My love for cooking first began one evening in my Oumie's kitchen when I was about five or six years old. It was several hours after my bedtime, and the two of us were still wide awake, whipping up a batch of pancakes for a naughty late night snack. I was in charge of sifting and, dressed as I was in her vintage wedding gown wearing every single piece of jewellery she owned, covered head to foot in a light dusting of flour and laughing fit to burst, I was taking the job incredibly seriously. I was so happy, and somewhere between cracking the eggs and ladling out the batter, I had a moment of clarity (the kind that get fewer and further between when you get older), when I realised I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In that second of pancake fuelled ecstasy, I saw for the very first time the utter perfection of food and its ability to bring people that you love together, to show them you hear them, you see them, and you understand them... and thus began years of eating, laughing, delighting and recipe writing.
This book is a sort of love letter to that evening with my Oumie, and a nod to every one of those sweet moments with friends and family around dinner tables and on picnic blankets that have happened since. In writing all of those memories into recipes, I have (hopefully) designed a sort-of-all-in-one roadmap for you to use to create your own beautiful moments, getting maximum enjoyment with minimal effort when you’re tasked with cooking for friends and family.
Many of the recipes detailed in my book have been developed over years of practice, winding and turning from one thing into another, until they reach my pinnacle of perfection. However, it should be noted, I am not a chef - I have no formal training, I learned to cook in my grandmother’s kitchen and come from a long line of taste-and-see caterers. We don’t do pretty food, we do hearty food. To me, cooking is a process of feeling, and understanding how ingredients dance together. A pinch here, a sprinkle there, the occasional disaster and voila, a recipe is born.... and so it stands to reason, when cooking with my recipes you don’t need to have anything other than a love for eating and a bit of confidence to cook fabulous meals. Remember, the people you are cooking for don’t know what the recipe said, they haven’t seen the picture in the book, and as long as it's seasoned with love (and a few extra knobs of butter), almost anything is edible.
So, as you begin this journey with me, I ask you to be brave. My recipes as they read are perfect for me, my friends and my family - but, if your heart and hands tell you to add a little something extra or to go rogue on a flavour or spice, then that's ok. Let that energy and joy for food inform the way you cook, make it your own and, above all else, share those meals with others - the good and the less good. Splash in a bit of extra cream, double the amounts, take out something you don't like and see if it works. If disaster strikes, fill your guests’ glasses up to the brim and let the cool, soothing fingers of wine dull their palates before the main meal is served.