Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A foodie diversion

I usually write about perfume, but actually, a long time before I became obsessed with perfume, I was a bit of a foodie, as pretentious as that may seem.

To give you an idea of how much I loved food (and actually, I still do love food, I just don't       talk about it as much as I used to) I even went so far, in 2002, to enroll in a chef's course, which in the UK is called NVQ level 1, the first step towards becoming a chef. However, I quickly realised that a chef starting on the bottom rung, at the age of 28, is no place to be, and accountancy pays a lot better, generally, so although I completed the course, and loved it, I never took it further.

The course was a proper introduction to cooking, classic French style, and I learned to make pastry, fillet and cook fish, make various stocks, bone chickens, make creme anglaise, souffles, choux pastry, etc, etc. The list goes on.

It's probably no surprise then that I used to cook a lot at home, and used to entertain a fair amount as well, but a side effect of my food passion was that I tended to be too fussy in what I cooked, verging on pretension, at least I think so. The dinner parties were nice, but it was a bit of showing off too, which I grew tired of. I also found that to indulge a passion for food can be quite expensive, particularly when trying to impress. I also used to own a lot of cookery books, and in fact, I still enjoy reading cookery books, but very often take them out from the library instead.

However, what really slowed down my food passion was having kids. All of a sudden our time (my wife and I) was at a premium and we were overtaken by sleepless nights, fatigue, nappy changes, and possibly most telling, budgetary constraints!

What has happened over the years is that I have become more frugal in my cooking approach. I still like to cook, but I now tend to buy old fashioned cuts of meat, and like to cook them long and slow. I use a lot of beans. I make my own stocks. I buy whole chickens and joint them, rather than buying individual pieces, which are far more expensive. I also like to buy better quality meat, but use less of it, maximising flavour.

As our children grow older, we tend to have, as a family, a bit more time, and thus I find I am able to cook a bit more again. I am trying to introduce my children to more adventurous tastes and I think generally they eat very well.

This weekend I ended up cooking a lot more than usual. On Sunday morning I cooked omelettes for breakfast, but mixed it up a bit by including ricotta cheese, spring onions and a bit of fresh coriander. They were light, fluffy, and very yummy. I also made a pasta, very simple actually, mixed with fried bread crumbs, pine nuts, feta cheese and basil. Our main dinner on Sunday was a pot roast of shoulder of lamb with aubergine and Greek cheese (a bit like haloumi).

Finally, this week I have decided to make confit of duck, which I've never tried before. I'll let you know how it turned out. So far all I have done is prepare the duck legs, which need to sit in the fridge overnight and cure slightly. I've put the duck legs in a dish, sprinkled with lots of salt, pepper, and thyme. Tomorrow I will remove the legs, wipe them down and remove all the 'marinade' ingredients, place them in a pot, cover with goose fat and then cook on as low a heat as possible, for at least three hours. The idea is that the duck legs cool in the fat and are preserved, as long as they are covered in fat. When it comes to the dish itself, you remove a couple of legs, wipe off excess fat, and fry until the skin is crispy. The duck is then served with beans, which have been cooked in a little stock and lardons of bacon. Seems pretty yum to me!


  1. Michael, all of that sounds delicious! And I love knowing that you went to cooking school and spent time cultivating that suits you somehow.

    My cooking adventures are much less sophisticated, but I do like making creative soups and other mostly-made-up dishes. The truth is I simply love food and feel it is one of the great pleasures of life. Glad you're back to cooking again - wonderful for you and your family!

    1. Hey Josephine. Thanks, that's kind of you. I love soups too and to be honest, make up a lot of dishes too. Quite often they turn out to be the best of the lot!



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