I’d love to be able to tell you a story of my childhood where I was forced to cook for myself if I was to eat – but that’s simply not the case. Growing up in a solid family environment, I was lucky to have hot meals provided on a daily basis and my mum was just an amazing cook.
The food I grew up on was freshly cooked too – not a ready meal in sight we’d regularly have curries, risottos – and the traditional sunday roast. Shepherds pie, faggots, liver and onions… the list goes on and I have very fond memories of my childhood dining experiences.
By the age of about 14, I was quite often late home for dinner – so started to learn some of the skills required to feed myself – albeit in the early days it was beans on toast (with cheese and loads of cracked black pepper of course!). Over the next few years, I recognised that I loved good food. I can remember the first time I went to an Indian restaurant and being blown away by the depth of flavour.
Over the following years, I continued to eat – and then try to cook as many different types of food as possible…
Fast forward to 2002 – and I married Alison.
Unlike myself (a professional “winger”), Alison likes to be organised and soon was planning our weekly meals – and ordering the necessary ingredients. However Alison gets no pleasure out of cooking – so that job mostly falls to me. Over the past 18 years, Alison and I have been on what can only be described as a culinary adventure – honing our skills – and now eat some really amazing (but easy to prepare) food.
To throw an extra challenge into the pot, between 2006 and 2009, Alison and I took on the lease of our local pub. With zero experience of running a pub (plenty of experience of being in a pub however!), we learnt on the job – and months into the adventure, ended up sacking the chef for reasons I’ll not bore you with. Rather than taking on a new chef, Alison managed to convince me that I could do it… Jumping from cooking for 2 – to cooking for 40 was quite a leap – but between us, we managed and a lot of new skills were acquired.
So what about the “cooking outdoors” thing..?
Well first off, I’m a bloke – and as we all know, blokes are brilliant with a barbecue. But not being a fan of cheap sausages and burgers, I started trying to cook things that I’d normally cook on the stove or in the oven – over the flames.
There’s something quite magical about creating great food over a fire – with a cold beer / wine / mojito in your hand and then sitting around the embers while you enjoy the fruit of your labour. I love the fact that the fire can be so unpredictable – you just can’t set it to gas mark 4 and leave it – you have to work with it and adjust accordingly. A dish cooked over the fire is so much more satisfying (and tasty) than the same dish cooked in a clinical kitchen.
Add in to the pot that there’s always something new to learn – what is there not to love?