early morning, wild garlic

early morning, wild garlic

The old lady on the street corner is waving a bunch of bright green leaves in my face: ‘ramson’, she called it, ‘early morning, wild garlic’ fresh from her back garden. “These are organic, wild garlic shoots”, she tells me, “I picked them fresh this morning – here, nibble on this!”

“What am I going to do with them?”, I ask. “I don’t know – YOU’RE the chef!” she tells me. “THINK of something!”

But then she gets up to explain: Continue Reading

there are no secrets in cooking

there are no secrets in cooking

The sun is shining as I arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia, looking forward to another chance to work here, and try and use the ingredients and equipment I’d brought with me to try out a few new baking ideas. I was feeling relieved as we landed, the whole area had been covered in mist from the mountains  and it was not unusual for flights to be diverted to Armenia, the country next door.

The taxi driver looks behind him and says ‘Welcome back! Are you going to share more of your secrets this time?’

I think he’d asked me something similar the previous time, and I’d given a similar response. There are no secrets in cooking, I tell him, no secret recipe and no secret ingredients. Everything is possible. Just take a recipe and make it with what you have, and how you can. Enjoy it and share.

How does he know me, maybe I was in the cab once before during my last visit here? There are cows in the road ahead. I say ‘moo’ to warn him, and he swerves skilfully, while showing me my own blog on his phone. Now I realise I had mentioned it to him last time, but didn’t think he’d pay much attention to it. In a city with so many taxis about, who’d have thought I’d be picked up by the same driver again?

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easy pumpkin pasta

Plumpkin pasta (1)

easy pumpkin pasta..

….and the beauty of it all is, you don’t even need to know how to cook!
In fact, if you can BOIL some water – then you’re GOOD to go!
Don’t worry about adding salt or oil into the water – there’s really no need (I’ve seen it happen so many times, where does that come from?)
do try and TIME the boiling, so you don’t just get a soggy mass of ‘pasta jelly’ in your pot (I’ve also that too many times to mention, and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty)

with me so far? Let’s go:
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go vegan shouts the sign

go vegan shouts the sign (1)

“Go Vegan” shouts the sign
“I’m TRYING” I scream back.

I grabbed those baby brioches from yesterday, you remember the ones – full of butter, milk and a load of eggs, so there’s my vegan adventure halfway down the drain, will have to remember to use pita next time. This is important!
Make a cut. deep. sharp. serrated, but not all the way through.
Then, like a squirrel, or nimble dinosaur, I discreetly ‘borrow’ from the kitchen some carrot, celery, sundried toms, fresh cherry toms, ‘green stuff’, fresh peppers, beet leaves, chillies, spinach, cauliflower
(fresh cauliflower is crunchily amazing in this, let me tell you!)

Go vegan shouts the sign, smiling with pride: “I’m TRYING” I keep shouting back, with a spoonful of olive oil and some sea salt and black pepper.

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gorgonzola and roast fennel

gorgonzola and roast fennel

Happy new year to everyone. There have been quite a fe people getting in touch asking what I’ve been up to and where I’m going next. I think it’s going to be a year of gorgonzola and roast fennel, that’s for sure, and what I mean by that, I suppose, is that I’m going to have more of an opportunity to develop, create and play around with more ideas, and generally have a lot more fun!

Back to the gorgonzola and roast fennel thing, it’s not just about flying in, handing over a couple of recipes, baking a few cakes and then flying back out again to the next job. It doesn’t work that way, almost never does. I wish it could be that simple!

Lots of techniques and systems need to be put into place, building motivation and enthusiasm for a project until a team are ready to take things by themselves. Fledgling students learning to fly high with confidence, skill and speed. That’s where the real satisfaction comes from.

And my work here is done!

Thanks to everyone for your continued support, happy new year 2014!

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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