I somehow doubt there are many British chefs who have studied a Masters degree in Chemistry! Well, I can tell you of one: Philli Armitage-Mattin, and she was also the only female finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals 2020. Having studied a master’s at Bristol University, (Philli was introduced to food science by the same research professor who worked with Heston Blumenthal), she then gained her professional cookery qualification at the University of West London, before training under Gordon Ramsay. Now Philli has just published her debut cookbook, and it’s fabulous. After a life of researching, travelling and consuming Asian food, Taste Kitchen: Asia is the ultimate guide to mastering Asian flavours. It’s published by Little Brown at £26 (hardback) It demonstrates Philli’s skill at connecting some of the most loved dishes not by region, as one would perhaps expect, but by flavour. Once we’re able to understand our palates, we can tailor our cooking to our unique personalities, while tasting our way across the Asian continent. With stints at top restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong under her belt, Philli’s mission is to get people to try new flavours, mainly using Asian ingredients such as miso and gochujang, and to make delicious dishes such as Xinjiang lamb kebabs, Korean fried chicken and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pizza). Philli certainly knows her stuff – and the book is a triumph.
To give you a taste, here are a couple of recipes from the book:
Vietnamese-Inspired Caramelised Pork Bowls
You know that overused spag bol or chilli con carne that you love but are a little tired of? Let me introduce the caramelised pork bowl. It’s ready in under 30 minutes and it’s super, SUPER tasty.
Wok or large frying pan
2 tbsp neutral oil
6 spring onions, sliced, white and green parts separately
2 carrots, grated or finely chopped (I like to use a mandoline but be careful)
Pinch of salt
2.5cm/1in piece of ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4–8 bird’s eye or Thai chillies, finely sliced
500g/1lb 1.oz pork, minced
5 tbsp/60g/2oz brown sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
1 lime, wedged
Handful of coriander, chopped
Handful of mint, chopped
TO SERVE: Steamed jasmine rice
1. If you’re serving with rice, get your rice on the go first.
2. Heat a wok over a medium-high heat with the oil, then add the spring onions (white parts only), the carrots and the salt. Cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring constantly. You’re looking for the carrot to turn slightly limp. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for a further minute until aromatic.
3. Add the pork mince to the wok and turn up to a high heat, breaking up all the meat with a spatula to make sure all the pork turns white and there are no pink bits.
4. Add the brown sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce. Give everything a stir before leaving it to fully cook down and caramelise without stirring for about 6–8 minutes. Stir again and then let everything fully caramelise again for about 60 seconds. Repeat until the meat is dark brown and there are little crispy bits of pork. However, keep an eye on it because it can burn quickly.
5. Taste adjust to your flavour profile, and serve over rice with chilli flakes, the rest of the spring onions, roasted peanuts, lime wedges and chopped fresh herbs.
Smoky Hispi Cabbage with Chilli Oil
I feel like cabbage is so underrated. It’s one of the most cost-effective vegetables that, when treated right, becomes a highlight of many restaurant-goers’ meals. Let me share with you how restaurants make cabbage the most delicious dish you eat.
Smoke. Chilli. Fat.
SERVES 4 AS A SIDE
Large frying pan or cast-iron pan
1 hispi cabbage or sweetheart cabbage
2 tbsp olive oil
Large pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter or plant-based butter
½ tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp mascarpone, softened
2 tbsp Philli’s Chilli Oil (p. 244) or 1 tbsp shop-bought chilli oil
½ bunch chives, chopped
2 tbsp Crispy Things (p. 246) or crispy shallots
1. Peel away the outer leaves and quarter the cabbage.
2. Heat a large frying pan (preferably cast iron) with olive oil and sprinkle salt over the cut side of the cabbage.
3. Sear the cabbage on the cut sides until all the surface is charred.
4. Flip so the cut side is face up and add enough water to just cover half of the cabbage, as well as the butter.
5. Allow to poach until all the water is evaporated, turning the cabbage gently with tongs every 5 minutes. The cabbage should be completely tender. When the water has nearly evaporated, turn off the heat and coat the
cabbage in the melted butter from the pan using a spoon. Finish with the lemon juice.
6. Whisk the mascarpone with a fork and smear it onto a plate using the back of a spoon. Add the cabbage and drizzle with the remaining butter and chilli oil, then top with chopped chives and crispy things.
Taste everything all together and adjust; if you want more spice, add chilli oil or if it’s too hot add more mascarpone.