Hot in the kitchen
It’s been an incredibly busy summer and although the heat wave has abated the food projects haven’t. After an amazing holiday discovering New York State with annoyingly disappointing food (apart from Manhattan, although the bison steak was rather tasty), it has been a non-stop conveyor belt of food. From testing 100 vegan Lebanese recipes, cooking sugar-free recipes for a very famous lady’s new cookery book (my lips are unfortunately sealed until the launch), to developing and photographing recipes for a large fish supplier for an exciting new website coming this September.
Testing 100 Lebanese recipes in 10 days during a heat wave was tough! OK, I was working from home and I didn’t have to face the sweat pit tube but there’s a huge amount of organising, shopping, cooking and clearing up to do. With recipe testing every ingredient has to be measured exactly, every step of the recipe carefully followed and timed, oven temperatures checked and the method scrutinised to ensure complete accuracy. I had multiple timers going off all over the place! Detailed notes are crucial and you can imagine my reaction when a week’s worth of notes got drenched after a torrential downpour. I’d left my bedroom skylights open!
It was wonderful to learn all about Lebanese food. I made shankleesh (a cheese made from yogurt whey shaped into balls), labneh (another soft cheese made by straining homemade yogurt), stuffed vine leaves, kibbeh (baked cracked wheat) and myriad lentil, grains and vegetable dishes spiced up with sumac, seven-spice and za’atar. And, then there were all the naughty sweet delicacies! Pistachio baklava drizzled with sweet rose water syrup, fragrant aniseed biscuits and melt-in-the-mouth molasses cookies. It certainly balanced out all the ridiculously healthy savoury dishes!
From vegan to sugar free cooking – my diet has certainly been healthy, well sort of. The sugar free book used sugar alternatives such as honey and maple syrup so there were still plenty of cakes and desserts, just a smidgen healthier. From savoury dishes such as pot roast chicken, roast tomato pasta and Thai salmon burgers to granola, Banoffee pie, Victoria sponge and brownies – there was a lot of temptation. I worked alongside a very talented stylist, art director and photographer for two weeks producing some beautiful photography for the forthcoming book. We also went on location to a stunning house where we met said famous lady and photographed her preparing and eating some of the recipes. What a fun job! Sorry, but I wasn’t allowed to take any photography on these shoots.
Back into the kitchen at home where I’ve been busy developing recipes in collaboration with a large fish supplier called New England Seafood. The blog, recipes and videos focus on salmon, sea bass, tuna and bream and will be part of a website designed to inspire and encourage people to eat more fish. I’ll be posting the live link once it’s all up and running – very exciting! The recipes are all really easy to prepare and contain useful tips on how to cook fish and to test when it’s done. There is a range of recipes to suit all tastes such as Mexican tuna tacos, Indian spiced salmon, stir-fry bream and shiitake mushrooms and sea with smokey pancetta and puy lentils. I absolutely love fish but after weeks of fish every day (sometimes at 10am!) I have to admit to being a bit fished out. Till next month’s fish recipes though….