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Method in my madness

Published 22 October 1995
Style Magazine
120th article



Hob male: Michael Winner in the kitchen (Luke Daniel)

Since recipes are all the rage in the The Sunday Times, why should mine be left out? "What!?" I hear you say. "He's handsome and he can cook!" Anyone who's been a bachelor for as long as me, and there are very few of those around who aren't gay, can knock up the odd this and that. And have to when their social life drags to a halt, which in my case is frequently. One of my personal pieces des resistances is my scrambled eggs. "The only person l know who made scrambled eggs that way," Ava Gardner once said to me, "was Frank." Sinatra to you. Get your pencil and paper ready and stand by.

First you take six eggs. Doesn't matter how many people it's for, always six eggs. Then you place a large frying pan on the gas thing with a massive knob of butter in it. Then you crack your six eggs into a bowl with a bottle of milk (preferably with some cream element in it) standing by. Then you light the gas. Now that is not easy. I have never known a gas stove that lights properly when you push whatever it is you have to push. With mine you get a spark. the gas keeps coming out and nothing ignites. Eventually, just as you're being overcome with fumes, there is a sort of muffled bang, and the thing lights. Right. Now the butter is melting and you pour a generous amount of milk into the bowl with the eggs. Then you whisk it with an electric whisk until it's very frothy and bubbly. Then, just as the butter is starting to spit, you pour the lot into the frying pan and stir for about a minute with a wooden spoon. Then slide onto plates on which you have placed hot buttered toast. Delicious.

Now I will tell you how to make coffee. Not all that percolating rubbish with water going through stale and dredged coffee, the real way. This is for one. Take two mugs of equal size. I always like my coffee from mugs because I'm not posh. Have some fresh ground coffee standing by and an electric kettle. Bring the water to the boil. Plonk two teaspoonfuls of fresh coffee into one of the mugs. Pour the boiling water onto it and stir for about five seconds. Then - this is the cunning bit - take a thin sieve and pour the coffee and water through it, into the other mug. Thus the coffee stays in the sieve. And voila! A fresh cup of coffee in no time at all. I add a very heaped spoonful of brown crystal sugar and some milk, but that's up to you.

The best things I make, which are really a historic taste, are my salad sandwiches. You may laugh, and people do, but not after they've eaten them. Then they admit they're terrific. I must confess I have a standard salad sitting in my fridge all the time. Fresh. I don't have a deep freeze. Terrible things. So, you get two bits of grossly over-buttered toast. You plonk enormous amounts of salad onto one of them - lettuce, tomato, watercress, cucumber, grated carrots etc. You add a small amount of chopped cheese and possibly an anchovy or two. Then onto the other piece of toast (and the toast must be hot) you smear a massive amount of Hellman's mayonnaise. Then you put one on top of the other, hold it down firmly and cut it into two. By now the mayonnaise and bits of salad are cascading onto the breadboard. Serve on the breadboard with a knife and fork standing by and a cup of earl grey tea. Sensational!

I used to make a really amazing steak tartare, but I've forgotten how I did that. So I'll tell you how to make toast. You take some bread and put it into this electric thing. You know about that? l tell you, it's not easy writing for sophisticated people.



  • PS: why is it that the cakes in Kaspia, an excellent caviar restaurant in Mayfair where my bill never seems to be less than £300 for two, which were good, are now so awful? Answer: because the former managing director, Gavin Rankin, moved to Annabel's. His mother, Lady Bayliss, used to personally make the chocolate cake. And they've changed getting the rest of the cakes from Nadell Patisserie to Bagatelle. The result is horrible. Lady Bayliss kindly made me a chocolate cake last week. It remains, without doubt, one of the great taste sensations of the world. So there.



    Letters

    I do worry about Michael Winner. Week after week another well-established restaurant rated by Michelin, The Good Food Guide, Ronay and others seemingly implodes as the Winner frame wafts into sight. The latest victim is Bibendum, the finest and most beautiful of restaurants. Delia Smith and Fay Maschler are regulars. I have been a fan since it opened in December 1987. Every single meal over the years has been tremendous.
    Dominic Regan, Harborne, Birmingham

    I read with interest of Michael Winner's residence in the dwelling built for Sir Luke Fildes in Holland Park (October 8). Mr Winner may, while selecting another unfortunate restaurant that he is going to demolish in print, care to examine an engraving by Fildes entitled Homeless And Hungry. If he ever has the chance to visit the gallery at the Royal Holloway College, he will see Fildes's memorable painting Applicants For Admission To A Casual Ward, which depicts a broad section of society waiting to be admitted to a Victorian doss house. Enjoy your meals, Mr Winner.
    John Horovitz, Coltishall, Norwich

    I support the views of Michael Winner regarding the Canteen restaurant, Chelsea Harbour (October 1), where he felt the car park and approach to the restaurant reminded him of Stalinist Russia. As one exits the car park to enter the main building, one passes through an area of unfinished breeze blocks in their natural state as well as unfinished floors that are poorly and unevenly screeded and part-painted with a sickly red paint. Surely it wouldn't take much to finish off this area, which clearly doesn't go with the style or ambience of the Canteen?
    Jeff Vickers, London SW6