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
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
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?
her lips were red.
I mean, full, dark red, just like that sun dried tomato pesto that we were eating. I wondered to myself if there actually WAS a lipstick colour called sun dried tomato pesto or something – that would be funny, you wouldn’t know whether to eat it or wear it!
there’s just a little bit of chilli in there, to give it a bit of heat – can you feel it – I asked her…
I like food that has flavour. This is great focaccia, by the way – soft and lots of taste
she told me. then she continued:
none of this bland stuff they keep feeding me, salads and oil, potatoes and butter, fish and cream. I mean, what is THAT all about?
I can tell you from just one taste what’s going on in this stuff you’ve made, which I’m quite happy to slather over my bread – is IS focaccia, isn’t it?
I can definitely taste pine nuts, toasted, right? There’s olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, cheese – tastes like Pecorino, am I right? Then there’s the chilli you mentioned, definitely more than a little bit, but just the right amount. And you haven’t used completely dried tomatoes, have you, seems to me to be those soft, fluffy “sun-blushed’ ones
This girl was good. Oh yeah, she was very good! How could she have known all that? I mean, OK, it wasn’t an exclusive recipe, pretty straightforward in a way. I made it regularly enough – throw everything in one of those hand blender attachments, whizz it for a minute or two, season to taste and it’s done. But I’d been making it for a long while and almost felt like it was mine, the taste, the texture, the colour. I could make it with my eyes closed. So how had SHE known what I was doing? continue reading to find out how she knew the recipe
…and everything freezes, I can still hear the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, waiters rushing by with their trays, the chef shouting for the sauce, plates on the passe ready to be whisked away, something bubbling on the back burner, something else sizzling at the front, the oven alarm sounds, it’s the cue to bring everything together, a synchronised motion of the entire kitchen team to get the plates out into the dining room.
this time, things don’t go to plan. Slowly the crowd is forming around me. Continue Reading
I was busy that morning, so I couldn’t talk too long when she called.
There was a new menu item that no one had even SEEN before, let alone ever tasted, so I really need to get it prepared immediately. After that, served to all the staff and managers and make sure they knew exactly what it was they were trying to sell!
I remember one waitress telling a customer that Eton Mess was “just like strawberries, cream and meringues that had fallen on the floor and you’d scooped them back up onto the plate before anyone saw you”. No, actually that was a real story, not something I’d heard from a friend of a friend…
“So, what time are you free?” she asked. We arranged to meet at that little French place ‘Le Pul’ or something, it was called. They served cake and sandwiches – good coffee, too. Pretty central and not too far from my place. I didn’t really feel like going to a restaurant that evening, I was probably going to be preparing and eating new dishes most of the day so wouldn’t be hungry at all anyway.
I’d been there a couple of times. First of all, the visa place was right across the street so I’d waited here while they went through to make sure all my paperwork was in order. One time I had spent the morning in the museum and was starving and found a tasty sandwich that was made well. Continue Reading
If you take a quick look at the logo at the top of the page with the tag line ‘cook your way round the world’, you’ll notice straightaway how it differs from the one in the picture at the top of this post (look lower! Yes there! That’s better!)
It took me a while to think of the original idea, the logo, the colours and the ‘tag line’ which was rather adventurous-sounding:’not all who wander are lost’ – I am master of my destiny! Took me half the night to put together the logo itself on a unknown photo editing programme, because I’d never done anything like that before. It had a hint of travel, adventure, explorer and a generally enviable lifestyle in exotic locations but all with a greater purpose. Continue Reading