I am a home cook from Surrey, UK, living with my wonderful partner Simon, my mischievous cat (Pippin) and my unashamed love of crime fiction and musical theatre. And don’t even get me started on my Victoria Wood collection or my Golden Girls box sets!
A Maths teacher in my professional life, having taught for almost 30 years, teaching remains both exciting and rewarding for me. As a teacher I love to learn, especially with my cooking – and not least from my many mistakes over the years.
Cooking has always been a significant part of my life. I love all cooking – for me it is the best way to lose myself in a very happy world – but in the world of cooking, baking epitomes total comfort for me; it’s possibly also a form of therapy for me -and it is certainly my “go to” when I want to relax.
I enjoy any opportunity to cook for others, whether to test out a new idea on people, or for a charity event. And I love eating what others have baked: there is always such pleasure tucking into anything that someone else has made.
My world of food
I will cook anything, often taking inspiration from ideas that are many decades old (I do have a soft spot for “retro” food, but I am often inspired by current trends.
I love adding my own stamp on food, sometimes trying to modernise a classic from an earlier era (who doesn’t love a fondant fancy?) but at other times recreating it without embellishment.
Actually, reviving dishes that have either fallen out of fashion or are all but forgotten, is something of a hobby amid my love of cooking, and I get great joy out of researching such dishes and making them at home.
I particularly adore finding out about other people’s family recipes handed down through the generations and the stories behind those recipes.
Give me a vol-au-vent bursting at the seams with a full-flavoured filling or a generous portion of prawn cocktail with a tangy sauce and I am a very happy boy indeed! And I cannot overlook one of my all-time favourites, the Black Forest Gateau.
While each of these might be considered somewhat naff, they really doesn’t deserve that reputation.
I particularly adore small-scale food: canapés and other miniature treats packed with flavour excite me.
I would actually forego a full meal for a selection of good canapés – as long as they keep coming!
Pastries and breads are, for me, the most addictive areas of baking: I love how just a few humble ingredients can be turned into something quite majestic.
Afternoon Tea is one of my favourite things to eat and to prepare, mainly because of my love of small-scale nibbles and “dainties”. I love to prepare it for friends and family and it is always a great opportunity for me to indulge in my creative side.
I have many ambitions and wishes, which I appreciate are more like wild dreams. That said, one of my greatest ambitions came true this year when I was chosen to participate in Series 1 on Britain’s Best Home Cook for BBC television.
Being on Britain’s Best Home Cook was hands-down the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me
I enjoyed every moment of my time on the show, not least getting the opportunity to cook for Mary Berry, Chris Bavin and Dan Doherty. And to have Claudia Winkleman, one of my idols, bouncing around the kitchens and being a terrific support, was a real thrill.
It is probably greedy to have other ambitions after this, but I will allow myself a moment of greed! My other ambitions include:
- To publish a cookery book: I create recipes all the time, of which only a small proportion are on this blog, and I have so many book ideas roughly planned.
- To run cooking demonstrations.
- To have my own tea shop, serving quality Afternoon Teas: great sandwiches, scones, pastries, cakes, savoury items……pop-up Afternoon Tea anyone?
- To write about food professionally.
- I have a weakness for Reality Television. Mind you, to dance on Strictly or go in the jungle are also mad dreams of so many years. Essentially a way to lose weight!!! If only they let one non-celeb person each series participate…….Mind you, I love watching television and I also have a great fondness for Gogglebox.
All insanely daft dreams, but it is fun to dream!
Recreating dishes & and putting my twist on them
I love thinking of and then developing recipes and I am an unashamed tweaker of even my own recipes: I am rarely satisfied with a recipe until it has got to the “I’ve got to have another portion” stage and if I am happy to serve it to others.
My version of the classic Pissaladière, in which I use a freshly made croissant dough as the base, remains true in heart to the original French classic and has become a very firm favourite in our house; my kedgeree-inspired tarts are perfect as a tasty light bite and are an affectionate homage to that great dish, although I have recently adapted this as a spiced smoked cod and fennel version:
In particular I cannot stop myself from playing around with different flavours for breads: I often bake my Gorgonzola & pear bread, whether in sourdough form (as I initially devised for this bread) or using commercial yeast.
Cooking with the seasons
Making use of seasonal produce is an important part of my approach in all of my cooking and I particularly love the challenge of finding new dishes with the produce.
We are fortunate to have an allotment which is a great haven. In any month of the year there is produce that can be made great use of in the kitchen – and that never fails to both excite and inspire me.
My food heroes
I have many food heroes, whose works I return to time and time again: and as a teacher it is always a thrill to get taught and to be inspired.
My heroes include:
- Nigel Slater
- Julia Child
- Elizabeth David
- Delia Smith
- Simon Hopkinson
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- The Roux family
- Mary Berry
- Ina Garten
- Raymond Blanc
Best wishes, Philip.
Please feel free to contact me as I love to chat with others who love cooking.