my name is Dana
I come from a land of culinary contrasts – Azerbaijan.
I like to think that I was born with a spoon in my mouth. It wasn’t silver but it was overflowing with delicious traditional Azerbaijani and Georgian flavours.
Generosity has always been part of how we live, and over many centuries we’ve accepted many cultures and their food traditions. Jewish, Russian and Middle Eastern flavours are all welcome on our plates.
Azeri cuisine has wonderful contrasts. It’s intensely sweet, and then intensely sour. It’s warm, aromatic spiced meats alongside plates piled high with fresh green herbs – mint, coriander, dill, parsley. It’s jams and fruit pastes made from plums, quinces and cherries.
The mezzes – small plates – that precede an Azeri meal range from tangy yoghurt and sheep cheese to pickled fruit and vegetables. Their sourness is essential. It makes your mouth water and creates anticipation.
This is just a snippet of the flavours I grew up with and my mission is to share this experience to you through my signature recipes.
I have my family to thank for my devotion to local produce.
In all great food cultures, Grandmothers are the keepers of culinary secrets. Mine was no different. She showed me everything from making tiny dumplings the size of your fingertip, to sourcing and preparing some of the best lamb I’ve ever tasted.
If we didn’t grow something ourselves, we bought it from someone we knew. Milk, meat, cheese and vegetables were organic without the gimmick. The idea of waste never crossed my mind, as I played on a balcony amongst dozens of jars full of pickles.
My family was in the gastronomy business so I spent my teenage years surrounded by chefs. I didn’t just learn the basics of cooking from them. I also learned how important it is to have passion for the food you cook, and to pass this on.