November 22nd, 2010

Waitrose Cookery School

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a preview do for Waitrose’s new cookery school. It was on Thursday evening, which was not exactly great as it’s my chocolate making day but I wanted to go so much, I decided I’d make a little less to make up for the time-loss.

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Now, I’m a sort of person who h.a.t.e.s going to places alone. I get uncomfortable, be it waiting for a friend to turn up at the bar, or going to cinemas on my own. So I asked my friend A to accompany me. She also has great interest in food & teaches Japanese home-style cooking here in London, so a perfect companion for the night I think!

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Soon as we got our coats checked-in, we were handed a glass of champagne. Champagne is my favourite alcoholic beverage (next to Japanese plum wine) that magics delirious happiness in me. Hmm… - And then came very tasty canapés. Ah! We’re getting treated finely tonight aren’t we! (champers fueled giggles with A.)

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(Another one? ~ oh go on then, bend my rubber arm why don’t you.)

(Behind the scenes, making our nibbles.)

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Drink in one hand & camera dangling on neck, we nosed around. Gosh, it’s such a dream place. If I was to ever open a school it’ll be like this. A spacious open plan set-up of cooking workshop area, eating area & impressive bar. There’s also an auditorium for demonstrations in the next room equipped with hi-tech live-camera above the front work-top so that seated students can see what the chef is doing in detail on a mounted telly. Not bad.

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Equipment freaks that we are, we looked in draws in the workshop. I instantly fell in love with the following two; a ‘Lékué Decopen’ for piping,

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& this, oh God I want it so bad, a titanium ‘Kenwood KM070 cooking chef major mixer‘, WITH induction cooking technology!!! I’ve never heard of such a thing! Apparently you can make béchamel sauce in it, & even risotto. Well, with just under £1000 to buy just one of these, it better do. I have never ever been interested in food mixers before, even the lovely KitchenAid, but this… God, I want one. (did I just say this twice?)

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Anyway, back to writing about the evening.

There were only around 17 bloggers that attended & from Waitrose’s side there were around 7 chefs, aswell as more bods from management & PR. (Pamper-ometer, tick!) After champagne, we watched head pastry chef James Campbell (formerly Gary Rhodes’ group head pastry chef ) make italian-meringue based macaroons in orange marmalade flavour. And then it was our turn to do the same. The ingredients were already measured out set neatly by our work table, & ofcourse we don’t do the washing up later.

(Clean & stylish)

(Macs. Italian meringue based are easier to make (compared to french meringue version) as there’s no drying period, but I think the result-texture is harder & chewier… – although it is less so as you leave it for a couple of days.)

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We then had a cocktail master-class. Orange & vodka mix poured in to  sugar-rimmed  glass, & then another cocktail which was coffee flavoured.

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(My friend A making cocktail.)

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We also sampled two more flavours of macs. Eggnog one which had chantilly cream filling which was delicious, & mulled wine one with edible glitter on its surface. Everyone seemed to love the glitter on it, but I personally don’t, although I do understand the attraction of its prettiness. The reason why I don’t like them is simply because I don’t want to eat it. It’s the same feeling I have to edible gold leafs.

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Anyway, all in all I was very impressed with the place & the chefs who were all friendly. I thought that the price for classes (all-day classes are £175) are reasonable if you think that there are three chefs to 24 pupils which is good going.

November 16th, 2010

General update

(Picture courtesy of D from The Teaching Kitchen. – Back in the Summer, D came to visit the market! Her opening line to me was: “I travelled 5000 miles to see you!” Read her account on it here.)

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Hello! How are you keeping in this Autumn?

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I must say, I’m actually doing really good – yeah, it’s getting too cold for standing long outside on Saturdays, but I wear TWO layers of Uniqlo ‘Heat Tech’ garments under my clothes, & I recently bought my first ever wool socks which won’t let the cold penetrate from the ground so much as cotton. (I just can’t believe I never had any before! I’m hooked… so if you haven’t got one, please, I recommend you go out get a pair too!).

