Book Reviews Food and Drink

Head Chef of ‘The Best Traditional Pub in Oxfordshire’, Thomas Curtis, releases debut cook book to raise money for charity

Whipped & Charred, By Thomas Curtis
Whipped & Charred, By Thomas Curtis.

Released yesterday (2nd October 2017) ‘Whipped and Charred’, is the first cook book from Thomas Curtis and is a celebration of all things classic and homely. Featuring 80 stunning recipes that reflect his family roots and passion for good food.

I have lovingly put this book together as a tribute to my late father, Ian Curtis, who sadly passed away at Christmas in 2014. It is full of rich, homely content and a few memories and insights into my personal life and time working as a chef,” he says.

The book showcases a range of diverse yet accessible dishes. Sample dishes include pub classics such as beef wellington with mushroom duxelles and steak and onion pot pie, as well as more intricate dishes such as blue cheese bons bons with apple and thyme dipping sauce and Earl Grey panna cotta with lavender shortbread. Family traditions are also put to print with the likes of ‘my dad’s chilli con carne’, alongside a fine range of homemade sauces, to quote Thomas: ‘I’ve covered pretty much all bases, including how to make things like staple sauces – and I’ve even thrown in a couple of cocktails!’

After getting hands-on work experience at his family’s pub kitchen at age 15, Thomas became invested in the culinary arts and went on to become its head chef just a mere ten years later. Before this impressive accomplishment, he worked at the New Inn, tried his hand at ‘good, honest pub classics’ in his next role at The Lamb at Crawley before settling down at Hackett’s in Whitney and then finally returning to his original inspirer: The White Hart.

Thomas says:

“I have so much freedom at The White Hart to create what I want and it’s been a huge learning curve discovering what works and what doesn’t”

“But we had to start small as I was literally a one man band – doing everything from the prep through to the washing up. Now I have a great team behind me and we’ve developed the menu to include everything from your simple pub classics like steak and Guinness pie, to slightly more elegant dishes like Asian spiced belly pork, or wild mushroom and truffle cannelloni. The same ethos runs throughout; the ingredients are fresh, seasonal and locally sourced.”

The book has a nostalgic feel and is set to rekindle the love and comfort of traditional homemade British food. To Thomas, cookery is all about the community and deriving from the influences available to him, all the food is sourced locally and nothing is bought in – everything is hand crafted, even the sauces!

Thomas says:

“The kind of food that I’m interested in creating has always been hearty, classic. There’s something about home comforts that makes me happy”

“To give something back, we offer a ‘produce for a pint scheme’ whereby people trade their home-grown fruit and veg for a nice cold beer. It’s an agreeable trade-off, and a great way to get people involved. The community is at the heart of this place and we couldn’t do it without local trade from Minster Lovell and Witney.”

As a sentiment to his late father, Thomas hopes to give something back to those who both supported and inspired him by having his recipes in print, raise awareness for the charities close to his heart, and to show that great food can be accessible to everyone.

Thomas says:

“My aim is to raise both money and awareness for two wonderful charities. First is the British Heart Foundation; a charity which deals with one of the UKs biggest killers. Heart Disease. The second is MIND, a charity for better mental health. Without MIND; thousands of people would be left in limbo, alone and lost, and especially after losing a family member; they can become a great source of comfort. Although they deal with the full spectrum of mental health issues!

Being able to put my ideas into print and share them with friends, family and the customers that have supported me has been incredible. The book has been wonderfully put together by Meze Publishing and I always felt we were on the same page with my overall vision.”

Whipped and Charred retails at £20.00 and to ensure your money goes towards a good cause, buy a copy from the man himself at thewhitehartminster@outlook.com or pop into the restaurant. It is also be available to purchase from Amazon, book shops including Waterstones and online from www.mezepublishing.co.uk.

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