The worst thing I ate was probably an extreme hot sauce. It was somewhere on the Scoville Scale that required too many zeros to count. It was painful! Taking over my entire mouth, then face, then body. What it was served with was irrelevant… the chilli sauce was torture. And didn’t subside for ages. In fact, the suffering continued the next day… if you get my drift. Love the use of chilli in cuisines all over the world… but this was unnecessary!
Tell us who you are, what you do?
Ben Ebbrell, co-founder and chef of SORTEDfood. With a team in London we run the world's leading food and cooking community online… an ongoing food conversation centered around a 20+ year old friendship, across multiple social platforms that entertains, inspires and informs.
Name 3 products you always have in your kitchen
Lemons… the best tool to lift most dishes.
Wholegrain Mustard… takes even the simplest of sandwiches or salad dressings to a more exciting place.
Whole Grains… lentils, bulgur wheat, couscous etc. An ideal base to incorporate whatever other ingredients are left in the fridge at the end of the week. Long shelf life too!
Name the best thing you’ve tasted, and the worst
Looking back, it almost certainly wasn’t the best bowl I’ve ever had… but at the time it blew my mind. The first bowl of ramen I had in Tokyo… the city was a sensory overload anyway and the food was just what I needed. Perfect bouncy noodles, a deep and rich pork bone broth, a soy egg with gooey yolk and countless other toppings.
The worst probably has to be an extreme hot sauce. It was somewhere on the Scoville Scale that required too many zeros to count. It was painful! Taking over my entire mouth, then face, then body. What it was served with was irrelevant… the chilli sauce was torture. And didn’t subside for ages. In fact, the suffering continued the next day… if you get my drift. Love the use of chilli in cuisines all over the world… but this was unnecessary!
Are there any French products that you use on regular basis?
French Wholegrain Mustard… see above.
Wine… during lockdown I enjoyed expanding my horizons with wine. Learning to understand more about regions, grapes varieties and wine making techniques. As a result, what was once always just the same few new-world bottles on repeat, is now more diverse and includes many French examples.
French bread… love a baguette on a weekend for a simple throw together lunch. Or a cheeky croissant for a treat.
Your favorite French restaurant?
La Petit Auberge in Islington, North London. It’s decent Bistro style food in a relaxed environment. Haven’t been for ages actually… reminds me I must book to go back!
According to you, what is the ultimate French classic meal?
I'm a big fan of the comforting classics, more so than haute cuisine. A cassoulet with slow cooked meats and finished with pistou. Or french onion soup with a cheesy croute when on the ski slopes. At this time of year though, I am very happy with grilled fish and freshly made ratatouille.
Is there any typical French meal or product that you’ve always wanted to try (and not have the occasion yet)?
Whilst I have had it before, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a good one… Rabbit casserole with tarragon cream sauce or in a cider cream sauce. Whenever I’ve had lapin it has always been a little dry and underwhelming. Would love to try a good one!
On what occasion would you drink wine?
Most! Haha. Different wines for different occasions...
With a slow sit-down meal (with friends/family when you've crafted a nice dinner and the wine can compliment). But less so in speedy midweek meals or pub grub.
When sat outside in the sun without food with friends in the summer months… a terrace, balcony.. white wine or rosé makes an appearance.
At the theatre.
At a big celebration like an anniversary, birthday or wedding… then it's all about the bubbles!
Settled by a cosy fire in the winter putting the world to rights with deep conversation at the end of the night… then bring on the nice jammy and/or aged reds.
When there's an opportunity to learn more… wine tastings for example or when you’re in a restaurant with a sommelier and you can be guided to something new.
Do you have a favorite French region for wine?
Depends on the occasion… Burgundy remains high up, more so for Pinot Noir with food… I generally prefer that that over an oaked chardonnay personally. The Loire for a crisp crement. Languedoc for rosé. Rhone for the big, bold, deep reds.
To conclude, if you had to name 1 typical meal from your country that everyone should try, what would it be?
Fish and Chips is a cliché perhaps, but it's the combo of crisp (beer) batter, fresh flakey white fish with crisp chips that are fluffy inside, dowsed in salt and malt vinegar that makes it excellent. Plus the condiments… tartare sauce, summer minted peas etc. Ideal with a cold apple cider too! But there’s also loads of great ingredients, produce or sweet treats that are to be celebrated in the UK. Cornish Mackerel, Welsh Lamb, Bakewell Tart and Sticky Toffee Pudding all spring to mind!