Food for thought - with Harrison Moore

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Harrison Moore lives in Sheffield and London as a student of the Royal College of Art.

He has an upcoming exhibition in Sheffield in September.

Are you a cook?

I try to cook as much as my busy schedule allows.

I live between Sheffield and London and I find that my eating patterns and habits change in each place.

In Sheffield I’m usually around my family so cooked meals at the dinner table are normally how I eat.

London engenders a busier, more fractured eating routine, which can often include grabbing sushi or salads on the go, as well as restaurant dining, whereas Sheffield doesn’t offer the sheer range of cuisine and convenience that London offers.

Meals out in London feel less meaningful than they do in Sheffield. In any case, when eating in I never eat unhealthy ready meals but always prepare fresh food.

Any cooking tips?

When I was in Sheffield a few years ago I lived with a friend whose father cooked for the Duke of Devonshire.

My friend taught me some basic rules fundamental to good cooking, like drying meat before sealing it, and leaving meat to rest before carving it.

These little tips make a huge difference to the quality and taste of the final dish.

A secret ingredient that can be added to chilli con carne to give it a wonderful character is a hot cup of cheap coffee. For some reason, the cheaper; the better. Most tomato-based dishes benefit from a pinch of sugar.

What is your favourite dish?

Choosing a favourite dish is like choosing a favourite movie. My preferences change depending on where I am, who I’m with, how hungry I am, and what I’m doing before and after the meal.

A solid favourite of mine is good quality pizza.

Pasta is great because it is inexpensive, versatile and fast. I also love Indian food.

I think salmon en croute and beef Wellington are hard to beat. I keep making shakshouka, a Tunisian tomato dish with garlic, pepper, feta, and eggs. It’s delicious, morning, noon or night.

A proper, fresh, warm croissant with great coffee is up there with the best.

And drink to go with it?

Decent wines. Also, ice-cold water mixed with sliced cucumber and a few raspberries. Try Disaronno with pineapple juice.

Your favourite restaurant in the Sheffield area?

I’m a fan of Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road. It delivers all of the things one could want in a meal and it delivers every time.

It’s easy to make something work well for a while, but quite another to keep up standards long-term.

And pub?

I’m finding this question difficult. Sheffield and its surrounding areas have a strong and lively pub culture. That said, an older colleague of mine in Sheffield recently told me there were 60 pubs on a single road in Chesterfield close to his childhood home when he was a young man. He now counts twelve.

So perhaps pub culture is waning a little. The pub local to my childhood home is now a supermarket.

I’m 30 years old and one very contemporary phenomenon I’ve noticed, certainly in London, is that the generation of men and women below me don’t drink like I did when I was 20.

They eat well and take exercise much more seriously than I remember me or my mates taking it.

It’s cool to be vegetarian now in schools. The biggest contributing factor has to be that these people have grown up in the ever-scrutinising spotlight of social media, always at risk of being plastered (excuse the pun) across the pages of Facebook and Instagram. I see pubs these days as places to eat. The Sheffield Tap is an exceptional pub for drinking.

What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

I’ve made some sorry excuses for meals. But it’s funny how the worst meals are always the ones you had to pay for.

I remember a “dish” (if you could call it that) in a modern shopping centre in Thailand, which promised to be a cheese and ham-filled toasted sandwich. Nothing unusual there. What came was two slices of soggy white bread, crusts removed, topped with squirty cheese and squirty ham. Yes, ham from a tube.

All presented lovingly on a square plate. Who invented the square plate?

And the best?

I ate at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck. They served a small mug of tea that was half hot and half cold. I’ve no idea how they did that. Their bacon and egg ice cream was something to remember.

Your favourite TV cook?

Jamie Oliver. I think he’s a top bloke and no nonsense.

He’s influenced me and my mates more than any other cook. One gets the impression he’s a great dad to his kids too. And he’s very ambitious.

I also love Ina Garten for her audacity in presuming the viewing public can easily buy their vanilla pods from the farms of Madagascar. But for those of us who can’t, “Store bought is fine.”

What do you think of Sheffield as a place to eat out?

It’s best to know what you want before you go out if you don’t wanna end up sucked in by any of the faceless chain restaurants.

Sites and apps like Trip Advisor are making it easy for people to seek out the best dining, and in the process forcing those with poorer ratings to improve, which raises the standards for everybody.