Sunday, 17 May 2015

Epicurean Mementos - Sarah Wasserman

Epicurean Mementos

With Sarah Wasserman
Chef from Mildred’s in Soho, London

Welcome to my new Epicurean Mementos feature! 

Epicurean Mementos will be where culinary personalities highlight a few of their favourite foodie treasured items with notes as to why those items are so special to them.

My first Epicurean Mementos article (to coincide with National Vegetarian Week), features Sarah Wasserman who is a Chef at renowned vegetarian restaurant Mildred’s (Soho, London) and is also co-author of the newly released Mildred’s Cookbook published by Octopus Publishing (click here for a review of the book).

For more information about Mildred’s, please visit their website:


A biographical note from Sarah outlining her experiences, passions,
working at Mildred’s and the new Mildred’s Cookbook ………..

I have always worked with food, from my first job in a health food store deli in North Carolina, to my time spent hitchhiking across America and my return to London and employment in an eclectic range of busy restaurants. Having misspent my youth at various wonderful London Art colleges, I’m lucky that I had this equal passion, which, unlike my art education, meant I could always put bread on the table!

During my postgrad at the Royal Academy of Art, I would often pass Mildred’s and always thought it would be a lovely place to work. Daniel and I started at Mildred’s a few days apart and have been friends and collaborators ever since. We started the Mildred’s blog together – coming up with recipes, interviewing suppliers and photographing the food in our spare time – so when we got the chance to write the book we jumped at it. I’ve read cookbooks for fun since primary school and have in the past been known to lug a hardback copy of Claudia Roden’s Jewish Food around for a month to read on the Tube. The idea of writing a book of our own was wonderful.

Even though we are sometimes insanely busy at Mildred’s, we never rest on our laurels. Jane (at Mildred’s) is always looking for ways in which we can improve, and that drives us as chefs to keep looking for new dishes. The menu is international because we find it really helpful to look to other cultures for vegetarian inspiration. Asian recipes are great for vegan ideas as they contain little or no dairy; the Middle East is good for salads and side dishes as foods from that region are often meat-free; Passover recipes can be excellent for gluten-free ideas, whilst of course India is a fantastic source of vegetarian food. There is always a new avenue to explore, which is what makes cooking vegetarian food so interesting.

One of the things I like about working at Mildred’s is that, although we cater for a wide range of vegetarian diets, nothing is on the menu simply because it fits a particular dietary choice – everything is there on merit. So, if we put a new brownie on the menu it’s because we think it’s a brilliant brownie. The fact that it’s gluten free and vegan just happens to be the icing on the cake… if you’ll forgive the expression.


Sarah’s Six Epicurean Mementos



Ancient La Creuset Skillet
A pan which is always either in use or on the drying rack, seemingly never making its way back into the cupboard. What makes this such a thoroughly useful thing is that you can heat it on the hob and then throw it in the oven. So you can fry a few baby aubergines in it and then drizzle over some soy and sweet chilli and a sprinkle of sesame, pop it in a hot oven and you get a lovely caramelised finish. Or fry a few peppers then crack an egg or two on top and bake them. Very handy. What makes it special is that it is one of many kitchen bits I inherited from my grandparents who were very keen foodies before there was such a term. This pan is older than me which goes to show that what you invest in your kitchen can last from one generation to the next. This is true of both objects and passion for food, both of which I inherited from my grandparents.

Digital Radio
I love to cook at Mildred’s. It’s a great team and we have a great laugh. There have been times Daniel and I have been absolutely creased up with laughter while the checks build up. A lot of kitchen work is manual so it leaves your mind and the conversation free to roam to all kinds of places. You wouldn't believe what we get into! But when I'm at home, cooking can be a great opportunity to have a bit of time to myself to listen to Radio 4. I would say 80 percent of what I know, I learned from Radio 4.

Kenwood Chef Titanium Mixer
Well this is a lovely posh bit of kit. It does everything from whipping egg whites to making the casing for kibbehs and it has a motor more powerful than some mopeds. You can make everything in the book without a flash mixer but does make a lot of jobs quicker. It was also an engagement present from my husband and my mother in law, and I made our wedding cake with it. I'd say I use it two or three times a week but I keep it the cupboard which makes my husband laugh because most people would show off a fancy mixer but it’s a tool not an accessory and counter space is more important.

Kids Kitchen Kit
This is a great little suitcase with a kids chef hat, apron and tiny kitchen utensils. I bought this for my son’s third birthday and he loves to wear it when we cook together. We make everything, not just kids things. We baked the Persian Almond cake from the book together this week. I don't think there are any recipes you can’t do with kids. You have to supervise vigilantly and just try to ignore the mess and the somewhat unpredictable results. It’s important to me that my children understand food. It’s such a shame when recipes aren't passed on from one generation to the next.

Grubby Notebook
This is my kitchen companion. It is possibly the third or fourth of its kind, the others having gradually fallen apart or become so filthy as to be illegible. Whilst cooking, I try to make little notes of the adjustments I make to things or of recipes I'm stealing from colleagues. Daniel and I constantly try to improve things and the recipes develop over time. It’s fantastic to have this beautiful book published instead of just these grubby little notebooks which are pretty much undecipherable to anyone but me.

Claudia Roden's Jewish Food
I have so many cookbooks. I grew up in houses stuffed with cookbooks. I can't pick just one but what I love about this book is it exemplifies what food is all about. Yes of course it’s about great recipes and flavours and an exchange of ideas but it is also about history, culture and family. It’s the most basic human need and yet it satisfies some of the most complex needs as well.

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