PipsDish – cooking without recipes. How does he do it?

I was never one for rules, I was never one for constant meticulism, but I do like processes.  And I do most certainly like good results.  Philip Dundas is the same.  I envy him, I may have won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Series of Food Books in the world, but Philip was listed in the Telegraph top 10 books with his book Cooking Without Recipes, does that scare you?  Probably at first look yes, but I bet you do it every night!

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That’s right, do you really go to the supermarket with a list of what to buy from planned meals?  If you do, I’m very impressed, but Im not that organised.  So, take a few ingredients, whats the best way to cook them?  Do you need recipes?
I agree with Philip, and he’s gone that one step further and made a career out of it.  PipsDish is his restaurant.  He invited me for lunch and well, he’s a clever chap.  He cooks whats available in the market that day, so it’s fresh and simple, but tastes as food should, not mass produced and packed with flavour.
So, how does he do it?  Philip explained a few principles to me
1.  If you want to learn to cook, you must first learn to understand ingredients rather than read recipes. Otherwise it is nothing but cooking by numbers.
2.  Cooking is about confidence and creativity. Two things you have to look for within yourself. Only picking up a fish by the tail will tell you how to cook it.
3.  If you have no affection for your ingredients your efforts will be rendered inedible. Bring to the surface what lies within, entice the senses and please the appetite without unnecessary embellishment or distraction.
4.  Your mood will determine the success of your undertaking. Successful cooking is to completely satisfy both yourself and those who will eat your food, with comfort and ease.
5.  You need to learn the behaviours and habits of a cook, so that you can choose any ingredient and in turn become inventive, self-reliant and take control in your own kitchen.
Now, there’s no real menu, the dishes are whatever he cooks on the day, select, boutique and bespoke if you like –  but that’s a good thing, its fresh, its food for friends, its fab.  It’s home made, and food made with love and terribly well made at that.  I enjoyed Pan fried pollock with tarter sauce, smoked paprika chips, a mograbiah (giant couscous but not as scary as Return of the Triffids) and butternut squash salad and finished with a blackberry and almond tart.  And the menu changes every day so it doesn’t matter how many times you go it will be different.
The restaurant is just behind the Lion King in Covent Garden / Aldwich area, it’s cozy and inviting, intimate for friends or for a group to share.  And in the little courtyard at the back there is a little mountain hut, a perfect private dining spot in central London to eat with friends. Philip serves a selection of small dishes during the day and for pre-theatre and then dinner kicks off at 8 (3 courses and canapés for £32.50). If you come for dinner before a show, he’ll let you come back afterwards for dessert and cheese.
And, not only does the food look, Philip, well, he’s (a bit) older than me and his skin looks so young.  How I ask?  “Good product” he tells me.  I don’t buy it, its his fresh approach to food.
PipsDish, 15 Exeter Street, London WC2E 7DT 0207 240 7232 – Tuesday – Saturday

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