I had a lovely day today with my beautiful youngest nephew Asher who asked if he could come over and cook with me for his birthday present. Well, that felt like more of a present for me than him, but who was I to argue?

garlic press

I love the fact that this seemed such a treat for him and started the day with suitable cookery presents: a cook book, a recipe file and a garlic press. Well, OK, the Joseph Joseph garlic press may not be the most conventional present for a 12 year old, but he says he likes it so I’m going with it.

Glossy chocolate pavlova on its way to the oven

Glossy chocolate pavlova on its way to the oven

We took some time to decide what to cook, but plumped for my favourite chicory recipe (see Chicory Chick) for lunch and then flicked through my file of torn out recipes to see what took our fancy. Meringues were definitely on the cards and all we had to decide was what flavour. It seems chocolate or coffee were the flavours of choice so Green & Blacks mocha dark chocolate was perfect.  Then we went off piste with ricotta and spinach scotch eggs.  A weird combo, I know, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Spinach and ricotta scotch eggs

Spinach and ricotta scotch eggs

A trip to Waitrose was so much more fun together with Ash wheeling the trolley and packing the bags. It made me realise how routine the supermarket trip is for me and how much it can be improved when you open yourself up to really shop it, with seasonality and newness to inspire.

When we got back, it was a fun filled afternoon of cooking, washing up, chatting, eating and generally connecting with this special young man. And I guess that’s what food does  – it connects us. Most great chefs talk fondly of early memories cooking with their mother or grandmother. That is a loving special place to start their passion for this great art.

A shared meal is also an intimate and wonderful thing. Those romantic dinners for two are a beautiful thing, and so is a Sunday lunch shared with friends or just a small present of a freshly baked treat taken as a token gesture to cheer or restore someone. Every culture has a food that restores and rebuilds. In my Jewish faith there is nothing better than chicken soup and that alone brings warmth to my heart.

The best birthday weekend sharing food with friends in Norfolk

The best birthday weekend sharing great food and good wine with friends in Norfolk

We also understand the benefit of sitting round a table and sharing a meal together. My wonderful friends in Cape Town have this great routine with their nephew and nieces when they share dinner at the end of the day. Everyone has to tell the group the best thing of the day, the worst thing of the day and the funniest thing of the day. It is simple, insightful and open. The smallest thing is the most telling thing and in this naive game comes a chance to deal with the issues of the day and support each other in the challenges.

I guess this ability to connect is what I most appreciate and embrace with my love of food.