Hayden’s recipe for a calmer life

    Georgina Hayden

    By Kate Whiting

    We cook on so many levels, not just to feed ourselves,” says Georgina Hayden, taking a sip of tea.

    As part of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Team’, the bubbly brown-eyed Londoner cooks for a living, dreaming up and styling recipes for Oliver’s books, magazine and TV shows. But she also cooked her way through a traumatic maternity leave, after her son Archie died just before birth two years ago.

    “I can’t remember what happened for the first few months. I think we must have lived off food from nice people. I don’t think I cooked for a while. I really scared myself. I thought, ‘I just don’t care, I actually don’t care about food or anything’,” she recalls. “You feel really vulnerable and I didn’t want to go out… Then it sort of went full circle.”

    Fearing she’d lost her love of food, Georgina gathered all her cookbooks together – including Honey & Co’s book, the Middle Eastern cafe where we meet today – and started thinking about food for her and husband Pete.

    “After a few months of calming down, I thought, ‘Let’s start again… You’re going to sit down and start making a weekly meal plan’. Then I would drive myself to the supermarket and do the shop, and that’s actually what got me out again – having a purpose got me back into doing something and being a bit more confident.”

    The familiarity and routine of cooking was like therapy and slowly eased Georgina, 34, through her bereavement, while the meal plans gave her a sense of control.

    “In those early days, I was convinced Pete was going to die [too]. I was absolutely terrified. I thought, ‘If I can feed us really nice food, at least I know we’re OK’.”

    What started out as a simple project has been gently nurtured into Georgina’s first cookbook, Stirring Slowly: Recipes To Restore + Revive. With chapter titles such as ‘A Sunny Start To The Day’, ‘Bowl Food’, and ‘Bake Yourself Better’, it’s a book to turn to when you’ve had a long, tough day – full of warming, comforting and revitalising recipes.

    While Hayden tries to eat well, she thinks we’ve all become a bit too obsessed with health food.

    “What’s healthy for me is taking the time to cook something and sit down and actually eat it properly.”

    Here are some of Hayden’s comforting recipes to try at home…

    Bombay Omellete

    BOMBAY OMELETTE

    Serves: 2

    What you need:
    1/2 a red onion
    2 small vine tomatoes
    1/2 a bunch of coriander
    1 green chilli
    4 large eggs
    1/2tsp ground turmeric
    1/2tsp garam masala
    1/2tsp ground cumin
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    50g baby spinach leaves
    1/2 a lemon
    2 knobs of butter

    What you do:
    Peel and finely chop the onion. Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and discard, then finely chop the flesh. Finely chop the coriander stalks and leaves. Halve the chilli, deseed and finely slice.

    Whisk the eggs together until well combined, then season generously and whisk in the onion, tomatoes, coriander, chilli, turmeric, garam masala and cumin. Put the spinach leaves into a bowl, squeeze just enough lemon to coat, toss together, then leave to one side.

    Melt half the butter in a medium non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and ladle in half the omelette mixture. Swirl the eggs around for two minutes, pushing them to the middle and tilting the pan so that all the mixture has a chance to set. Leave it for a minute, then slip the omelette on to your serving plate. Top with half the dressed spinach and fold the omelette in half. Serve straight away, and repeat with the remaining butter, omelette mix and spinach.

    Roasted Cauliflower and Coconut Soup

    ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND COCONUT SOUP

    Serves: 4-6

    What you need:
    2 onions
    600g cauliflower
    4 garlic cloves
    1tsp (heaped) ground cinnamon
    1tsp (heaped) ras el hanout (available in the spice section at most supermarkets)
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Olive oil
    A handful of unsweetened coconut flakes (available from Sainsbury’s)
    1 x 400ml tin of reduced-fat coconut milk
    600ml vegetable stock
    2-3tbsp chilli oil

    What you do:
    Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4. Peel and cut the onions into 1cm wedges and trim then cut the cauliflower into even-sized florets. If it has the leaves on, don’t cut them off, roast those too. Place it all in a roasting tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves and sprinkle with the cinnamon and ras el hanout. Season well, and drizzle everything with a good glug of olive oil. Toss it all together and pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and a little charred.

    Scatter the coconut flakes onto a small tray and pop into the oven for the last few minutes to toast – they should only need three to four minutes. When the veg are ready, remove the garlic cloves and scrape all the veg into a large saucepan. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and add them too. Pour in the coconut milk, add the stock and gently bring to the boil.

    Reduce the heat a little and simmer for five minutes, then remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, blitz the soup until creamy and smooth, adding a splash more water if it is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve topped with the toasted coconut flakes and a drizzle of chilli oil.

    Whole Roasted Miso Aubergine

    WHOLE ROASTED MISO AUBERGINE

    Serves: 4

    What you need:
    3cm piece of ginger
    4 garlic cloves
    2 small green chillies
    2 aubergines
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Groundnut oil
    200g vine cherry tomatoes
    4 spring onions
    1/2 a bunch of coriander
    1 lime, juiced
    1tbsp tamarind paste
    1/2tbsp honey
    3tbsp white sweet miso (available from Waitrose and Holland & Barratt)
    Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4.

    What you do:
    Peel the ginger and garlic, and finely slice the chillies. Pierce the aubergines all over with a paring knife, as if you were making incisions into a piece of meat. Grate the ginger into a large mortar and pestle, and bash together with the garlic, chillies and a good pinch of salt until you have a thick paste. Mix in just enough oil to make it spoonable, then spoon the mixture over the aubergines and massage it into the incisions, really getting the flavours inside.

    Place the aubergines in a large roasting tray, dot the cherry tomatoes around, and pop into the oven for 40 minutes, turning a couple of times. While the aubergines are cooking, trim and finely slice the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander, stalks and all. Put into a bowl, squeeze over the lime juice to coat and mix all together. Leave to one side.

    Mix together the tamarind, honey and miso and add enough water to make a thick glaze. Remove the roasting tray from the oven after 40 minutes, turn the oven up to 200C/gas 6, and drizzle the miso glaze over the aubergines.

    Pop back into the oven for a further 15 minutes, to caramelise, then remove and leave to cool a little.

    Working carefully, remove the stalks from the aubergines and discard them, then roughly chop the flesh in the tray into coarse chunks. Stir in the dressed spring onions and coriander and serve right away.

    Stiring-Slowly

    Stirring Slowly
    Recipes To Restore + Revive by Georgina Hayden is published in hardback by Square Peg, priced £20. Available now

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