Michael, founder of The Gate, shares his earliest memories about how his passion for food started.
Well, I guess it all started at my grandmother’s house where the smells would waft and linger from the kitchen (the oh-so-mysterious kitchen) into the room where the table we ate on was, as I remember it.
I remember going there once and being allowed to help clean rice, which was a great elevation in status for me. To be able to DO something for the woman who was always so serious and so stern with us most of the time and of course revered by all.
However even after we (the 'we' was always me & Adrian) took all the stones out there was that look (show me what you’ve done) to see if we had actually made the slightest contribution.
But it was always about this smell or that aroma. It was like the house had a perma-cloud aroma of spices and you’d get hungry just walking through the door even if you had eaten very recently.
It was as if some chemical neurological switch in my brain was activated just by walking through that door and all I would think about was what would be on the menu that day as my nose started twitching.
Sometimes we would go there and I would think to myself - what if she hasn’t cooked anything at all and if that was really the case then why have we come all this way to see the Scary One? No food would have been a disaster; luckily I think it only happened once.
Then there was all the weird stuff - which my father would crack jokes about endlessly. Sheep’s brains curry became monkey’s brains and even though I knew it wasn’t actually monkey’s brains, I was still looking at this dish moving my fork around the bowl realising it was something’s brain….
And so the years passed and smells dominated my life: from pungent Turkish coffee ‘with bits’ as I called it (they turned out to be cardamom), to aga-raga scented with rose water (an Arabic diamond-shaped firm jelly), everything always tasted and smelled amazing.
For me, the greatest of all in those days in the mid-seventies was when Hamin (a chicken and rice hot pot stew) was prepared for my bar mitzvah day lunch. This involved the dish being cooked over night for about 12 hours to absolute perfection.
I still smell the memories to this day.
So why is someone who owns an award-winning vegetarian restaurant telling these stories of chicken and brains?Food writers and reviews often say that the Gate is an Indo-Iraqi /Jewish vegetarian restaurant and this confuses me because yes, those are my origins, but The Gate is a different proposition. Yes all, or a great part of, our food desires came from our childhood food influences and experiences but the Gate evolved out of an interest in all cuisines and our ambition to recreate theses dishes by taking out the non-veg parts.
What’s relevant is that the culture I grew up in, the food was always ‘just so’ - with one creator and one outcome. Maybe that’s where our drive for authenticity came from.
What is indisputable though, is that I for one have never been able to accept mediocrity in the food we serve at The Gate.
This dessert is always a winner on a summer's afternoon or evening - and it's easy to make too. Here is our vegan take on an English classic.
500g strawberries or any fruits you like
2 small tins of chickpeas (we’ll only need the chickpea water)
600g caster sugar
500ml vegan cream
1.Whip the cream and reserve.
2. Wash and cut half of the strawberries into quarters and reserve.
3. Place the rest of the strawberries with a bit of sugar in a blender to make a smooth coulis and reserve.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 100℃.
5. To make the meringue, place the chickpea water in a high speed mixer with half of the sugar and start whipping. Add the rest of the sugar slowly till you get a thick meringue. Bake on grease proof paper for about 3 hours in the ovenat 100℃.
6. Fold in the strawberry purée and crushed meringue in the cream, then fold in the chopped strawberries.
7. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into four cold glasses. Serve garnished with the remaining strawberries.
Our pad thai is always a sell-out when it features as our special of the day - here is the recipe if you'd like to try it at home. Don't forget to tag us in your creations @gaterestaurant.
350g flat rice noodles (rice sticks)
150g baby sweetcorn
150g mange touts
150g shiitake or oyster mushrooms
250g firm tofu or chunks of seitan
3 tbsp sesame oil
5-6 spring onions, cut at an angle into 5mm slices
1 head oak choi
4 tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 tbsp sugar
Bunch of coriander, chopped
100g toasted peanuts, crushed
Juice of 0.5-1 lime
Good splash of soy sauce
1. Prepare the noodles by putting them in a bowl and covering them with boiling water. Leave to steep for about 5 minutes and then drain and cover with cold water.
2. Cut the baby sweetcorn and mange touts across at an angle into 3-4 pieces. Slice or tear the mushrooms thinly. Cube the tofu or seitan and fry briefly in 1 tbsp of the same oil until crisp. Cut the spring onions at an angle into 5mm slices. Shred the pak choi.
3. Heat the remaining sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan until very hot and stir-fry the curry paste briefly. Stir in the sugar, then stir-fry the vegetables, adding them in the order of firmness and stirring well between each addition, starting with the corn and mushrooms, followed by the tofu or sestina, the mange touts and spring onions, and then the pak choi.
4. Taste and add lime and soy sauce to taste. The lime juice should balance out the sugar (you may have to add a little more sugar for a good sweet-and-sour balance). Serve immediately.
There's nothing better than starting the weekend with a plate of pancakes! Try our favourite recipe to bring a little Gate magic to your brunch at home.
Makes 3 pancakes
140g plain flour
5g baking powder
5g caster sugar
20ml rapeseed oil
5ml rapeseed oil (for cooking)
A pinch of salt
40ml maple syrup
5g icing sugar
1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix
2. Then pour all the wet ingredients into a jug
3. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry mix (in the middle of the mixing bowl)
4. Use a whisk to mix it all together, always starting from the middle of the bowl and mixing slowly
5. In a frying pan heat up the rapeseed oil on medium heat (not too hot or the pancake will burn)
6. Pour a full ladle of the mix in the middle of the pan (medium sized ladle)
7. Once one side is golden brown, flip over the pancake and let it get golden brown on the other side
8. Repeat the same method for the 2 other pancakes
9. Peel and slice the banana and serve with maple syrup, blueberries and icing sugar