The ‘on trend’ drink of the moment. I really started to understand gin and the process behind distilling from talking with Will at Greensand Ridge Distillery
in Kent. I learnt the difference in distilling methods and the difference between the mass-produced gins to the smaller distilleries. I loved the story behind his process utilising ingredients from the hills that surround the Weald to flavour the gin.
Will’s gin is amazing and I regularly used it for my gin cured salmon while cooking my Supper Clubs in Tonbridge. The salmon really takes on the flavour of the gin so it is an important ingredient in the dish.
I have been on the lookout for a local gin distillery since moving to Cambridge and through the wonders of Instagram I saw something about Cambridge Distillery
so thought I would check them out. I went to the distillery to taste the gins and get to know a bit more about the company and how they make the gins.
Thinking i knew how gin was distillled I was caught off guard when they started talking to me about the way they make the gin. They infuse all the botanicals separately in a machine i recognised as rotary evaporator, then blend the gin.
Having played around with a similar bit of kit in the science lab while studying my foundation degree in Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway College
, I have a basic understanding of the principles so it made complete sense when they explained it.
Just like cooking, ingredients cook better at different temperatures. Some may take longer or shorter times and this method of infusing botanicals separately allows all factors to be controlled.
The result speaks volumes. I tried lots of gins, all neat, and they were all absolutely amazing. The Japanese gin was my favourite to drink. The flavours in both the dry gin and the Curator’s gin are perfect for what I am looking for.
I will be using the gin to cure the salmon for our August Supper Club at Hidden by Puddini
. The gin distillery is based in Grantchester, Cambridge so I popped down to the meadows after my visit. While walking along the river I saw my new favourite ingredient and one of the 5 things I have now been able to successfully forage…
Pineapple weed! As the name would suggest, it tastes like pineapple. I will be using this in the dish too which will link everything together as the ingredients found in the meadows are part of the inspiration for the gins botanicals.
Check out my Instagram
stories over the next month to see the recipe development for the dish.
Tickets are available for the Supper Club are available to buy here
If you live in or around Cambridge and love gin get yourself booked on to one of Cambridge Distillery there numerous workshops from gin tastings to creating your own gin and everything in between.
I have lots of plans in the pipeline but for now the priority is to get cooking for people in person as soon as possible. So, from May I will be launching my Kadai BBQ at home concept.
Similar to my Supper Club format I will come to your house but instead of cooking in your kitchen, I will be in your garden with my Kadai BBQ where I will cook for you and your guests. All you will need is a table and chairs. I will bring all the cutlery and plates.
I first cooked on a Kadai when working at a Tiny Table
event last summer with Julie Friend at the Mereworth vineyards
. Since then, I have been researching them more and trying to understand how they were traditionally used. They are of Indian origin and it seems the cooking methods have evolved over the years. Traditionally the Kadai was used as the vessel to cook the food with a fire lit underneath and they have evolved to what we know as a Kadai today. Now they are used to cook in a BBQ style. They can also be used as an oven and to hang meats over the fire on a tripod to cook slowly over the flames. The possibilities are endless and as I grow older, I am learning to appreciate the simplicity of the amazing produce we have all year round here in the UK and what better way to complement the various delicious produce than to cook over fire.
My traditional Supper Clubs will start from June and are available to book through the website shop too.
I am moving back to Cambridge to be closer to family.
Relocating has been a long and difficult decision to make as I love Tonbridge but the last 20 months have really made me rethink. The sudden loss of my best friend followed by the pandemic has really given me a different outlook on life. If I’m honest I have been a little bit broken since the loss of my friend and in a way the pandemic has forced me to stop and think as I didn’t at the time, I just kept working at 100 miles an hour to distract myself. I’m still not the same but I have come to realise I never will be and this is part of life. I have accepted the new me and although I may be slightly broken, I still need to embrace life, live it to the full and continue to do what I love. That is simply cooking delicious food for people.
The plan has always been to keep the premises on Quarry Hill Parade open, as I have worked so hard to build it. I want to leave ‘the cool end’ of Tonbridge with something great so I am trying hard to get The Speedy Kitchen into the building as a permanent feature to carry on where I left off.
The Speedy Kitchen has got something exciting planned starting next week (w/c 8th March) so Mags will be open every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for takeaways so please show your support and pop down for a delicious lunch or grab some of her amazing ready meals and soups.
If you don’t already, please follow her on socials to keep up to date with what she is up to!
This Saturday’s Sulston’s Kitchen Porchetta click and collect (6th March) will go ahead as normal, then Mother’s Day click and collect (13th March) will be the last event I will be running from Sulston’s Kitchen.
Anyone that has booked me for an event or supper club that has been postponed due to COVID I will still be doing these for you so as soon as we can rebook, we will.
Personally, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has supported me in my first business venture. It has been one hell of a ride the last 5 years and one that will stay with me forever. The support that I have received from day one has been unbelievable. Whether you signed up to a meal plan in the early days, bought a wrap, came to a supper club or booked me for a private event, nothing I have achieved would have been possible without you!
