iamafeeder.net



Keep Pushing: New Job (Again!), Desserts & a Cremeux Recipe


Jul
23


Yoghurt & honey mousse with strawberry jelly insert, strawberry gel & fresh Kent strawberries, coffee granola, cereal milk ice-cream and lemon balm.

If there was one word I could use to describe this crazy industry I find myself in it’s this: fluid.

When I started working as a professional pastry chef about 18 months ago (give or take), I never would’ve guessed that I’d have learned so much in such a short amount of time, met so many great people, or been given the opportunities to develop that I have; I also wouldn’t have guessed that I’d already be onto job no. 3.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this. I come from an accomplished family who work in industries that value commitment and loyalty, values that were instilled in me from a young age. So moving around jobs so much as an adult leaves me feeling a bit torn – on the one hand, I feel disappointed in myself for not sticking it out or “going the distance”; on the other I know that the decisions I make are based on sound, logical (and sometimes medical) reasoning, and they’ve led me to the position I’m now in, which makes me incredibly happy.


Blueberry curd slice on maple pecan biscuit base, chai white chocolate cremeux, blueberry compote and sugar tuile; “The Malteser” – malt biscuit brushed with milk, dark choc & white choc cremeux, milk choc sorbet, malt meringue, malt streusel.

Everybody told me (and still continues to) that this life that I’ve chosen is a hard one, that I will sacrifice so much to it and that’s why I really have to love it; the talk I gave last year repeated this sage advice. The normal rules of “life” do not apply in the professional kitchen: when you burn yourself you pick your cookies up, run it under cold water and slap some cream on it, then you continue; when you cut yourself you wrap it up and keep going, unless you’re bleeding over everything, in which case you might go to the hospital, but probably you’re just going to do something weird like using meat glue to stick yourself back together (side note: meat glue is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard of); racism, sexism, abuse and harassment are just kitchen banter and if you want to complain about it you’re going to be labelled as “that-person-who-bitched-about-everything”. In other words, any normal “work-place propriety” does not apply here and that’s something I’ve had to get used to very quickly.

I remember the first time I saw something I deemed “inappropriate” in a kitchen: a senior chef was bollocking a junior for something they had messed up, which he then followed up by grabbing him by his chef whites and practically shoving his head into the pot of food. I froze, felt my stomach rise into my throat and I remember thinking, “this is really happening, this isn’t on TV, this is happening right now“. It was terrifying but the thing that shocked me the most was how the rest of the staff did nothing. If anything, they sped up, terrified that they would be next (and now, having been on the other side, I know exactly why they did/said nothing). I was called over to a station and truffles were thrust into my hands with the instruction to hurry and put these away as fast as I could – I practically ran, my cheeks red, still hearing the shouting coming from behind me.
“Why am I doing this?!” My head screamed at me, “why am I here?!”

And yet I’m still here, still working, and I’ve finally grown that thick skin everybody told me about. But I was sick of the 16+ hour days, of coming home to find my partner asleep and leaving before he woke up, of not even having enough time to look after my health properly, of being so exhausted and stressed out that I was getting sick every two weeks. So after a year in a busy hotel and a few months in a busy restaurant, I needed to take a step-back, re-evaluate and find a job that would allow me to develop my own work and progress, as well as look after myself and my partner a little better.

Amazingly, I found that and I am now so happy in my work life it’s unbelievable.

(more…)

Welcome to 2014: Strawberry Tuxedos


Jan
07

Life, recently, has been somewhat of a blur. My days consist of getting up early, commuting to work (a first for me!), spending all day in a kitchen, commuting back home and, mostly, passing out on the sofa before being nudged awake by TS and reluctantly trudging up to bed for a few hours until I have to do it all over again.

I don’t make it sound very exciting, do I? But it is, oh goodness, it is so great. I love the fact that I get to spend my days making food for others, that I learn something new every day, that I get to be creative and work with people I genuinely like – I just love every single moment. Possibly my enthusiasm for even the most mundane tasks will wane over time but I sincerely hope not because, honestly, I’m living the dream. Yes, it’s a fairly exhausting, muscle aching, finger slicing dream, but it’s my dream and that’s the important thing.

Take these strawberry chocolate tuxedos, for example – I learned to make these sometime in my second week at work and I instantly fell in love, despite the fact that most of the others who have to make them find them a chore. I even have a deal going with one of the guys in the kitchen that every time I make them for a guest I have to make him one extra – I know he’s just waiting to see my enthusiasm wear thin but I don’t think it ever will… I mean: it’s a strawberry. Wearing a tuxedo. Made of chocolate. A strawberry wearing a tuxedo! I don’t need to say much more. And it’s so easy because you don’t need to temper the chocolate – all you need is a microwave, some chocolate, some strawberries and parchment paper. That’s it. Easy or what?

So the next time you need a special little something to end your evening on, something just a little more fantastic than chocolate dipped strawberries, whip out the chocolate, get yourself some strawberries and suit ‘em up. You’re welcome.

