Pie n Mash, Marco Pierre White, Chocolate caterpillar cake, chutney and Asti Spumanti…read how they’ve all played a part in shaping my blog…
I love food (in fact I’m a little bit obsessed with food) I enjoy cooking for friends, family, myself, my hubby, my son and my dog. I have a rather large, constantly growing collection of cookbooks and have to find hiding places for new ones so that my husband doesn’t give me ‘that look’. I write voluntarily for a local Kent based magazine as their Food Editor and so get to go out and review lovely (not always!) restaurants. I wish I could be a better ‘baker’ but I just don’t have the patience and prefer to throw ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ in to a pan rather than spend hours measuring out exact quantities of ingredients and buttering and flouring baking trays three times over.
Seven years ago I started this blog – not because I wanted to become a blog flogger or be the next internet food-porn star, but because I would often make up dishes for dinner that we’d really enjoy and then never remember how I’d done it. So for me my blog is a way of capturing my recipes, notes, foodie websites I enjoy, and restaurants I’ve visited and want to tell you about (good and bad).
I work as the Head of Digital for an agency in Shoreditch and live in Kent with my husband Rob, little boy Squidly and chocolate Labrador Jack – sounds idyllic! It is (most of the time). I was brought up in a council flat in Lewisham (South East London) with a very loving but alcoholic father who tended to spend his Friday pay cheque on weekend benders, so my Mum had to be resourceful with the food that we had. It was always fresh and from the local market (which is still there, but with a much more colourful and exotic array of fruit and veg than when I was younger) or the local butchers where she’d be able to get the off cuts to use in stocks and soups for free. My parents taught me how to cook from scratch – a Vesta Paella was a REAL treat and not often seen in our household. If I ever had the fortune of hitting McDonalds and couldn’t handle a full burger, my parents would tell me “you can leave the bun but make sure you eat the meat” (that changed in the mid 90’s of course with the awareness of CJD!).
I loved the odd Saturday when my Dad would take me to ‘Simple Simons’ pie n mash shop in Lewisham for a special treat. I’d have a single pie and mash with liquor covered in chilli vinegar and white pepper. We’d eat it with a spoon and fork and wash it down with an Irn-Bru. We’d leave there then walk down to the fish stall in the market and share a pot of jellied eels. FA cup final day would be heaven – Dads friends would come over, and the flat would be full of the scent of boiling pigs trotters and there’d be bowl after bowl of mussels, cockles, prawns and crab sticks (no longer called that of course because they contain ‘0’ crab meat – but I still love those little ocean sticks!)
Off I went to Chichester University at nineteen (I failed my A-levels the first time around because we’d slope off for pub lunches instead of attending class…oops!) and the cooking basics I’d learnt from my parents helped me to attract a fair few friends and appeal to my housemates. We didn’t live on beans on toast in our student house ooooohhhh no. I worked part time in Tesco so managed to pick up the staff discounts at the end of the day and we’d be cooking up Paella’s, steaks and beef stews.
I left university and got my first job in advertising – I was based in Shoreditch (when the bars were called ‘trendy’ but were really just sh*t holes with no wallpaper). I remember my second week in the agency when the MD gave me £20 to pop to the shop and grab some ‘bubbles and cake’ for one of the Directors birthday celebrations. I came back chuffed with myself for not even spending half of the budget, handed him back his change and proudly displayed the chocolate Caterpillar cake and chilled Asti Spumante on the boardroom table…I had no idea why everyone chuckled as she blew out the candles until a year or so of working in the industry and realising, that WASN’T the level of sophistication beholden to the world of advertising! (I still love a chocolate caterpillar cake though… who doesn’t?!)
I met my husband in 2000. He knew I liked fish and nice restaurants, so he took me to One Aldwich to try and impress me. I ordered the seared tuna and when it arrived, I called over to the waitress to show her that my tuna was still raw in the middle (bless me!) thinking back now, she was so lovely about it – she said they really should flag on the menu that seared means only cooked on the outside and asked if I’d like the Chef to pop it back in the pan for a bit longer, to which I replied “yes please!”… what a waste!! I’d kill for a bit of seared fresh tuna now! A few years on, and I became a Digital Planner – working on Diageo made me educate myself around wine and I soon realised that I loved room temperature Rioja, ice cold French Viognier and despised the oakiness of Semillon Chardonnay. I could tell the difference between a good Gin and a bad one (there’s nothing wrong with a nice Gordon’s and tonic but I’ll take a Little Bird Gin over Bombay Saphire any day!) and that Schweppes tonic is completely inferior to Nordic Mist – which you annoyingly can’t get in the UK. Please PLEASE Mr Coca-Cola can you sort that one out!
