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The secrets behind Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets

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Melanie Jappy Melanie Jappy | 15:05 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

"Is there anything local on the menu?" asked Raymond Blanc. RB (as we all call him) had just arrived in Scotland for our first day filming on the second series of Kitchen Secrets and we were about to have a late supper at our hotel. The waiter looked like he might cry as he admitted the answer was "no".

I felt sorry for him, but also a little embarrassed. We were in St Andrews, the town of my birth. Like all expatriates, I was anxious that those I had brought here would understand that the beautiful Kingdom of Fife was a rich and wondrous source of some of the best seafood in the world. And yet there wasn't one local crab, clam or langoustine on the menu. But we weren't here to enjoy ourselves (well, maybe a little), and eventually Raymond ordered a plain grilled lemon sole. Judging by the length of time it took to arrive, several fish were sacrificed before one was deemed good enough to put before the great Blanc.

 

Raymond Blanc with lobsters

 

Fed and watered (or gently wined in Raymond's case) we went to bed early, as the next day we were to be up at 5am to head out to catch lobster in the Firth of Forth. The team consisted of Andy the cameraman, James our soundman and assistant producer Emilie. If it was too windy the boat wouldn't go out. As a producer, I long ago learned not to fret too much about weather. It is one of the few things I can’t control, so there is no point lying awake listening to the shipping forecast.

What did keep me awake was wondering whether Raymond could actually get onto the boat. He broke his leg pretty badly last year and was understandably a bit nervous about doing anything that might set his recovery back. Nevertheless Raymond brings out a motherly instinct in me and like any good, caring Scottish mother I put a hand on his shoulder and told him to stop complaining and just get on with it.

The sea outside the harbour wall was looking a bit lumpy. Andy was particularly pleased to hear this. The sound of him retching had punctuated the soundtrack of fishing for Dover sole in the first series. But my immediate concern was getting Raymond onto the boat. First Andy jumped on and his camera was passed down to him. Now it was RB's turn. One foot on the harbour side, one foot on the gunwales of the boat and RB leapt like a gazelle onto the deck. Emilie and I almost hugged each other. He was on the boat, the camera even had a tape inside it and that fluffy thing was on the microphone  - so barring total disaster there would be something we could film.

A couple of hours later they returned triumphant. There were lobsters in crates, Andy had seen his breakfast but only once and Raymond was smiling - only because he hadn't realised that it was now low tide and the boat was far down against the harbour wall. He'd have to climb a four metre ladder...

I'm going to gloss over exactly what happened next. Raymond has blogged about it himself. All I will say is that there was language that isn't appropriate pre-watershed, so I did what all good producers do and tried to sooth the situation with food. We headed to the Anstruther Fish Bar, an award-winning fish and chip shop - all six of us jammed into a little booth with chairs fixed to the floor and ordered haddock and chips. This was as 'local' a specialty as we were going to get and I was confident Raymond would enjoy it.

Our overflowing paper plates arrived and it was a lunch of champions. Then I saw RB had raised his hand to wave over the waitress. "Madame, could I have a little mayonnaise, perhaps some sauce tartare?" My blood ran cold. The world was moving in slow motion. I knew what was coming. A plate arrived and on it, fanned out in their plastic perfection, was the fish bar's finest collection of condiment sachets. For a moment Raymond looked at them aghast. Then he got out his iPhone, took a picture, and mercifully, laughed.

I do hope you enjoy seeing the results of our days' fishing in the first programme of the new series of Kitchen Secrets. I look forward to reading your comments it means a lot to me to hear from people who watch the show - and hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Melanie Jappy is the series producer of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, which returns to BBC Two, Mondays at 8.30pm. Read more from Melanie at the BBC TV blog about what it’s like to work with Raymond Blanc.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Surely after so many years in the UK, RB wasn't expecting non-sachet condiments...I agree it is a shame that although some chippies serve fabulously fresh fish and beautifully cooked chips, they cannot offer a good quality mayonnaise (even out of a jar) and/or a freshly made sauce tartare. I wonder what the reaction would be if I produced a jar of my favourite mayonnaise next time I eat in a fish & chip restaurant....What do other people do?

  • Comment number 2.

    Condiment sachets are awful - impossible to get into and very messy! The worst sachet to deal with is malt vinegar - has to be sprinkled liberally, not poured out like a waterfall. I like mayo with chips and would love to bring along a jar of my own mayonnaise to a chippy but would probably be too shy to do it.

  • Comment number 3.

    I hope Adam is with him. In the last series RB couldn't function without him

  • Comment number 4.

    I DONT UNDERSTAND AFTER 20 YRS LOOKING UP TO CHEF RAYMOND BLANC I THINK HE HAS SOLD HIS SOLE AND CULINARY WIZARDARY TO THE MEDIA

  • Comment number 5.

    TYPICAL

  • Comment number 6.

    I enjoy seeing the passion in the man. If only everyone had such passion for what they do for a living. The determination not to accept second best must give diners at his restaurant tremendous confidence.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great blog and great program. Thanks Melanie (and RB!)

    Question: in one of the recipes, RB mentioned a lemon tasting herb called "ice lettuce". Could you give us the botanical name and, ideally, a bit more info. Seed supplier? Easy to grow? Tender or hardy? Thanks in advance. :-)

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Tatihou - as I was watching the show again last night I thought to myself, I know someone is going to ask about that plant! Must email RB and get the details - which is what I'm going to do right now. Hopefully I'll have an answer later on tomorrow so do check back intermittently for more info. I did taste it and it was like nothing I'd ever tasted before. Worth growing. MJ

  • Comment number 9.

