My day with Jamie

I’m not an avid cooking show watcher. This is partially because we don’t have The Food Network and most cable cooking show hosts are terrible/like to state the obvious (no way, you’re going to make a “no-bake cake” without putting it in the oven?! What sorcery is this?!). Also, there are very few chefs who I look up to. I watch Lidia because a) her food looks delicious and b) she amuses me in her grandmotherly-like way. But my favourite – in fact, the household favourite – is Jamie Oliver.

My sisters have been JO fans for years – since his “Naked Chef” days, which I don’t really remember – and we have a couple of his cookbooks. Then, in the last couple of years, he came back with “15 Minute Meals” and Ro and I become obsessed (we watch it every Saturday morning). Generally, if I’m looking up a recipe, I look up at his website before I check for something simpler (I would have tried making his brownies, but melting chocolate chunks seemed a lot more complicated than opening the thing of cocoa powder that was sitting in the cupboard). We’ve been to a couple of his restaurants in London (Union Jacks in Covent Garden, and Fifteen), and they were amazing.

This rambling is just to say that last Tuesday, I got to spend a day with Jamie Oliver. Well, technically with his food stylist, but also Jamie himself.

To make a long story short: I (conveniently) intern at the publishing company that just put out Jamie’s latest cookbook, “Comfort Food“; I mentioned that I’m a big Jamie fan to his publicist, and then the next thing I knew, that same publicist (Rob) was telling me that Jamie’s team needed an assistant for his Canadian publicity and would I be interested in helping out?

I don’t think I need to tell you how fast I said yes.

Here are some things that I learned during my day with Jamie (and his food stylist, Christina):

1) Creme fraiche in Canada is not the same consistency as creme fraiche in Britain so sometimes you need to add yogurt and/or cream cheese into it to make it look good for TV.

2a) American ovens won’t always bake buns to golden-y perfection at the same temperature as British ovens.

2b) This means that you might have to re-jig the shooting schedule to give your finished product more time to, well, finish.

3) Washing dishes is a boring but necessary task, and will sometimes lead to you meeting one of your heroes while wearing a soap-sudsy apron with your hair sticking up everywhere and your glasses fogging up because you’ve been elbow-deep in hot water for fifteen minutes.

4) A “hero” is also a term for “the finished product that looks good enough to show on TV, compared to those other ones that are still baking in the oven because of the aforementioned temperature discrepancy”.

5) Electric mixers, while often hailed as being time-savers, don’t always break the butter down into the flour properly so you’re better off just using your hands (plus it’s more fun that way).

6) No matter how many times he goes over the recipe in the kitchen, it’s still possible for the chef to accidentally call star anise “five-spice” while on set. And he’ll probably make fun of himself for doing it too.

7) Audiences + freshly made food + a chef handing out plates = chaos. And also a lot of waste, which is totally rude, considering how many other people in the audience didn’t get a sample.

8) If you stick a bunch of women in the same room as Jamie Oliver, a lot of giggling and hair-flipping will ensue. Outside of the room, there will be a lot of whispers of “he’s so good-looking/charming/sweet/wonderful,” etc, until you want to bark “keep it in your pants, he’s married,” but secretly, you’re proud because they’re just staring at him through a window and you’ve actually had a conversation with him.

9) Sticky toffee pudding looks, smells, and tastes delicious, but is a pain in the butt to clean up after, especially if you’re running late for another event and it’s going to take you ten minutes to grab a cab.

10) Despite what critics and “haters” may think of him, Jamie Oliver if one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. What you see on TV is exactly what you get in real life.

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By the way, this experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Rob Firing – check out his new book, “The Everyday Squash Cook“, squashed full of recipes that are perfect for fall!

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Quesada

Welcome to the inaugural (Un?)Satisfied Saturday! I love food (mm, food), and earlier today, Ro suggested that I start blogging about my food experiences. This is by no means a regular category, but I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a food critic, so now’s my chance! The title – (Un?)Satisfied Saturday – should be pretty self-explanatory; obviously, I’d prefer if it was always Satisfied Saturday, but sometimes you eat somewhere and it just doesn’t live up to your expectations.

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A new Mexican place opened nearby a few weeks ago and, since we were already out, we decided to try it. For the record, my burrito place of choice is Burrito Boyz, but I’m always game to try somewhere else.

I ordered the spicy chicken, and Ro got the ancho pork. The toppings were standard: cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, green chilis, onions, corn, cilantro. I don’t actually like cilantro but I always get it on my burritos anyway. A selection of sauces, plus rice (white or brown), and beans (black or brown). Much to my chagrin, guacamole was an extra $0.75. I realize that’s not a lot of money, but it’s automatically included at Burrito Boyz and I dislike having to pay extra for something that’s such an integral part of the taste (it’s one of the reasons I don’t love Chipotle either).

