Autumn Cooking With Chris Baber

Our new culinary columnist invites us into his home kitchen for foodie inspiration, upcoming projects and seasonal must-haves...
Home Comforts: Autumn Cooking With Chris Baber

I’m delighted to join the Luxe team as a new foodie columnist. As you may have read in the previous issue, much of what I do is inspired by the home.

I live and work in London, but having grown up in Hexham and after spending much of this year up here with family, there’s nothing I love more than championing this fantastic region we call home.

This column will give you an insight into my foodie world, from books and business meetings, to getting back out to some of my favourite restaurants and serving up the good stuff at home with the family.

An update from me as we fully-embrace the transition into autumn…

MY WORLD >>

I’ve been spending a bit of time transitioning and getting back into the swing of things back down in London, after spending the lockdown period at home in Hexham.

The first time I returned was so strange. I hopped off the train at King’s Cross and it was like a ghost town; but every time I’ve been down since for work, things do seem to be picking up. People’s spirits seem to be lifting, which is really nice to see.

In recent months I’ve been able to film all of my work from home, so the real big change has been returning to the studio.

Having that personal interaction with people is just amazing. Following that, it’s been a time to get used to catching up with friends and socialising again.

The summer months are usually massive for food festivals. This year, things didn’t work out quite as we’d planned. I was due to be at The Big Feastival at Alex James’s farm on the Cotswolds at the back end of August. That was rearranged and went virtual, which was unusual, but it was cool to interact with audiences.

Other updates include working on my recipe book, which is going to be a huge celebration of home cooking. Stay tuned for updates, with a release date in the diary for 2021.

In terms of the M&S work, we’ve relaunched a campaign called Remarksable, which celebrates everyday essential items with recipes focused on family life.

People are back at work and back to school, so it’s all about feeding your family using fresh, expertly-selected produce. I’ve also released my own range of meal-kits with M&S – it comes in an easy-to-follow kit, it feeds two people and it’s designed to help busy people create fantastic, fresh, home-cooked meals using M&S ingredients.

The meal-kit bridges the gap between busy people who may not have time to cook from scratch, and those people who want to build up a bit of kitchen confidence.

Everything is weighed out for you – it’s easy but it’s also exciting to get amongst it and create your own feast at home.

The last few months have just been about finding a new routine – adapting to the ‘new normal’ I guess. Now that I’m back in London I almost feel like a tourist again.

It’s wonderful to take it all in and get the hang of the new pace of life.

I’m back in London full-time, but the lockdown period has really ignited my passion for the North East. There are so many places that are undiscovered up here, so I’m keen to spend much of my time up here visiting family and friends.

MY FOOD DIARY >>

We had an abundance of veg growing in the garden over summer, so it’s been great to enjoy the last of the home produce.

We’ve had some fantastic courgettes, which I’ve been chargrilling with salt, pepper and olive oil to help bring the flavours out.

I recently discovered some wonderful local produce at Hexham Farmers’ Market. I’ve been buying some local Hexham Honey, sourced along the banks of the Tyne – so I’ll be stocking up and taking it back down to London with me. It’s always nice to take a bit of the North East with me, wherever I go.

INSPIRED BY THE SEASONS >>

For me, the transition between summer and autumn is an exciting one. As the dark nights start to roll in, we move from barbecue-style food and salads, to warming, aromatic dishes.

Home Comforts: Autumn Cooking With Chris BaberFor me, this is the prime time for home cooking. It’s what my home-cooked, comfort food dinners are all about.

So rather than picking out some of my favourite ingredients at this time of year, it’s more about changing your home kitchen menu I guess.

The prospect of hearty cooked meals like cottage pie, lasagne, bangers and mash, just really excites me at this time of year. The change in weather is great for a bit of food inspiration.

FOODIE HAPPENINGS >>

The first place I visited when restaurants reopened was a place called The Beaumont in Hexham – it serves really good seasonal produce, cooked well. I’d definitely recommend it for anyone visiting Hexham.

Back down in London, I went to a friend’s restaurant called Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith – he serves a lot of amazing seafood, an incredible lobster roll. It’s just been nice to go and eat out with friends.

Another place I’ve been to recently is Hutong, which is a sichuan restaurant in The Shard. That was quite an experience, to watch London wake up again from one of its most iconic buildings.

It has been a great time to support local businesses, revisit familiar faces and support friends in the industry that own and work in restaurants.

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was key for getting people back out and enjoying some of the wonderful foodie hangouts in our
region, in our capital and beyond.

Stay tuned on Instagram for a new social media series, where I’ll be going head-to-head with different celebrities for live cook-a-longs. Expect to see a few familiar faces on there in the coming weeks!

TRY THIS >>

Chicken paprikash
Serves 4

Home Comforts: Autumn Cooking With Chris Baber

My spin on the Hungarian home-cooked class. Think melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked chicken thighs in a creamy sauce. An absolute winner for a family dinner.

Ingredients

8-10 chicken thighs

2 onions, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 peppers, diced (mix of red and green)

3 tbsp paprika

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

400ml chicken stock

1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 1 tbsp water

4 tbsp sour cream to serve

1 bunch parsley, chopped

Method
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan over a high heat.

Fry the chicken for a few minutes on each side until golden, then remove from the pan.

Turn the heat to medium, add the onions, pepper and garlic, season and fry for around 5 minutes until soft, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the paprika, stir well and cook out for a minute. Add the tomatoes, stock cube and water and bring to a boil then add the chicken thighs back to the pan.

Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes until cooked.

Add the parsley and then stir in the cornflour mix to thicken the sauce.

Turn off the heat and stir in half of the sour cream.

Serve with rice, potatoes or dumplings with a dollop of sour cream.


 

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