The last few weeks have been busy, to say the least. We are a chef down at the moment, which leaves just little old me (actually, growing-ever-bigger me, but more on that another time) responsible for organising and cooking everything, which has recently included not just the day-to-day opening of the cafe but our March supper club, catering for Trouble At Mill, and a wedding reception. Tom has been valiantly handling breakfast duty while I frantically bake mini sausage rolls or roll gnocchi and much gratitude frequently fills my heart for our staff for baking cakes, peeling kilos of jerusalem artichokes and generally getting on with things.
The hardest part, for me, of scaling up from my last tiny little cafe to this quite sizeable one, has been recruiting and managing staff. It’s tough doing everything alone, but if, like me, you’re a recovering control freak, it can be even tougher to hand over responsibility for something you love and care about and, in a very real and heart-stopping way, depend on, to someone who is not you. And this is exaggerated in the case of the food. I’m not the most accomplished or experienced chef in the world, but I know what I like to cook, how I expect it to be cooked and how I want it to taste. Cooking is a very personal thing to me and yet I find that that sense of personality is not necessarily encouraged in the traditional training of chefs who have been to college and worked in pubs, hotels and chain restaurants (i.e. the majority of chefs). Many professional chefs are used to being able to take their whites and knife roll and slot into any establishment, like a plumber or a builder taking their tools to the job at hand. Whereas what is important to us is someone who will have that personal connection, a joy in what they are cooking that day that will inspire them to pick up a box of dirty carrots and try and make a soup that will change someone’s day for the better. But we are only a cafe, a new business at that, and we have neither the status nor the rates of pay that the very skilled and established would expect. And so, six weeks of the recruitment process and we are still chef-less. I comfort myself that we are lucky to have a great team at the moment of reliable, hard-working and just generally very nice people front of house and so perhaps we are doing something right.
What I meant to say at the beginning of this post was that I don’t think I’ve had time to drink a whole cup of tea in the last couple of weeks, let alone write about drinking tea – which I am about to do. I digressed. I watched the film ‘Chef’ last night on Netflix and perhaps that’s why these things are on my mind (I liked the film. I don’t know many professional chefs who have time to take a trip to the farmers market to pick up their ingredients or take a phone call mid-service, but it illustrated for me that joy I’m talking about, of cooking something as perfectly as you know how and watching someone enjoy it.)
So: a while ago I ordered a few copies of Rachel de Thample’s book ‘Five’ for the cafe. Subtitled ‘150+ effortless ways to eat 5+ fruit and veg a day’, I was curious what she had come up with personally as well as professionally, as I aim for five portions of vegetables a day (I don’t include fruit, but usually eat two or more portions of that easily). Generally I manage it, but sometimes I get stuck in ruts of the same green smoothie for breakfast, the same hastily boiled and buttered kale with dinner. There are some lovely ideas in this book, the ones I’ve tried so far including: a banana peanut butter cup breakfast bowl, a coffee-date shake, the keralan sunrise smoothie with mango and turmeric, a dinner of roast pumpkin and bacon with butter bean dal and a salad of grilled chicken with an orange and coriander dressing. And the grapefruit and ginger tea.
I had never thought before of making a fruit tea, beyond the odd slice of lemon in black tea. Fruit teabags I find inevitably dusty and disappointing, so I loved this very simple idea of combining fruit juice, hot water and spices to make a decaffeinated ‘tea’. I imagine you could really run with this and make up endless combinations of fruit, herbs and spices. The ones she includes in the book are: wild rose hip; spiced apricot; clementine and saffron; apple, cardamom and fennel and grapefruit and ginger. I love grapefruit, so that’s the one I went for.
You halve the grapefruit, give it a gentle squeeze into your teapot, and then put the grapefruit halves into the pot too for good measure. Thinly slice a small segment of ginger, bash the slices with the bottom of your knife or a jar to release a bit more flavour and put those into the pot too. Top up the pot with boiling water and steep for five minutes. Add honey to taste and serve. That’s it.
I hope you all have time to enjoy a reflective cup of tea today.
Recipe from ‘Five: 150+ Effortless Ways To Eat 5+ Fruit And Veg A Day’ by Rachel de Thample