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Monday 11 April 2011

Sluttery Interviews: Alan Rosenthal of stewed!

Last year I was lucky enought to review the stewed! Nourish Your Soul cookbook and was instantly smitten by the rather wonderful on-pot wonders contained within. So it was a pleasure to chat to the authour Alan Rosenthal to find out more about his company stewed!

Hello Alan, tell us a little bit more about stewed!

I started stewed! back in 2008 after having a brainwave that nobody out there was making and selling stews. There were so many soup brands on the market and loads of bland ready meals but no stews! So, I really thought there was an opportunity. I set about creating a few recipes that I began making from home and selling in a local farmers’ market in Alexandra Palace. Not long afterwards, some local Budgens stores started stocking stewed! pots as did Harvey Nichols.

By then I’d moved into a rented kitchen in West London that allowed me to use the facilities for 2 days a week rather than having to rent a kitchen full time. This was brilliant as it meant the investment was not going to be huge (always helpful if you’re a startup).

I then began speaking to Waitrose, Ocado and Sainsbury’s and managed to get trials in all of them. You can now buy stewed! pots in selected stores all around the country!

I was also commissioned by Ebury Press to write a stewed! cookbook which was released in October last year. That was a massive achievement and made me very proud. 3 years ago I’d have never expected to have a book in WHSmith and Waterstones, let alone products in the supermarkets!

What inspires your cooking? Tell us more about how you develop your recipes and bring flavours together.

I love picking some key ingredients and developing a recipe around them. Rather than choosing a particular meat, fish or vegetable as a starting point, I love to start with the flavour I am really in the mood for. My Persian chicken recipe is, without a doubt, a classic example. I discovered pomegranate molasses and sour cherries a few years ago and really wanted to develop a stew using those two ingredients. Pomegranate molasses has a wonderfully rich, fruity sweet and sourness that I knew would work with sour cherries.

I started off experimenting with lamb but found it was just a little too heavy. Then, thanks to the internet, I discovered a Persian dish called fesenjun which is a delicious chicken or duck recipe with a sauce made of pomegranate molasses and walnuts with some turmeric and cinnamon. It’s a fantastic dish that is rich and fragrant and has a wonderful dark, earthy colour.

For me, food is about inspiring through strong flavours – I absolutely love discovering a new ingredient that I’d never used before and using that to develop something new for my repertoire.

What is your very favourite ingredient to use at the moment?

I’ve recently been using a lot of saffron in my cooking. I love the colour and luxurious flavour it imparts to so many dishes. The other night I made a wonderful potato dish, my take on the Spanish dish Patatas a lo Pobre (Poor man’s potatoes). In a wide non stick frying pan that had a lid, I poured in a decent few glugs of olive oil and the plopped in some peeled and roughly chopped Cyprus potatoes, some strips of bright red peppers, a few unpeeled garlic cloves, half a roughly chopped red onion a couple of bay leaves as well as a sprinkling of crushed saffron and some salt and black pepper. Lid on and cook very gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have turned incredibly soft and absorbed all the fragrant essences from the saffron, peppers and garlic. Absolutely delicious!

Saffron also works so well in sweet dishes and I’ve simply added it to some crème fraiche with a little icing sugar for a delicious accompaniment to a cake. If you make sure you prep it early, the saffron bleeds into the cream which looks stunning. I really want to make a saffron ice cream but I’ve not had the time lately. Saffron may be pricey, but it’s worth paying for – you barely need to use any at all for it to do its magic.

Alan has kindly shared one of his recipe for Persian Chicken Stew with our newsletter readers. If you would like to know how to make this delicious dish then sign up for our newsletter in the right hand sidebar before 3pm this afternoon.

Saffron strands image from Courtney Bolton's Flickr photostream and used under Creative Commons licence

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