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Ro didn’t suggest blogging until I was halfway through my burrito, but at least now you can see the inside!

The tortilla seemed thinner than usual, but because of the way it was rolled, I occasionally ended up with a mouthful of tortilla and no filling. There was a lot of lettuce, but not a heaping amount of the other toppings. The brown rice was plain – not the usual tomato-y goodness that you expect at a Mexican restaurant; I don’t think the white rice would have been any different.

The chicken was pre-made and served straight into the tortilla without additional warming. It was “spicy” flavoured, but it wasn’t anything mouth-burning (granted, I have a very high tolerance for spicy food, so maybe other people would have felt it?). The chipotle sauce I chose wasn’t anything special, neither was the “hot” sauce. I sniffed a couple of times, but there was no desperate chugging of water.

The burrito – we got larges – was filling, but not in a happy way: I didn’t finish it, lean back and groan “that was so worth it”. It was more of “well, at least it’s done” sort of way.

One thing that really bothered me was the fact that the burrito was warmed after it was wrapped in foil. I feel like that’s not actually safe, though do we even know how foil is made?

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, though maybe the worst burrito (and I’ve bought over-priced burritos from a food truck outside the Amphitheatre).

Quesada is probably healthier than Burrito Boyz, but in terms of quantity/quality (and similar prices), I’ll always pick BB.

Final verdict: unsatisfied.

[T]here are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea – Henry James

I love tea. Tea is great. I like drinking tea and smelling tea and talking about tea and just saying the word “tea” in general.

If I lived in England, you can be sure that I would take part in a high afternoon tea ritual EVERY WEEK (or at least every two weeks). Today, we staged our own afternoon tea (the lovely Bozzo sisters, Nina and Anna, were supposed to join us, but then yesterday it crazy-snowed and so it was down to two):

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Afternoon tea involves a lot of sweets – pastries and such – and at least one type of sandwich (usually 2). I got my Mooms to make chicken and avocado wraps and we put them on this nice wooden board.

I spent most of yesterday and this morning baking (it should be noted that, while I enjoy baking, it’s not my forte – I tend to spill a lot (usually flour) and my measuring capabilities are not the best). I made:

-Earl Grey madeleines, following this recipe (because I don’t have “madeleine” pans, I just put drops of dough onto a sheet.

-Scones, to be enjoyed with jam (or clotted cream, if we had any), from here

-Brown sugar cookies (in the shape of bears) and shortbread (snowmen and bells) from the handy Pillsbury Christmas cookie booklet we picked up about a month ago.

We also made cupcakes from a box…mainly because the box mix was about to expire and we didn’t want to waste it.

Our pot of tea was loose-leaf Christmas Blend from Harvey Nichols – delicious! (and it smells soo nice!). And we started to watch The Holiday, which, while good, always takes us at least 2-3 days because it’s long.

The thing with afternoon tea is that there are so many little things to eat that, by the time you pause for a breather, you realize you really are very full. Although, since we were at home, it’s much easier to drop the leftovers into a container and save it for later than it is if you’re in a real tea room.

That being said, if you’re a tea-fan at all, I highly recommend doing a proper afternoon tea at some point in your life. There’s something magical about it that you don’t want to miss.

 

Everyone hail to the pumpkin song

As everyone knows, pumpkin pie is the traditional dessert for Thanksgiving. We’re rarely home over the long weekend (usually we’re in Quebec) but since we stayed this year (largely due to our TRIFECTA of shows), I decided to make pie.

I made the crust from scratch and for the filling, followed the instructions on the can’s label (thanks, E.D. Smith, whoever you are).

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I left it in a tiny bit too long so it ended up a little burned on top. Still tasted fine, though.

Since I had almost half a can of pumpkin left, I looked up a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!

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You can’t really see it in this picture, but they’re quite orange!

Luckily, these cookies are egg-free so if you’re me (i.e. impatient) they don’t have to bake for a long time!

Pumpkin-tastic!

I like food more than I like most people

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Jake knows exactly how I feel.

I enjoy cooking and baking. I don’t do it that much and I always need a recipe, but I like it.

Today I baked not one, but TWO vegetable-based cakes.

My mooms had an abundance of tomatoes from her garden, so we googled a recipe and ended up with a Tomato Spice Cake.

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It’s basically a lot of tomatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In this month’s Food & Drink magazine (from the LCBO), they featured a recipe for a “natural red velvet cake made from chocolate and beets”. I love chocolate and I love beets, so this seemed like a magical combination.

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It didn’t taste that much like beets, much to the delight of my mostly beet-indifferent family. And it was the first time I attempted a red velvet cake so yay!

Paired with a cute glass of ice wine, this dessert was definitely a good choice to celebrate the end of summer/beginning of autumn!

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