This was taken 3 years ago - I am now significantly chubbier and John is significantly beardier.

So my new thing is listening to podcasts. I listen to them when I'm on my way to and from work and I hear some really interesting things, which I then force my pastry chef to listen to ALL DAY as we make brownies, ice-cream, plate desserts, etc. The other day, whilst listening to Freakonomics, I learned about living organ donors and put the question to my colleagues: would you donate your organs to a total stranger?

They mostly said no and their reasons were, "what if I need it later?" Or, "maybe for a family member...?" And that's totally fair enough, they're your organs, you can do what you want with them. I don't have an answer to this question because I cannot donate organs, tissue or give blood and if you ask me, all of the noble feelings that I have towards humanity make me want to say yes, without hesitation. But that's a hypothetical answer because I still can't do it.

I have this lovely friend called John. We haven't been great at seeing each other over the past couple of years - life has been busy for both of us, but we still try to keep up to date with each other through social media. John is a fabulously talented writer - we met when we both wrote for the same online magazine, we worked on a couple of pieces together, we ate some great food and drank some great drinks, he made me dinner at his home once which was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my adult life, I returned the favour a couple of times, and he and a few of his friends came to my 25th birthday in Central London. It's been about 3 years since we last spent time together, John is now 25, and he found out last Wednesday that he has cancer.

Today I went to visit him in the hospital, was horribly, horribly late (because apparently outside of work I cannot keep time for toffee) and we chatted. We chatted about life over the past couple of years, he told me all about his lovely girlfriend Ella, he told me about the ups-and-downs of work, I told him a little about the ups-and-downs of my work, and, mostly, we talked about cancer. We talked about life, we talked about death, I gave Ella a big hug when she left for a bit, and I thought about how if I were in her position I wouldn't have been able to sit there and listen to this conversation for the thousandth time, either. We talked about friends, we talked about family, and we discussed the good stuff and the bad stuff. I was there for a little over an hour, John was tired at the end of it and he still had plenty more visitors to come, so I left him with lemon tarts and his book, called TS on my way home and got on the bus.

John's cancer is so rare that he tells me he's something like only the 120th person in the world to have it. Because it's so rare, there's very little the doctors can tell him about his prognosis, but they tell him that he has responded very well to the steroids and when he starts chemo on Monday they feel very positive about this, too. John tells me he feels pretty good, all things considered - he's been feeling pretty crappy the past few months, so now, on steroids and antibiotics, he's not that bad. His mom visits every other day, Ella stays with him, reading Terry Pratchett, talking, reading Twitter, listening to other friends talking with John, being together. John takes selfies, Tweets about hospital food, the people around him, and his on-going treatment. Even whilst stuck in a hospital, fighting something that at age 25 he really shouldn't have to, my friend is unfailingly funny, sweet, caring and honest. He half-jokingly quipped that if nothing else at least he'll be a great addition to the research pool for his type of cancer, a cancer that only affects young men under 30. He told me before I left that it would be the greatest thing he would have accomplished with his life: I disagreed.

Anthony Nolan are a UK based charity who help people with blood cancer. They match living donors with those in need of transplants and, since being established in 1974, they have helped with 13,000 stem cell transplants. This is real life superhuman stuff - something which your body creates naturally and replaces naturally, can help save somebody else's life. It's a no-brainer, right? People like you can join the Anthony Nolan registry and, if you're a match, you can help people like my lovely friend John. This great animation from Anthony Nolan shows you exactly what the process involves:

And for the girls, if you're pregnant you can actually donate your umbilical cord blood after you've given birth, which normally gets thrown away anyway. Here's another helpful animation which explains what's going on:

I've talked before about cancer - my friend whom I wrote the post about a few years ago is now cancer free and getting married this October, which is incredible and beautiful, best of all I get to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in the US, and it'll be the first time we've seen each other in person since she left the country to start chemo back home. I might cry a bit (I probably will). I'm writing about it again because it wasn't until two weeks ago that I was even aware you could be a living stem cell donor. But you can. And it's easy. And I really, really do wish that it was something I could do, even for a complete stranger. But you can.

So now I'm asking you: would you donate your organs/stem cells to a total stranger?

Until next time, peace and love,

Jax x

PS: If you're in the US, please check out The National Marrow Donor Program.

EDIT: Since writing this, John has now set up a JustGiving page for Anthony Nolan. His initial target of £1,000 was smashed in 45 mins, his second target of £5,000 in less than a day. He is now past £6000, aiming for £10,000 to aid Anthony Nolan in its work. Check it out, read about it in John's own words and if you've got a few spare quid knocking about, please do donate to Anthony Nolan for John.

A Month of Financiers: Autumnal Matcha Financiers


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.


Watch This Space: Honey Beurre Noisette Madeleines


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?


Working 9-5: Wild Rice Salad


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.


Christmas in London: Harrods Gentleman’s Hamper


Christmas, for me, has always been a rather special time of year. No, not for any particular religious reasons or for the promise of presents (though the latter is a rather good excuse for, oh, I don’t know, maybe a new hand mixer? Especially considering how mine blew up in my hand the other day) but because of the food. An excuse to eat yourself silly and not be judged for it? Yes please.

