Ahead of Stirring Slowly being released later this year, debut author Georgie Hayden has released a free eshort, A Week of Stirring Slowly with 7 exclusive recipes (download yours here!). We caught up talk all things eshort, publishing and food, of course.
Stirring Slowly isn't a cuisine, and it isn't a food group or diet, which makes it hard to summarise in a couple of words. But the idea behind it is important to me, it's filled with recipes that will hopefully make you feel good. Whether it's the making and the processes involved, or the meal itself that is nourishing, it's a book that's been written especially with the focus being on restoration. As a result we thought it would be fab and important to create an eshort, a bit of a teaser but also a taster of what the book is about. And so 'A Week of Stirring Slowly' was created. I've written 7 brand spanking new recipes, ones that would happily sit within each chapter of the book, (and in theory one for each day of the week), and hopefully they will give you a good insight into what the book is about. There are a mixture of quick, nourishing recipes along with slow, calming ones; and they're all perfect for spring and summertime too.
How do you plan ahead for a week of cooking?
I never used to be in the habit of writing a weekly menu, working around food meant there was usually something to cook or eat! But it's become something of a Sunday evening ritual, and I love sitting down and meal planning. It helps on so many levels; we eat better, our meals are more consciously planned, and it's more economical too. Also, I find even this part of the process, the planning part, calming. I head to our local shops on a Monday morning and buy what I can there, and finish off at the supermarket. I try to make sure we eat fish at least once or twice a week, so I'll head to the fishmongers on my way to work on a Tuesday morning and pick up the last few bits then. (A good freezer bag is essential, you don't want to be *that* person on the train home from work.)
'Recipes to restore and revive' - is your philosophy as much about the cooking process as the eating enjoyment?
Absolutely. I love to eat, my husband says I'm at my happiest when I'm at a table filled with delicious things (and surrounded by people I love). But to me the process is equally important. Even after a busy day at work, I manage to find comfort in cooking a proper meal, whether it be a recipe that takes me 10 - 15 minutes, or one that takes me a few hours. It's a time to switch off, unwind and focus on something else completely. I know I am creating something good, whether that is just for me, or for a gaggle of people, the love that goes into cooking makes all the difference.
If you had to choose one favourite recipe from the free eshort, which one would it be?
It would have to be the slow cooked lamb with fennel, celery and dates. It's sticky, sweet, gently spiced and melt in the mouth delicious. You can take the girl out of Cyprus but you can't take Greek food out of the girl!
And your favourite ingredient from the eshort?
That's a tough one, I'm going to have to go with dill. I love the strong presence of herbs in the eshort; blueberries with basil are an absolute dream, coriander in the bakso, parsley in the romesco... but its the bunch of dill in the barley salad that gets me. If you're not used to using vast quantities of herbs it can seem intimidating, but trust me it works so well. It adds a freshness, warmth and slight aniseed flavour to the salad; along with the creamy feta, sweet dried cherries and tart dressing, it's the salad of summertime dreams.
How did you first discover the pleasure of creating food? Where does your creative drive come from?
I grew up spending a lot of time in my grandparents restaurant, so have always been surrounded by fantastic home cooked food. But it wasn't until I got into the kitchen myself that I really got it. My mum started by baking with us when we were young, then as I got older I progressed into making cakes on my own and I became more familiar with the kitchen and ventured into cooking. My mum reminded me the other day that when I was stressed at school I'd stay up all night in the kitchen, she'd wake up to mounds of food. And even though I went on to study art, I can honestly see such a huge correlation between the two. Ingredients are my medium and as cheesy as it sounds, writing recipes and creating dishes is not unlike creating work when I was in the studio; the development involved is the same for both. The disciplines are incredibly similar.
You've worked in Jamie Oliver's food team for a decade, what have your learnt from him?
A huge amount, Jamie has an amazing energy and is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. His love and appreciation for food is unrivalled. Even to this day you might think you've nailed something, and he'll come along and add a clever twist which takes it to that next level. I could cook before I joined the team, but watching and working with him all these years has taught me so much; mostly how far to push dishes, get the best out of them while having respect for the ingredients.
What has been your favourite thing about the publication process so far?
Well, yesterday the first copy of my book got couriered to my house and I cannot describe to you how insanely surreal that was! All that hard work, blood, sweat and tears... all in one place, beautifully bound. So I'm going to go with that; holding my real life book, that's been the best bit yet.