This week, we interviewed the very beautiful and talented chef Olia Hercules. Ukrainian born, Olia is a Leith’s trained chef, recipe writer and food stylist. Olia’s recipes are regularly featured in The Guardian’s Cook supplement. Olia is currently working on an Eastern European cookbook will be available next year. Olia is married to husband Tom, and together they have a son, Sasha.  

When did you realise cooking was your true passion? 

I worked as a junior reporter for a film magazine at the time, the industry was hit by a crisis, a lot of journalists were getting redundant, I was feeling very overworked. So I thought if I have to work this hard at least I can do something I’m obsessed about. I loved independent cinema, but I loved my cookbooks more. 

So I quit my job the following month and enrolled for a Leith’s diploma. I later worked 18 hour shifts at a restaurant, but my love for what I was doing helped survive the physical exhaustion, and I’m convinced those long hard hours improved my stamina so much – giving birth to my son was (of course intense) but…more tolerable!

What’s your one guilty pleasure when it comes to food? 

I don’t do guilt. Although I remember eating five custard tarts before dinner when I was pregnant…I didn’t feel guilty then either, but I should have – I put on a lot of weight and had trouble shaking it all off.

What’s your favourite family recipe? 

My mum’s puffed omelette. What you do is sauté some broccoli florets in a little oil (or butter), whisk eggs, milk and seasoning with an electric blender until very frothy, tip them on top of broccoli and cover with a lid, cook over a very low heat. The eggs crisp up at the bottom and puff up and steam on top. It is so light and airy, my son loves it.

Here is a full recipe with mushrooms in The Guardian.

How to you find a balance in juggling your work and home life?

I won’t lie to you, I am finding it extremely hard. I have a great child minder, close friends who are like family and the best sister in law, but my parents are thousands of miles away and sometimes I feel like I just need my mum.

It’s not just help with my son, it’s the emotional support. I wish I could just pop to my mum’s house for a little cry or a laugh whenever I want, but she is in Ukraine so Skype is the best we can do and I can’t hug her through Skype. What I’m trying to say – if your mum is near – give her a big hug.

What advice would you give to our working mothers when it comes to preparing family meals for the week?

If you cook something on a Sunday, make a big batch and think creatively. For example I slow cooked some beef cheeks (use any other cheap cut of meat) in stock and tomato sauce. I pulled the meat at the end of cooking and we had it with pasta for dinner. I froze the rest in batches.

What you do after is unfreeze a batch during the week and make it into something else – add some toasted cumin seeds, paprika and red kidney beans , serve with rice and you’ve got a chilli.

On another day – serve it in a tortilla wrap with some spring onions, pomegranate seeds and a dollop of yoghurt…the variations are endless!

What’s on your to-do list this week? 

  1. Start working on my book proposal
  2. My husband Tom and I are doing a pop up in Budapest next week, so I need to prepare for the trip.
  3. Attack my store room and purge, purge, purge! (I know, rock & roll…)

What’s your favourite family-friendly restaurant in London?

We love the amazing Turkish restaurants on Green Lanes. Hala is great, the food is cheap but beyond delicious.

What’s your idea of a perfect family weekend?

It’s July –  Sasha and I are lying on the grass in our little garden watching the clouds, waiting for friends to arrive, and Tom is firing up the barbecue. Sunny, lazy fun…

What’s the one baby product you couldn’t have lived without?

It is not specifically a baby product but I found that raw cocoa butter really helped Sasha’s eczema.

How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?

My best friend just texted me back saying ‘Superwoman?’ I love my friends…

OHercules portrait 1