Stephen, Dinner for three at my house, Mitte

On my first day working on the shop floor at Melrose and Morgan, the chef kept picking on me.

“She’s so slow!”  (I was by the way) “Why do they keep hiring these useless people?” She asked, no one in particular.  I was standing right in front of her at the time and was positively mortified.

Anxious to get out of the line of fire, I went into the walk in fridge, preferring to freeze my butt off at 2 C rather than be bullied, and started labelling the soups (putting stickers with their name and ingredients on them).  Stephen, noticed my distress and came in after me, “Don’t worry about her, she can get like that.  She’s leaving anyway and I am taking over as Head Chef, so stay.”

I stayed.  And I am glad I did because what I learned in the 9 months at Leiths, paled in comparison to what I learned from Stephen.

He moved back to the Ledbury after a time and then became the head chef at The Harwood Arms (during his tenure, it was the first gastropub to get a Michelin star).  We always kept in touch and while I was in London, I made sure to eat at the Harwood regularly (and send everyone I knew) there.  When he emailed me to say he was coming to visit me in Berlin for a couple of days, I was over the moon!

Stephen is a rare breed among chefs. He is gentle and he loves to impart knowledge.  Every small interaction prompts an insight.   Like the other day, we were at Rogacki standing in front of the smoked fish counter, when he told me never to throw the skin away from smoked eel “It’s robust, stays intact  during cooking and is full of delicious smoky flavour, it goes wonderfully well in a celeriac soup, because it’s gutsy enough to stand up to celeriac.”

He has worked at Michelin restaurants since he was a lad out of college (The Square, The Ledbury, Anchor and Hope - not a Michelin but one of  the original gastropubs) and fed a lot of international culinary super stars at his pub (and they all loved it), but still he is the most down to earth guy.  Only when I mention someone does he say, “Oh yeah, he came with his whole team to eat at the Harwood when they were in London for the San Pellegrino awards”.  During these moments, I try not to act like a teenage groupie but still squawk “What? No Way!  That is so cool!”

There are chefs out there who dumb down their recipes so that they are easy for the masses to make but ultimately disappoint because all those short cuts lead to food is not tasty enough.  Conversely, there are those that have elaborate complicated recipes which rely on hard to find ingredients and time-consuming techniques, so that a home cook (even a seasoned one) is bound to fail.  Stephen taught me how to take readily available ingredients and coax out the flavour, using methods that I am familiar and comfortable with.

He volunteered to cook for a girlfriend and I (are we the two luckiest gals in Berlin? I think so!).  We picked up a Bourgogne chicken from the food hall at Galleries Lafayette and then, because we happened to be in the area (having had lunch at Meierei,) picked up the vegetables from LPG Biomarkt. As we stood in line, I looked at what he had selected, (2 leeks, 4 salsify, some parsley root, 3 onions, a bunch of small radishes, a handful of lambs lettuce and a bunch of thyme). Read more of this post

Christmas Lunch


Cocktail: Snowballs (made by my sister)
Turkey stuffed with lemon parsley butter (Gordon Ramsay, BBC Good Food)
Bread Sauce (Delia)
Cranberry Chutney (The British Larder Blog)
Cranberry, apple sauce (Gordon Ramsay, BBC Good Food)
Stove top carrots (Orangette Blog)
Wok fried Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts & Mirrin(Got the idea to side step the parboiling and go for searing heat instead from Heston Blumenthal, Waitrose Magazine but my recipe)
Garlic and Rosemary Roast Potatoes
Chestnut and Cranberry Stuffing with Sourdough (tweaked a recipe from Epicurious)
Nut Loaf (made by my mother in law)
Sour Cherry Linzer Tart (Sur la Table)
Chocolate & Pear Clafoutis (Elle a Table)

Proud to say, Christmas lunch went off without a hitch.

I said lunch would be served at 4 pm and everything was on the table at 3:45. And it was all still warm. Read more of this post


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