I was born in Russia. During my childhood food was largely limited to root vegetables and dairy products (including those culinary delights processed cheese and condensed milk). My mother had to work hard to provide us with nutritious and imaginative meals. Food was a necessity, not a pleasure. Developing a passion for cooking, therefore, was unlikely as there was really nothing to cook with. No surprise, then, that my signature dish as a student was egg fried rice.
A decade later I moved to the West. The abundance of ingredients, flavours and smells was overwhelming. In my first couple of months “in freedom” my belt expanded to make room for all the new delicacies I was hungrily trying. With nobody around to teach me how to cook I took an academic approach to learning: cookery books. My first attempt to cook a proper meal involved following one of the recipes from Rick Stein's “Seafood” for a friend. It must have gone well as that friend is now my husband. Other books and recipes followed and my husband is still happy to act as a guinea pig for my adventures in the kitchen. Gradually I went from assiduously following the recipes in cookery books to creating new dishes, all the while amassing a large library of cookery books.
Eventually I decided it was time to add a proper foundation to my rather trial and error-based culinary skills. So I trained at the professional “Le Cordon Bleu” cookery school in London.
I love everything about food, from eating it to talking about it. My approach to cooking and eating is still partly academic. I love learning about ingredients, understanding why some recipes work and others don’t, which cooking technique is best for a particular product, why potatoes sometimes discolour after cooking (and how to avoid it), why sauces sometimes split if you add cream to them, which part of the tomato contains the most flavour, what makes a soufflé rise, when to season a steak.
I am also constantly on the lookout for new recipes, ingredients, and techniques with which to challenge myself; my guests often roll their eyes when they see all the equipment I have amassed in trying to recreate the recipes of Heston Blumenthal or Nathan Myrvhold! Having said that, while I love my gadgets and use them a lot, I feel strongly that it is important to master basic techniques before venturing into the more intricate methods of modern cuisine.