Perhaps my biggest and best foodie experience was working on a new website to promote Knorr stock cubes for Unilever. They’d just signed up Marco Pierre White and they wanted me to go along to his restaurant to talk to him about ‘the internet’ (he didn’t know how to turn on a computer, let alone understand what Facebook was). I met him at his Luciano’s restaurant in Mayfair with my laptop and we sat and ate veal risotto while I showed him some food sites and fan pages that had been set up in his honour – his response was “why would they do that?! Why would anyone want to do that? Are they mad?!” We spoke about house wives/husbands, stock cubes, food sites, and began to plan (along with the marketing Director for Knorr), what we thought the website should be. We decided that we wanted the site to deliver Marco in to their homes, for there to be no cuts in video footage, for things to be shown in real time, and to keep things simple. A month later and I was on a small shoot (just 5 of us and Marco) at a house with an outdoor pool, a barbecue and bag loads of food, filming while Marco spent the afternoon cooking for us and talking to us about his passion for food – inbetween taking calls to sort out his separation from his wife with his solicitor! I asked him some questions about his thoughts on some latest foodie trends and realised quite quickly that he had no real interest in keeping up with the goings on in the food world – he just cooked what he knew, and he knew what he liked.
Here’s how the site ended up – the team did an amazing job and we even won an award 🙂
My best friend is just as food obsessed as I am and we’d often make things and pass them on for each other to
try. When she had her little girl and I was only working 4 days a week, we decided to make the most of her maternity leave and started a food stall in Greenwich market. We came up with a brand name ‘The Great British Pantry’ and set to making our own jams, chutneys and simple baked goods – brownies, flap jacks etc. We absolutely loved it…even the late nights of cooking and the early morning wakings to bagsy ourselves a pitch. We went for a homemade look with bunting, chalk boards and doilies and soon had regular customers coming to us for our piccalilli and tomato chilli jam. As they say though, all good things must come to an end – and so once we realised we’d effectively been running a rather expensive hobby instead of focusing on costing things up properly and making a profit, we knew it was time for her to return to work and give up the dream (although you can sometimes still find us at summer fayres and Christmas markets pushing our wares).
After 12 years of being with my partner, we decided it was time to tie the knot – we got married in the Lobster Shack on Whitstable with oysters and fish and chips and a hog roast. On the morning of our wedding, I received a phone call from the Editor of LIFE Magazines. He said he’d seen my blog and wanted to take me up on my offer of being their Food Editor for Kent. It was on a voluntary basis, but meant that I got to dine for free and could have my own double page spread to write about whatever food related things I liked – I was over the moon and have been writing for them ever since. One of my pieces was focused on British food and local producers. After writing it, I became passionate about wanting to help people to buy locally and to help promote British producers, so I set myself a challenge to eat, make or find something British every day for a year – I logged my findings on a new site www.thegreatbritishchallenge.com and then 4 months in found out that I was pregnant…rather than being selective about what I could and couldn’t eat/feature due to pregnancy diets, I decided to put things on hold until I could turn my full attention back to it (not that there is such a thing once a child bursts in to your life!) – I’m taking the challenge back up this year, so please feel free to contribute and share the love J
So, now I’m a mum and I’ve weaned and raised a baby (I’m 38 and I still don’t think I’m old enough or sensible enough for that kind of responsibility in my life!). Thanks to Squidly, I’ve gained more of an understanding of how food not only effects our development and body but also our mood swings and life. It’s made me more conscious of checking what goes in to things and I’ve reverted back to cooking things from scratch (low, slow and cheap). I’ve also been doing the 5:2 diet for the past year to help me shift the post baby weight. It’s worked for me and I now consider it a way of life rather than a ‘diet’. It’s introduced more veg and fruit to my diet and forces me to be more inventive with a smaller amount of ingredients – my kitchen slowly started reflecting a supermarket with one of everything from every shelf in every isle squeezed in to my fridge, freezer and cupboard! We now have less waste as a result of using up the veggies and we’re all the more healthier for it. So, what does that mean for the blog, and what do I want my future to hold? Well, very soon you’ll be seeing…
– a new 5:2 recipes section
– a new ‘child friendly’ restaurant reviews area
– a dedicated ‘Kent’ area grouping restaurants and suppliers
– the final completion of my Great British Challenge!
– a log of our new vegetable patch that’s about to be created with hints and tips on how and what to grow when
…and ultimately (once Squidly is older) a foodie place of my very own where you will all be welcome to come and enjoy some nibbles and a cocktail and a very warm welcome. We can talk food, swap recipes and indulge in some cake. But in the mean time, please introduce yourself ‘virtually’, feel free to spend some time here…and thank you for reading through that mammoth self indulgent description of me and my love of food!
I’m always available for food writing, speaking or cooking opportunities and hapy to receive products for reviews/to run competitions on the blog. Please feel free to get in touch…
(PS) I’m pleased to say that I have recently become a member of the UK Food Bloggers Association!