He's cooked for Stevie Wonder, U2, Simply Red and Jimmy Barnes ... and he's shared his culinary secrets on New Zealand TV.
Richard Till can still be seen on his award-winning series, Kiwi Kitchen, on Heartland TV. Colleen Thorpe talks to Richard about his love of cooking and his new book, One Pot Cooking, which features more than 60 easy-to-make one-pot dishes
WHAT MAKES A GOOD COOK?
Close observation of what they do as they cook and close observation of the results to work out what effect what they did has, and the ability to build up a map of experience of cause and effect to apply to whatever they want to cook next.
AND WHAT MAKES A GOOD MEAL?
One that meets the body's need for nourishment as well as the mind and spirit's hunger for interest and novelty, along with measures of comfort and reassurance.
CAN WE REALLY MAKE A MEAL TO BE PROUD OF IN JUST ONE POT?
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE OF COOKING?
Simple but technical. Not tricky, expensive, or complicated to make, but lifted from good to really good by detailed technique.
WHAT AND WHO HAVE INFLUENCED THIS STYLE?
Julia Child, alongside many years in a restaurant kitchen.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE RECIPES FOR THIS BOOK?
From my back catalogue of favourites from cooking for a family, with a small handful of new dishes that have always interested me, but that until this book I'd not got around to making.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPE FROM THE BOOK?
Today, it would be sweet and sour pork; tomorrow, if you asked me, it would be something else.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET INGREDIENT?
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF FOOD?
Eating at the family table in the kitchen when I was about 3. It is less the food itself and more the family dining.
WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO COOK FOR AND WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO COOK FOR YOU?
This is hard. If I were cheeky I'd say I'd like my son to cook for me one night after work but that's not what you mean. I like it whenever I'm cooked for by anyone in their home. I'd love to cook for Julia Child, Prince Charles and the All Blacks ... at the same meal even.
WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVOURITE NEW ZEALAND FOODS?
A roast meal (any meat), kai moana, especially oysters, kingfish, blue cod and mussels, Central Otago summer fruit.
WHAT IS IN YOUR FRIDGE?
Not much, but a big piece of flank steak, a pineapple, beetroots, carrots, cheese. There may be a beer or 10 in there somewhere, too.
IS THERE ANY FOOD YOU HATE?
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DESERT ISLAND DISH?
I find this hard to imagine. Does it arrive magically or do I cook it? I'm guessing it's hot if it's a desert island and since it's a desert there won't be much vegetation so I'll go for a Thai-style woked dish with a heap of vegetables and a well-made oyster sauce-based sauce, rice and a gigantic plate of fresh fruit to follow.
WHAT ARE THREE THINGS PEOPLE WILL BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU?
That I don't think that the aesthetics of food is as important as it's been made out to be in the modern world. That I also work in jobs that are not food-related, and that I'm very quiet, retiring and shy.
IF YOU HAD A SUPER POWER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Flying and probably some laser coming out of my arm or something like that ... but flying would be the winner.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT?
The outstanding young people my children have become. I hasten to add THEY have become the outstanding young people; I was just there in a standing-around-trying-to-be-helpful role.
EXTRACT: One Pot Cooking
SINGAPORE FRIED NOODLES
My favourite noodle dish of all. It's a gluten-free noodle dish with heaps of flavour. I always make it in a wok, but a big frying pan will do the job just as well.
250-300g rice vermicelli noodles (or bean thread noodles)
3-4 tbsp peanut oil (divided measure)
Salt and pepper
300-400g finely shredded chicken and/or prawns (in proportions to suit your taste)
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
2-4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, to serve
Soak noodles in boiling water in a large bowl for 20 minutes or cook following directions on packet.
Drain noodles and toss with one tablespoon of oil to stop them sticking together.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk eggs, season with salt and pepper, and, over a moderate heat in a wok or frying pan lightly greased with oil, make a thin omelette. Remove from pan, roll up and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
Heat half the remaining oil in a wok and cook chicken, then add prawns. Remove from pan when cooked and set aside.
With remaining oil, cook carrot, spring onion and garlic in wok. Add egg ribbons and fry until lightly crisped. Add chicken and prawns, curry powder, soy sauce and then noodles. Fry, tossing until all is combined and noodles are hot. Add coriander and serve. - Serves 4
Cassoulet is a great rustic French dish that involves many stages, many ingredients and a lot of time. This is a quick route to something delicious and, though it may be a bit bold to use the name "cassoulet", it's in the general ballpark in terms of culinary ideas. This suits a big casserole dish. I use one that can go on the stovetop element and then into the oven, but it works just as well if you use a frying pan to brown and add the ingredients to a casserole for baking.
4 large spicy sausages
1 chorizo, sliced
2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil
6 thick slices smoked bacon (about 200g), cut into 1cm pieces
2 medium onions, cut into small dice
100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cups red wine
1 x 400 g can diced tomatoes
2 x 400 g can white beans (cannellini or borlotti)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp mustard
Salt and pepper
2 cups soft coarse breadcrumbs
Place pan over a moderate heat and cook sausages, chorizo and chicken in oil until lightly browned on all sides. Remove meat from pan and set it aside.
Place bacon pieces in pan and cook in remaining fat until browned, then add onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about five minutes until they have softened slightly then stir in tomato puree. Cook for another minute or so then pour in red wine.
Simmer for one minute then stir in canned tomatoes and add cooked sausages and chicken.
Bring to a low simmer and add beans, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and mustard. Place everything in a casserole dish.
Season then cover and cook in a preheated 175C oven for about 35 minutes.
Take casserole from the oven, scatter breadcrumbs over top and press them down gently with a spatula so liquid soaks into crumbs. Put back in oven uncovered and cook for another 10 minutes or until the crumb topping is crisp and lightly browned. - Serves 4-6
One Pot Cooking,
by Richard Till, HarperCollins, $39.99