peppers in Siberia

peppers in Siberia

I spent the whole weekend looking for peppers in Siberia. It’s not the easiest thing to do, with the weather and general supply of products available. Why exactly did I need peppers this weekend? The idea was to flame-roast them in all their colours and add them to a mouthwatering spinach and sour cream quiche I’d been dreaming of all that week…

I thought that would hit the spot with a salad and a bright winter’s afternoon. I kept thinking back to those conversations where people keep telling me I should be eating meat while living in Russia, that living as a vegetarian here was nearly impossible. I should just forget it. Then I shook my head again and went back to the (constant) challenge of finding peppers in Siberia. Sometimes determination can give you the answer. Sometimes, you just go home freezing cold.
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Vegetarian in Russia

vegetarian in Russia

Keep your oven temperatures under control!
A lot of people keep TELLING me how hard it must be to eat as a vegetarian in Russia.

Give me some roast vegetables, milk, butter, cream, eggs and flour and I’ll survive.
Maybe some sea salt, black pepper and fresh lemon, too…

It’s very easy to be a vegetarian in Russia.

As I said, keep you oven temperatures under control and, as always, measure your ingredients carefully.
roast plumpkin quiche…

carrot coriander cress salad

cress carrot coriander salad

 

Take the simplest of summer ingredients for a carrot coriander cress salad and a great looking summer meal. Then get back to me and we’ll cook some more!

But there’s the question, isn’t it? What do we really mean when I say ‘simple’ ingredients? What is simple to me could be exotic to you: peppercorns
were regularly traded as currency and historically were more valuable than gold! Am I trying to say a ‘summer meal’ is different to a ‘winter meal’ or just that there’s less of it…? This could become complicated, but really doesn’t need to be:

Cress, coriander, carrot, lime, flax or olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds… (a little summer sunshine also helps a little)

How do we get those long strips – we can’t cut like that? Is it a ‘dry’ salad – isn’t there any dressing? What are the proportions – how many carrots? Isn’t it too bland -can I add some cheese or mayo for ‘flavour’? Is this a ‘raw’ salad? I can’t eat that – where’s the meat? Can I have some more?

These are some of the questions I was asked at a local demo class a short while ago. You see, one thing is just throwing a few ingredients together and hope it’ll work out fine. Another thing totally is to be able to grab a few simple summer ingredients, combine then in both an attractive AND tasty way, and believe that some of the class will be intrigued enough to try and make it again.

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busy red velvet birthday cake

red velvet busy birthday cake

A recipe for making a busy red velvet birthday cake on a packed, non-stop Saturday in the bakery. Caramelised pecans included, but definitely not for the faint-hearted…

This story reminds me of the people we constantly work with and the food we share. In a restaurant, bakery, hotel, cafe or wherever, there is a team of people working in close proximity, facing the ups and downs of the day as a collective and, despite the stress and hard work, making the most of those shared moments to improve their day.

A busy non-stop Saturday in the bakery. Doors open at 08:00 and immediately a steady flow of hungry regulars, new faces, breakfast crowds, curious readers of online reviews, others who simply like the look of the cakes from outside and decide to come inside. Continue Reading

coconut porridge while waiting for a bus

coconut porridge while waiting for a bus

 

An old friend had come to visit and cook with me for a few days.

We were planning to make some porridge for an early breakfast, before heading to market, only we’d run out of milk – why did that always seem to happen first thing in the morning?

In a moment of inspiration, I thought about adding coconut milk for flavour and texture.  (Inspiration, and also a lonely can forgotten at the back of the cupboard)

Who knows, it could work, it might not – but just in case, I added a teaspoon of freshly grated coconut. (Inspiration plus desperation?)

“Do you know, that in some islands they use coconuts while waiting for a bus?”  I’m not entirely sure why I asked that question, almost rhetorical. Maybe I felt there was a need, in my ‘role’ as a travelling chef, to offer tales and adventures from around the world, as if to prove I was who I said I was.

 

There was a blank stare and raised eyebrows, as if to say ‘huh?’ “You mean they sit on coconuts while waiting for a bus? Or do they use them as payment for the bus ride?” she asked. “And anyway, where exactly are people doing this kind of coconut bus waiting?”

I added a little boiling water to the oats, let it soak for a couple of minutes, then added a can of coconut milk. So far so good

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a leap of faith: boiling syrup for an Italian meringue

boiling syrup: a leap of fait

we’ve only just met.
And I’m interested in your hands…
Cold enough? Are they cold enough for a leap of faith?

We’re making the usual small talk:
life, work, sugar and chocolate
How long have you been studying the magic of the desserts
and
Oh yes, I have that cookbook in my kitchen, too
covered in flour, butter, eggs and soup!

At the stove now. Things getting warmer.
Temperatures rising. Clean pan. clean sugar, cold water no stirring.
bring to a boil. Quickly now!
And your hands – are they HOT or COLD?

You see, it matters, don’t you realise?
When you finally take the plunge, you WILL understand
it’s about the temperature and about the timing.
118C is the heat and 118C is the moment

Elsewhere egg whites whisking… Can you hear the mixer?

and I know that we’ve only just met.
but your hands, are they cold enough?
Are they cold enough for a leap of faith?

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