The Female Chef, published by Hoxton Mini Press

Top London Female Chefs Celebrated in Award Winning Cookbook

Women were winners at this year's Fortnum & Mason Food and Awards with cookbook The Female Chef, by Clare Finney and Liz Seabrook, winning the Debut Food Book Award. 

While women for a long time were encouraged to be the main home-chef, commercial kitchens have historically been a man's domain. 

And yet, despite the challenges this brings many women working in Britain's professional kitchens are creating change - from nurturing all female teams to challenging the narrative of women chefs.  

Chantelle Nicholson

Chantelle Nicholson - The Female Chef

The Female Chef champions the women at the heart of this change, who are working and running some of the UK's most celebrated kitchens and pushing Britain's food culture forwards. 

Thirty-three women feature in the book, many of whom are London-based.

Ixta Belfrage

Ixta Belfrage - The Female Chef

This includes New Zealand born Chantelle Nicholson who recently opened Apricity in Mayfair, Erchen Chang who launched the BAO empire and Olia Hercules who co-created the #CookForUkraine campaign. 

Michelin-starred Nieves Barragán Mohacho helming Spanish restaurant Sabor and Ixta Belfrage of the Ottolenghi family and co-author of Ottolenghi Flavour also feature in the book. 

Nieves Barragán Mohacho

Nieves Barragán Mohacho - The Female Chef

Here, three of the London-based chefs celebrated in the book share their recipes. 

Nieves Barragán Mohacho's Seafood Rice

Nieves Barragán Mohacho's Seafood Rice - The Female Chef

Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s Seafood Rice

Nieves says: ‘This is probably my favourite rice dish, it’s always been served at home since I was little. It is a perfect dish to eat with family and friends–full of flavour and easy to share. This isn’t like paella, it’s more saucy, and has such an amazing richness.’

Serves 6

Ingredients

300g/10oz monkfish, cut into 2cm/3⁄4in pieces

300g/10oz gurnard, cut into 2cm/3⁄4in pieces

12 whole shell-on large raw prawns, peeled (keep the heads and shells)

250ml/81⁄2fl oz arbequina extra virgin olive oil (or other extra virgin olive oil)

480g/1lb 1oz Calasparra rice

3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

For the bisque

12 whole shell-on large raw prawns

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

3 shallots, chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

2 leeks, chopped

2 bay leaves

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tbsp tomato purée

200ml/63⁄4fl oz brandy

200ml/63⁄4fl oz manzanilla sherry

First, prepare the bisque. Remove the heads and shells from the prawns, reserving the meat for later. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and caramelise the prawn shells for a couple of minutes. Tip in the chopped vegetables, bay leaves and garlic and caramelise for 4–5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes more, then add the brandy and sherry to bubble until the alcohol evaporates. Pour in 2 litres/31⁄2 pints water and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain with a sieve, then measure out 11⁄2 litres/23⁄4 pints of the bisque (any left over will keep in the fridge for a day or two).

Add half the monkfish, half the gurnard and the 12 peeled prawns to a pan set over a low heat and pour in140ml/43⁄4fl oz of the arbequina oil. Cook very gently for just 2–3 minutes until tender (to confit).

In a separate pan set over a low heat, gently add 50ml/13⁄4fl oz of the arbequina olive oil and the heads and shells you removed from the prawns (not those used for the bisque).Cook gently for 10 minutes, then strain and reserve the prawn oil. Set aside.

Put the remaining 60ml/2fl oz of arbequina olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the rice and toss until the rice becomes clear and shiny. Add the bisque, the remaining monkfish and gurnard, and the prawn meat left over from the bisque.

Cook slowly, stirring regularly, until the rice is al dente, this will take around 20minutes. Add the confit fish and prawns (you can reserve some for decoration, if you like), the prawn oil and the parsley and mix well with the rice. Season to taste and serve.

Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricot Tarte Tatin

Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricot Tarte Tatin - The Female Chef

Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricot Tarte Tatin

Chantelle says: ‘Making tarte tatin was one of the first jobs I had to do when I started at The Savoy Grill. I had never made, nor eaten,one before, so it was a wonderful discovery. And apricots have a special place in my heart–I am lucky enough to have eaten the best, grown by my family in Central Otago; gently plucked from the tree, sun-ripened and super sweet.’

Serves 2

Ingredients

8 apricots

50g/13⁄4oz caster sugar

160g/53⁄4oz all-butter puff pastry

1⁄2a piece of star anise

50g/13⁄4oz butter (kept in the fridge)

créme fraîche, to serve

Roll out the puff pastry to 3mm/1⁄4in thick, then pop it onto a piece of baking parchment and put it back in the fridge for 20 minutes so the pastry can rest. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 195°C/ 380°F (175°C/350°F fan), remove the butter from the fridge and halve and destone the apricots.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut a circle to fit a small, ovenproof saucepan (approximately 12–14cm/5–51⁄2in in diameter). Place the pastry circle back on the baking parchment and return to the fridge.