So when I was offered a Harrods Gentleman’s hamper, one of the new food and wine hampers, to have a sneak preview of for Christmas of course I said yes. It may be called the Gentleman’s hamper but honestly, I’d be pretty happy to receive this one myself!


The End (Part I): Leiths Diploma, Weeks 8 & 9


Thou shalt have a fishy on a little dishy, thou shalt have a fishy when the, er, Eskimo comes in…

And so we’ve reached the end of the 1st term of the Leiths Diploma. Sorry there was no post last week but hey, lucky you, you now get a double whammy! Woohoo! Hearing more about how I broke down and cried at culinary school! Again! Yeah!

Just kidding… sort of… because I don’t think there’s been a single week I haven’t had a little cry about something, now. I can’t help it – I’m an incredibly emotional person and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think it’s become a running joke at school now but at least I can laugh about it… right before I start crying again. So let’s start with the week before last and then I can get back to my little Eskimo up at the top of the post there which is a much happier ending, no? Yes.


Junk Food Week: Leiths Diploma, Week 6


Another week gone, another batch of recipes successfully made in the kitchen. Sorry for the slight delay and if you’re wondering why that is it’s because this week we had another long weekend! You have no idea how much I needed today to recover from the last few weeks – I have been exhausted. Happily, last week’s confidence boost carried me into this week and everything I made turned out really well. Obviously a few tweaks here and there needed, but I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride, even if sometimes I do feel like I could weep at the lack of sleep I’ve been getting.

This week I also worked my first corporate job at school, which not only involved washing up a never-ending stack of pots and pans but also serving food and wine. Good practice though I am not the world’s best waitress! This coming week I’ll be washing up for the baking and cakes evening class, which I’m particularly excited by – another opportunity to learn is always greatly appreciated! (I am such a geek…) The only downside to washing up work at school is that I don’t get home until ridiculously late (unless I’m staying at TS’ place, bless) and with all of the assignments we had due last week, I didn’t manage to get to bed until 2am one night. Frankly, I’m amazed I didn’t chop any fingers off the next day at school…


By George I Think She’s Got It: Leiths Diploma, Week 5


Well, it took 5 weeks but I think I’ve finally found my stride. This week went remarkably well – I think it has something to do with the fact that we’ve been cooking in the afternoons which I find works much better for me. I think it’s because afternoon sessions seem much more manageable than morning ones; it could also be because I’ve finally started getting the hang of things and am in the kitchens a good half hour before we start, getting my mise en place started; maybe it even has a little something to do with the fact that this week we were mostly baking, something that I find infinitely more enjoyable (though at one point my classmate Lara laughed at me for staring too intently and seriously at my scones, lost deep in thought and pondering how done they were).

Either way, it was a week of successes – much needed after the past few weeks of disasters – and a definite confidence booster.


The Storm: Leiths Diploma, Week 4


Hard to believe I’ve been at Leiths for a month now. In some ways I feel like I only started yesterday and in many, many others I feel like I’ve been there forever. I’m getting used to the 3 different kitchens we work in, starting to learn where things live and what they’re all used for (though, as one of my teachers told me yesterday: no tin is ever actually called a bain marie. This may have come about when I failed miserably at her “game” of “what is this tin and where does it live” and just kept shouting, “BAIN MARIE!”), had my first 2 wine lectures (and have our first exam this coming Tuesday, eep!), and starting to learn whom among my classmates I work well with and, er, the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I love my group, we get on very well socially… but getting along socially is not the same thing as working well together. You can love somebody’s personality but struggle to find equilibrium when actually cooking together – it just happens. I even did some washing up work for one of the evening classes this week – I didn’t leave school until 11.30pm but it was a fun evening and I made some money!

But this week… Lord, this week. I don’t know whether it was hard and stressful because the weather suddenly changed and the days were significantly shorter (one morning we even had to turn all of the ovens and some of the hobs on, just to warm up the kitchen so that we could bring ingredients to temperature), or whether it’s because last week we had a relatively light week, or simply because we’ve now reached week 4 when more is suddenly expected of us, but it was a very hard week. I asked a couple of the teachers if it had been just as hard for them as it had been for us and, eyes widening, heads nodding emphatically, they had heartily agreed. I think I’m also learning that I do not cook as well in the mornings as I do in the afternoons and I think that’s because I always feel rushed in the mornings; still, timing and speed is something I really need to work on, so that’s my goal for next week.


The Calm Before The Storm: Leiths Diploma, Week 3


Asian Mario strikes again…

Happy to say that this past week there were no tears! It was actually a relatively calm week, possibly because it was week 3 when they anticipated all the students would be exhausted so we had our first long weekend scheduled (they give us a few long weekends instead of a half term), possibly also because we had our first test on Thursday and they were giving us time to study; either way, this week was nice and quiet in the kitchens but still packed full of essential learning.


Older Posts »