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Issue 5 - Fast fish

Whisky Magazine Issue 5
August 1999

 

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Fast fish

We sent chef Christian Delteil some whisky, and he invented some recipes for us. That took all of 20 minutes. Coooking them, says Margaret Rand, toook only slightly longer

The kitchen at Bank smelled like a maltings. And why? Because tucked in among the little dishes of chopped chillies, sliced leeks, mashed celeriac and prepared scallops was a bowl of ground malted barley. Not much: only about a cupful. But it smelled profoundly out of place in a restaurant kitchen.

Christian Delteil, you see, was experimenting. A few weeks before we'd sent him assorted bottles of whisky; he had tried each one and concocted a recipe into which it would fit. How long had this taken him? ‘Oh, about 20 minutes'. Had he tested them out before today? ‘No, it's the first time. Except for the crab linguini. They do a version of that here quite a lot.' Will the recipes work? ‘They usually do'.

This ability to see flavours in his head (not to mention the ability to cut leeks so that they look decorative instead of like pieces of green Edinburgh rock, and the ability to cook five experimental dishes in 45 minutes with a photographer asking him to do that whisking a bit nearer the camera, please) is the reason why Christian Delteil is Chef Director of more than four restaurants.

We'd started with a trip to Billingsgate fish market. Delteil can distinguish a farmed sea bass from a wild one at 20 paces and picks up bigger fish by pushing his fingers into their eye sockets.' You get used to it,' he says. Good. But why, I ask, does the fish at Billingsgate look so fresh, while the fish at every fishmonger and supermarket I've ever known in Britain look tired? Simpl...

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