On a beautiful spring morning I journeyed to Conrad’s Kitchen on the edge of Wellington. In their purpose-built kitchen, Conrad and Max create all the wonderful meals they bring to us each and every Foodie Thursday.
Entering the kitchen I am greeted by familiar aromas as Max prepares this week’s Vegetable Samosas. These are one of my guilty pleasures each Thursday.
Conrad is creating Wild Garlic, Lemon and Thyme Risotto, and Spinach and Coconut Dahl – two dishes from this week’s mouth-watering menu.
After 18 years as a Social Worker it was a leap and a half for Conrad to make such a dramatic change in career. “I wanted to be responsible for my own success or failure,” Conrad explained. “Having always been a keen cook, I asked my local pub if I could work for them, free of charge, to gain some experience. After 3 weeks they offered me a full-time job. Six months later I was Head Chef, but the hours weren’t great.” So began Conrad’s Kitchen and it has been a regular at Taunton Farmers’ Market since 2013.
Using the knowledge he gained and the flavours he’s enjoyed from his travels, Conrad’s creations are an eclectic mix of Asian and Mediterranean.
It’s noticeable from the meals available each week that Conrad has a passion for fish. His inspirations are the legendary Keith Floyd from the early 80’s and Rick Stein who, for Conrad, epitomises his type of cooking. “Good, honest food, cooked beautifully.” That says it all really.
This week’s fish is pan-fried Cornish Ling fillets – part of the Cod family, Conrad explains to me. Coley is also a favourite in the kitchen, and is used in their yummy fish cakes. “It’s has a higher oil content than Cod and is very sustainable.”
Salmon is a fundamental feature on the stall most weeks – Smoked Salmon, Gravlax and Pate. “The Salmon we use is extremely expensive. The wholesale price I pay is 80p more per kilo than Tesco’s sell their salmon in the shop.”
So, Dear Reader, this is where the accountants among you start asking, why not buy the cheaper one from the supermarket?
“You get what you pay for. The salmon I buy have more water to move in, 60/40 ratio rather than the normal 80/20 (if you’re lucky) for the supermarkets’ salmon, which means they develop more muscles and produce a better quality fish.”
Conrad sources from South West suppliers as much as possible, with Cornish Venison ready to go into this week’s Venison Madras. He often uses vegetables from Ray’s veg – “Ray’s mushrooms are the best!” – plus meat from Wallace’s farm and other local farms too.
Max, the face we see at the market each week, started as an apprentice with Conrad in 2014. They generally don’t have set jobs, but Max normally makes the samosas as “It’s not my favourite task,” Conrad says with a cheeky smile. Max, however, is a dab hand now, making it look easy, folding the delicate pastry ready for deep frying. If only they’d both look the other way, those babies would be mine! Well, who can resist a crisp, freshly-made samosa the size of a tea-plate?! Must focus on the work in hand!
Whilst I’m asking all these odd questions, these lads are going about their normal routine and the food smells gorgeous. The risotto is glistening in the pan, ready for more wild garlic and stock to be added. It’s clear that this pair of talented chefs work well together, and it certainly comes through in their cooking. No wonder they are in high demand for catering and private chef functions.
During the winter months Conrad shares his love of great food through his cookery courses. For us mere mortals it’s a chance for us to hopefully soak up some of his skills.
Although we feel their meals are made especially for us whilst we shop at Taunton Farmers’ Market each week, they are available to buy elsewhere too. You can telephone Conrad to arrange collection from the kitchen, and they also attend Wiveliscombe Farmers’ Market, Langport Market and Somerton Market.
What will the future hold for Conrad’s Kitchen? Whatever it may be, long may it continue to bring delicious food to us all at Taunton Farmers’ Market every Thursday.
Tel; 07877 413796
By Francine Lee