Featuring Tamara Gillon
Photography by Shana Jade Trajanoska
Words by Aaron Peasley
A special home-cooked dinner prepared by self-taught chef Tamara Gillon was the perfect way for Margot to experience London's rapidly evolving food culture.
Gillon, who worked for many years as a casting director, has transformed her passion for food into a full-time career, attracting corporate clients and catering gigs as well as working as a cookbook writer and tester. “I do really love to cook for others and had begun doing catering and supper clubs here and there,” explains Gillon, who is working on a forthcoming cookbook from Ottolenghi cofounder Sami Tamimi. “During the pandemic when my work schedule was entirely cleared, I began a kind of home-cooked delivery service through word of mouth and it just took off from there.”
For the Margot dinner, held in her airy parlor floor eat-in kitchen, Gillon created a vegetarian feast, which highlighted locally sourced ingredients. “Growing up, we didn’t really eat a lot of what’s considered traditional English food,” she explains. “My parents traveled a lot - my father was a journalist working a lot in the Middle East and my mum used to travel with him - and they both absorbed a lot of the food culture. As a kid, we were more likely to be passing plates of hummus or baba ganoush around the table than sitting down to Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding.”
Focaccia served with Marinated Olives & Artichokes, Radishes, Pecorino, and Salami.
Asparagus with Almond, Caper & Lemon Salsa
Tomato Salad with Wild Garlic & Parsley
Green Salad with Vinaigrette
Rhubarb & Pistachio Semifreddo
Plates of Radishes and Pecorino served with Foccacia
“I like big plates of food in the middle of the table forcing everyone to just dig in and share.”
According to Gillon, a successful meal should be relaxed, convivial and welcoming to guests of all ages. She also eschews too much formality, preferring shareable crowd-pleasers that inspire conversation and delight. “I like big plates of food in the middle of the table forcing everyone to just dig in and share,” she said.
On this occasion, the menu’s focal point was Aubergine Parmigiana, a vivacious and light interpretation of the homestyle Italian staple. “I felt the eggplant would be satisfying in the same way meat is. It delivers a satisfying umami and has an appealing texture,” said Gillon.
The sides that were chosen to complement the Aubergine Parmigiana can be served warm or even at room temperature, making it a perfect stress-free option. “Part of successful entertaining is taking the pressure off and preparing ahead where possible, particularly if you are cooking for a crowd. Especially if you actually want to enjoy the experience yourself,” Gillon adds.
Entertaining should be relaxed, convivial, and inclusive of guests of all ages, according to Tamara. Margot's Sunday Supper guests included her eldest teenage daughter, Emer, and close family friend, Christine.
Whether preparing for a meal at home or putting together a menu for a corporate client, the Londoner lets her eye guide her towards special seasonal ingredients like the wild garlic and heritage tomatoes she discovered in a specialty food store in her neighborhood. But Gillon stresses that you don’t have to spend a fortune on rarefied ingredients to produce an excellent meal.
“Particularly with vegetarian food, by using the right herbs and spices you can easily transform something really plain into a showstopper,” she says.
Rhubarb and Pistachio Semi Freddo
Gillon’s dessert - or pudding, as the Brits call it - turns out to be the meal’s biggest crowd pleaser. The Rhubarb and Pistachio Semifreddo incorporates fresh local ingredients, offers serious wow factor and feels delightfully British with its creamy texture and sumptuous presentation that evokes a more refined version of the classic Eaton Mess. It was a perfectly unfussy grace note to an unforgettable London meal.
TAMARA'S FAVORITE PRODUCE VENDORS
The Beautiful focaccia for this meal came from Christopher's Bakery
Fruit & vegetables from Bora & Sons
(Greengrocer selling a huge and perfect array of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs, including every variety of tomato under the sun.)
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT TAMARA
A classic crowd-pleaser, this recipe using grilled aubergines is lighter than the traditional version. Light or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that it is labor-intensive, but all the work can be done in advance, making it perfect for stress-free entertaining. Once cooked parmigiana is very easy-going, happy to wait around until you’re ready to eat. In fact, it should be allowed to settle for at least an hour after taking out of the oven – like all of us, it’s much improved after a rest.
TOMATO SALAD WITH WILD GARLIC AND PARSLEY
Use other herbs if wild garlic isn't available - basil or tarragon go well.
ASPARAGUS WITH ALMOND, CAPER & LEMON SALSA
This is a brilliant dressing to have up your sleeve, easy to make and extremely versatile. It’s great with steamed green vegetables – broccoli or green beans for example, or spooned alongside some grilled chicken. It keeps well for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge.
RHUBARB AND PISTACHIO SEMIFREDDO
I love making ice cream throughout the year, using seasonal fruit. This semifreddo (or parfait) is an easy alternative as you don’t need to make an anglaise (custard), and it doesn’t require churning. It’s the ideal dessert for a party as it looks spectacular, but can be made ahead of time, then sliced and plated at the table. A light and refreshing end to a meal.