    Great, thanks, MJ. I'll keep an eye out for any information you can "unearth". :-^)

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tatihou - Just got the information thru from RB's head gardener:

    Ice Plant or Ice Lettuce - botanical name: mesembryanthemum crystallinum

    It isn't easy to get hold of seed but is mentioned on the web site of www.magicgardeseeds.com and www.b-and-t-world-seeds.com

    Fairly easy to grow: Sow in spring under cover. Plant out well after frosts (half hardy annual) in a sunny position. Originally from South Africa.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm totally with Raymond.

    I want food when I go out, or stay in that is local and fresh!

    I can see importing if it is something not available in this region, but first we should support our own farmers etc.

    Second why should I have to eat a four day old tomato from Florida when I can have a fresh one from my market here in Canada?

    It infuriates me that we our governments won't support our own people first!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks Melanie, I really appreciate that. Having had a quick look at magicgardenseeds.com, I see they have seeds available and they are not expensive so I may flex my credit card. Thanks again for your really fast response. :-)

  • Comment number 13.

    This is so typical of the UK. I have lived on Tenerife for the past 5 years and the choice of fresh local produce for such a small Island is great. Fresh seafood at local harbours and vegetables at the various farmers markets. A lot of shellfish is shipped out to Spain from the UK and this is one reason you cannot find good local produce in the local restaurants. I go to the various local Canarian restaurants and I have an excellent choice of the local catch of the day. A good sized locally caught fish with fresh vegetables, bread and a bottle of wine all for the princely sum of around €10. RB, you ought to come here to film your programmes and the poor soundman may well be able to keep his bereakfast in place.

  • Comment number 14.

    Stephen - thanks for your comments. I think the reasons why we as a nation export so much of our top quality produce abroad are very complex. Obviously the fisherman are going to sell to the highest bidder and there just doesn't seem to be the local demand. Why? I think a lot of it is that we have had an obsession with cheap food for many years. As a nation we spend a smaller proportion of our income on food than at any time in history.

    But things are beginning to change. I'm very positive about the future of British food. The langoustine, crab and lobster industry that has replaced the white fish industry in Scotland is a good news story and one we should celebrate.

    As for filming in the Canaries, that would be lovely but I have a feeling Andy would lose his breakfast in a flat calm. It's something to do with having his eye on the lens...!

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried or is thinking of trying any of the dishes from the series. And of course, any queries, I'll do my best to answer. M

  • Comment number 16.

    I am really enjoying the series and have picked up a lot of tips. I tried the mussels dish and it is devine although I don't know if Raymond mentioned to use unsalted butter as it is too salty otherwise, also I used flat leaf parsley as the flavour is more sophisticated and works well with fish and shellfish. I will be trying out the lemon drizzle cake next.

  • Comment number 17.

    Wow this dish looks delicious...I love pasta with mussels.
    Your blog is really great!
    Grazia
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi there

    Lilian, RB uses unsalted butter always. And a it's a pretty small amount. It also depends where your mussels are from as to how salty it is but yes, as Raymond says, "taste, taste, taste!".

    M

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi could you tell me where I can purchase the sweet fondant that RB used in the cakes/pastries episode

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Kim - sorry for the late reply. I've been away for a few days.

    The fondant RB uses isn't readily available for home cooks at the moment. There is a commercial supplier called Bako London. They can be reached via their website www.bakolondonse.co.uk. Search for Ready to use Fondant. I think the minimum quantity will be 15kg so I don't know if you have some friends who are also bakers you could share it with. It will keep for a long time. Not too expensive at £15 for the 15kg though...

    Sorry I can't be of more help. I have had a good look round other suppliers who all can supply fondant icing but be careful that is NOT the same thing as fondant. It is possible to make it yourself but is quite an involved process involving heating sugar and stirring in air etc. It's one of those things that might appear in domestic quantities if the demand emerges. Possibly worth asking a cake decorating shop if they would consider buying it in and selling in a smaller quantity.

    M

  • Comment number 21.

    This latest sereies is as inspiring as the first!

    MJ, you asked for feedback on the dishes Raymond has presented and we in turn cook. Well, the Lemon cake was amazing! It lasted in my house for no more than 24 hours - a triumph to an amazing chef.

    Please keep these programmes coming, it is my ultimate dream to meet him one day ;0)

  • Comment number 22.

    Sorry MJ, also meant to ask - where do the 'buttons' of chocolate come from? I use a lot of chocolate at home for baking and would love to source some.

    Many thanks

    Jane

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Jane F - you are too kind! We are already hard at work on a new series although it's a little different! I'll be able to share more details as soon as we've announced it to the press.

    Re the chocolate pastilles, they are from Valrhona the French chocolate maker. Good because they melt uniformly and quickly for cooking. The Chocolate Trading Company sell them but I warn you, they come in 3kg bags costing £50+ so unless you use a LOT of chocolate or have someone to share it with, while it's economical, you might be better buying it in bars. Here's a link:
    http://www.chocolatetradingco.com/chocolates/brand/valrhona?f=315

    M x

 

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