“I believe we are sent teachers throughout our lives and if we pay attention we are enriched by them”
Chef, restaurateur and Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver had her foodie lightbulb moment when learning the intent of the food you cook is as important as the food itself.
I want to talk about Moki Cherry. She was my best friend Neneh Cherry’s mother and a force of nature – a woman who lived fearlessly and ferociously; a woman full of love life and art.
Cooking with Moki was inspiring, whether it was roasting a whole lamb on the rooftop of their old loft apartment in New York for the singer-song-writer King Sunny Adé and all his wives or stuffing a wild salmon with fistfuls of dill, wrapping it up, then burying it in the ground to cook in Tågarp in Skåne southern Sweden (the house there was where Neneh grew up). Moki taught me so much about how to live life in general and what I learnt from her in the kitchen stays with me to this day.
''Moki taught me so much about how to live life in general and what I learnt from her in the kitchen stays with me to this day''
The day we cooked chanterelle mushrooms is one of the most beautiful dinners I’ve ever been part of. Moki had gone out and picked a basket of the gorgeous golden mushrooms from the forest behind the house. She was planning to make a simple dish of chanterelles on toast for about eight or nine of us – or so she thought. It turned out there were more like 20 of us, so what had looked like a big old haul suddenly seemed like it wouldn’t be enough. We stood in the kitchen feeling a little perplexed and trying to work out what to do when Moki suddenly said, ‘No! It’s enough!’ She, Neneh and I cut the bread reeeeaaal thin, toasted it all off, then were instructed by Moki to cut it into little triangles.
She sautéed the mushrooms in loads of butter, added a splash of wine, a squeeze of lemon and threw in flatleaf parsley at the end. We laid out all the plates, then dressed each one with ONE triangle of toast and ONE mushroom each. We called everyone in and gathered around the table, everyone had their one exquisite golden morsel and beamed from ear to ear. It was as if we’d eaten at the most fulsome banquet.
''I learnt there and then that the intent of the food you cook is as important as the food itself''
Each bite was suffused with some sort of Moki forest love magic and I learnt there and then that the intent of the food you cook is as important as the food itself, and it doesn’t necessarily matter how much is on your plate. The love around that table and the light and love in the heart of that woman – the great Moki Cherry, the artist, the mother, the musician, the sage – that was what we were filled with. I believe we are sent teachers throughout our lives and if we pay attention we are enriched by them. So every day and in every way, in all I do, I try to channel the lessons Moki taught me – particularly in the kitchen… Love-up, people x
Chef Andi Oliver appears regularly on Saturday Kitchen and is a judge on the BBC’s Great British Menu. Her restaurant, Andi’s, is in London’s Stoke Newington.