What made me so interested in food and cooking?

Every time I ask a chef that question, they come up with the same answer as me and that is their Mum (or someone equally influential who they cooked with as a young child). For me, it was most definitely Mum and her wonderful dinner parties. I loved helping out just as soon as I was tall enough to peek over the kitchen counter and her creations didn’t disappoint. Think The Roux brothers and Robert Carrier combined with a dash of Fanny Craddock and The Galloping Gourmet. This was classic 70’s cooking.

Roux brothers

We were also lucky enough to be taken to great restaurants from an early age and encouraged to try all sorts of things which made me and my sister inquisitive and adventurous. I have such a strong memory of the restaurants we frequented in Spain where we went on holiday for many many years. Veal Cordon Bleu at Caesars, Spaghetti Carbonara at Don Leone (oh – and the chocolate cake), Gambas Pil Pil at El Molino and the Rum Bumble at Yellow Book. Of all the restaurants we tried, my favourite by far was Los Duendes in San Pedro. Now bear with me because it was a few years ago, but Los Duendes was so memorable that, even though they closed well over 30 years ago, I fondly cite their dishes as the best I have ever eaten. Langoustine Duendes was cooked whole in a copper pan at the table; hot Crepe Duendes were flambeed in a smaller copper pan also at the table and layered with ice cream that melted under the orangey, caramel sauce; and the White Lady was a simple classic with thick hot chocolate sauce poured over pure white ice cream from a long handled copper sauce pot that looked more like something from a chemistry lesson than a restaurant. I still love copper pans to this day.

euphemia-haye-longboat-keyFast forward to today and I am glad to say I am escaping the crazy cold weather at home to visit my parents in Sarasota, Florida. Not only is it lovely to be on the beach at this time of year, but I am also able to visit some of their favourite places out here. First is the infamous Euphemia Haye. This restaurant is an institution and delivers wonderful food each and every time with pretty much the same menu I remember from my first visit here some twenty odd years ago. Somehow, the food is never tired, just perfectly cooked and tasty. The two stand out dishes for me are, believe it or not, the Caesar Salad and the Brussel Sprouts!

The best Caesar Salad ever

The best Caesar Salad ever

The Caesar Salad is quite simply the best I have ever eaten. It is blessed with lashings of garlic (some may say too much), a fresh clean tasty dressing made in front of you, chunks of romaine lettuce and crispy croutons. Each mouthful taken with the chilled fork is heaven.

Euphemia Haye

As for Brussel Sprouts, this dish would persuade even the most cynical to partake in this lovely vegetable and given the time of year, I will share with you the secret from the mouth of the chef. Firstly, you should know they are soft on the inside with caramelised crispy bits on the outside, tasting nutty and delicious. So how do they do it? Well, I am told the sprouts are firstly pan fried in olive oil with a touch of garlic and then finished off in the oven until soft. Try it this Christmas – you will not be disappointed.