13th November 2020


Northern Belle Head Chef Matthew Green answers your questions and gives an insight into what it's like being the chef on one of the Britain's most luxurious train.

We give you the chance to ask Matthew your culinary questions - Ask The Chef

Where does my supermarket meat come from? Is it just from the same supplier and repackaged for different stores? Mrs Cooper, Swansea. 

This is a good question. Is my meat identical to say Waitrose, where I would pay a premium to a supermarket such as Lidl? The best way to find out is to look for the oval shaped markings on the product. These identification marks are found on food products of animal origin in the European Community, required by European Union food safety regulations. It identifies the processing establishment that produced and packaged the product and that is therefore responsible for its hygiene status. 

The identification and health marks are not an indication for the specific origin of a particular piece of food by themselves, as they do not encode the location of the farm that provided the initial raw product or livestock. However, consumers can use them to identify the actual manufacturer behind supermarket store brand products, where the labelling deliberately lacks any information about the real producer, which could be one that otherwise produces high-quality products using its regular brandings. 

My poached eggs never turn out correctly. What am I doing wrong? Mr Roberts, Cheshire 

Firstly, let’s start with the eggs. When it comes to making poached eggs, age matters. As the egg gets older, the whites change and become more fluid. You’re more likely to see those ghost-like strands in the water when poaching eggs. Use fresh eggs. 

Secondly, the main trick I use when I make poached eggs is to use water that is barely simmering. Fewer bubbles means less agitation of the water that can break up and disperse the egg whites. I crack the egg into a cup first, then, when the water is at a bare simmer, gently slide the egg into the water. Add a drop of white vinegar. The acid makes the white firm up sooner. You could also use a drop of lemon juice. 

Thirdly, use a deep enough pan when making poached eggs. As the egg sinks, it has time to fold in on itself and creates the lovely pillow effect. I also swirl the water and drop the egg into the centre. As the egg sink it swirls around on itself. Using a shallow frying pan just doesn’t have the same effect. 

What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food? Miss Crozier, Edinburgh 

Drink what you want and eat what you want is my motto. 

Which ingredients/kitchen tools will you not compromise on quality/which ones are ok to buy on the cheap? Mr Shenton, Newcastle 

A good quality chef’s knife is a must. Buy cheap, buy twice. Buy the best you can afford. A good choice for an all rounder knife would be an eight inch cook’s knife. Don’t go to the expense of shelling out for a set of expensive knives. Chances are you’ll soon have a ‘go to’ favourite knife and the others will become obsolete. Keep it sharp and it will be your friend for years. A good affordable brand would be Victorinox, Wusthof or Gustav. 

Buying inferior equipment is false economy. However you can pick up cheap plastic mixing bowls, wooden spoons, tea towels etc that can serve their purpose and be discarded afterwards. Other items where I would not scrimp on are 

1. A decent heavy chopping block. 

2. A heavy duty roasting tray. These are sometimes not cheap but they will stand the test of time! 

3. Three or four good quality pans. Always go for the ones with metal handles that you can put in the oven. 

Can disabled people be professional chefs? Mr Fowles, Cardiff 

Of course! I think it would depend entirely on your disability, your level of functionality, and ability to adapt in a professional kitchen. One person I admire greatly is the chef Michael Caines. He had a car accident in 1994. He nearly lost his life in the crash but subsequently he lost his right arm. “I just wanted to let go and die. My life was ruined. How could I continue cooking?,” he said of his initial reaction to his injuries. Just two weeks after the incident Micheal was back in the kitchen. He went on to say, “The accident made me a better man. I know what it’s like to be reliant on those around you, and I believe in giving others the opportunities I was given.” 

You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. 

Can I use wine cheap cooking wine in my dishes? Mrs Crossland, York 

Ask yourself, would you drink it? If the answer is no then don’t use it. Cooking with it won’t magically make the wine a difference flavour. That being said, don’t break the bank on a cooking wine. Find a bottle that you'd be okay with drinking and you will be fine. 

What would you want to have as your last meal? Mr Sutton, Devon 

Without a doubt it would be a big fat Lamb Balti with all the trimmings. Why worry about the calories, it would be your last meal after all! 

Should I wash my Poultry before cooking? Mr Nicholls, Manchester 

No No No! Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria. Splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment. Water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction. Invest in a suitable thermometer and make sure the chicken reaches a temperature of at least 75°c.