We’ve all been there…

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Thoughts

My partner shared this (n.b. that is where all the flour went) with me today, and I have to admit, I’m surprised The Guardian hasn’t pushed out an article like this sooner! It’s about time someone did an opinion piece showcasing the reality of most kitchens during lockdown.

All we see on Instagram are people baking sourdough for the first time, with their #newstarter, and somehow #winning with #firstsourdough and #foodporn. None of these things go together. Like #justmoved and #iknowwhereipackedmykettle. I don’t care who you are, you’re lying.

It really made me think about all those people who, for the past 3 months, have been made to feel grossly inadequate in a whole new way. It’s one thing failing at a badly written un-tested recipe (you’d be AMAZED how many cookbooks are comprised of untested recipes…or perhaps, given your experience, you wouldn’t be…) privately in your own secret dark place. It’s a whole other thing when you feel like you’re under some weird imagined spotlight where everyone is suddenly an artisanal baker, and you’re the only one not getting it.

Genuinely, don’t panic. You’re not the only one not getting it. We’ve all been there. It’s not even your fault.

It’s galvanised more than ever my desire to create something to really empower people and inspire true home chefs to be all they can be. Yes it’s lovely watching a fancy chef make something out of dehydrated algae and sous vide watermelon, but let be honest: is that really making you more confident in the kitchen? Don’t get me wrong, ‘Chef’s Table’ is addictive viewing for a reason – who doesn’t want to watch the unicorns and their stories about how they found their way. But personally, I’d always wonder: who is this made for? If it’s not genuinely made for you, do the noble thing, and tap out. I’d like to say there are plenty of chefs (and TV producers) out there who really care about people like you cooking better, and engaging with produce in a way which not only coincides with safeguarding the future of the planet but also leaves you feeling empowered and a better cook. But, they’re about as rare as someone willing to admit that they suck at baking on social media when everyone else is #nailingit.

The good news is: you tried something new. The better news is: there’s a whole community like you. The great news is: I’m actively engaging with that community, solely because I love people becoming actively more engaged with anything and everything as a direct result of my passions.

#wegotthis

WeCook is Live on Airbnb!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in New Horizons

Today, Airbnb unveils a new curated collection of Online Cooking Experiences hosted by Michelin-starred and world-renowned chefs. This new collection of Cooking Experiences provides a peek behind the counter at the unique recipes and techniques of top-rated chefs—and guidance to whip-up a gastronomic storm in your very own kitchen.

I’ve been invited to be part of this, with 29 others, out of literally thousands of chefs all over the world doing this on Airbnb—I couldn’t be more thrilled!

It allows me so much more time to focus on developing the experiences, rather than spending 90% of the time managing Eventbrite and writing emails! It’s impossible to express how enthusiastic I am at the prospect of eliminating swathes of admin!! Incidentally, if anyone LOVES admin, get in touch….

Airbnb hasn’t quite worked out the logistics of how I will change my dishes yet…but in the meantime, I’ve gone for a dish that I love inspired by Anna Del Conte.

Super simple, pretty classy, delicious…a dish which really hammers home the importance of seasonality and good produce.

My Airbnb Online Experience page is here, keep checking back for developments!

First attempt at homemade poppadoms: perfect when you’ve a lot of time on your hands…

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Cooking
(Tested and proven recipe on the recipes page )

First things first – message Indian friend to ask for any pro tips on how to make successful popadoms, “the trick is to try and roll them as thin as possible. And the dough needs to be quite tight, but a little wetter than pasta dough. Also the key is to knead it really well, so that it doesn’t fall apart when you try and roll as there is no gluten in gram flour”.

Right here goes. Luckily I had half a bag of gram flour in the cupboard, not something I normally have to hand, but it’s been there a while and I haven’t known what to do with it. Making the dough was actually quite straight forward, I mixed it together (loved the spice addition) and then used the kitchen aid to do the kneading for me. Rolling was not fun and I found it hard to keep an even circular shape, but after making the decision they were just going to be “rustic” popadoms I felt more relaxed and went with it. The recipe then suggested sun drying these super thin circles of dough to extract a lot of the moisture. I did attempt the sun drying technique, however I think Indian summers and Yorkshire spring sunshine is not comparable. So after an hour of leaving the little guys outside (and protecting them from the birds) I used option number 2 and dried them for a couple of hours in a low low oven. 

