The Comfort Recipe: Brad Carter’s spatchcock chicken
This weekend, Soho Farmhouse will host our Food Festival in partnership with Porsche. In anticipation of the event, we’ve asked some of the top chefs appearing to share their lives in food
Friday 16 September 2022 By Teo van den Broeke Illustration by Adam Menzies
Tomorrow, Soho Farmhouse will host its annual Food Festival in partnership with Porsche. To celebrate this special gastronomic occasion, we’ve asked a few of the most prominent chefs appearing at the event to share a little of their lives in food, including their ultimate comfort recipe. Today, it’s the turn of Brad Carter, chef/ proprietor of Carters of Moseley.
'Creating food that’s not only delicious, but the kind of stuff that people want to eat over and over again – that’s a long game. You can’t do it overnight'
What’s your favourite comfort dish to cook when you’re at home?
‘I love cooking in my pizza oven, spatchcock chicken in particular. I just love the simplicity of it. Splitting a chicken, marinating it, and cooking it really slowly over wood in the pizza oven, keep it moving, keep it turning. And then, change the garnish seasonally. I eat like I cook at work. I’d have it with sweetcorn when the weather is warm, and switch to rice and peas in the winter. I love having that kind of simplicity at home where it’s both delicious and really quick to make. You need a really good quality bird.
‘Take the best chicken you can afford, like the Cotswold white chickens not far from our restaurant. Split it down the back, spatchcock, so it’s flat and cooks evenly, so you can get the breast juice on the legs if you cook it right.
‘Next, marinate it for as long as you can, and squeeze a lemon. If you want to go Indian, get some hung yogurt with no liquid left, some Indian spices like tandoori masala, or you could go down a different route and do it with jerk-style seasoning. My favourite jerk paste is made with all spice, thyme, scotch bonnet, lime, brown sugar, and a little tamarind. Mix it all together and rub it into the chicken.
‘Serve the dish with some rice and peas in the winter and rock it up with a cucumber salad in summer. It’s really versatile.’
When did you first fall in love with cooking?
‘I first got into it with my mum when I was nine. She used to work three jobs, and I didn’t really see her much as I was out being naughty. She would leave us something to eat in between jobs, but before she’d go out to do night caring I’d make something really simple like beans with a kind of spice in it. I always made sure I left her some and I think that’s where it kind of started for me. I wasn’t into school at all, but I chose food technology. I really liked it and my teacher said I had a bit of a touch, and then there was a pizza competition that I won. It was probably the only thing I ever won at school, apart from a fight. I was 11 or 12, I think. I didn’t really pursue cooking properly until I was 16. I went to work at a local pub where I was grilling steaks, and making chickens and chips. It’s all I’ve done ever since.’
What was the first dish you ever cooked for someone other than yourself?
‘The first dish I cooked was probably beans on toast. I remember getting the beans and spices, like madras curry powder and a little bit of coriander, and I’d add all these little bits to the beans and put it on toast. I suppose it was my first ever “dish”, and I left it for my mum. She seemed to like it, though she was probably just being nice. Obviously cooking proper meals came later when I had a little bit more skill. I cooked a Thai green curry from scratch and really enjoyed it. That got me into other cuisines. It’s nice to be able to cook foods from other cultures.’
Above, clockwise from top left: Carter's Restaurant, Carters of Moseley, Birmingham; an oyster dish from his menu; finessing a dish in the kitchen
If you had to pick a death-row meal, what would it be and why?
‘This question comes up quite a lot in the kitchen. I would start with papadums and chutney. Bit of mint, bit of salad, some mango chutney on the side. The crunch of a good papadum is unbelievable and the best start to any meal. I’d also have a couple of beers if I’m allowed.
‘I lived in Spain for a couple of years when I was younger, so for my starter I’d have some chipirones with aioli and a squeeze of lemon. Fried baby squid = absolutely unbelievable. The best starter on planet earth. I dream about it day in day out in the grey, cold place we call the UK.
‘For the main course I’d have steak and chips. There’s something amazing about it. I know it’s quite simple and basic, but a good bavette and fries is hard to beat. It’s really between that and pizza. I love proper pizza with good dough. Could I have steak and chips and then maybe one slice on the side? Pizza-wise, I’d like really good buffalo mozzarella, some olive oil, basil, and obviously nduja. If I had to have any meat, it’d be that.
‘For dessert it would be between my two favourites: sticky toffee pudding and a soufflé, but I think I’d have to go with souffle. Flavour-wise, I’d probably go for something like raspberry and lemon verbena. But to honest, I’d take any souffle.’
What’s the one dish you still struggle to get right at times?
‘I’d like to say I don’t really struggle with anything, but one thing that’s hard to get right is a good rice pudding. A baked rice pudding like the old fashioned British one, which you bake with milk, a little bit of vanilla, some egg yolks, and sugar. When you bake it, you need to find that sweet spot in the oven where it’s perfectly set and creamy. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve cooked in the past three to four years. I’m still looking for perfection and I shall report back when I achieve it.’
What has been your most challenging kitchen experience to date?
‘I haven’t really come through the ranks of pain and suffering and hard graft, but I’d say for me it was opening my own restaurant. I think that was the most challenging thing I’ve done and will ever do. Being 27 and having zero profile was hard, very hard. I thought it was impossible six months in, I thought it was never going to work but, you know, hard work and dedication made it happen. I think I thought it would be easier than it was. Creating food that’s not only delicious, but the kind of stuff that people want to eat over and over again – that’s a long game. You can’t do it overnight.’
Catch Brad Carter in the Where The Wild Things Grow field at Soho Farmhouse Food Festival