Dough & Brew’s John Martin: What’s cooking?
Our favourite chefs spill all about their work, lives and top tips. Dishing it this week: John Martin – Dough & Brew, Brook Street, Warwick.
Your first job (in a kitchen)?
Pot Wash in my Uncle’s Pub, it was a holiday job when I was about 16. You learn a lot as a pot wash if you keep an eye on what’s going on.
Opening my own restaurant and making the finals of the National Pizza Awards within the first six months.
Sum up your cooking style/ food philosophy?
I focus on food quality and flavour. We’re not fancy and people are often surprised at the quality of the food.
Most memorable moment at work?
Opening day, we were ticking over in the morning with a steady, but slow flow of people then at 1pm you suddenly couldn’t move for people and it felt like it stayed like that until we closed at 11pm.
Ever cooked for anyone famous?
Yes, we get quite a few famous names in from radio, TV, film and rock stars plus celebrity chefs. But we never kiss & tell or make a fuss over them, everyone gets treated the same it’s one big family.
Your biggest mistake at work?
Trying to please everyone.
You’re tired, starving and impatient: what do you cook for dinner?
Garlic linguine – 10 minutes and you have a simple but incredibly tasty meal. It’s probably one of my favourite dishes, it just tastes amazing. But I love a sandwich too.
What would you cook to impress a date?
Probably the garlic linguine – amazing flavours but it only takes 10 minutes so I can focus on them rather than the food.
There are loads that inspire me form around the world with different styles, but my favourite is whoever is cooking for me.
One of the first books that really helped me learn the basics was called The Cook’s Book. Now to push my boundaries it would be Modernist Cuisine – it’s not just a cook book, it’s a science book and a work of art.
Favourite type of cuisine?
I eat a lot of Italian, but I love simple, well cooked dishes and I take inspiration from all parts of the world looking for good flavours and textures – but I guess pizza is the one thing I try wherever I am, it’s pretty much universal.
Favourite kitchen gadget?
Just one? Jeez…probably my knife. It’s a beast, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days in a forge with Joel Black who taught me how to make a knife. I made it, to my design, for me. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Favourite local café? Restaurant? Hotel?
Your three favourite local markets and suppliers?
The Deli Warwick – an amazing cheese room and a fantastic selection of great products that is growing all the time. Rachel is passionate about everything but especially the cheese. They opened just as the pandemic hit so it’s been a tough year for them to try and get established, but as more people discover them the range of food grows.
Thirteen Bakers, Warwick – amazing bread and pastries, Neil is a master at baking.
Monsoon Estates Coffee Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon – just the best coffee roasters and Anne and Chris are the loveliest people to deal with
Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday?
Whatever the locals are having, I love seafood, but I also want to taste the local flavours.
What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make?
Usually two things they don’t season their food even with the simplest salt and pepper. Taste your food and season it, taste it again.
Favourite ingredient and why?
At the moment it’s Ampersand cultured butter. You can simply spread it on some sourdough toast and it tastes amazing. You can fold it into pastry and make incredible croissants or make amazing buns. You can drop a huge chunk of it into some tinned San Marzano Tomatoes with an onion and create a simple but amazing sauce for all types of dishes and you can use it to enrich your garlic linguine. It just adds so much flavour.
Most over-rated dish/ ingredient?
Other than Beans on Weetabix, I don’t think anything is overrated if you like it, I just wish we could access better grown fruit and vegetables, there’s so much focus on producing huge volumes of perfect looking specimens, but they are almost tasteless. I can remember the last time I had a fresh tomato that was bursting with flavour, it was about three years ago – it was incredible! I hope that we get back to a quality where everyone could taste something that good every day.
The dish you’re most proud of creating?
I’m proud of everything I’ve created, but our pizzas keep winning awards and that would make anyone proud.
Tell us your best ever cooking tip?
Taste, season, taste, season, taste, season, taste. Use sea salt for a better flavour and you’ll use less than you would with table salt. And always ask for a second opinion.
Three dishes every home cook should master?
1. Garlic Linguine: Put your pasta on to cook in some well salted water (I always use sea salt), put a frying pan on a medium low heat, add a generous knob of butter and let it start to brown, add a good splash of vegetable oil and finely grate some fresh garlic in, a pinch of chilli flakes, drain the cooked pasta (add a table spoon of the pasta water to the frying pan). Add the pasta and finely grate loads of fresh parmesan over it, toss the pasta until it’s well coated and serve with more parmesan. If you want to be a little extravagant a few drops of good truffle oil. Simple and delicious.
2. Ragu: a great bulk cook dish that you can transform into a variety of different meals. Sweat down onions, celery and carrots, fry any meat you’re adding so that it has a caramelised coating (I prefer beef), add the rest of the ingredients and cook on a gentle simmer for around 2-3 hours and you’ll have the base for a great “spag bol’, chilli, cottage pie, lasagne, a curry, a beef & ale pie…You can portion it and freeze it for hassle free meals. You can find the ingredients for my beef ragu on our website doughandbrew.com
3. Bread – baking your own bread is simple but it tastes amazing. Salt, flour water and yeast (even better if you have a sourdough starter) within a few therapeutic hours you’ll have amazing fresh bread. Mix, knead & let it rest in the fridge overnight so you can have fresh bread in the morning. A great weekend treat.
Loads of us are really bored of our own cooking right now – any advice?
Focus on sourcing the best ingredients you can find and try making some simpler dishes with them. With a simpler dish you can also focus on the cooking and you’ll get great results.
More often than not people get carried away with trying to make complex dishes, when something simple, well cooked and well seasoned with great ingredients will taste so much better. Some of my favourite dishes have a really simple base recipe that you can add to. Add some prawns to the garlic linguine, but buy raw prawns, ideally whole so you can use the heads & shells to make a prawn stock that you can freeze in an ice cube tray. Add one cube with the prawns & the flavour will be incredible.
Experiment! Try and make a dish better – beans on toast can be improved with some Worcester sauce and some smoked paprika. Portobello mushrooms grilled with some Worcester sauce, finely chopped shallots and some ground ginger or some chilli served with a salad or mash potato. Make the best toastie you can by experimenting with different cheeses, fillings and sauces. Just simple ingredients seasoned and cooked well.
Dough and Brew, 45 Brook Street, Warwick, CV34 4BL. Tel: 01926 401 111.