Once dry, but not too dry so that there are cracks at the edges (literally never thought so hard about a popadom before – something I take for granted that comes in a packet and is a delicious fast food) I was ready for frying. I do enjoy a deep fried bite, but not something I do often at home as I hate the smell that frying leaves behind. So after opening all the windows of the kitchen and shutting the doors so that the rest of the house doesn’t smell like a chippy, I was ready for the moment of truth.

After my whole day of preparation the cooking was relatively fast. Interesting advice taken from the recipe “the oil should be hot, but not smoking; a drop of water flicked into the pan should sizzle immediately” – just a word of warning NEVER EVER TRY THIS AT HOME, hot oil and water are never suppose to be together, ever! If you want to test your oil, just gently drop some of whatever your frying into the oil and see if it starts to bubble. My poppadoms were probably cooking for 10 seconds on each side, until they formed a few bubbles, coloured slightly and were crispy. 

Now for the taste test! Drum Roll please!

They had a lovely crunch and the flavour of cumin coming through from the dough was great. I’m happy with the results and looking forward to having them as a side with my lentil dahl later this evening. The recipe was easy to follow but the process was quite long, I didn’t change anything from the recipe, I just halved the quantity as I’m only cooking for 2, and I’ve definitely got more than enough. Would I do this again, probably not, but you’ve got to try everything once right!?! 

Instagram is live!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Updates

WeCook is finally on Instagram! Don’t ask why I find that such an achievement…if you knew me, you’d know how much of an ordeal I find social media! But, in the spirit of connecting people…

We put together a short clip just to explain what we’re all about to the new people joining our community.

We’re excited to see it grow!

Are you following us..?

The first Cook-Along!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sessions, Updates

Risotto round 2! This time a pea, asparagus mint and pancetta number (keeping it seasonal! It’s finally time for greeeeen!)…and, more importantly, cooking live with my fellow WeCooks in their kitchens!

I sent out the ingredients and equipment list beforehand so everyone had time to get to the shops without rushing, and could have everything set up.

2pm rolled around: mise en place ready, laptop and camera set up, I was ready as I’d ever be!

After a brief chat about what the plan for the session was, we began. I have to say, I was wildly apprehensive about how this would go. But actually, it worked really well! Everyone kept pace, and we all made it work with the variety of ingredients we were able to find. A few technical details to iron out to make it truly awesome, but all in all, it was a success. The group were, as always, heroes, and made some beautiful plates of food and learned about the intricacies of executing the perfect risotto.

One mother and daughter duo really stole the show for me because: love this. But everyone was simply great. A few people just watching and taking notes, others in full-on cook mode in the kitchen, jumping in with questions to ensure they got everything right. I’ve now a few regulars who are just fantastic and have been to 3+ of my 7 sessions, which is very exciting!

The lovely Zoe was making notes for feedback in the wings and the ebullient Jess was cooking along. Jess snapped a photo at the end just as I was closing the session with her plate in hand. Perfect lunch for our first sunny Saturday afternoon officially stuck indoors 🙂

We’ll be doing another one of these next week with a different dish (book here), and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited!

Courgettes, risottos…& courgette risotto!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sessions

I’m sure when I announced that the upcoming session last night was focused around the humble courgette, a few people’s brains glazed over. It’s not usually a vegetable which gets the heart rate up (is there one? Except artichokes for everyone now, obviously, as detailed below…).

Extolling the virtues of this glorious vegetable wasn’t actually that difficult because most of us love a courgette. We tend to do one and the same thing with it though: spiralize it (I’m now guilty of this too…raw with pesto!! Yes!), stir fry it, slice it for a salad, grate it into cakes, use to top pizzas, marinade/pickle it, grate it into pasta sauces, boil it and marinade it in herbs and olive oil, cut it up and add it to risottos, scoop it out and stuff it, batter and deep fry it as chips/part of a plated of deep fried battered mixed veg and or fish…wait, this is more than you probably do with it, right? Humm..

Anyway, I then shared the joy of the risotto. Why your sofrito (and what that is) is so important and how to nail it, what does the wine do anyway, does it really matter how much stock you add each time, and do you have to keep stirring it…etc.

Captive audience!

I made a courgette and basil risotto with mint, mascarpone and lemon zest. It was a great session, but I chose a weird plate for plating it up – fail. One of the crew doesn’t usually go for risotto, but said she was very much inspired to make one now…possibly a pea one. I recommended the soupy and seasonal Venetian Risi e Bisi. It’s (just about) pea season after all. Fairly confident she’ll nail it.

Off-The-Cuff Soufflés & Timekeeping…

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sessions

Last night we had a strict deadline as we were all taking part in Clap for Carers at 8pm. This was actually great since it actually encouraged me to wrap up in good time and not get tempted to let the social festivities overrun!