(more…)

Hello Employment: Laminated Pastry


Dec
04

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have noticed I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently. Specifically, croissants. Why? You may have asked, Why are you making so many croissants? Where are they all going? Are you just eating them all and getting really, really fat? How do you have time to keep making so many croissants?!

I’m a big believer in practice makes perfect and patience. I spent a week at the end of October working at Le Manoir in their pastry section. It was great experience and I learned loads but as I hadn’t worked for about a month and a half and this Stage came right at the tail-end of my radio-iodine treatment, I was a mess. My body felt slow and old and my brain was struggling to remember how to get my body to do what I wanted it to. At the end of my first day I drove back to the B&B I was staying in and collapsed onto my bed, still fully dressed, trying to remember why I was putting myself through this. On the second day I found myself sitting in my car during my break, on the phone to my boyfriend and crying with frustration, having spent around 2 hours that morning failing to segment grapefruit properly.

Such a small thing, right? But I wasted 9 grapefruit before anybody stopped me and it was the most awful feeling, a sense of sinking despair, right in the pit of my stomach. The excellent Chef Benoit Blin, the Head Pastry Chef, ended up giving me his knife and spending 10 minutes teaching me how to actually cut away the rind and segment properly, but even then I couldn’t do it. So when I finally went on my break, I ended up sobbing with frustration in my car – why couldn’t my brain kick into gear? Why was my body not doing what I wanted it to do? Time and time again I’ve been told that I need to give myself a break – I had just come off a month of convalescing at home by myself – and thankfully, from that point onwards I started to find my feet again as my body got back into the swing of things, remembered how to function and how it felt to work long hours and stand for most of the day – all I needed was a bit of time. It was another lesson in patience that needed to be learnt.

Needless to say, I wasn’t given the grapefruit again to segment whilst at Le Manoir, but when I came back home to London I went out, bought 20 grapefruit and spent around an hour practising until I could produce a perfect globe for segmenting. The first one looked like I had “cut it with a spoon”, according to one of my friends, but the last few? They were bloody beautiful.


So recently I found myself in limbo, waiting to hear back about jobs, jumping through HR hoops and killing time in-between interviews. I had mastered grapefruit… it was time to move on to shaping croissants. And so every day for the past couple of weeks I made a batch of croissant dough and left it to prove overnight, then, the following day, laminated it (lamination is the process of incorporating butter into dough, then rolling and folding to make layered pastries), rested, shaped, baked and put the results into a pastry box which I left outside our front door. It was a great experiment – I got to practice making pastries, the neighbours got to eat them and we even started to meet them as they popped over for a chat, or slipped a little thank you note through the door. Practice really does make perfect and a solid couple of weeks doing the same thing, over and over, just yielded better and better results.


And as for patience? Well, that’s paid off too because after waiting and holding out for a month, as of next Monday I’ll be starting my dream job, as a pastry chef at Claridge’s.

(more…)

A Month of Financiers: Autumnal Matcha Financiers


Nov
25

HELLO WORLD! So I’m briefly back to blog this recipe because I sort of disappeared off the radar for a bit, just to get a few things in my life sorted. I’m not quite ready to share with you the direction that my life is heading at the moment but there are good things afoot! So at the moment I’m just hanging out, waiting, baking a lot of croissants and pastries (and leaving them out for my new neighbours, which has been going down very well! Hurrah for Random Acts of Pastry Kindness! More on that another time!) and catching up with friends.

This particular recipe came about because the lovely chaps over at Lalani & Co. very kindly sent me some matcha green tea to play with (no reason, just because they’re lovely and they thought I might like some! On a side note they recently launched their online shop – previously you could only get their teas through the restaurants and hotels they supply – and they genuinely have amazing teas, all from artisan family run tea gardens whom they personally work with. If you like tea go check them out because I can’t rave about these guys enough). I actually developed the recipe over a month and fed financiers to every single person who came to visit me (TS had to eat quite a few for me and he doesn’t even like matcha!), tweaking it every time, adjusting the fruit (at one point I was using white chocolate but it was just too sweet), adjusting the sugar, adjusting the matcha and now… now it’s perfect. Financiers are actually named so because their traditional shape makes them look like gold bars but obviously these ones are green because of the matcha and, due to the shape of my mould, oval. So less gold bar, more… green… oval?

Regardless, this recipe is delicious and I’ve got about 10 or so people who would fight you if you said otherwise! So this is for everybody who came over, tried them and then begged for the recipe, and enormous thanks to all of my taste testers! Without you I’d be much fatter than I already am.

(more…)

Watch This Space: Honey Beurre Noisette Madeleines


Aug
15


At the Street Kitchen BurgerDog launch with co-founders Mark Jankel & Jun Tanaka.

