There are questions in life that one simply doesn’t ask. Don’t ask a woman her dress size, her age or how many glasses of Pinot Grigio she drank this morning. Whatever you do, don’t ask when the baby is due. Don’t ask a man when he was last in the gym, how much he earns or how many pints he knocks back in a week. For that, don’t ask him when the baby is due either. Any of you from the creative industry will know to not ask for the original video footage or the InDesign files. Don’t ask a cyclist how much he or she spent on the bike (See footnote). All of you should know to never ask a chef for his recipe. It’s just not done. So, when one of Ireland’s top flight Chef Patrons offers you a recipe, take it and try it. But, don’t ask for another. It’s simply not done.
Earlier in the year, a bunch of us ventured over to France to take on various challenges on the “Beast of Bedoin”, Mont Ventoux. It is an awesome mountain. Going up it once is difficult enough (21 kilometres at an average 7%+). Going up all three sides in a day can earn one membership of the elite Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux. A few of us took that on. But, that’s a tale for another day. There were a couple of top chefs and restaurateurs in our group, one of whom is Ross Lewis, the affable Corkman who presides over the Michelin starred Chapter One Restaurant in Dublin city. Ross was using the trip to try out his new bike. She is a beauty. (I didn’t ask the price and by the look of it neither should you.)
While cycling through the Burgundian countryside, we talked about restaurants, we talked about food, we talked about wine. I didn’t ask for a recipe. We did talk about people who do and how to deal with them. As we neared our hotel after a particularly enjoyable spin, Ross said “Here’s a recipe you should try.” He didn’t give it a name so I’m calling it “Ross’ Tomato and Feta Skillet Bake”.
- 12 to15 high grade cherry tomatoes
- 150 g feta cheese
- 100ml quality olive oil
- 2 cloves of good garlic
- 15 or so basil leaves
- Handful of rocket
- Sprig or two of rosemary
- Sprig or two if thyme
- Salt and pepper
You will need a cast iron frying pan / skillet too.
Peel and chop the garlic.
Warm (not hot) the pan and add the oil. When this is warm too, add the rosemary, thyme and garlic. Allow this to infuse for a while over a low heat. Add the tomatoes.
These will take about 30 minutes to break down in the oil. Don’t rush this part of the process. When the tomatoes are starting to wilt and their juices are mixing nicely with the oil, cut up the feta cheese into chunky pieces. Add these to the pan.
Let the feta soften for a minute or two before taking off the heat before adding the rocket and basil. Sliced the rocket if large leafs, not if small. Pluck the basil leafs from a plant and tear them just before adding. Stir to wilt the leafs.
Side note on basil: I always pick my basil leaves within seconds of adding them to any dish. They degrade very quickly and it’s worth having a couple of plants on the go.
Get your sourdough toast on and then season the bake with some salt and pepper.
Bring the skillet to the table and serve directly onto the sourdough slices. This is a delightful dish that Ross tells me he cooks at home. It is a family favourite in his house. It’s now a family favourite in ours too.
We enjoyed it with a punchy, rustic Spanish wine. It was perfect with it. Do remember, don’t ask those questions.
Footnote on bike pricing: No self respecting cyclist will tell you the truth of what they spent on their bike. I’ll save you the bother of asking. The answer is €/£/$400. The reason this is the answer is that anybody who has not enjoyed the joy of cycling will not understand spending any more than this on a mere bike. Anybody who has, will know enough to not ask.