I once dated somebody who wasn’t really into food. “What’s the point?” he would say. “Food is only fuel to run your body”.
This particular man had managed to get to the age of 32 without having tried either stilton or avocado which should have been red-flag enough, but glutton for punishment that I am I went along with a couple more dates with him to Nandos. Apparently I wasn’t grateful enough to be the beneficiary of his loyalty points-chicken after one particular date, so there weren’t many more after that.
The sharing and enjoyment of food with people I care about, stilton and avocado included, is something so important to me. I plan all our family meals in advance – my tummy rumbles for dinner when I’m finishing lunch – and cooking lovely food for the people I care about is genuinely one of the greatest joys in my life. Which is why I was mega keen to get involved in Waitrose’s #CookAndShare event last week at their cookery school.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know what a genuine fan I am of Waitrose; I used to retreat to their aisles during my divorce, planning intricate meals to take my mind off other things. Four years down the line and the staff know our names, they play with the children and make small talk with me. I love it – their dedication to good food, good company and good experiences.
I nearly defected to M&S when we lost Burrata from our local branch, but now it’s back I’m a fan for life.
I’d been to Waitrose’s cookery school once before, previewing Christmas with one of the most amazing roasts I’ve ever had (AND PHILIP SCHOFIELD!), and it’s a really special place. Chock-full of knowledgeable chefs and hungry diners, it’s a foodie match made in heaven.
We began our evening as all good evenings do… with a cocktail. Rhubarb fizz in hand, Chefs floated around with the most incredible canapés: croquettes loaded with ham and cheese, comté bread puffs and, my all-time favourite, prawn cocktail bites.
After a bit of chin-wagging with fellow foodies (I was very happy to see some old favourites Emily Leary and the crowd-pleasing Hugo) we were ushered in to start on our first creation of the evening: a meringue that would form the base of a special Easter Eton mess. I was paired with Hugo and, after the smallest bit of bickering over what constituted the perfect meringue mix, our freeze-dried raspberry was applied and pud went in the oven.
Next up we had cocktail making with Sam Metcalf, the master mixologist at the Cookery School. My heart sank when it was described as a Creme Egg Cocktail (I can’t stand the things, bleurgh) but this was the best kind of Creme Egg I’ve ever tasted. Blending coconut cream, pineapple juice, Bacardi and Malibi, the finished drink was a delicious pina colada: garnished with a Mango, Passion Fruit and Yuzu coulis and a rim of chocolate, it really did look like a Creme Egg!
Next up was the assembly of our starter – they really make you work for your supper at Waitrose ;) On the menu was Grilled Mackerel with Pickled Grapes and Horseradish, a mega easy recipe (blow-torching aside) that I’ll be re-creating at home. This made a really wonderful starter, but I’ll be adding a bit of sweet potato to beef it up for dinner time.
We were left alone to plate our food and the creations coming out of the kitchen were truly spectacular – I was pretty proud of mine!
I was lucky enough to be seated next to one of my foodie heroes at the table – Anna Barnett – who I’ve adored ever since attending an International Women’s Day brunch at her Hackney home. Do sign up for her email for some really wonderful recipe inspiration!
I MAY have bent her ear slightly over three courses; it says a lot that the following is the best photo evidence I have of the pairing ;)
Our main course was epic – the kind of meal I dream of cooking if only I had a bigger dining table. We had the softest salmon I’ve ever tasted alongside Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Anchovy and Rosemary. Sides included the best crispy stuffed mushrooms, an incredibly cheesy cauliflower cheese and one of my very favourite forms of potato: roasted gnocchi with rocket and parmesan. It was all delicious, not a heavy winter roast as we can be used to but the lightest collection of dishes. Perfect for Easter.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and we all headed back to the kitchen to assemble our Eton Mess(es). Hugo went a bit rogue with ours while I was on a loo break – there were no perfectly-formed Easter eggs – but our finished dish was a gorgeous de-constructed plate of delightfulness. Meringue, coulis, white chocolate, raspberries. Yum!
This Easter, Waitrose are spreading the #CookandShare love (click through to spot me on the website!). They’ve launched a delicious competition where you could be in with a chance of winning a spring-themed Emma Bridgwater bouquet, a luxury Waitrose hamper and a delicious bottle of Leckford English wine.
All you need to do to take part is #CookandShare! Get cooking – knock up your favourite dish and post it on Twitter or Instagram, hashtagging the photo #CookandShare. Tag @waitrose in the photo and let them know who you’d split your gorgeous creation with. Have fun and good luck!
Find out more info at their #CookandShare site here.
Thank you for having me for this awesome supper, Waitrose!