Mo Bro Chef Ivan Varian
As a professional DJ, Ivan was a relatively late starter in the professional culinary world, but Ivan has already built up an impressive bank of experience from a foodie upbringing. From fulfilling a lifetime dream to become a chef following a recession led redundancy from the Audio Visual industry, Ivan trained in the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. He since has worked in all grades of kitchen at all levels, from Michelin Star to personal cheffing with the Le Brocquey and Cavendish households and running his own successful catering company. He also spends his time on such diverse food-related ventures such as curating the food-related exhibition, Edible, in the Science Gallery, to giving several lectures on food ethics and providence, being a brand ambassador for Kraft foods as well as appearing in national press and radio. In his spare time Ivan is still an avid DJ, music blogger and personal chef to his greatest critics, his two daughters, Lulu and Anna.
What’s your favourite cooking music?
Well I dj quite a bit so music is of a huge influence to me, some of my mixes can be found at www.mixcloud.com/ivanvarian but I really love to listen to early Motown, some bay-area hip hop, and gypsy jazz. It’s these styles of music which infuse a warmth and comfort which I’d like to think is reflected in my cooking.
What’s you best bit of advice for Mo Bros?
Once you know a recipe, experiment. Let your instinct guide you and your palate speak to you. Cook with love and soul and every dish will be a winner.
What’s your craziest kitchen story?
There’s a few but I wouldn’t want to get libelous. One was I was working in a high volume restaurant, about 260 covers a night,that had an open kitchen. One night, the circuit that fed the lighting went. This was ok for the diners as they already had candles at their tables but it was impossible to plate nearly anything, candles everywhere near the pass and lots of cursing. An experience not to be repeated.
Ivan’s Herb Crusted John Dory with a Curried Mussel Broth
6 John Dory fillets
2 shallots, sliced
A sprig of thyme
A bay leaf
2 glasses of dry white wine
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp of curry powder
450ml fish stock
450ml Noilly Prat vermouth
200ml double cream
150g white bread
A handful of basil
A handful of parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
• Break up the bread and place it in a blender with the parsley, basil, lemon zest, some salt and pepper and a glug of olive oil. Blitz for a few minutes until it becomes fine crumbs. Put to one side.
• Scrub the mussels with a wire brush to get the gunk off. Use the back of a knife to remove any barnacles and remove the hairy, wispy bit that’s technically known as the ‘beard’, but for this recipe we shall call it the ‘Mo’. Discard any mussels that don’t close when tapped or else they may be the last shellfish you and your guests are brave enough to eat.
• Place a large, heavy based pan on a high heat and pour in a bit of olive oil, some sliced shallots, the sprig of thyme and the bay leaf. Fry until the shallots are softened. Turn up the heat to its highest setting and add in your mussels along with a glass of white wine – and have a glass yourself. Put the lid on and give the pan a shake. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Remove from the heat and take the mussel meat from the shells. Discard the shells and any mussels that haven’t opened, while keeping both the meat and the cooking liquor that remain in the pan.
• On a medium heat, pour some olive oil into a pan and add in your diced carrot, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook until nicely softened. Add in the curry powder and the saffron and stir. Pour in the Noilly Prat and turn up the heat. Boil it until the liquid has reduced by half and then add your fish stock and cooking juices from the mussels. Reduce it again by half and then stir in the cream and add the mussel meat. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat and set aside.
• Heat a large frying pan and get it smoking hot. Add a touch of olive oil and then add your John Dory fillets, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper. Press down on the fillets to stop them curling up and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip them over and cook for a minute on the flesh side. Place them onto a grill tray, skin side down. Pat your breadcrumb mix onto the flesh side of the fish – if it’s too crumbly add more olive oil. Place it under a medium grill for a few minutes until the crust goes nicely golden, but watch it like a hawk or else it’ll burn.
Pour the mussel broth into shallow bowls and place the fish on top. Serve to your guests with a swagger and a twirl of your Mo.