When I was a child I was known for making mud pies, stealing ingredients from my parents kitchen to “cook” with and being constantly told to stop playing with my food. Fast forward 20 years and that is exactly what I’m doing for a job, just less mud and more chocolate.
My professional journey in food started out as a hobby, baking at home when I was in my teens. The hobby kept growing but I didn’t yet know it was possible for it to be my career. I visited multiple chef schools aged 17 but wasn’t ready to make the leap and instead chose to study Events Management at university. Although this wasn’t the dream, it gave me skills that would later prove incredibly useful within the food industry. I spent my post uni life trying to fit myself into the conventional 9 to 5 job and wrestling the constant urge to bake. After a few years living and working in London, life gave me the kick I needed.
I found myself thrown into the deep end as a cook at E5 (thank you Hannah, my first ever Head Chef) having never cooked for more than 10 people before. I felt incredibly lucky to be working alongside a kind, caring and super knowledgeable community with box loads of incredible local produce coming in every week and, of course, the tastiest sourdough. I worked there part-time cooking nutritious, simple, seasonal food, while also fulfilling my own bespoke cake orders and baking granola once a week at zero waste start-up Nibs Etc.
Over my years in London I’d eaten tonnes of delicious street food, bakery-hopped and ventured to the occasional fancy restaurant. The approach to food at E5 however was something I hadn’t experienced before. A strong focus on the provenance of ingredients, fermentation, nutrition and consideration of waste. It was clear that this was a sustainable approach to running a Bakery but that it also created layers and layers of delicious flavour! My time there had a big influence on the approach I then took when I became Head Chef at Benk&Bo.
The kitchen at Benk&Bo provided a new challenge in being fully vegetarian. I developed recipes, wrote menus and filled the window with glorious baked goods alongside a small but passionate team. It was a lot of responsibility but an amazing opportunity that was full of joy. Being in control of a weekly menu gave me even more awareness of seasonality and what it means to cook this way. When you’re living in a concrete jungle it’s so easy to be unaware of what the seasons actually mean past the weather forecast. As a society we’ve become so detached from the origin of our food, from the ground itself and from the ability to listen to our bodies telling us the nutrition they crave.
Seasonality to me has become more than just a word used to describe the correct harvest time, but a whole awareness of the bigger picture. Tuning into the signs nature gives us and the ripple effects that one thing in nature can have on another, us included, has led me to a greater appreciation for what is living around us and inspired my own inner peace and contentment.
An appreciation for locally sourced and home grown food runs in my family. Both my grandparents had allotments and my parents have dabbled over the years with many a back garden plot, my Dad’s firm favourite being the trusty potato. The satisfaction of planting a seed, watching it grow and picking your first ripe tomato or pulling up that first carrot a little too eagerly when it’s only the size of your little finger never gets old. This excitement fuels my fascination with food and my want to share it.
Sharing your passion with people has a positive effect and more often than not it sparks intrigue. My journey with food is always evolving and I wouldn’t have reached this point without the people I’ve met along the way. I have no idea where I might be in another 4 years but that unknown possibility is what is so exciting. For now I want to focus on engaging and sharing, whether that’s through beautiful imagery that showcases good produce, by cooking delicious plates of food with my friend Emma at our Seasonal Supper Club or by sharing recipes and inspiring discussions in my monthly newsletter.
The power of food is always in sharing.
Wild rabbit stew w/ bay mash & crispy potato skins
Rabbit has fallen out of popularity over the past years, yet it is an abundant wild resource on our doorsteps that is highly sustainable and delicious! As well as this, by its very nature, the welfare of the animal is higher than any farmed meat. It’s time for rabbit to have its comeback and although it may be hard to find in supermarkets or even at your local butcher, you can order online like I did from Coombe Farm Organic.
This slow cooked wintery stew is perfect for the weekend, you can prep all the veg when putting the stew on, so that come dinner time, you’ve only got to finish the mash, fry the potato skins and pour yourself a glass of wine.
Serves 4 / Prep time 1hour / Cooking time 2hours
800g-1kg wild rabbit jointed into 6 pieces
2 garlic clove
1 tbsp plain flour
200ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock
3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaf
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp olive oil (for frying)
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Bay mash & crispy skins
1.2kg Marris Piper or similar potato (roughly 4 large potatoes)
250ml whole milk
2 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp flaked sea salt
150ml veg oil (for frying)
Recommend to serve with honey roasted carrots & perfectly paired with Slow Disco Sauvignon Blanc from Urban English Winery, Black Book.
Heat up a heavy based casserole pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil on a medium to high. Once at temp add your jointed rabbit, leave to brown for 2 minutes on each side. Once browned, remove from the pan and place in a bowl to one side.
Reduce the heat and add a little more oil, now add your diced shallots & crushed garlic. Season with a generous pinch of sea salt and cook gently till soft.
Once soft, turn up the heat so your pan is sizzling then add your 200ml of dry white wine (you want this to bubble when it hits), using a wooden spoon, give the pan a good scrape so you get all the golden goodness from frying the meat & onions.
Reduce the heat and add your tbsp of flour, give this a good stir so to avoid any lumps then add your 500ml chicken stock, thyme, bay & wholegrain mustard.
Add your browned rabbit back to the pan, season with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Place the lid on and leave to gently bubble away for 1½ to 2 hours or till the rabbit is tender. Check on the stew every 30mins to make sure the rabbit is still fully submerged and the bottom not catching, top up with a little water if needed.
Once your stew is on, you can prep your mash for later. Wash & peel the potatoes, place the skins to one side in a bowl. Cut the potatoes into quarters and place in cold water until ready to cook (this stops them from discolouring). Then cut the potato peelings into 1/2cm strips, these can just be left uncovered, the extra time air drying will create a crispier end result.
When your stew is ready just remove from the heat and leave to one side, it will stay warm whilst you cook your veg. Place your prepped potatoes in a pan with boiling water and cook for 15minutes or until tender. Whilst they are boiling, fry your potato skins & gently infuse the milk.
Place the milk, butter, bay & peppercorns in a small saucepan and gently heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat until the potatoes are boiled.
Heat 200ml of veg oil on a medium heat in a large frying pan, check the oil is at the right temperature by dropping in one potato skin strip, it should gently sizzle as it hits the oil. The key to frying is to not add too much to the pan at once, you want all the skins to have space to do their thing. Once evenly browned, remove from the pan allowing excess oil to drip off before placing on a plate to one side. Sprinkle generously with flaked sea salt.
Drain of the water from the tender potatoes, then place a sieve over the pan and pour in the infused buttery milk. Put the pan back on a low heat and mash until smooth, seasoning to taste.
To serve, spoon a generous amount of mash onto a plate, smooth with the back of your spoon. Then ladle in the stew and top with a mound of crispy potato skins. Serve with a side of veg & a glass of wine.