Head chef at one of Warrington’s best-known restaurants Rick Barlow talks Keith Floyd, scallops and bread and butter pudding

Name: Rick Barlow  

Job: Head chef at Spirit Restaurant, Warrington

The essential ingredient in the kitchen is….

Definitely salt. No matter the quality of your produce, if it’s not seasoned, there’s no way you can bring out the true flavour. It sometimes gets a bad reputation but used properly, salt is vital to any chef.

The first kitchen I worked in….

Was the Bistro in Monton, west Manchester. I got a job as a kitchen porter when I was 14 and at the time I hadn’t really thought about a career in food.

A couple of years later I had left college, enrolled at catering college and the rest is history.

The first dish I prepared for service was….

Probably bread and butter pudding.

It’s hard to remember the first dish I prepared for service because in my early years of training to be a chef, you get to work on so many sections.

The signature dish people associate me with....

Could be anything!

I like to think I don’t have one signature dish because the food that influences me and my cooking changes regularly.

For me, the best thing about working in an independent restaurant is that I’m free to use flavours and ingredients from different cuisines from all over the world – and that’s reflected in the menu.

If I had to pick one thing though, it would be our roasted scallops with five-spice braised pork cheeks.

It’s been on the menu since November and everyone who tries it seems to love it.

My biggest kitchen disaster was….

Probably almost burning down a kitchen that I used to work in. In my defence I was only young but I left a stock pot boiling on full power overnight.

When I returned in the morning the kitchen was full of smoke and the pan had melted.

The head chef was not happy!

My favourite chefs are….

Keith Floyd and Raymond Blanc. They have so much personality and passion and that really comes across in their food. They’re also not pretentious like some young TV chefs can be. They use quality ingredients and they want their food to be full of flavour. It’s exactly what we’re trying to do at Spirit.

Away from the kitchen my favourite meal is….

Something Middle Eastern. At the moment I’m loving the Palomar Cookbook and I’m making a lot of curries.

My tips for making a perfect Easter roast are

Take your time over the meat and don’t use too many ingredients. A few things done well is much better than scrambling to get ten things on a plate.

My ideal restaurant dinner guests...

Tony Soprano, Keith Floyd, Nicole Scherzinger, Steve Coogan and Leonardo Dicaprio.

HERE is my recipe for the perfect Easter Sunday treat – slow cooked roast lamb, boulangere potatoes and, of course, my homemade mint sauce.


Roast lamb: Shoulder of lamb (bone in)

4 sprigs of Rosemary

4 cloves of garlic

1 lemon (zest only)

1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large glass of dry white wine

Boulangere potatoes:

1.5kg thinly sliced potatoes – Maris Pipers

2 white onions (thinly sliced)

300ml chicken stock

1/2 tsp salt

100g softened butter

Rick’s homemade mint sauce:

100g mint chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp capers

1 tsp honey

1 tsp malt vinegar

2 tbsp light olive oil

2 tbsp water

What to do with them

1 Kick things off by pre-heating your oven to 140 degrees c.

2 Chop the rosemary and garlic and combine with seasoning, lemon zest and olive oil in a blender or by hand.

3 Rub this marinade over your lamb and place in a baking dish, cover with foil and cook in pre-heated oven for four hours.

4 Meanwhile, combine ingredients for mint sauce, add to blender and

blitz to a smooth paste. If it looks a little dry, add more water.

5 Thinly slice potatoes and place them, along with the sliced onions, in

a heavy baking tray, taking care to make sure the slices are over lapping and each layer is well seasoned.

6 Gradually add the stock and finish by brushing with softened butter.

7 After four hours, remove lamb from the oven and discard foil, then

pour a large glass of white wine over the meat.

8 Place the meat back in the oven along with the potatoes, turn the heat up to 180 degrees and cook for another hour.

9 Remove from oven and leave the meat to rest for 30 minutes. While

meat is resting, you can switch the oven off and leave the potatoes in

there to keep warm