Like many chefs, James Pratt, discovered his calling by chance. ‘At 15, I started work as a kitchen porter in a local hotel, then moved to the front of house, learning the floor and bar. Really, it was by pure chance I came back to working in the kitchen. A chef friend was shorthanded and I offered a hand. The minute I walked back into the kitchen, I knew I had made the right choice.
‘We’re all about contemporary comfort food; familiar flavours drawing on seasonality and provenance. Our Thursday night Test Kitchen is where we come up with a few different dishes to put on for that night only and I love our new menu of small plates designed for sharing. I know how I want a dish to taste and look like, and from there putting it together requires a little patience and a lot of feedback.’
James’ Seabass with tomato & chickpea stew
4 x seabass fillets
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced 1⁄2 thumb size piece of ginger shredded
2 red chillies thinly sliced 4 chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato puree 400g can of chickpeas 200g spinach
Olive oil and butter
Heat 2 tsp of oil in a medium pan and fry the onions over a low heat until soft. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chillies and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add in the cumin and stir. Next add in the tomatoes and puree and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the pan with 250ml of water, simmer for 10 minutes then add in the spinach and season to taste.
Now take the seabass, score the skin about every 1cm then cut in half using a sharp knife. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. When this is very hot, place the fillets in the pan, skin side down. You’ll need to hold it down to stop it curling up. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip the fish over and add 20g of butter to the pan. Use the liquid to baste the fish. After 2-3 minutes take the fish off the heat and rest for few moments before serving on top of the chickpea stew.