It has been a while since my last blog post, and I am glad to be back, especially with this inspiring story. Every so often I try and bring South African chefs to the forefront, to inspire home cooks and people like myself, who sit back and dream of a life working with everything and anything to do with food. Today’s ‘Cooking up inspiration’ is a truly inspiring story of Jackie Cameron.
Most know Jackie Cameron as the Head Chef of the beautiful five-star boutique hotel nestled in Mooi River, the Hartford House. Being such a young chef with great credentials, I made contact with Jackie to get a little insight into her inspiration and motivation as she climbs from strength to strength in her food career.
From an early age Jackie knew she was always going to be a chef, and shares; “From a tiny tot I enjoyed cooking. It was something that came very naturally to me. As a teenager my idea was to be a commercial pilot or chef… both crazy hours.” Jackie didn’t have to go far for inspiration as her Mother and grandmothers indulged and nursed her love for food. “I used to spend most holidays baking next to one grandmother’s side; and roasting and cooking up many-coursed meals with the other grandmother. From a young age I had an understanding and appreciation of good food. When craving something sweet my sister and I would walk down stairs and whip up a cake in a few minutes – no need to go to the local bakery. Everything happened around our dining-room or kitchen table so these memories still influence me.” It was no surprise finding out that Jackie loves and cherishes any meal made by her Mother; nobody can cook better than Moms!
From her humble beginnings, Jackie has worked hard at meeting her food goals. Normally people feel their way around their careers and I find it refreshing to know that from a young age to adulthood, Jackie knew where she was headed and has never stopped aiming to achieve her goals. When I heard Jackie Cameron was leaving Hartford House to start her own Cooking School, I knew I had to get in touch. “My life has been ONLY food for so many years so most times I am researching, working on new projects trying to continuously get ahead. Everything with me is planned…my long but very pleasant journey at Hartford has allowed me to reach many of my goals. There are so many more to achieve and I look forward to doing this at JACKIE CAMERON’S SCHOOL OF FOOD AND WINE. Exciting times! I have been brought up in a family that one has only really succeeded if one has their own business…so I look forward to getting this off the ground,” says Jackie.
Although I couldn’t be at her recipe book launch, I am over the moon that Jackie has decided to share a recipe from her recent recipe book Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home. This recipe book is filled with such beautiful recipes! With the share of her scrumptious spicy lamb bunny chow with meilie bread, relish and sour cream recipe, Jackie imparts some pearls of wisdom; “Cooking from the heart and not following the crowds is what I have always stood close to … but this is more so how I was brought up more than anything else. My advice to budding chefs and home cooks is to start with the best in-season, local products one can find, don’t over complicate things… cook with love and you will never go wrong.”
I truly hope Jackie Cameron’s story has cooked up some inspiration; as after this interview I have certainly taken a step back and truly evaluated my steps, my goals and my foodie dreams.
- What is your favourite meal to cook at home?
When I do, for a casual evening normally a pasta or something vegetarian based…if I have friends over then I go ALL out!
- What is your favourite kitchen appliance?
EVERY KITCHEN IN THE WORLD needs a THERMOMIX – worth EVERY cent!
- What is your motto in the kitchen?
LIVE AND LEARN.
I have so many for so many different reasons. I think it goes deeper than a chef hero and more so to the many chefs out there who have been so supportive to my career, always offering help and guidance.
- Complete this sentence: I believe food is…
Everything, what would life be without a great plate of food.
Spicy Lamb Bunny Chow with meilie bread, relish and sour cream
Lamb Neck Curry:
(Makes 2.9kgs with bones)
200ml Sunflower oil
3 Large onions, sliced
55g Ginger, grated
4 Large cloves garlic, chopped
60g Durban Masala (or hot curry powder)
2 Tbs Mustard seeds
2 Tbs Cumin seeds
2 Tbs Tumeric powder
2 Tbs Coriander seeds
2 Tbs Fennel seeds
2 Tbs Cinnamon seeds
2 Tbs Ginger powder
185g Tomato paste
1kg Tomatoes, chopped
4kg Lamb neck pieces
4 Litres Lamb stock
2 Large onions, chopped
Salt and Pepper
(Makes 1 loaf or 10 mini loaves)
1 Can Cream-style sweetcorn
3 Eggs, lightly whisked
3 Tbs melted butter
60g White sugar
140g Cake Flour, sifted
Pinch of salt and pepper
3 tsp Baking powder
Heat a heavy-based pot and add butter and oil. Add three sliced onions, ginger and garlic and cook until the onions have caramelised.
Add all the spices and cook until they are aromatic. Add tomato paste and fresh tomatoes and sear until the raw flavour in the tomato paste is cooked.
Add meat and two litres of the lamb stock.
Cook for about eight hours, topping up with the rest of the stock and stirring occasionally. Add the two large onions. Season to taste.
Serve at this point or, if making the ‘bunny chow’, allow meat to cool, remove from the bones, shred the meat finely, and set aside to heat later.
Mielie Bread method:
Mix the sweetcorn, eggs and butter in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients and season to taste.
For mini breads, put a greaseproof paper base into a small tomato paste can. Grease well and half-fill with meilie-bread mixture. Bake at 180 °C for about 10 minutes.
Otherwise, put all of the mixture into a well greased standard bread tin and bake for about 40 minutes.
Place warmed meilie cake in the middle of the plate. Top with heated shredded lamb. Serve with tomato and onion relish and garnish with fresh coriander, sour cream and a grind of black pepper.