Chef’s Dish: Lesley Draper talks to chef Marco Caires

Cricket Inn Marco
Cricket Inn Marco

Sun, seafood and a view of the Cricket

Midsummer’s Day has come and gone with hardly a break in the clouds – but Marco Caires is bringing his own brand of sunshine to Sheffield thanks to a new menu with a difference...

Cricket Inn

Cricket Inn

Marco, head chef at the Cricket Inn in Totley, is originally from Madeira. And he is introducing a flavour of the Portuguese archipelago to the leafy city suburb by juxtaposing pub-menu favourites with classic Mediterranean cuisine.

So alongside the ale pot pie and fish & chips are more exotic-sounding dishes such as Cozido Portuguese – a rustic ragout of ham hock, chorizo and belly pork – or Madeira-style egg custard tart with marinated strawberries.

Diners have Marco’s mother to thank for the Continental inspiration: “Whenever I want to introduce a new dish, I always call her first!” he says.

The Cricket Inn is one of the mainstays of Sheffield’s BrewKitchen group: a collaboration between the award-winning Thornbridge Brewery and master chef Richard Smith.

Cricket Inn

Cricket Inn

Over the last decade the group has expanded to include a changing portfolio of pubs and restaurants, from the Rose Garden Café in Graves Park and the Beauchief Hotel, to Ecclesall Road landmarks Graze Inn and the new Smith & Baker dining room.

But when the sun finally makes an appearance, it is the Cricket Inn, overlooking the village green, which proves a draw for anyone wanting to nurse a pint or a glass of wine while enjoying the quintessentially English thwack of leather on willow.

Good food and great beers are the winning partnership here – with Marco’s menu adding the touch of spice.

“For me, that’s what sets the Cricket Inn apart: the breadth of dishes, from classic to modern, and the ability to add something to the menu that you’re really passionate about,” he says.

Marco worked previously at the Alderley Edge Hotel, where his food found favour in some lofty places.

“I regularly cooked for Sir Alex Ferguson when he popped in and we’d often watch the Champions League matches on the kitchen TV while sitting on crates of beer!” he says. “Fergie loved my fish and chips.”

The former United boss would no doubt approve of his current signature dish – Cataplana – an Algarve-style fish stew or tagine named after the copper, clam-shaped cookware it’s traditionally cooked in.

“It’s a versatile sharing dish and great for entertaining,” says Marco. “All you need is hunks of bread to dip and dunk... and a plate of Portuguese custard tarts to follow!”

Recipe by Marco Caires

Cataplana seafood stew (serves 8)

Ingredients

Stock Base:

1 cooked lobster

2 medium onions, sliced

2 sticks of celery, chopped

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 vanilla pod

80g tomato puree

6 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered

1 red chilli, halved

Zest of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 oranges

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

One shot of brandy

2.2 kg tinned chopped tomatoes

Sprig of fresh parsley

3tblsp olive oil

Salt & pepper

Cataplana:

500g salmon, cut into bite-sized chunks

16 raw tiger prawns, peeled and deveined

500g fresh cod, cut into bite-sized chunks

200g white pasteurised crab meat, flaked

8 cooked new potatoes, quartered

200g garden peas

1 lemon

Sprig of fresh parsley

Method:

1. Remove all meat from lobster. Put the lobster shells in the oven for 10 minutes at 180ºC.

2. Prepare all vegetables and place in a hot pan with oil. Sweat until softened and just golden.

3. Add the lobster shells, tomato purée, lemon and orange peel, and the vanilla pod.

4. Pour on the shot of brandy and ignite (be careful with flames). Once the flame burns out, add salt and pepper and the chopped tomatoes.

5. Cook on a low heat for approx. 3 hours, stirring regularly and adding extra water as necessary, to prevent the mixture from sticking.

6. After 3 hours, the mixture will have thickened and reduced by half. Drain through a fine sieve and discard all the vegetables.

7. Place the sieved stock base in a clean pan; add the salmon, cod, tiger prawns, new potatoes and peas.

8. Simmer very gently until all the fish is cooked – 5-10 minutes – and the prawns have changed colour.

9. Gently fold in the lobster meat and flaked crab. Garnish with lemon and parsley.

To Serve:

Serve with hunks of bread or rice.