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.
Continue Reading

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…

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

Continue Reading

that thing you do: a quick breakfast at home

berry tartelette - how do you do that
How do you do that? she asked, that funny look on her face.

Do what?

“That! That thing. you’ve done it again. creating something from nothing, making stuff like this…”

What are you talking about?

“I’ve just been to that fridge, couldn’t have been more than ten minutes ago – it was almost empty”

Well, there were a couple of things in there, you know. I thought we’d grab a quick breakfast at home before heading out.

“I know, but I don’t remember seeing all THIS stuff!”

You’ve just got to look for it and see what you can create. You see, I know how to look for it and make something that should work well together.

(She seemed suitably impressed, or at least my explanation convinced her I didn’t have a secret second fridge hidden away in the back)

I continued, feeling invincible now, i mean – everyone’s got these almond tart shells around – they’ll keep for days – hmmm, they are so good. And I just covered them with a little

white chocolate, you know, that one you nibble all the time when you’re reading?
(Without sharing, I wanted to add). and this is what to do next

winter cake and sandwiches

closed for winter

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