After a whirlwind of activity I’m finally in a quieter phase. The weather has turned whilst we’re still only in August (big surprise, welcome to the UK) and with the grey skies come a slightly grey mood. It’s inevitable, really, the end of summer always lies heavy on my heart, but the quiet period I’m in at the moment definitely doesn’t help. I’m itching to get back into a kitchen, to keep learning, but for now I just have to wait.

Why the wait, you ask? Well, after two years of repeated visits to the hospital, I’m finally having a scan to prepare me for radio-iodine treatment. About bloody time, right? The upside is: no more fannying about with monthly visits to the hospital for blood tests or constant medication yo-yo-ing; the downside: I need to take about a month off because I’m going to be radioactive and am not allowed to work in close contact with, er, anything. I actually sent that sentence to a potential employer in an email recently, which is, to me, a big giant win.

So whilst I take a break from my mad dash around the UK Michelin restaurant scene (which I’m missing terribly at the moment), I guess I’ll just take some time to do some reading and baking, househunt (yes, again), practice rocher-ing and julienne/dice everything in sight. What else can I do?

(more…)

Working 9-5: Wild Rice Salad


Aug
01


Team Feeder!

Since graduating a month ago (!) I’ve not stopped. Moving from stage to trial to private job, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and, though I’m exhausted, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not the kind of person who can do nothing for long periods of time, instead choosing to fill my diary as full as I can, as many dinner dates, coffee dates, lunch dates, private jobs, stages as is physically possible. Of course the downside to this is that when I get sick I get really sick, a classic case of burning the candle at both ends, and recently this is exactly what’s happened to me.

(more…)

Skills in The Skillet: Baked Polenta, Tomato Sauce, Guanciale & Eggs


Sep
10

Autumn is coming – you can feel and smell it in the air. It makes me sad that the summer is over for another year – a patchy summer at best – but I love the fact that I’ll be able to wear big jumpers and make big pots of comfort food (legitimately) again.

If you follow me regularly you’ll know how much I love polenta, how perfect then is this dish of baked polenta, topped with a rich tomato sauce, meltingly soft guanciale and eggs? So perfect that I ate the entire skillet over one day by myself. Hey, I’m just padding up for the winter…

(more…)

There’s More Than One Way to Roast a Chicken: 40 Garlic Clove Chicken


Sep
07

I think chicken is my favourite meat. I could genuinely just eat chicken every day and not get bored… maybe that’s why whenever anybody eats something new and unusual it always tastes like chicken.

Here’s another quickie recipe for you starring chicken and 40 cloves of garlic. Yeah, you heard me: 40 cloves of garlic. Amazingly you won’t even smell that bad after eating it… but your kitchen will temporarily smell like, well, garlic. If you need to stave off the vampires it’d make a good hangout.

(more…)

The Taste of My Childhood: Nig Nags


Sep
03

When I was a little girl, around 4 or 5 years old, my family moved from our little end-terrace house to a beautiful big house with a huge garden in a very posh area of West London. The new house was everything a young family could’ve wanted – the garden had a pond (!) which over the years we filled with all sorts of creatures (goldfish which were gradually eaten one-by-one by the heron who lived in the park next door; at one point koi who were too big for the pond; and terrapins who killed all the goldfish the heron didn’t eat until one escaped and my father and I “released” the other into the park, whoops – we may be responsible for the family of terrapins who now live there), my brother and I had our own bedrooms which were much bigger than those in the old house, a huge kitchen where my mother dreamed of starting Chinese cookery lessons and two guest bedrooms, one of which became our live-in-nanny’s room then a TV room when she eventually left us, and the other which was later turned into a study for my parents.

About a fifteen minute walk away there was a huge church in the middle of the green by the High Street which my parents decided we should start attending, especially as it was so close by. Both my brother and I were baptised and confirmed there and for the next 13 years or so we spent almost every Sunday there. This church is also where I met my oldest friend Cathy and whilst I have my own issues with religion now, I will forever be thankful that it brought her into my life.

(more…)

Summer Drinks: Harveys & Vanilla Speculoospasta Ice-Cream


Aug
29

So as we come to the end of summer I finally have a bit of time to sit down and write up everything I’ve had queued up. This summer’s been a funny one (and I’m still actually kind of hoping that it’s not done yet and September will see more sunshine and lazy days) but it’s been jam-packed full of amazing people, fun, travel, food and drink, a new house, new housemates and my loved one, then finished off (unfortunately) with a trip to A&E at the hospital this past week; regardless, it’s been fantastic. I’m only sorry that I’ve neglected my blog so much – I’ve been kind of busy trying to fit everything in before I start Leiths in October.

The kind folks at Focus PR sent me a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream, the British sherry that’s been around forever but is enjoying a new run in the spotlight and marketed as a Summer drink. I would never think of sherry as something for the Summer, especially Harveys, it feels more like something you have by the fire in the dead of winter, but perhaps that’s exactly why it needs a new image. Besides, the Spanish have been drinking sherry for years and my fondest memories of it are in the height of summer with a big plate of tapas and jamon! So why not?

(more…)

Older Posts »