Richard Ekkebus of Amber brings a cleaner (and greener) version of the French classic, Petits Pois à la Française, right to your home
Staying home all day can be nice, but God knows how bad it is for our waistline. The damn fridge can’t stop calling out to us, and we can’t seem to say no. Our booze count is quickly diminishing as well, and we’re convinced we’ll come out of this lockdown with plenty of regrets and a bad liver.
We still want to eat well, but we have got to eat clean. And the best person to go to would be chef Richard Ekkebus of the two-Michelin-starred Amber in Hong Kong. The contemporary French restaurant, which calls The Landmark Mandarin Oriental its home, went under a four-month hiatus in 2019 and reopened with a progressive, more diet-conscious menu. Everything you’d find in French cuisine – sugar, butter and cream – has been replaced with all-natural alternative ingredients. Sounds painful, but you’d be surprised how flavour is hardly compromised.
Here, get to know Ekkebus a little bit better and have a whack at his version of the French classic, Petits Pois à la Française. It’s a pretty extensive recipe where the peas are replaced with snap pea purée, pea shoots and pomelo, and bacon is substituted for cuttlefish.
“No doubt we are going through the most challenging and unprecedented time of our lives. To stay physically and mentally sane, I focus on healthy eating (mostly plant-based) and frequent exercise. I also stay away from alcohol and limit the amount of news I take in.
We need to work through this pandemic with an understanding that we are part of nature and that we have to live in harmony with our planet’s natural resources. We should be shifting towards a more plant-based menu, ethically raised proteins and sustainably sourced seafood.
I achieve harmony and balance in a meal by trying to shift the traditional percentages of protein towards vegetables, fruits and herbs. Increasing the usage of high quality organic grown fruits and vegetables.
I love my job, to the extent I do not see it as a job but as part of my lifestyle.
I think I have been lucky or very organised as I have had no disaster in any of my kitchens. It’s important to always have a plan B and C!
The most essential item in my kitchen is the spoon. [I] use spoons to stir, taste and plate.
My comfort meal has lately been soybeans blanched in their pods (edamame) and [sprinkled] with sea salt.
I never use pastis in my cooking. At a very young age, I drank too much of it one evening and got pretty sick. To this day, the smell makes me nauseous.
If I’m on death row, my last meal would be a tin of caviar with buckwheat blinis.”
Petits Pois à la Française done the Richard Ekkebus way, with snap peas, cuttlefish, pomelo and wakame
Amber, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
Makes two servings of appetisers
120g snap pea purée
160g snap pea and cuttlefish ragout
20g pomelo pulp
Extra-virgin olive oil
30 to 40 pea shoots, picked and cleaned
Snap pea purée
250g shucked snap peas
6g fine sea salt
Bring two litres of water and six grams of salt to a rapid boil. Add the snap peas and cook for three minutes. Once cooked, shock the peas in an ice bath. Then remove the peas and pat off any excess moisture.
Pulverise the peas in a blender until totally smooth. Once puréed, pass the pea purée through a wire mesh sieve. To serve, gently heat the pea purée in a sauce pot and stir with a spatula to prevent sticking. Season with fine salt to taste.
Snap pea and cuttlefish ragout
Extra-virgin olive oil
10g shallots, peeled and minced
100g snap peas, shucked from outer shell
10g cultured vegan butter
60g cuttlefish, diced to 1cm cubes*
5g wakame, boiled and roughly chopped
Fine sea salt
Place a sauté pan over low heat and add a touch of grape seed oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is heated, add the minced shallots and gently sweat them until just soft; don’t get them browned.
Once cooked, add the shucked snap peas, water and vegan butter and put them on a medium-high heat. Allow the liquid to boil and reduce until the peas are cooked and glazed. If the peas are not cooked once the water has reduced, add a bit more water to allow them to fully cook.
Next, return the pan to low heat and fold in the cuttlefish and chopped wakame. Stir the mixture and continue to warm the cuttlefish until they have just turned opaque, then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Season the mixture with salt to taste and serve immediately.
*Place the cleaned cuttlefish head (outer membrane removed) onto a cutting board and trim the edges to create a rough rectangle. Trim the topside of the cuttlefish to obtain a uniform thickness of 1cm throughout. Then place the cuttlefish piece onto a clean plastic tray, and place it in a freezer. Once frozen, quickly dice the cuttlefish into 1cm cubes; keep it frozen to obtain a consistent cut, working in and out of the freezer if necessary. Once done, spread the pieces onto a clean tray and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In warm bowls, divide the snap pea purée evenly. Top with the snap pea and cuttlefish ragout, sprinkle with the pomelo pulp, garnish with the pea shoots, and spoon over one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Grate the lime (a Microplane is best for this) over the dishes and serve immediately.