bread-crumbed, fried and crisp. It's really great!"

How do you make the best pork crackling?

"Crackling is just a thing of beauty. It's potentially one of the most delicious parts of the roast, so to get good crackling is really important. I have a few tips that I would recommend if you're looking to make the best crackling you can.

"Firstly, the pork that you buy from the supermarket (vac-packed) often doesn't get crispy enough or make the best crackling as you need to look after it quite well in the preparation and the cooking to actually achieve that. If you can go to a butcher, get some rare breed pork and look for the skin that's the thickest. The thickest, driest looking skin will give you the lightest, crispiest roast pork crackling, which sounds counter intuitive but that's how it works. Unfortunately, any wet, flabby, thin skin that comes from the fast-bred pigs for supermarkets just doesn't give good crackling.

"If you can only get vac-packed pork, I would recommend taking it out of the vac-pack and leaving it uncovered in the fridge overnight (I would do this to the butcher pork too), so it can dry out, allowing it to crisp-up.

"For cooking, if you have a steam or steam-combination oven you can roast it normally with lots of steam, and what that does is it softens the skin, renders out the fat and allows it to become crispy. That high temperature will crisp it up, then I would finish it off under the grill.

"A second method is that you can put the skin into a hot pan with oil, and once it's dried and the skin has began to puff up, go crispy and turn a light golden brown, you can transfer it to the oven and begin the roasting, and that will cook it through properly whilst keeping that delicious crispiness."

What food can I eat to give me energy after being up all night with my baby girl?

"Now, I know how you feel- my young son Rex is very good at keeping me awake. It's a very difficult question. You could eat slow-release carbohydrates to give you energy throughout the day, or you could bake things with oats which are also a great source of energy. Things with sugar are also a great idea, although I'd recommend fruits rather than processed sugars as these will only make you feel great for a short period of time. For a little burst in the morning, I'd always recommend a good coffee!"

What are your tips for a light and fluffy sponge cake?

"So, there are obviously many different recipes out there for sponge cakes- whether you're using an all-in-one method, whether you're making a génoise or whether you're whisking the butter and the sugar. I've consulted my partner Kae, who is actually a Pastry Sous Chef at The Ritz, and she confirms that all it takes is patience. If your recipe says to beat your butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy, take the time to do the job properly, beating the mixture until it's the right consistency- whether you're using a machine or doing the job by hand.

"The same goes for a recipe that uses eggs- whisk your eggs properly and take care to properly separate the egg whites and the yolks if your recipe specifies, and mix until light and fluffy. Then, incorporate your sugar before adding the flour- flour always needs to be added last and I would always recommend sieving it. Add the flour bit by bit and fold it in lightly in three parts. Once it's folded in that's it- you don't want to over-work it. Transfer it straight to your lined cake tin and transfer it straight to the oven- you don't want to let it sit and this will allow the air to escape from the cake. This should help you to achieve a light and fluffy sponge with most recipes!"

What healthy, high proteins meals would you recommend to eat during lock down?

"Home cooked meals are normally always a healthier alternative to eating out, so we're on to a winner there already with the healthy side of things! I would recommend buying some fresh vegetables- there are lots of lovely in-season veggies at the moment that are high in protein, like broccoli, spinach and asparagus- and these are great cooked in the steam oven. You can cook these alongside your high-protein classics, such as chicken and fish, that can also be steamed, or you can roast, grill or fry. The key is balance- it's still important to get a healthy moderation of fats and carbohydrates, so don't beat yourself up for eating too many pasta dishes- we all need a little bit of comfort at the moment- just make sure to eat foods from all of the other food groups too, to maintain a healthy balance."

How do you make the perfect poached egg?

"I always get asked this question- it seems like something everyone wants to master! The perfect poached egg can actually be really difficult to achieve but it'll get easier with practice. My first tip would definitely be to get fresh eggs. It can be hard to tell if eggs are truly fresh when buying them from the supermarket and to achieve the best poached egg you need to be using eggs that are less than seven days old. If you have chickens at home you're much more likely to make the perfect poach, but if you haven't, your best bet is to buy from a farmers market, or to use your supermarket eggs on the day you bring them home.

"Cook them in a deep pot with boiling water. You can use the whirlpool method, you can put vinegar in there, you can use one of the silicone moulds to aid the poached egg shape- but if you have a fresh egg you're on to a winner. Eggs are multi-layers of protein and over a period of time those layers breakdown, meaning you get a foamy scum substance coming to the top of your water when you use an older egg. So super-fresh eggs, seasoned water and that should be all you need!"

What's the best way to make gravy?

"Quite a hard question to answer quickly but I'll give it my best shot! Firstly, I would recommend giving your meat a trivet whilst it cooks- a trivet is something sitting underneath your meat, so the meat is elevated. Your trivet can be things like root vegetables, so onions cut into quarters, carrots cut in half, cloves of garlic, or it can be bones from your meat joint, bay leaves, thyme- anything you like to bring flavour- then just add a little bit of water to your tray and place your meat on top and cook.

"As that's cooking, the water is going to keep evaporating, so you want to keep it topped up with a small amount whenever you see the juices starting to caramelise at the bottom of the tray, to help prevent it from burning. This will be the base of your gravy.

"Then, once roasted, take the trivet out and transfer the contents into a pan. Bring this to a boil with some more water and stock if you have it (stock would be amazing but a stock cube will do the job too, it just may not be as flavoursome), then allow to simmer. Allow it to thicken to the level you prefer, using cornflour to help it along if you feel the gravy needs it."

We'd like to say a big thank you to Sven for taking the time to answer the questions we received!

You can follow his journey and learn more about the upcoming opening of his Oxeye restaurant over on Instagram.

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