Do you feel frazzled at dinner time, staring into the abyss known as the fridge wondering what to cook? Does the thought of hosting a party send you into panic mode? Even if you used to enjoy cooking, the daily routine can quickly become a chore, which is where the talented Louisa from Cook Folk comes in.
Cook Folk specialise in teaching to cook without a recipe using seasonal, fresh and healthy food your family will enjoy. From batch cooking and freezing tips to kitchen cupboard organisation (think a culinary version of Marie Kondo), Louisa will help streamline not only your kitchen, but also your cooking so you can find the joy again.
We caught up with Louisa to find out more:
1. Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Louisa Chapman-Andrews and I am a food writer, cookery teacher and founder of Cook Folk. Following seven years working with modern British grocer and North London institution, Melrose and Morgan, with whom I wrote ‘Good Food For Your Table: A Grocer’s Guide’ in 2014, I decided to strike out on my own with a venture that expressed my love of cooking and sharing food and firm belief in the positive influence that simple, good home cooking can have on all our lives.
2. What was the inspiration behind Cook Folk?
After my second son was born I decided I wanted to take everything I’d learnt; from my family, my travels, Melrose and Morgan, writing our book together, and find a way to pass that passion and joy for cooking and eating on to others – and of course the next generation of my own family.
On request from a good friend in 2017 I started running private tailor-made cooking lessons. It soon became very obvious that the concept of ‘cooking without a recipe’, something I had always effortlessly done and was what made cooking so hugely enjoyable for me, was the thing that pricked people’s ears more than anything else.
Over the following year I analysed my cooking process, breaking it down into manageable, bite sized parts, working out how to make this approach accessible to all and exciting to teach. At the same my private lessons happily snowballed and so in 2018 I launched Cook Folk, offering tailor-made lessons in people’s homes and now workshops in my own kitchen, all geared towards helping people to discover their own inner cook and feel the freedom and confidence to start to create delicious things using their intuition rather than just relying on recipes.
Teaching others how to enjoy cooking and exploring food in this new way is without doubt the expression of my greatest passion, I love to see the joy and happiness it brings to others. Experiencing the trials and tribulations of becoming a mum and watching my own children’s food journeys I realise now was the final inspiration and incentive, adding an extra layer to Cook Folk’s reason for being.
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3. What makes Cook Folk classes different to others?
Alongside the seasonal group workshops I run at the Cook Folk kitchen and tailor made lessons I do for people in their homes, I also offer ‘Kitchen Edits’ where I come in and help people to give their kitchen cupboards and fridge a refresh; pulling out and discarding old out of date ingredients and re-ordering things so that their kitchen becomes a happier more organised place to cook and create. As part of the Kitchen Edit, I also help people create a sort of essential Kitchen Toolkit with a starter pack of things for their fridge, freezer and larder that give them the springboard to start working with ingredients in a different way and to start to see ways in which they can create delicious food without relying on recipes. This approach helps them to save time, waste less, eat more healthily, cook more freely and creatively and start to see that cooking can be a real joy, rather than a daily chore.
4. What tips do you have for getting children interested in cooking and sampling new foods?
Think about what they really love and make it a shared experience – my eldest son is quite fussy, but he really loves pasta so we have planned to go to go on a pasta making course together – which is basally edible Play-doh if you ask me! If they like baking then making flat breads together can be great fun. Look through some books and choose some recipes together so its more than just about the food – it’s about your special time together. Introducing healthier ingredients doesn’t need to be immediate – don’t forget food is a journey – and focussing on extending their repertoire can come in time once you’ve got them excited about cooking and into the process.
5. What is the one item every pantry should have stocked?
Oooh one item, that’s hard. I can give you three: cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, flaky Maldon sea salt and Spice Mountains Ras el Hanout spice mix.
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6. What is one tip you would give to time strapped parents when it comes to cooking for their families?
Without a doubt batch cooking and freezing. A simple ‘hidden veg’ tomato sauce (I always cook with red lentils, sweet potato and perhaps some butternut squash to up the nutrient and protein content) freezes really well and is an incredible base for some many things – pasta sauce, rice stir through, base for bolognese, kid friendly chilli. Just take a bag out in the morning and you will have half the job for supper done by the time you get home. Pesto is another great flavour base that freezes well – use any leafy greens and combination of nuts/seeds and freeze in ice cube trays.
My kids also like it when they can feel they can serve themselves a bit – put things in little bowls and make it look appealing and fun. Carrot and other veg sticks also take on a more appealing look when you have a bowl of something sticky like hummus (try blitzing in cooked spinach or sweet potato to up the veg content and make it a fun colour) to dip into followed by a bowl of something to stick to the hummus – try grated cheese, mixed blitzed nuts, rye bread crumbs.
8. Do you have a signature dish?
People often ask me what my signature dish is. It’s a funny question; sometimes a bit of a challenge… And one that truthfully I’ve never been able, or wanted, to answer. Entirely understandable for a restaurant to put that sort of stake in the ground, but why would the home cook want to pin themselves to just one thing? One idea, one rule? Being able to fling open the fridge and create something from what appears to be a random collection of ingredients is my signature. I’m what might be considered an intuitive cook; putting things together on instinct and allowing the creative process to develop as I go.
I love recipes and reading about food, and, have hundreds of cook books, but for me they are treasured bed time reading, inspiration and a spring board for ideas, rather than something that I ever want to feel slavish to. I truly believe there is another way to cook. And it’s not the preserve of chefs and those apparently blessed with intuition in the kitchen. In fact, it’s utterly achievable and available to all to want to learn.
Louisa runs workshops in her home in Acton West London, or can come to your house for one-to-one lessons or a kitchen cupboard edit. Her next workshop is on May 7th and 8th featuring Pestos and Pastes, please see below:
Not Just ‘Pesto Pasta’