Camden's cool for Katz

A young chef is wowing north London diners with an Israeli speciality


Shakshuka: Josh Katz borrowed the recipe from Israeli backpackers

Shakshuka: Josh Katz borrowed the recipe from Israeli backpackers

For bringing Israel's favourite egg dish, shak- shuka, to north London, we have not just chef Josh Katz to thank but his parents.

When Josh told his mother and father that instead of planning to follow them into the professions, his passion lay with food, their response was not to wring their hands but to treat him to a Cordon Bleu course.

Even so, it took nearly 10 years to overcome doubts that cheffing was a job for a nice Jewish boy before Katz arrived at The Roundhouse, where, as one of London's most promising young chefs, he presides over Made in Camden, the first restaurant the performance space has ever had, and one which proudly serves shakshuka.

"There was just a cafe here before, but now we serve lunch and dinner and breakfast at weekends," says the history and politics graduate who is now working barely a mile away from his old school, UCS.

The move completes a circle which took him to Australia, where his foodie passion became an obsession, and back again, in the decade since he started confounding room-mates at Birmingham University.

"Instead of baked beans on toast I was making stroganoff, or Jamie Oliver's seared yellowfin tuna with soy sauce," he confesses. "I put it down to a home where we enjoyed big Friday night dinners, big Sunday lunches and ate out a lot in restaurants.

Katz: passion for food

Katz: passion for food

"Perhaps that's why my parents, who are keen cooks, sent me to the Cordon Bleu - or perhaps it's because they have always been supportive."

Josh himself was less convinced he should abandon a conventional path, using his new cooking skills to put himself through a master's in business - and eat his way across Sydney. "I worked in a gourmet burger joint and spent everything I earned on restaurants.

"I loved the way their cooking was about the best ingredients and fusing influences from all over the world." Yet when he came home he went into a marketing job he had no heart for. After taking time out for yet more foodie explorations in South America, Katz finally wrote to five top London chefs asking if at 24 he was too old to start cooking.

"Only Gordon Ramsay gave me the brush-off; all the others sent back encouraging letters, and the Galvin brothers invited me to work in the kitchen of their Baker Street bistro for a week. At the end they offered me a job. I stayed 15 months."

Convinced that the only way for a nice Jewish boy to make a living from food was in catering, Katz spent a miserable year doing canapés ("making 400 of the same thing drove me crazy"). Surprisingly, his worst large-scale gig was Bruce Springsteen's European tour: "They had a very small budget.

"Springsteen demanded watermelon which had to be de-seeded, and I had to make a chicken soup absolutely nothing like the one my mother makes."

Finally, Katz got into his stride at Ottolenghi, loving the fusion of Mediterranean and Asian influences, and enjoying a happy time as sous-chef before bidding for his own kitchen at the Roundhouse.

Surprisingly, his wonderfully spicy shakshuka comes not from his Israeli former employer, Yotam Ottolenghi, but Israeli backpackers he met in Australia. "They were always cooking it up at our digs. But here in London I just call it baked eggs."

Other signature dishes include pumpkin risotto and mackerel with beetroot mousse and an apple wasabi slaw.

Katz often finds himself serving his father the radiologist, his mother the psychotherapist and the two brothers who followed more conventional paths, relieving him of his early compulsion to do the same. "And they all seem to be quite proud of what I've done here," he says, with a hint of surprise in his voice.

Josh Katz's Shakshuka

Serves four

Ingredients

● 2 tbsp olive oil
● 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
● 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
● 1 red pepper chopped
● 1 red chilli, finely chopped
● 2 tsp smoked paprika, smoked
● 1 tbsp. tomato puree
● 1 50g tin plum tomatoes
● 1 tsp chilli flakes
● Salt and pepper
● 8 eggs
● 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
● 4 tsp Greek yoghurt
● Paprika to garnish

Method

● Preheat oven to 180°C, then sweat onions and garlic in olive oil until softened.
● Add pepper and chilli and cook down for 5-7 minutes until pepper softens, stirring regularly.
● Add paprika and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes.
● Add tomatoes and chilli flakes, bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-20 minutes, seasoning to taste.
● Transfer sauce to a wide frying pan able to accommodate 8 eggs, or divide between 2 pans.
● Bring sauce to simmer then crack eggs into a well.
● Cook for 1-2 minutes then transfer to oven for a further 5-7 minutes.
● The eggs are cooked when the white is set but the yolk remains runny.
● To serve, remove pan from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and dot with dollops of yoghurt. Scatter with a pinch of paprika and drizzle with olive oil.
● Serve with toasted or grilled sourdough bread.

    Last updated: 11:38am, January 7 2011