Phil Howard, Head Chef and co-owner of The Square

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th October 2013

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      Phil Howard has been Head Chef and co-owner of The Square since its opening in December 1991, and saw the restaurant move in February 1997 to its current address in Mayfair from its previous site in St James’. Prior to founding The Square, Howard worked with Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s, Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum and with Roux Restaurants Ltd. Howard’s distinctive modern French food has enjoyed great critical and consumer success. The restaurant’s first Michelin star was awarded to The Square in 1994, followed by a second prestigious star in 1998. Numerous other accolades have followed, from the Catey Award for ‘Chef Of The Year’ (1999) to the Guild Of Chef’s ‘Chef Of The Year’ (2005) and Catey ‘Restaurateur of The Year’ (2011). In November 2005, Howard opened his second restaurant with Nigel Platts Martin, The Ledbury; introducing his protégé Brett Graham. The Ledbury now holds two Michelin stars and is ranked at 14 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Restaurant Magazine 2012). He co-owns a further two restaurants in London with Rebecca Mascarenhas; Kitchen W8 opened in 2009 and received its first Michelin star in its opening year, and Sonny’s Kitchen which opened its doors in May 2012. A degree in Microbiology from Kent University gives Howard a unique understanding of cooking and ingredients from a scientific perspective. Recognising the UK’s increased interest in quality coffee, Phil has been at the forefront of conversations around the relationship between coffee and food. Inspired by Nespresso Grand Cru coffees, Phil has developed a number of sweet and savoury recipes that explore that relationship, either using coffee as an ingredient or pairing a dish with a Grand Cru that complements its flavours. “I’ve always thought of coffee as a fascinating ingredient” says Howard. “I love drinking it and my scientific background has made me very curious about how to match it with other foods. The common misconception is that coffee only works in sweet dishes like Tiramisu, but actually, it can be a fantastic, versatile element in sauces, marinades, stocks and even crusts, bringing out the strong flavours of the other ingredients in each dish. “I’m a big fan of Nespresso – I’ve had a machine at home for many years and am pleased to be able to serve their high quality and well-sourced coffee to my guests at The Square too.” Here are Phil’s top tips for cooking with coffee:
  • Be open-minded about how to use coffee in your cooking. See coffee as simply another ingredient as opposed to the drink we have come to love! Coffee – like chocolate - is used in cooking in the countries in which it is grown, and with careful use can enhance both savoury and sweet dishes, bringing its magnificent aroma to enhance its heavyweight background flavour.
  • There are two ways to impart the flavour of coffee into dishes. The first, as an espresso or lungo, is the more aggressive and requires strong bold flavours to deal with it. It also mellows with cooking and in doing so helps to bring out key flavours of the other ingredients of the dish. The second is the addition of coffee grounds to the dish which imparts more of an aroma than an intense flavour.
  • Coffee is most successful in savoury cooking when included in recipes which have inherent sweetness already present in them (like spare ribs) – or where the dish would be served with a sweet accompaniment (like duck liver parfait with a fruity chutney).
  • Coffees with a touch of Robusta, like Nespresso’s Ristretto Grands Crus, are often intense, with roasted notes. They provide rich cremas, and their strength and richness go well with the texture and flavour profile of desserts with cereal or toasted ingredients, or with granola style dishes.
  • Coffee can be applied as a simple dressing to both sweet and savoury food and works particularly well with nut oils. A chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and a dressing of espresso and hazelnut oil works fantastically well, for example.
  • Coffee works fantastically well with chocolate, but be sure to serve an intense and bitter coffee with a milk chocolate based dessert, or a mellower coffee with a bitter chocolate dish. This allows the pairings to balance and the flavours to sing loud and clear.
  • Always add the coffee at the beginning of the cooking process rather than the end – this allows it to harmonise with the other flavours it is surrounded by and give the flavours added depth.
  • To appreciate coffee as a more mellow flavour, incorporate it into rich, creamy desserts such as rice pudding or crème brûlée. People quite often enjoy milk in their coffee, and by blending the coffee with the richness of cream, and neutralising bitterness with sugar – a similar taste experience is achieved.
  • Use coffee as a seasoning in pastry work or desserts by adding small quantities of coffee grounds to biscuit mixes, pastry doughs or cakes. It doesn’t have to be the dominant flavour if you don’t want it to be. Add it to recipes that have flavours which work well with coffee in the first place – such as those containing nuts, chocolate or orange.
View the recipe for Coffee glazed short rib of beef with creamed potato and roasted carrots here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th October 2013

Phil Howard, Head Chef and co-owner of The Square