Rohantime caught up with Peter after a particularly busy lunch service.
Chef Peter Sidwell from the Good Taste Cafe in Keswick can currently be seen on our screens celebrating some of the best British eating on a culinary adventure in the Lake District for Channel 4’s Lakes on a Plate. Peter should know a thing or two about great British food; he’s been using the finest local produce from around the Lake District in his café and cookery school for years.
Each day on Lakes on a Plate, Peter’s culinary tour takes him to a different part of the Lakes where he meets producers, making fantastic ingredients and takes their freshly crafted produce away to use in his own kitchen. Against the backdrop of England’s most stunning scenery, Peter visits the birthplace of legendary foods like Kendal Mint Cake, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding and Cumberland sausage.
How did you get started as a chef and then author?
When I was 15 I had a serious accident, I fractured my skull so I was unable to continue playing rugby on the weekend so I got a job in a local pub The Plough Inn in Allerthorpe near York and that’s was where it all started.
Who were your early influencers to give you such a love of good food?
The biggest influence was my head chef when I worked in my first significant restaurant in York, my head chef was called Patrick Smith he taught me to taste food; it sounds simple but it’s the most powerful skill a chef can have, a good palate. Marco Pierre White was also like an icon to me. When I was sixteen I was bought his first book White Heat, I still look at it today and it’s not dated at all, in his day he was the chef’s chef.
What sort of diet do you think will be normal in 50 years time?
I think we will continue to be eating locally sourced food, we seem to have gone full circle from the old days but I can’t see us moving away from it again for a long time as to me it is the only way we should eat.
Do you think the British diet has to change because of climate change and the lives we lead?
I think the British diet is a constantly evolving diet. In the UK we have a great knack of absorbing other people’s cultures and embracing them. I think it is a good thing that the UK has one of the best and most diverse food offerings in the world.
What do you think of the trend for far flung ingredients that are flown in from thousands of miles away?
I think in some respects it is great that we can get different food from all over the world as the world has got a lot smaller over the past few years, but if we can grow it in this country we should use it when its available and accept it when it is out of UK season and look for an alternative.
Local produce is making a comeback; do you think this is a fad or something British consumers and supermarkets will embrace long-term?
It is simply a marketing ploy for supermarkets? I don’t think it is a fad as it makes complete sense, in my opinion it is the supermarkets that are brain washing us to demand the same food all year round. The consumer’s knowledge of food is far greater now than it has ever been, so we know what we want.
Can British producers meet the price and quality (i.e. identical produce) demands of big supermarkets or will we see the return of the local shopkeeper?
I hope we see the return of local shopkeepers but I fear the super markets are only going to get bigger and stronger, if local shops want to survive I think they will need to look at the supermarkets biggest weakness… which is local produce as it is all based on national distribution. A local shopkeeper can buy direct from farmers and producers so they can also react quicker to seasons, trends and local demand.
Should every child learn to cook at school, as well as understand the food chain?
I really think kids should learn to cook at school, I have had so many teenagers coming to work for me and they have no idea on how to even boil an egg, their knowledge of food is so limited. Cooking is a life skill that we all need to learn and it has to be addressed at school early so as they get older and more independent they don’t turn to fast food and convenience foods.
Do you think one country, in particular, has the perfect diet?
I think the Greeks or the Italians have got it right, not just their diet but their attitude to food and life seems to be right. They stop their busy lives to eat and sit round a table with their family and they all understand the value of food and how important it is.
You are a keen fisherman. Is fish an underrated part of the British diet?
Totally, for a nation that lives on an island surrounded by water why on earth don’t we eat more fish? I guess people are a little scared of cooking it, but less is more with fish so keep it very simple. You can’t beat pan fried with a good squeeze of lemon juice.
What’s your all time favourite dish?
Marmite on toast
Who does most of the cooking in your own home?
I do a lot of the cooking as I really enjoy it, but my wife Emma does do a lot more these days now we have a daughter and I am so busy.
What one ingredient is always in your store cupboard?
Fresh coffee and marmite.
Have you ever gone hungry?
Share your top three culinary tips?
Good ingredients; keep it simple and cook a dish that makes sense for the occasion.
Have you always been based in the Lake District?
No I moved here 7 years ago from York to set up a business in Keswick and have a family. It seemed to make sense for us to settle here; it’s a great quality of life but I do sometimes miss city living!
The Lake District is bursting with good ingredients, what dish epitomises the Lakes on a Plate?
My hot sausage sandwich. Simple, great ingredients …I make it hot and keep it hot for a walk up a mountain (you’ll have to watch the episode to see how I do it but I did get up the mountain and I did enjoy a hot sausage sandwich on the summit!).
How to make it:
Peter: “This recipe is pure genius – what better way to have a piping hot yummy sausage sandwich? Whether you are up a mountain or at work in the office your mates are going to be so jealous when they see what you got for lunch.”
Ingredients Serves 4 approx
- 8 thin Cumberland sausages
- 2 red onions
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- 4 tortilla wraps
1. Pour some boiling water from the kettle into a flask and place the lid back on. Heat a frying pan and cook your sausages.
2. Chop the red onions and place it into the frying pan with the sausages. When the onions are soft and the sausages are cooked, add the balsamic vinegar.
3. Remove the onions and sausages. Place some onions and one sausage on the centre of each wrap.
4. Roll the wraps up and then roll them in baking parchment and foil. Pour out the hot water from your flask and place the foil cracker inside. Replace the lid and you are away.
Who are your favourite suppliers/producers locally?
My milk man, as it means I can have my first coffee of the morning. And my customers, as I have a few who are farmers, hunters and fishermen and they are always calling me or popping into the shop to offer me ingredients.
We notice that you are keen on gathering wild food. Do you ever see yourself going down the sustainable road and growing a lot of your own vegetables etc?
I would love too but I don’t really have very green fingers.
Your own Good Taste cafe in Keswick and Rohan Keswick share the same location opposite each other on Lake Road. We’ve noticed you were wearing the Rohan Pinnacle jacket during the filming of Lakes on a Plate. Have you used any other Rohan garments?
Yes I have worn a lot of Rohan clothes this summer and all of them have performed brilliantly, be it walking through a town square in the rain or clinging to a cliff edge; none of the clothes have let me down.
What would be your recommendation for a great packed lunch for a day on the fells, and are there any food must-haves you take with you to keep up energy levels?
I always go into a local deli and get lots of little things to nibble on. I always like to take a good flapjack with me up the mountain for that boost to get to the top and always a flask of coffee. There’s something about sitting out in the open with a cup of coffee taking in the view.
Your Channel 4 TV series Lakes on a Plate has been very popular. What’s next?
I hope to do a second series. I want to take my viewers on a new gastronomic adventure and show them more of my way of cooking using what I find around me and what takes my fancy.
What is your ideal kit list for a walk in the Lakes?
Rohan Pinnacle Jacket
iPhone for music
My Merrell walking boots
And, my dog Sandy
Watch Lakes on a Plate, weekdays at 2:20pm on Channel 4 until Friday 8th October or visit Peter’s Good Taste Cafe at 19 Lake Road, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5BS www.simplygoodtaste.co.uk