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Lockdown Diary

Alive with Flavour is all about sharing great food experiences. My events involve local chefs and expertise and are a unique opportunity to join fellow local foodies around a table to share food stories, culinary skills and great food together.

Fortunately, I have been able to continue my events throughout lockdown, doing what we do best, with all of you, our fantastic supportive members and followers! The virtual bake off on my birthday back in April was great fun and a chance to connect with my younger food aficionados that I’ve met in my after school and holiday cookery classes over the years. Well done to all those who took part and thanks to everyone who donated as we raised £250 for the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust – a fantastic cause.

It’s been great to see so many of you joining me virtually at the monthly supper clubs. Virtual supper clubs are the next best thing to sitting together round a table. We have shared great food and wine, just like the pre-lockdown supper clubs, but this time from everyone’s kitchen table!  

The Italian night back in May was an evening of lively conversation about Italian recipes and holiday memories. What I love about the virtual supper clubs is that these calls open up the experience to others and as happened in May, allow friends and foodies to call in direct from Italy! At our last Greek themed supper club, a passionate foodie from Greece who lives in Sevenoaks shared her family food stories and recipes. As well as food talk, we have demonstrated online how to make pasta and then recently how to stuff dolmades! 

I want the supper club guests to feel special – as if it’s an evening of food in a restaurant, even though it’s at home (the Greek night proved really popular with the delivery of food option and this is something we may continue into the autumn … but I am hopeful we’ll be able to sit round a table together - it may just have to be a bigger table with less people!). We go ‘round the table’ so that people can introduce themselves and although it might remind you of workshops with colleagues, it really does make the evening more intimate. It’s lovely hearing people reminisce about memories of meals abroad in Mediterranean tavernas or little restaurants off the beaten track, food experiences that they’ll never forget. It makes us all nostalgic for foreign holidays! Just as when we’re in person, guests are able to ask questions of each other, me and the chef for that supper club so it’s interactive and everyone learns something!  

We have been working hard on our website during lockdown and I’ve been keeping locals up to date on food availability, deliveries and more recently, the option of a 'night off’ with local takeaway info! I’ve also created a great bank of videos of cookery demonstrations such as an easy tear and share picnic bread and pasta recipes using up whatever you have in the fridge – remember, these are all available to members! I have also regularly updated my ’Store Cupboard Recipes’. 

Who have I been following during these months of confinement? I’ve been watching the French star of Great British Bake Off, Manon Lagreve, and Bay Tree Cottage cookery demonstrations – not local (Northampton) but they came highly recommended! I’ve found this to be such a great time to learn and perfect cookery skills – who hasn’t had a go at baking their own bread?

As we come out of lockdown slowly but surely, I’m continuing Alive with Flavour’s online offerings. On 1 July, I am cooking alongside my friend, Jacqueline Wise in a ‘Cook along for Two making a perennial favourite coronation chicken! Here’s her take on lockdown and, of course, food!

"As a professional cordon bleu trained chef, who is always busy, lockdown has been a shock to the system. Not only was the uncertainty for my business difficult, I really missed the connection with my team and fellow foodies.

"I’ve found that comfort foods like sausage rolls and sweet treats such as the espresso martini chocolate mousse cook-alongs have been most popular along with the more technical ones such as parmesan shortbread with fig chutney and goats’ cheese curd. I Just want to spread a bit of positivity through good food, and I’ve had amazing feedback. I have had people getting up at 2am to join me in Australia, men who have never baked before tell me I’ve helped them find a new passion, and lovely young up and coming cooks send me fabulous pictures of their work…it’s also given me the final event and chapter to my upcoming book, Positively Delicious, how cooking changed my life … lockdown has been a powerful and fulfilling experience…”

I’m proud that I’ve continued to keep Alive with Flavour going during lockdown. Feedback has been wonderful, as regulars, as well as further-afield ‘newbies', have joined us to revel in an hour’s food escapism! Alive with Flavour membership has been growing and it’s never been a better time to look at joining!

1 July, I’m cooking with Jaqueline Wise online and I have a few more collaborations planned for summer cook-alongs to be announced. I’m keen to do another virtual bake off in the summer holidays to encourage those young bakers – watch this space for more information but as a little hint, do start thinking about the theme of afternoon tea!

I hope as we slowly get back to a sort of normality, we can all support our local suppliers and continue to enjoy bringing food alive with flavour. I hope I’ve taken the fear out of cooking and encouraged you to have a go and have fun - stay tuned as there’s lots more to come!

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