This is Restaurant at Home – a collection of my ideas, inspirations and experience. Basically a hot mess of my life. Hope you like.
I am not a chef. I have no professional training, I’ve never cooked for anyone but family and friends, and maybe even worse of all….I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten meat or fish for over 25 years. You may well ask how a vegetarian can write a blog, of sorts, which is so very carnivore friendly but here it is – a collection of recipes, eating out and eating in experiences. This Restaurant at Home blog is my online recipe book, culinary journal and scrapbook – a hardcopy cookbook is in production but I hope you will enjoy these pages whilst you wait.
So why Restaurant at Home? The kitchen, or more specifically the kitchen table, is the heart of my home. It is where my husband and I, often with our friends and family, spend most of our time, sharing food and stories. I love nothing more than bringing people together through food and every evening, without fail, sit at the table with my husband, and anyone else who has dropped round to be fed, and serve up a home cooked meal. Whether I have rustled up a quick, ten minute meal after work or an elaborate Saturday night four (or sometimes eight!) courses, the constant is the table, the people and conversation. In a world where we spend most of our time running around, juggling family and work, dedicating time to spend with your loved ones is essential, and why not combine that time with food? After all, we all have to eat!
It was the pure pleasure I got from cooking for my husband and loved ones and then sitting down and eating together that inspired me to try to write a cookbook that was more than just a collection of recipes. I wanted to encourage people to cook a proper meal, from scratch, and eat it together with no distractions, no plates balanced on knees while watching TV (although sometimes if that is what you fancy, it is perfectly acceptable!) and no mobile phones. I wanted to prove that this can be done every day, even after a long day at work. The concept of Restaurant at Home is as simple as approaching eating your own food, at your own table, as if you were in a restaurant. Even a quick and simple supper on a Monday evening can have that restaurant feel if you set the table, add some simple decorations and sit down together. Don’t have a table? Well, spread out a rug on the floor, light some candles and use that as your table. However you choose to approach this, and be as creative as you like, the essential point is sitting down and eating together.
I love a full day in the kitchen and every now and again my “restaurant” serves up anything from three to ten courses on a Saturday evening. If you have the time and desire to do this then don’t forget to give your restaurant some attention too with beautiful table settings, good wine, candles and lighting, maybe even some music. And of course, if you have spent hours producing the perfect menu for your guests, give yourself a little attention too. We often “dress for dinner” in our house, as we would if we were going out to eat, and it adds a little sense of occasion to the evening. You don’t have to go out to eat out.
I like to think I only have three rules when it comes to hosting a restaurant at home. The first is that although not everyone has the time or money to eat out regularly, we all have the ability to produce beautiful food from scratch whether it takes ten minutes or ten hours. If you love to cook and cook for the ones you love, your food will taste good. My biggest kitchen disasters have usually been where I have been stressed , the way you feel when you cook is your “secret ingredient” and if you are cross and angry you will be able to taste it in the end result. The second is that the time you spend eating is precious, it is not a big ask to turn off the TV, switch off your phones and spend mealtime with family and friends. The third is to always make eating an event, whatever day of the week it is, whether you dress up or dress down, decorate the table or throw a rug on the floor – on any given night your restaurant at home could be a fast-food diner, a relaxed café, a tapas or snack bar, a grill, a pizzeria or even a Michelin starred dining room. It is up to you.
So how can this veggie have anything useful to say about cooking meat and fish? Well, I have had a lot of practice. My husband is a committed carnivore and hopeless in the kitchen. It became clear early on that in order to save him from a life of pies, I was going to have to learn how to cook meat and fish. Embarking on this culinary adventure into a brave new world, I started out with some ground rules: 1) we buy ethically, 2) we waste nothing and 3) he tries everything at least once. So carcasses turn into stock, fat is retained for roasting and nothing goes unused…recently after I grappled with an entire rabbit (skinning, jointing – the works), Glenn found himself trying heart, liver and kidney on toast (which he loved despite thinking he wouldn’t).
And although I may not eat meat and fish, I do have a certain amount of instinct and senses of smell, sight, touch and hearing. I am also told I have a flair for cooking. Not being able to taste much of my own food means I have to rely on the feedback of others and so far my efforts have had the thumbs up from family, friends and colleagues so they are to blame if you don’t like anything featured in these pages.
I don’t know everything, you may disagree with some my weights and measures, flavours and seasonings… and, sometimes, I hope you do. Until I can publish my cookbook, this will serve as my “blogbook”. My own cookbooks are covered with scribbles and dates, substitutes and changes to each recipe, charting how I adapted them to my own style, when I cooked them, who for and why. So “scribble” away on these pages and make them as much a journal for your memories and ideas as a recipe book (and let me know how you go).
Love what you cook, sit down to eat, make it count.