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The cake sales are on the up (on some weeks it’s still down, but it’s mostly up). And I’m thinking: “… like, finally!”, after the rather unfruitful Summer period when it was almost not worth the time & effort to be there every week. (I put the blame on tightened purse strings due to the economy’s downward spiral.) Although, having said that it being not worth the effort, I WAS there pretty much throughout, my main drive was because I felt strongly that I mustn’t look unreliable to not be there regularly – I mean, it’s a sure-fire way of losing loyal customers right?

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So anyway, my Summer 2010 was spent moaning about the frustration of bad sales to any ear that would listen – well, the victims were mainly my dearest stall neighbours actually – so I’m sure they’re just as happy that my sales are up finally…! lol.

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Nowadays, it’s just great to be making chocolates truffles & hot chocolate drinks again, because I missed making them (I only sell chocolates during the cold season, from mid-Autumn to mid-Spring). Delicious cakes could surely give people great pleasure, but when I see people eat chocolates, it’s like watching a cat in a cream factory, y’know, really savouring it for what it is ~ there’s nothing like it, there’s a small dose of magic in chocolates.

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Recently I got to thinking that perhaps my children would be reading this blog when they are older. At first I couldn’t quite make up my mind on wether I liked the idea of it. Can’t explain well, but I guess I worry about what they would conclude out of reading this. Recipes to hand-down to them is definitely going to be a plus, but what about all the other things I have been writing here? The ups & vulnerable downs. Perhaps I might come across as self-absorbed? Or perhaps they’ll relate to my passion for what I do.

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I guess the one thing I am proud of conveying to them from this is that I NEVER write anything negative about anyone. And that’s the same when I talk to people in everyday life too. I might like my girly gossips but I hate speaking ill of anyone. Because if you turn it around & imagine somebody else saying that about you, you’d sure get hurt. I also believe what goes around comes around. If you sow the wind, you’d reap the whirlwind. On this note, it’s important to remember that it works the other way too – if you treat others with kindness & respect, IT WILL be returned to you. It could even start with just a simple act of smiling to people you meet. For example, when I work at the stall, I always like to beam my best-est smile. Real smiles. Not fake because a lie always catches you out. Anyway, it’s easy to smile & say thank you because I still can’t believe how great that anyone would want to spend their hard-earned cash on things I make.

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Our boy ‘I’ will be seven in December. Already. (Has seven years passed by that quickly?) He wants to be a footballer, artist & head-teacher (yes, all three in one!). He is very good with reading at school & what’s more important, he has good social skills. He’s amazing with dancing & is tall & very handsome too. I’d like to think he’d make a good pop-star but he absolutely hates the idea of it!

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Then ofcourse, there’s our little girl ‘S’ who is two & a half years old already. It still seems like only a little time ago that I wrote about her birth on this blog. And documented about the time when I was pregnant with her. She is so sweet, so gentle & very clever. I can see positive determination & good concentration skills in her. She’d like to be a school teacher too (actually it was her idea to be a teacher first & ‘I’ copied!).

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When they are old enough to start reading this, I wonder what great people they will be. And I wonder what I will be doing too – I have been thinking that this trading every week at the market thing, I’m probably going to stop in the next year or two. There’s one or two projects I’d like to get my teeth in to. And besides, with the family-life needing more of my energy & attention, the balance of work & family is not quite right anymore & it tires me out & the rest of the family members. Time for re-adjustment. I always think that my children come first in priority stakes, & work? probably third or fourth. You get just one-shot at being a Mother whereas you can re-establish work many times. What I need is a job that can allow me to stay at home & makes lots of money while at it!! lol. But doesn’t every mother want that?!

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About the picture above – that same day there was another blog reader, & she was also from just as far away: CANADA! It is just too exciting for words! The fact that there are people from out-of-country coming to the heart of East London of all places & to put seeing me as part of their journey…! Wow… really…, thank you!!!!!!! Isn’t it weird & wonderful - I sometimes find that there are certain customers who I think are suspect-blog-readers – they’re just taking more pictures than that of usual & observes my face more than the standard fair. Perhaps it’s all my wishful imagination but it makes me beam out a smile of all smiles anyhow. ^^