Chef Q&A: Miguel Camarinho of St Villa, St Albans
PUBLISHED: 09:04 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:04 27 June 2017
The head chef of the St Albans restaurant and bar on unusual combinations, buying local and the power of the humble onion
Describe your style
I like to do things a little differently, like taking a classic dish and putting a modern twist on it. Most of my time is spent thinking and researching new dishes and experimenting with different ingredient combinations to see what works. I love European and Italian food for its simplicity and freshness.
How do you decide your menu?
We change the menu twice a year so I try as much as I can to keep the dishes seasonal, using local suppliers and the freshest ingredients. I already have a good idea what dishes will work well together and try to create a menu that has something for everyone.
Which Herts producers do you use?
Many of our suppliers are local to the area, including Dolce Forno bakery, E.S Hulse & Son fruit and vegetables, Stickleback Fish, Middlesex Meat and M&J Seafood. We look for the best, highest quality ingredients we can find, and being local, we know where it comes from and it is ethically sourced.
Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing?
I really love cooking the rolled monkfish with pancetta on our current menu. It’s a fantastic combination of the freshest monkfish, rolled with pancetta and served with a cauliflower purée, grilled asparagus and a shrimp bisque sauce. It really looks beautiful on the plate (top).
What ingredient is most important to your cooking?
Choosing just one is tricky so I’m going to be greedy and have two. For me, it has to be garlic, preferably wild, and onions from Spain. Many of my dishes start with these two humble ingredients, they really bring out the flavour, giving a delicate balance to the food.
Your best culinary idea?
The grilled lamb chops on the menu is a fantastic combination and one I haven’t seen before. A mixture of succulent lamb chops with fresh cannelloni made with butternut squash, sage and pine nuts and served with aubergine caviar and a rich red wine jus. The meat and pasta work really well together.
Who did you train under and what did they teach you?
I trained under Alain Ducasse, a French chef based in Byblos, a five-star hotel in St Tropez where I spent a summer season with him as his Chef de Partie. I learned a lot about fine French food, canapés and tasting menus.
Prediction for the next food trend?
The demand is on the rise for fresh and healthy food. I think this will be on every food producer’s agenda.
What’s in your fridge at home?
At the moment I have some lamb chops, onions, garlic, cream, yogurt and cheese. I love a good camembert or blue cheese.
Favourite quick meal?
It has to be pasta gnocchi, normally with cream and mushrooms or a cheese sauce. Quick and easy.
Top three tips for amateur cooks?
1. Always season your food correctly and marinate in advance.
2. Be careful not to overcook or undercook.
3. Use fresh ingredients where you can.
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