Keeping with the egg-white theme I appear to have started, I braved showing the group how to make soufflés… a sometimes tricky enough task on its own, without navigating the dynamic of a video call and executing everything in one tiny corner the of the kitchen!

I also admitted to being guilty of doing just what I criticise contestants on Come Dine With Me of doing: “oh well I’ve never made this dish before, but I figured I’d give it a go tonight, on national television, for a competition – what could go wrong?”

Now I’ve made plenty of soufflés so that wasn’t the challenge, but I decided to try a very much off-the-cuff recipe for twice baked red pepper, courgette and basil soufflés with a cheese and wine sauce…very much hoping for the best!

The multiple cameras worked really well again, though still waiting on a better set-up to be delivered (pegged at end of the month at the moment…) and the soufflés were a success! Didn’t have the time to do the sauce on the call unfortunately, but we’re all 1 step closer to becoming soufflé masters!

Artichokes & Multiple Cameras!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sessions, Tech, Updates

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone so excited about artichokes…”

This was what my Mother said shortly after I finished last night’s call. Probably fair. I love an artichoke!

There was a great group online with me and I was trying a new method of using multiple cameras for different things: close ups, shots inside the pan whilst the magic of cooking occurred…etc. Worked really well! Genuinely felt like I was on some sort of Saturday morning cooking show!

All had seen an artichoke (one had even grown one!), and eaten them either as hearts in oil, on pizza or retro style of boiled whole with dip for the leaves, but none had ever prepared or cooked one.

Stuffed braised globe artichoke heart

Love that as a jumping-off dynamic! So much to share!

I had spiky artichokes and tema artichokes from Italy, and globe artichokes from the UK. From how to choose them, the delight of prepping them, through to finishing them 3 different ways:

  • Tema artichoke hearts pickled with Moscatel vinegar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, thyme and garlic
  • Globe artichoke hearts braised in wine, thyme, parsley and stuffed and baked with herby breadcrumbs
  • Spiky artichoke hearts, raw, as a deliciously simple salad of lemon, parsley, olive oil and pecorino – can’t beat this classic.

By the end, the group all came to realise the joy and diversity of the artichoke. My infectious enthusiasm has ensured they will be a firm fixture on the groups shopping list going forwards…definitely! Who needs flour anyway??

Meringues!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Updates

Last night we trialled demonstrating a skill for the first time, I chose meringue because…who doesn’t love meringue!?

I got to give my Mother’s 40 year old Kenwood food-mixer (I swear this thing will outlive us all) a good run, and starting from the basics demonstrated all the way through to assembling little meringues.

Had loads of fun debunking all those myths and empowering the group to fearlessly tackle meringues head-first, without even a recipe.

I showed the group how to make rustic little melt-in-the-mouth pavlova style bites sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts (tip, sprinkle the nuts over the meringue before baking…yum!) because they were a HUGE hit as Christmas gifts last year. (Recipe to follow soon!)

Great success and everyone loved it, so I’ll now be working a dem into each session 🙂

The beginning…

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Updates

The Launch of the Online Video Socials​!

I’m actually finding the prioritising of those panic-buying amongst us fascinating.

We, as a nation, don’t bake. Only 1/3 of us have baked a cake in the last year…..and actually, 1/3 of us haven’t baked in the past year….at all!

So the lack of flour on all supermarket shelves tells me something about us and all the food-related media we’ve been increasingly consuming: we’re ready to do something with it. Not the flour…but all this ‘inspiration’ we’ve been getting from the cooking shows and Instagram.

But we don’t know what.

**drum roll**

Cue: Online Video Cooking Socials!!

**puff of smoke, jazz hands**

So this idea has really started from the fact we’re all home now, cooking more, many of us with big ideas about what we’re going to have time to do, but the reality is quite different.

Endlessly browsing the internet for recipes which 1) actually work and 2) you have the ingredients for is as demoralising as it is boring.

Also, we’re just not going to suddenly start baking, most of us (except for banana bread….everyone is baking banana bread). But sharing over/around/about food is something we’ve been doing for centuries. Watching, copying, engaging, tailoring, experimenting… or just eating and being social! It’s something most of us really enjoy.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to encourage people to:

  1. Share recipes
  2. Learn techniques & skills 
  3. Have fun making things

Lots to work out, but I’m starting start a 2 week testing period to really get to the core of what we can offer which can give people who love food and cooking what they really need right now: an interactive resource to share with like-minded people.

Here goes! Wish me luck x