Welcome back to the third instalment of my guest blog series, In my kitchen. I hope you are enjoying finding out about how other families cook and eat. Today I am joined by Fiona from Savy in Somerset. Thank you for agreeing to take part Fiona.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
Hello, I’m Fiona. I’m 30 years old and married to Pete who is 26. I’m currently pregnant with our first child and regularly help look after my 13 year old brother. I work from home full time after leaving a 14-year career as a chef in September 2017. Both my husband and I had always worked in hospitality but knew that the hours and commitment required just wouldn’t be compatible with family life. I’m still a total foodie though and since being at home full time I have really rekindled my passion for cooking.
Who does most of the cooking in your house? Do you enjoy cooking?
I do the majority of the cooking in our house, although there are a few dishes my husband is really good at making, such as Chicken Saltimbocca with garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes which is one of our favourite meals.
I love cooking but often struggled to find the motivation to cook while working full time as chef. As well as the unsociable hours, when you go to work and cook for 100 odd people, it’s the last thing you want to do when you get in at midnight!
Since leaving my job in September I’ve been much better at cooking at home and enjoying it a lot more. I think it really helps that we can now actually sit down and have dinner at what would be considered a normal time!
Do you meal plan?
Sort of. I’m not particularly strict about which days we have certain meals and although I’m not a mega fussy person I do have to be in the right mood to eat certain things. I tend to make a list of what meals we can make with what’s in the fridge or freezer and then cross them of as we have them during the week. I like to think of it as flexible meal planning. Sometimes I’ll write something vague like ‘Mince’ and decide what to do with it later, depending on what we fancy that day.
What are meal times like in your house? Do you eat together as a family?
As I work from home it does make it really easy to eat with my husband each night when he gets home from work and I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to do this once our baby arrives. It actually feels like quite a big thing to us – after 8 years together where we both worked in hospitality and he would eat at work, we’d only sit down together to eat maybe once or twice or week and I think it is such an important part of family life.
My younger brother usually stays with us on a Friday night so that’s often a treat night where we’ll have a takeaway or something a bit fun like homemade pizzas or a treat like steak.
We go to my in-laws every other Sunday for a roast dinner and to spend time with our twin nieces.
What are your favourite family meals to cook?
The meals we cook most often are:
- Spaghetti Carbonara – traditional Italian style – no mushrooms and a sauce made from egg yolks and only a touch of cream
- Chicken Ramen – with lots of ginger and chili and made with homemade chicken stock as the base
- Chicken Milanese – Breaded Chicken breast with a side of pasta in homemade tomato sauce (I tend to batch cook tomato sauce and then use it for lots of different dishes)
- Sticky Noodles – Usually with a combination of teriyaki and Sweet Chili sauce and whatever meat and veggies need using up
As you can see I’m rather influenced by having worked in an Italian restaurant and we love the more interesting flavours of Asia too. To be honest I don’t actually cook much food that would be considered traditionally British. I very rarely cook a roast dinner at home and don’t really do other classics like cottage pie or hotpot either – I do make the occasional stew though.
Do you cook the same meals frequently or are you always trying new recipes?
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and end up cooking the same meals over and over again. I do try and cook new meals from time to time. I love watching cookery shows, so usually take inspiration from there, in particular, I like Nigel Slaters Simple Suppers for dinner ideas. I’m also a huge fan of American Cook Ina Garten.
Another thing I often try to do is recreate our favourite restaurant meals at home instead of going out. Sometimes they turn out really well – other times they’re either just not as nice or far too much effort. I recently tried to do our usual Chinese Takeaway order at home – while the end result was fine, it was so stressful I’d much rather have just ordered it in!
Do you have any tips for dealing with fussy eaters?
I think compromise is key. Forcing someone to eat something they don’t like is never going to be fun. When I first started dating Pete, I was vegetarian and he was incredibly fussy. It made cooking meals we would both eat very difficult – but gradually we’ve compromised and worked around each other and we both eat loads more foods than we used to. I gave up being vegetarian (for various reasons) and he’s been much more open to trying new foods (genuinely have a picture of the first time he tried pasta!) Pete still won’t eat anything with onions in – which means cooking a lot of sauces etc. from scratch – but then that’s cheaper and healthier anyway.
Do you have a favourite cookbook?
I have a St. Michaels cookbook my Mum gave me when I was younger that she was given to her by her mum – it’s dated 1971. I can remember looking through it as a child and wanting to cook some of the things in it. I also have a good housekeeping cookery book which I was given aged 12 or 13 by my Godmother – I’ve made a lot of the recipes from it and some of them have become firm favourites.
Do you enjoy baking?
I like the idea of baking and I love cake – what I lack is precision. After many years of being a chef, I’m definitely a chuck it all in and hope for the best kind of a gal! Baking takes a different sort of skill set, precise measurements and accurate timings is something I’m not very good at and it’s a world away from cooking meals to order in a busy restaurant.
When it comes to baking I do tend to cheat a bit – the following recipe is one of the most popular on my blog – making Domino’s cookies and Pizza hut cookie dough at home using a stick of premade dough from the supermarket.
Do you have any tips for making feeding the family easier?
As mentioned above, we do a lot of batch cooking to make life easier. Especially for things that are fiddly, like making sauces from scratch or making mashed potato (I HATE peeling potatoes and we always add roasted garlic and rosemary to ours). We usually batch cook one thing a week then freeze down in containers for later use.
Slow cookers can also be a godsend – family meal times can be so busy, taking a few minutes in the morning to chuck all the ingredients together means you’ll have a tasty meal at 5pm no cooking required. You can even get slow cookers with two or three sections meaning they also cook rice or potatoes separately for you – or even a whole different dish if required.
Do you get your kids involved in the kitchen?
As a child, I loved cooking – even if it was really simple stuff like a packet cheesecake or trifle. I’ve tried to encourage my younger brother with cooking although he’s never been hugely keen he’s currently studying catering for his GCSE’s and really enjoying it – still not much inclination to cook at home though!
I will definitely be encouraging my little one to get involved with cooking as they grow up – I’ve worked with a lot of young waitress and kitchen hands over the years and their lack of basic skills is often shocking – one had never used a tin opener before!
Where can we find you?
I blog at www.savvyinsomerset.com where I share my tips for saving money and making money from home. My main focus is saving on groceries and food as well as other household bills.