|my work shoes. not glamourous but essential for comfortable hours of standing|
Life of a chef is not really glamourous. You work (hard) behind the scenes, you get sweaty, you get put under pressure and you get to wear not the most flattering of outfits, shoes included.
These elements cause me to have a somewhat love-hate relationship with my job. I mean, who wouldn't rather be the person dressed in heals, looking darling, sipping on a glass of bubbly, enjoying the ocean view and nibbling on the snacks you had just prepared.
Of course, the flip side is Private Chef work gets you to work in these beautiful spaces - so one really can't complain about dull work environments. A definite plus about the job. And you get to cook amazing food for people with little interest in budget.
I really do have a lot fun. I do really love my job.
So being booked for this last week to cook for several dinner parties was pure bliss in my books. Hard work for sure, but made all the more enjoyable by having wonderful clients whose interest in food was as keen as mine. Some favourite dishes cooked included a huge, standing rib eye roast (free range beef of course !) Salmon en Croute (salmon topped with watercress-marscapone and baked in pastry.) And then, a feast of Middle Eastern Mezze for a birthday party with 7 hour slow cooked lamb for mini shwarmas.
I have a real love affair with Middle Eastern / Mediterranean foods, so being given the opportunity to make and cook these foods is heaven for me. My infatuation is definitely sparked by the use of exotic spices and unusual combinations that entice the senses and en-trance the diner. I find this avenue of cooking to be an exciting journey of exploration and discovery. And hence it has a heavy influence on my style of cooking and use of flavours. I'd encourage everyone to step into this mystical world of spice and colours - if only to dine out on, if not to cook oneself. Find your closest Lebanese restaurant. Poke your nose into that spice store you walk past every day. Experiment. Explore the world of taste opportunities. You will only be rewarded.
Tomato & Chickpea Soup
This is a vegetarian version of the popular Moroccan soup, Harira, often chosen as the soup to break the days fast during Ramadan. Lamb or Chicken are usually added to enrich the soup, but without the meat it is just as flavorful and nutritious with only legumes. You can use a combination of chickpeas and lentils or as I did here, just use chickpeas. Whatever you fancy, by all means add the meat too..
Add spicy goodness with a flavourful chilli condiment like harissa or like a very special "Israeli Chilli" which I discovered at neighbourhood deli.
2 tins chopped tomato
1 tin cooked chickpeas
1/2 red onion - chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup of vegetable / chicken stock - depending how vegetarian you want to go
handful fresh coriander & flat leaf parsley - washed and chopped
1 generous teaspoon harissa / flavourful chilli condiment
20g -30g vermicelli - crushed into small pieces
fresh lemon to squeeze
salt & pepper
pinch of sugar
In a large enough saucepan, fry the onion in a little oil for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add in the dry spices, fry for 30 seconds then add in the tins of tomato. Bring to the boil then add in the stock, season with some salt and pepper, a pinch of sugar and the teaspoon of harissa / chilli. Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the lid and add in the chickpeas and vermicelli. Cook for another 5 to ten minutes to allow the vermicelli to soften and the chickpeas to heat through. Adjust the seasoning and add in the chopped fresh herbs and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot with sides and bread of your choice.