When I made the decision to evolve the business into a cafe, it took a while but it was everything I dreamed it would be! There was a buzz in there and that can’t be bought. It is created simply by bringing people together for the love of good food and coffee. I have fond memories of making new friends over coffee, customers making new friends over brunch or one of the supper clubs. The chilled mid-week vibes all the way through to the crazy weekends. So many people have helped make this possible, from the carpenter that created the counter, the sign writers, plumbers, electricians, friends that put the pictures up and lifted fridges through doors (when they really shouldn’t have fitted through!) And of course, the amazing staff that worked with me and helped create my dream!
You are all AMAZING!
All of this would have been for nothing without the wonderful community here in Tonbridge. This town is blessed with such amazing people and I look forward to seeing it flourish again when restrictions allow. Continue to support local and look after each other!
Love to you all
Think of all the people who have influenced you over your career.
I’m in the process of planning the next chapter of my career and I’ve gone round in circles and changed my mind so many times. There are so many factors to consider now. There is always a lot to consider but in a global pandemic with changing restrictions in the mix, it is proving harder to pin down exactly a) what I think will work, but more importantly b) what I want to do.
I see the next step as the most important decision I will make.
When making decisions, I normally talk with my friend and business mentor who is not in the hospitality industry. Although he isn’t in the industry, he gets me and is able to question my irrational want to make crazy decisions and offer a more level headed way of thinking that allows me to question myself and my rationale. All of this is so important when trying to make decisions.
For this decision I also decided to go back to where it all started for me. Albeit 5+ years into my career in the hospitality industry, I went back to when I truly knew what it meant to be a chef. I contacted my good friend Lewis King, who was my Head Chef back then and made a plan to go and see him.
I worked with Lewis back in 2001 in Cambridge. I was working at the University Centre in the main prep kitchen. Lewis was Head Chef in the Riverside Restaurant.
Chris Pope was the Executive Chef overseeing the whole business. He was another huge part of my career. I learnt so much from him on how to manage a kitchen and writing menus, but that’s another story. I was working in the prep kitchen for the canteen when Chris asked if I wanted to work a VIP evening event with him and the rest of the team for the restaurant. I still vividly remember we served a beef Wellington stuffed with a foie gras spear it was amazing. White truffles were ordered in and the fryer was drained, cleaned and filled with nut oil. Learning how much the truffles cost, filling a fryer with a specific oil to fry something in, tasting foie gras for the first time, there were so many new experiences in one night, it was completely insane to me but I loved it.
I started to pay more attention to what was going on in the restaurant kitchen and eventually an opportunity became available to work with Lewis so I was there in a flash! I remember him and the Restaurant Manager had been to the Fat Duck and were talking about a dish that was served to them on the back of their hands for them to eat along with other crazy things that again blew my mind.
John Campbell’s Formulas for Flavour had just been released and this was the go to book at the time. So like anyone who read it, we were roasting veal bones at 172°C and we made so many chicken, mushroom and foie gras terrines.
One day Lewis brought in a copy of his Charlie Trotter cook book. It was like no cook book I had ever seen. Big, with beautiful pictures on every other page. Ingredients I had never heard of and flavor combinations that seemed alien to me. But that book, along with numerous other things I experienced whilst working with Lewis changed the way I thought about food for ever.
Lewis eventually left and I took over as Head Chef under the watchful eye of Chris Pope. We have stayed in touch, I have eaten at most of the places he has since worked and we always comment on each other’s food on social media, but it had been a while since I’d seen him.
When I reached the point in my career where I was managing kitchens, I worked my holidays in Michelin star restaurants to gain more knowledge and experience. Constantly staying inspired. Even when you are at the top you need to feed from something to stay being the best. Eating out at other restaurants, reading books, whatever it takes, we all find different ways to do it but those at the top stay inspired!
I have written so many business plans over the last few months, some more spider diagrams than a plan, but in each one there was always something missing.
Then a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a little time in the company of Matt Sankey who since the start of this pandemic back in March has been a huge inspiration. Watching what he has been doing through social media and the support he has given other business through knowledge of rules, legislation, etc it seems like he literally hasn’t stopped the whole way through this and it made me think. There is something about being around people like this, it’s contagious. I realised that for the best part of 7 months I have been uninspired. I have adapted and developed my business and done some great things but personally I haven’t been inspired. So I reached out to Lewis to see if he would spend a day with me to talk through my most favorable business plan.
Turns out it has been 8 years since we have actually seen each other, so I will be going to visit his restaurant as soon possible! After an 11k walk along the Norfolk coast I was not only certain the plan was the right one, I was also more informed about the things I needed to do to make it work. Most notably, I was inspired.
So surround yourself with likeminded people, keep learning and developing your skills and push yourself to be the best version of yourself. We all have flaws but what separates us is the is the ability to learn from mistakes and bad decisions and move on to bigger and better things.
Make sure you stay inspired. Meet up with the people that have inspired you, find new people to inspire you and though doing this you will inspire others!