I loved cooking from an early age. I was cooking my first meal when I was eight. It was spaghetti bolognese and I don’t think I used any stock or anything like that. It was pretty bland. But you learn!
I’ve been everywhere: Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, all over. Initially I started off in Israel, a friend lived out there and said I should come and work on the moshav [agricultural community]. I wasn’t cooking but I was cutting and clipping veg and getting to the source of where things come from, all the herbs and peppers. I cooked in the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam. I also did training in France for six months. That was interesting. You certainly learn how to dodge pans when things go wrong – if you think Gordon Ramsay’s bad you should go and work in a Paris kitchen. Luckily I had good reflexes when I was younger.
I was a pub landlord before I sold The Big Issue because I had given up being a chef. I became frustrated with people telling me how to do things. I I couldn’t go back into a kitchen now – I couldn’t deal with the split shifts. It would be too demanding on me physically. I’m not a spring chicken any more. That’s why I do Duff Cooks [Ian’s social enterprise] and the volunteering through that. I like that I can just go in and do my own thing and everyone respects that it is me doing it. But it’s on hold at the moment with the disruption from the coronavirus.
What I’ve been trying to do during the lockdown is store-cupboard stuff. Take, for example, a dahl I made the other day. It’s just basically lentils and tomatoes with spices that people have in their cupboards, whether they’re 16 or not. If you have chopped tomatoes then you can pretty much do anything, whether it’s soup, a bolognese or a curry.
I have been using my Twitter account @ianduff4 to share recipes and I’ve also offered to cook meals that you can put in the freezer if you’re struggling. So far, I’ve had offers to help with delivery and ingredients but no one has asked for meals. The offer still stands. It’s fundamental for me to help out because I really enjoy giving back.
— ian duff (@ianduff4) May 28, 2020
How to cook Ian’s tasty lentil stew
- A cup of red lentils
- 2 tsp each of turmeric, coriander, madras powder and garlic powder
- 1 fresh red chilli
- Clove of garlic
- Finger of ginger
- Splash of vinegar
- 1 onion
- Tin of chopped tomatoes
- Tin of water
- Lemon juice (to taste)
Soak the lentils overnight, then make a curry paste using the herbs and spices, the garlic, ginger, vinegar and chilli.
Chop and fry the onion then when it’s dark add the paste.
Cook for a further two minutes, add the lentils, chopped tomatoes and water.
Turn down heat and cook for two hours then cool for 20 minutes.
Add lemon juice and serve.
Ian’s quick kitchen tips
- For a simple snack, why not grill your cheese and crackers
- Soup is easy. Just fry some onion, add a tin of tomatoes, a stock cube and blend. You can add fresh herbs if you have them
- To peel ginger use a spoon. It’s much easier and less wasteful
- For an iceberg lettuce, if you tap the stalk on to your counter the core will just come out. That way you don’t lose any of the lettuce
Ian Duff is a Big Issue vendor in Bath. He also runs the social enterprise Duff Cooks
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