Welcome to Chef Crush, our foodie series where some of the industry’s finest share their expert tips with us. In this instalment, founder of Freak Scene, Scott Hallsworth shares his must-have ingredients, and how to make perfectly crispy sweetcorn tempura…
The chef: Scott Hallsworth, founder of Freak Scene
The story: Previously Head Chef at Nobu and founder of Kurobuta, Scott opened Freak Scene in March 2018 following its success as a pop up in Clerkenwell last year. Freak Scene takes inspiration from bustling Singaporean hawker centres with a South East Asian-inspired menu.
The philosophy: ‘Mixing up the London food scene with ‘Curious Asian Plates’, and of course, sake-bombs!’
The plan: ‘I’m keen to bring something similar from Frith St to the festival scene.’
The can’t-live-without ingredient: ‘I couldn’t live without Japanese soy sauce. It’s such a versatile seasoning and adds umami [savoury flavour] to anything. It can be used in a marinade or in a stir fry… It has so many purposes, that’s why it’s an essential.’
Easy way to impress: ‘A good cheat ingredient is kombu, a giant kelp that grows in ocean, in the north of Japan. It’s packed with umami and has been around for centuries; Japanese chemist, Professor Ikeda, first isolated the properties that it contains to provide its umami taste in 1907. It gives everything a quick boost, whether it’s in a marinade or a soup. It’s really easy to get hold of on the internet.’
How to perk up a lunchbox: ‘Nori, the Japanese seaweed, is a great substitute for wraps. You can fill a couple of sheets of nori with anything – sticky rice, avocado, or vegetables – and it makes a savoury, crispy wrap that’s ideal for an alternative lunch on the go.’
Why we love Scott: He makes food fun – and photogenic – as well as delicious. Freak Scene has a really upbeat vibe (with super-friendly staff – seats are at the counter by the open kitchen so you can watch the chefs work their magic.) We loved the fresh mix of flavours in the colourful and eye-catching dishes – favourites include the miso frilled black cod tacos and the perfectly cooked scallops. A brilliant addition to the buzzy Soho restaurant scene.
The recipe: Sweetcorn tempura
FOR THE BATTER
150g tempura flour
25g potato starch (corn starch would do)
260ml ice cold water
1 egg yolk
You will need a small deep fryer or pan of oil that safely holds about 1-1.5 litres of oil, such as rapeseed.
FOR THE CORN FRITTER MIX
4 heads of sweetcorn, husk removed
150g white onion, cut into 2mm thick half moons
4 lengths of spring onion, cut on a diagonal, about 4-5cm in length
Tempura flour to dust the above
FOR THE GARNISH (COVERS ALL FOUR SERVINGS)
Half a small red onion, sliced thinly, washed well in cold water, drained well
1 large green chilli, sliced into thin rounds
1 lettuce or nappa cabbage leaf
¼ bunch of coriander, leaves picked, stems discarded
1 wedge of lemon
- Combine the tempura flour and potato starch and mix. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the ice cold water and the egg yolk. Whisk until combined. Don’t over whisk or the batter will lose its crunchy appeal – a few small lumps in tempura batter is perfectly acceptable. Keep refrigerated until required.
- Combine sweetcorn, onion and spring onion and toss in a handful of tempura flour. Shake it about in a large mixing bowl until all veg are well coated. Now pour in the ice cold tempura batter and, using your hands, mix it thoroughly through the veg mix.
- Heat oil to 180 deg c in small deep fryer or pan.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop up a full spoons worth of mixture and drop into the hot oil. Do 5 or 6 of these at a time. The tempura nuggets will start to look golden and float when they’re ready – about 3-4 min is all it takes. Repeat until all of the mixture is used up. (Alternatively, the mixture will hold well if kept refrigerated but not for more than a day.)
- Drain the tempura well on absorbent paper then serve immediately in individual bowls atop a lettuce or Napa cabbage leaf. Top with plenty of sliced red onion, chilli rounds and coriander. Throw a wedge of lemon on the side and serve it up whilst it’s still hot and crunchy.
Freak Scene can be found at 54 Frith Street in Soho; freakscene.london