People 2 minutes 21 November 2018

My Signature Dish: English Garden By Kirk Westaway Of JAAN

The Devon-born chef of the one-Michelin-starred restaurant is changing British food’s stodgy stereotype — one tasty morsel at a time.

my signature dish British cuisine Kirk Westaway

While some may have grown up with dreadful memories of finishing up their greens, British chef Kirk Westaway, who helms one-Michelin-starred JAAN, embraced vegetables openly. Up till he was about 12 years old, Westaway, who hails from Devon in south-west England, was a vegetarian. His insatiable love for vegetables was largely shaped by his mother.

“Everything that my mother cooked was fantastic — my love for fresh produce and quality British ingredients is inspired by her,” the 33-year-old gushes. “One of my favourite childhood dishes was a summer salads with vegetables that were picked fresh from our garden.”

One of his stand-out memories with vegetables was accompanying his sisters to pick berries from the overgrown bushes that lined an old discontinued railway line, which was a stone’s throw away from his home in the Devon countryside.

He shares: “We also had our own vegetable patch from which we would gather vegetables before each meal. This sense of community and exposure to the best that nature has to offer from a young age has inevitably shaped the way I source my produce.”
Chef Kirk Westaway who hails from Devon in the United Kingdom was a vegetarian till he was in his early teens. (Credit: JAAN)
Chef Kirk Westaway who hails from Devon in the United Kingdom was a vegetarian till he was in his early teens. (Credit: JAAN)
His deep-rooted connection with vegetables has invariably played a big part behind his signature dish at JAAN, which is aptly known as English Garden.

The salad is a visually-arresting medley of more than 30 vegetables, herbs and edible flowers that form a tantalising tapestry of colour, textures and flavours. The ingredient mix, which takes it cue from seasons in the United Kingdom and Europe, varies daily.

For the current autumn menu, which is on till next month, in-season ingredients include cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts, leeks and onions. The vegetable, which are served blanched or raw, complement the richness of the beetroot puree, saltiness from the anchovy dressing and Scottish kombu.
The English Garden is a visually-arresting medley of more than 30 vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. (Credit: JAAN)
The English Garden is a visually-arresting medley of more than 30 vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. (Credit: JAAN)
Out of the dizzying array of vegetables, how does Westaway decide what makes the cut?

He says: “ I choose ingredients that work together both visually and gustatorily, creating a symphony of vegetables that share the same fresh flavours and crunchy texture.” He adds that he also picks vegetables that require minimal processing in order to let their nature flavours shine.

Each kaleidoscopic display of vegetables cannot be replicated as they are individually plated.

He shares: “Each dish is a completely unique aesthetic combination and I’ve trained my team to plate this dish inspired by their own creativity, which injects another layer of individuality.”
The snacks in JAAN's menu are fashioned after popular British dishes such as Fish & Chips and Chicken Curry. (Credit: JAAN)
The snacks in JAAN's menu are fashioned after popular British dishes such as Fish & Chips and Chicken Curry. (Credit: JAAN)
His inclination towards light and fresh flavours with natural ingredients is a cornerstone of his Reinventing British menu that was rolled out in July, soon after it retain its one-star rating in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 selection

After three years of heading Jaan, Westaway is carving out a more distinctive identity for his restaurant.

Veering away from its previous contemporary European focus, JAAN’s food takes on a Reinventing British theme, which is more closely aligned to Westaway’s heritage and culinary memories and techniques from his Devon days, as well as his experiences from numerous overseas four-hands collaborations this year.
The classic British dish of fish and chips is condensed into a mini tartlet of cured Atlantic cod fish that is poached in milk, baked potatoes, capers, parsley, salted lemon and Spanish vinegar. (Credit: JAAN)
The classic British dish of fish and chips is condensed into a mini tartlet of cured Atlantic cod fish that is poached in milk, baked potatoes, capers, parsley, salted lemon and Spanish vinegar. (Credit: JAAN)

Top on Westaway’s agenda is to alter diners’ stereotype of British food as “being stodgy and bland”. He adds that the Reinventing British philosophy revolves around UK-inspired dishes that are reinterpreted through a modern and innovative culinary lens.

For example, the classic British dish of fish and chips is condensed into a mini tartlet of cured Atlantic cod fish that is poached in milk, baked potatoes, capers, parsley, salted lemon and Spanish vinegar. Topping the tartlet is a delicate drop of tartar sauce.

Another British favourite is the chicken curry which is re-interpreted as minced chicken perfumed with a heady garam masala spice blend on an oven-baked Japanese rice crisp. The snack is served with a piece of baked chicken skin, egg yolk puree and mango chutney.

Westaway uses produce from all over the UK — butter from Combe Castle in Wiltshire, England, cheddar cheese from Devon, goat’s cheese curd from Neal’s Yard Creamery in Herefordshire, and Scottish langoustine and kombu.

He concludes: “I want JAAN’s dining experience to both surprise and enlighten by championing light, fresh flavours with an emphasis on showcasing nature’s finest.”

People

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