The next chapter

After a bit of an unintentional hiatus, it’s high time for my return to the blogosphere. Having left the yachting industry, my summer filled up with temporary cooking jobs, which were as tiring and jam-packed as they were enjoyable. Myself and Nell found ourselves in a charming, crumbling down villa in Menorca for nine days, cooking for three couples and their littluns. The roof actually fell down in one of the bedrooms during our stay. Such character! What charm! I jest, it truly was delightful and had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it. We were given more than one unexpected afternoon off, enjoyed our time there immensely, and are keeping our fingers crossed to be asked back next year.

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After that, I returned to the South of France for four weeks with my amazing, patisserie trained friend Issy, cooking for my all time favourite family in their villa. It was my third summer in a row there, and it scarily felt like no time had passed at all. After that, there was a wee stint up in the most remote estate in Scotland, the Station House Restaurant in Corrour. There, I met the motley crew of seasonal staff who fast become my firmest of friends. We swam in the loch, drank to excess each and every night, all in all giving me an exceptional introduction to the great and vast highlands.

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Myself and Nell then returned North of the wall, and cooked for two weeks in Ardverickie Castle, the picturesque set of Monarch of the Glen. Not our most glamorous job. We worked ourselves into the ground, but at the end of the day, we can look back and say it was ‘character building’. That’s just code for absolutely awful. 

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Amidst all of this travel and cooking in strange places, I received a call from one of the agencies I’m signed up with (one of about twelve. You have to spread yourself quite thinly as a private chef to get access to as many jobs as possible). They knew that my plan was to fill the rest of my year with temporary jobs, have Christmas at home, then look for a permanent position, either in a restaurant or back on yachts. But this particular position came up, and they thought it sounded right up my street. Well, they weren’t wrong! I was completely and utterly drawn in, and became emotionally invested ridiculously quickly. This was my dream job, and I didn’t even know what it was until I heard it described!

After flying myself to London for an interview, I was asked to come back for a cooking trial. It was hella stressful, but thankfully it went well, and I was offered the position. So since the beginning of October, I’ve been the private chef to an ambassador (I can’t say who or of which country, or give too much detail, but I can certainly outline the general gist of the job). My time is split between the residence and the embassy. My working hours are quite frankly ludicrously good, being Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm. The joy of the job is that the prime entertaining hours are during the middle of the day. Formal lunches are a three course affair, and dinner parties happen three to four times a month. For anything above four people, a butler is called in. When it’s less, it’s down to me to do the service, which I’m wholeheartedly crap at. I’m a two-plates-at-a-time kinda gal, the wine bottle always clinks the edge of the glass, and I never time it right, either walking in to collect the plates far too early, or far too late. I’m hoping these skills will come with time, or am I destined to be eternally awkward in a service role?! Anyway, it’s really rather great. I make a different flavour combination of overnight oats each day to be had for breakfast, and dinner is plated up and left in the fridge to be re-heated in the evening, after I’ve gone.

The phrase ‘landing on my feet’ springs to mind, but in all seriousness, it’s more than I could ever have hoped for. On the yacht, I could never present individual plates of food, when my task was to feed the five thousand each and every day. Rather than fitting the bill of making a tonne of different self service dishes that ultimately all end up in the bin, I can focus on detail, and cook whatever I want to cook. And make it look pretty.

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One of my first equipment requests was to get a pasta machine. When you’re cooking for small numbers, you can really go to town. Pasta is stupidly easy to make, and once you taste fresh pasta, you’ll happily put in the elbow grease to make it again and again. All you need is 100g of 00 flour to one egg, a bit of salt, and a lot of perseverance to make it all come together into a dough.

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One of my first pasta dishes was spinach, ricotta and nutmeg filled ravioli with a sage butter and pine nut sauce. Next time, I’ll be brave and pop an egg yolk in the middle.

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Rosemary focaccia.

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A simple starter. Red wine poached pear, caramelised walnut & gorgonzola salad.

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Osso bucco (slow cooked veal shanks) with mashed potato and a parsley gremolata.

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Layered passion fruit mousse with a white wine jelly.

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Lemon tart with a raspberry coulis and tuille biscuit.

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Passion fruit cheesecake.

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Persian love cake. So delicious, I’m going to post the recipe here. Hopefully my friend Claire won’t mind me sharing it with the few of you who read this blog. I drove over to Corrour when I was mid-job at Ardverickie, and she served me a slice of this cake she’d made. It was glorious! I asked for the recipe, and she kindly went to get me the hand written family instructions. It is just delightful, so here is the recipe, to spread the Persian love.

Persian Love Cake (gluten free)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 120g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 250ml Greek yoghurt
  • Chopped pistachios

To serve

  • Rose petals
  • Fresh figs
  • Greek yoghurt

Method

Mix together the first four ingredients to make a crumble. Press half of the mixture into a greased & lined 23cm springform cake tin. To the other half, add the last four ingredients. Mix together and pour over the base. Sprinkle chopped pistachios around the edge. Bake at 170°C for 35 minutes, let cool in the tin placed on top of a wire rack, then cut into slices and enjoy.

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