I live deep in the English countryside in a house with a dog and an aga. I’m the Marketing Director of an engineering firm; I have a family; and not a lot of time.
Broad combinations of ingredients
Liberal use of alcohol
I am sorry to have to admit that I have a cavalier attitude to time and timings (‘it’s not black… it’s just a bit brûlé). And I’m equally louche about weighing and measuring – I tend to slosh, with some abandon, particularly when it comes to olive oil or anything alcoholic. I’m with Lesley Blanch when she says:
“Without wishing to urge my readers to alcoholic excesses, I suggest they regard water, as such, with suspicion. It ruins many good foods if not kept firmly in its place-which to my mind is the washing-up bowl. Bubble, bubble, boil and trouble might be the average English cook’s motto…. Fish, for example, is excellent poached in cider instead of water: many meats are best simmered in red wine, or even ale….The addition of a little cognac, sherry, Marsala, or rum to sauces and many other dishes is very desirable”.
Robust recipes which are more of a theme than a prescription; quality ingredients will carry the day
I love breaking rules and I never follow a recipe slavishly – for me cooking is more about knocking up an interesting mix of flavours and textures than producing something disciplined and perfect. Food should look attractive but not contrived…. and there should be enough of it.
The result is that the recipes here are robust, they’ve been put through the wringer as it were. Unless we’re talking steak, a few extra minutes here or there should not make too much difference. And wherever possible I have devised them to use standard, complete packets in order to avoid unidentified bowls growing mushrooms in your fridge.
I’m with the French-Canadian cook, Madame Benoit, when she philosophises,
“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with variation.”
And I’m even more with food historian, Mary Prior, when she says
“….if you use good ingredients, even if you fail to produce the dish of your dreams, unless you have burnt it to a cinder, it will almost certainly taste wonderful, and may even open your eyes to new possibilities”.
I abhor washing up, and whatever can be done to minimise that can only be a Good Thing. So, again, I structure recipes to reuse bowls and pans wherever possible.
Not above short cuts
My morals, when it comes to cheating at cooking, are also somewhat loose. I’m not above instant mash, tinned confit, Angel Delight, jars of rhubarb conserve….. stock cubes, Marmite….. just as long as it tastes sublime. Life Is, after all, Too Short.
I’m not worried about eating healthily (I know I should be) however I do strive for quality and flavour and that usually means fresh and naturally produced.
No standing at the stove for hours
I don’t like to cook for hours, but a quarter of an hour or so tranquilly chopping, sifting, stirring, with some good music and a glass of wine to hand is something to be savoured. Wherever possible I incorporate preparation within cooking time.
Where I get my ideas
Instead I tend to pick up culinary knowledge magpie-wise. About half of my time is spent travelling so a lot of inspiration comes from peering into foreign shop windows and browsing around exotic markets. If I see anything intriguing I can’t resist sampling and investigating.
I also get ideas from novels (detectives seem to be especially hot in the kitchen), from films and plays, from concerts, art exhibitions and dance performances, even from scientific papers and historical essays…. nothing is safe.
I’m not a professional cook, although I’ve been on every short course imaginable from Rick Stein in Cornwall via Mama Agata in Italy, to Cook in Shanghai in China.
But having owned a hotel and been a shareholder in another, I have a hearty respect for the professionals – they spend hours every day plying their trade – and if I can cut short a steep learning curve by taking their advice then I’m excited and delighted. I carefully choose all the guest contributors and interviewees – many are respected individuals from within the hospitality industry bursting with advice, ideas and enthusiasm.
I don’t accept money from anyone for any content.
If any of this resonates with you there’s a good chance you’ll find something on this blog to interest you, or make you smile. I hope you enjoy it.
Si vous n’êtes pas capable d’un peu de sorcellerie, ce n’est pas la peine de vous mêler de cuisine”