Following the release of her stunning debut cookbook, Stirring Slowly, food stylist, writer and member of Jamie’s food team Georgina Hayden discusses her personal relationship with food, the importance of a well-stocked larder and shares her delicious spiced turmeric barbecue chicken recipe.
I don’t think I ever really questioned the focus of food in my family, and the importance it plays in our lives; it’s all I’ve ever known. Growing up above my grandparents’ restaurant meant that food, cooking and eating was of huge importance. We regularly sat around the dinner table together, my yiayia (grandmother) would have us doing jobs and chores from a young age, and whatever the occasion, there was a meal to match. Time was spent lovingly making cakes and slow-cooked dishes. Nothing was too much bother, it was how we showed we cared.
THE PROCESS OF COOKING
It’s no shock then, that I ended up working in food. I have always wanted to write cookbooks, and writing Stirring Slowly came at a time when many fantastic cookbooks were, and are, focusing on health, diet and nutrition. All topics that are incredibly important, but something that occurred to me after a particularly difficult time in my life was not how ‘healthy’ my meals were (although I do try and eat as balanced a diet as possible), but how important the actual process of cooking is.
COOKING FOR THE SOUL
Cooking became a way of unwinding, a way of gaining some control and understanding in my life. We’ve become so aware of what we put in our bodies, but really if you strip it back, it’s not just about calories and nutrition, it’s about starting from scratch, understanding where your food comes from and the love and time that goes into creating a meal.
The restorative nature of spending time in the kitchen fascinated me and I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way. And so, Stirring Slowly was created. I lived it; for a year, I spent time in my kitchen and have tried to create recipes that in some form or another are reviving, calming and filled with love. Meals that are nourishing and good for the soul.
I feel incredibly lucky that for the last 10 years I’ve worked for Jamie as a food stylist. Needless to say, he has had a huge impact on my career, my way of writing and the way I develop recipes – recipes that are hopefully accessible and achievable yet inspiring. Meals that aren’t too faddy, or fiddly, because the reality is, I don’t have the time after work to create a dish that has three or four components, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. He is, and continues to be, a fantastic mentor, and along with my family, a huge source of inspiration.
A WELL-STOCKED LARDER
One thing I learnt early on is the importance of a well-stocked larder, or dry store. Even with a relatively bare fridge you can create exciting and interesting dishes with the addition of some choice spices and pastes.
Look in my larder and you’ll find jars and bags of lentils, one of my real store-cupboard essentials, cans of light coconut milk (one of the only reduced fat items I buy), tubs of miso and a stash of garam masala. I love the complex flavours in harissa, which even without the addition of anything else can completely transform a dish.
SUMMER BARBECUE CHICKEN
With the store cupboard in mind, I’ve written what you will hopefully find is a delicious summer barbecue recipe (that can easily be achieved on the hob with a griddle pan if you don’t have a barbecue). Marinate the chicken for as long as you can, so that the flavour really permeates, and be assured that it is in no way spicy, just gently and beautifully flavoured. You can leave the chilli out at the end if feeding kids, or up it for a crowd who love a kick. I’ve also made this for just my husband and I, with any leftovers shredded and refrigerated – they’re perfect in a sarnie the next day.
Check out Georgina’s delicious recipe here.