I am delighted to introduce our guest blogger Sophie Rae. Complexd Woman Sophie was featured in the 2nd Anniversary issue (page 50-55). Here, she writes about how her career as a food writer/stylist blossomed and gives us her top three restaurant recommendations to trail for London Restaurant Festival, which kicked off yesterday.
By Sophie Rae
I’d like to think that over the years, my tastes have refined, my palette matured and all in all my stomach understands the appropriate portion that a lady should eat. Well, I can vouch for everything but the latter.
Allow me to explain. I eat for my job. Not in a ‘I can’t stop stress munching my way through a pack of cheesy Doritos’ kind of eating; I HAVE to eat for my job. As a recipe tester and food writer, it’s the only way.
About 2 years ago, I found myself in London with no job, no money and no plan. Cue stress. So I began to cook. Cue muffintops. And whilst eating my way into an oblivious culinary cocoon, my career was inadvertently blossoming. One tedious evening, as I lamented next to our oven pining for a raspberry soufflé to rise faster, I decided what I wanted to do for a living. ‘Install ovens’ I hear you cry? Well not exactly.
Fast forward 2 years later, imagine some tears, a lot of grit, hard work and the occasional sprinkle of just plain luck and you have me. As a freelancer, I flit my way through the publishing world with all the grace of a hippo to write, cook and talk about food. Seems ridiculous really doesn’t it? But there it is. I eat for a living.
I test recipes for national editorials, twice, sometimes three times until they’re perfect, so that readers simply can’t complain if their dinner party was a complete shambles, because (and allow me to be modest here) the food will not have been the problem.
If you’re feeding a lot of guests, try the ‘one pot wonder’. Take chicken thighs, diced chorizo, peppers, courgettes, red onions, garlic; drizzle in oil and throw everything in a roasting pan. Roast for an hour. Serve with rocket salad and a mountain of crusty bread to mop up the spicy paprika juices. An all round favourite and most importantly so simple and stress free, because if the host is flapping around the kitchen, the guests will too. And unless you’re all Michelin star chefs, too many cooks in a kitchen, ends in tears. Or worse, a fire.
It seems that my love affair with food had been gently simmering through my adolescence, bubbling away ever so quietly until it knew it could be served. In hindsight, it should have been obvious. My school lunch box was always filled with random savoury experiments (brie and grape cracker anyone?) and I never did ever cotton on to the whole McDonald’s craze through my teenage years (it’s just not a burger unless it has 80% meat content). So perhaps in university when student loans pinged into our bank accounts and I’d rather visit the artisan deli instead of the pub, I really should have paid more attention. Or the look of childish glee on my face, every time mum served us spaghetti bolognese, which to this day is still my favourite meal. My tip? Get good quality mince, cook it a day in advance for the flavours to deepen and if your mouth doesn’t resemble smeared red lipstick then you simply haven’t eaten it properly. This is not date food, this is home comforts; and at home, we allow ourselves to slurp.
I’m hardly what you call a domestic goddess; laundry gets left to the last minute, I have only a quaint familiarity with our hoover and from time to time the dishwasher leaves a distinct whiff, informing me that I’ve been overusing the garlic again. Yet I think in some way, as long as you can feed yourself and loved ones a variety of vibrant, healthy meals, filled with fresh and tasty flavours with, of course, the odd devilishly naughty treat thrown in for good sugar measure, you’re already winning the battle of the ready meals. With all the fantastic produce on our doorstep, there really is no excuse for bad food anymore.
Taking a masterclass with British celebrity chef and restauranteur Marco Pierre White
However if the idea of cooking is still too much to bear, then your in luck because from the 1st-15th October, this glorious city plays host to London Restaurant Festival. In a spectacular celebration of eating out, a plethora of eateries are serving tantalizing menus, to get people’s taste buds tingling again and I have a fair few favourites.
- Head to Sherlocks Bar & Grill in the Park Plaza for the most succulent of charred chicken. (108 Baker Street, W1U 6LJ)
- Try the Oxo Tower for it’s elegant brasserie with breathtaking views of the city and a formidable wine list with over 800 bottles to chose from across the globe. (Southbank, SE1 9PH)
- Because we Brits can’t pass by a good curry, book a table at the sought after Michelin Star Tamarind in Mayfair, for it’s fragrant aromas, sugar and spice and all things nice. Be warned, the rose petal martinis are highly addictive. (20 Queen Street, W1J 5PR)
Ranging from £10pp to £40pp set menus, it’s a wonderful fortnight offering the chance to dine at the most exclusive of restaurants for a fraction of the normal price. So get eating!
Follow Sophie @muffintops88