Cut the butter into 4 pieces then press it firmly into the saucepan, using the top part of a clenched hand, into an even layer. Sprinkle over the sugar and shake the pan to distribute it evenly.

Grate 2 petals of the star anise onto the sugar. Push the side of one apricot half, skin down, into then the sugared butter then lay the rest around the outer part of the pan, covering each other like fallen dominoes and finish with two in the centre.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on top of the apricots in the very centre of the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat until the butter and sugar begin to bubble and a golden caramel begins to form around the edges of the pastry. Put in the oven for 40–50 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and golden.

Allow to rest for 5–7minutes before placing a plate on top of the pan, then flip the entire pan over so the tarte tatin slips gracefully onto the plate to be sliced.

Serve with créme fraîche and anything else you fancy–ice cream, custard or cream.

Ixta Belfrage’s Upside-Down Plantain Omelette with Scotch Bonnet Salsa

Ixta Belfrage’s Upside-Down Plantain Omelette with Scotch Bonnet Salsa - The Female Chef

Ixta Belfrage’s Upside-Down Plantain Omelette with Scotch Bonnet Salsa

Ixta says: 'My mother, a Brazilian who grew up in Cuba, is obsessed with plantains. She grew up eating them alongside pretty much every meal and brought my sister and me up in the same way, so now my fruit bowl is never without a pile of blackening plantains. There is a plantain recipe for every stage of ripeness, from hard and green to soft and black.This recipe calls for plantains that are ripe and sweet, preferably nearly all black, with only some yellow marks. In truth, I only ever use plantains at this stage of ripeness. Unripe plantain is no substitute here because you won’t achieve the sweet, caramelised layer we’re looking for.’

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as part of a spread

Ingredients

For the omelette

120g/41⁄4oz full-fat coconut milk, from a tin not a carton (at least 75% coconut extract)

6 eggs

1⁄2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (or 1⁄4 tsp ground ginger)

1 small garlic clove, finely grated or crushed

1 tsp lime zest

3⁄4 tsp fine salt

5g/1⁄4oz chives, finely chopped

5g/1⁄4oz coriander, finely chopped

40g/11⁄2oz spring greens (or spinach or kale), very thinly sliced

100g/31⁄2oz feta, broken into medium chunks

2 very ripe medium-sized plantains (460g/1lb)–they should be nearly all black and quite soft, with only some yellow marks

30g/1oz ghee or unsalted butter

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

flaked salt and lime wedges, to serve

For the salsa

200g/7oz extra-ripe sweet cherry tomatoes

1 tsp lime zest

1 tbsp lime juice

1 1⁄2 tbsp olive oil

1⁄2 tsp flaked salt

1–2 Scotch bonnet chillies (or a milder chilli if you prefer), to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C/360°F fan). Before measuring out your coconut milk, take all the contents out of the tin and whisk well to combine the solid and the liquid then weigh out the 120g/41⁄4oz. Add the coconut milk to a large bowl with the eggs, ginger, garlic, lime zest and fine salt and whisk together. Stir in the chives, coriander, spring greens and feta, then set aside.

Peel the plantains and slice into 3⁄4cm/1⁄4in rounds.You need about 320g/111⁄4oz peeled slices.

Place a 28cm/11in ovenproof, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the ghee (or butter) and the oil. Once the ghee has melted, layer the plantain slices to cover the bottom of the pan, then set a timer for 3 minutes, and cook without stirring or flipping the plantain, to create a caramelised, golden layer on the bottom of the pan.

Lower the heat, then pour over the egg mixture to evenly cover the base and leave to fry for another minute undisturbed. The omelette should beset around the edges but still liquid in the middle.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 8–9 minutes, until the omelette is just set on top, with a good wobble in the centre. Don’t be afraid of this wobble, the omelette will set a little as it cools, but also we (or at least I) want the omelette to have a soft, oozing centre!

Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to release the sides of the omelette from the pan.

While the omelette is in the oven, make the salsa. Finely chop the cherry tomatoes into very small pieces.Transfer to a medium bowl, using your hands as a natural sieve so you don’t take all the liquid and seeds with you (otherwise the salsa will be quite soggy).

Stir in the lime zest, lime juice, oil and flaked salt. Very finely chop the Scotch bonnet; they vary substantially in heat level so start with 1⁄2 a chilli, removing the seeds and pith if you prefer milder heat. Add to the salsa, stir and taste, then add up to 11⁄2 more finely chopped chillies, to taste.

Place a large plate on top of the pan, then quickly flip the whole thing over so the omelette ends up on the plate.

Hopefully all the plantain pieces will end up on the omelette, but if not just peel them from the pan and place them back on top. Drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with more flaked salt.

Serve with the salsa on the side, and some extra lime wedges for squeezing.

The Female Chef by Clare Finney and Liz Seabrook is published by Hoxton Mini Press and available now. 

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