Sam Stern is on a mission with his latest book to get people back in the kitchen and cooking again.
The 22-year-old chef, who studies politics and sociology at Edinburgh University, has already released five cook books but his latest offering ‘From Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence’ provides something a bit different, a complete cookery class in a ‘tome’.
The book features over 100 recipes that are designed to teach people the techniques they need to cook tasty and healthy meals as well as basic skills, which can be used across a range of dishes.
Sam now hopes the book will act as a helping hand to would-be chefs, giving them the answers and confidence they need to make fantastic meals and experiment in the kitchen.
He said: “It’s the basics that can trip people up and stop them experimenting and this book provides just a bit of advice to help. It’s kind of instructional but cool and not patronising, it trains you up and teaches you things that you may need to know for the future.
“People can get put off cooking so easily, if one or two things go wrong then they think that they cannot cook but if they’ve got something there to rely on, it’s the equivalent of having someone there with experience that can hold their hand while they are cooking.
“I’ve tried to make every recipe have variations so people can take what they want from them and make them their own.
“At the moment food prices are going up and people are moving away from takeaway and focusing on health and you can cook stuff in the kitchen that is so much cheaper and more delicious.
“There is definitely a trend towards people getting back into the kitchen and I want to be at the forefront of that.”
Sam’s love of cooking began when he was a child growing up in Yorkshire, where he used to help his mum prepare meals for his large family, which includes two vegetarians, a vegan and a fussy brother who does not like vegetables.
He released his first book, ‘Cooking up a storm’ when he was 14 and it has now been translated into 14 different languages.
However, Sam believes his new book represents a natural progression from his older material and answers the questions that would-be chefs want to know but are too afraid to ask.
Recipes in the book range from hot sausage rolls with rhubarb chutney to punchy chicory salad but Sam’s favourite is his new triple chocolate tart, a dish that marks the realisation of a lifelong dream.
Sam, who wrote the book in four months during his summer break from university, said: “My triple chocolate tart is delicious and the realisation of my chocolate tart dreams. When I go out to eat I always get the chocolate tart because I want to find the perfect one and then I came up with this recipe and I love it so much.
“I cook every recipe I come up with several times to make sure there are no holes in it. However, not everything makes the cut, I have a recipe bank of about 150 recipes, mainly from my last book, which just did not fit. There are also things that sometimes just don’t work, stuff goes wrong all the time and there are wounded recipes lying along the wayside.
“I feel very at home in the kitchen because I’ve been cooking all of my life. I’ve got such a large family and they are all about 10 years older than me so when they were off being teenagers, I was in the kitchen with my mum making sure there was a lot of food ready for them. It was good training.”
The talented chef is now preparing to finish his course at university and then plans to work on more projects including a new book and TV appearances.
He said: “At the moment I am finishing my dissertation and then I will work on other bits and piece but I like to just take it as it comes and see what happens.”
Sam’s book, From Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence ’ was published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd. and costs £20.
If you want to try making Sam’s favourite chocolate tart follow the recipe below.
225g of plain white flour
20g of icing sugar
A pinch of salt
35g of caster sugar
110g of cold butter, cubed
1 small egg, beaten
100g of milk chocolate
150g of dark chocolate (70%)
150g of white chocolate
100g of butter
3 whole eggs, plus 4 extra egg yolks
100g of caster sugar
1 When rolling out your pastry to fit the tin, either judge the size by eye or use the string technique to be really accurate
2 If your tart starts to turn a darker brown while cooking, cover the top with some baking paper
Make the pastry
1 By hand sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl
2 Stir in the caster sugar, add the butter and rub together between your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs
3 Add the beaten egg gradually, mixing it with a fork until you get firm dough which is neither too dry nor sticky (add a drop of cold water if you need to or a little extra flour)
4 Roll it into a smooth ball
5 Put the flour, sugar, butter and salt into a food processor and pulse until it almalgamates
6 Add the egg a little at a time, pulsing until the dough is right
7 Roll it into a ball, flatten it slightly and wrap it in cling film
8 Chill for 30 minutes
9 Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board as thinly as you can to fit the base and sides of a 23cm tart tin, allowing a bit extra for overhang. Keep any extra pastry.
10 To line the tin, run a metal spatula under the pastry, lift it up on a pin and lower it into the tin
11 Ease the pastry down to fit the sides and base, leaving a wide overhang, then mould and mend any cracks with the extra pastry
12 Chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (gas mark 4)
Bake the pastry
1 Prick the base lightly with a fork and lay a large piece of baking paper into the case
2 Fill with a layer of baking beans and bake for 15-20 minutes till pale and firm
3 Remove the pastry from the oven, lift the paper and beans out and return the pastry to the oven for a few minutes
4 Take it out of the oven again and, once it has cooled slightly, take a sharp knife and remove the overhang
Make the filling
1 Chop the milk chocolate randomly into fine and larger pieces
2 Scatter them evenly over the baked cooled tart base
3 Break the dark and white chocolate into a heatproof bowl
4 Add the butter
5 Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, keeping the base of the bowl clear
6 Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat, stir till smooth and set aside to cool
7 Increase the oven temperature to 220 degrees centigrade (gas mark 7)
8 Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk for a few minutes using a balloon or electric hand-held whisk until you get a white fluffy mousse
9 Pour the cooled chocolate onto the mousse
10 Using a large metal spoon, cut into the chocolate and mousse mixture and lightly fold it together with figure of eight movements until just amalgamated
11 Pour into the pastry case
1 Bake for 7-10 minutes until the chocolate is just set and is a bit firmer than a mousse. The skill is to know when it is done – shuffle the tin to check that it is firm in the centre. If there’s a gap between the filling and pastry, it’s very well done.
2 Remove from the oven and sit on a rack for 5 minutes
3 Lift out of the tin and leave to cool
1 Sit the tart on a serving plate to slice at the table
2 Dust with a bit of cocoa or icing sugar and serve with sorbet if you like.