Meet Mark!

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Food bloggers are some of our favourite people online; their endless foodie inspo is guaranteed to keep our repertoire of tasty meals fresh and exciting. With this in mind we’ve teamed up with food blogger, Mark Popkiewicz.

Mark’s blog A Mouthful of Mark, is packed full delicious recipes that won’t break the bank! Over the coming weeks Mark is going to be sharing some special recipes with us, so watch this space.

We caught up Mark virtually to find out everything you need to know about him.

When did you first get into cooking?

I first got into cooking when I was growing up. I grew up in a family of 5, and as my sisters and I got older and started working it became the rule that whoever got home first would get on and make dinner for the family. However, it wasn’t until I met my now husband that I really got into cooking and became more adventurous with the dishes I made.

What’s the first recipe you remember cooking?

The first recipe I remember cooking is spaghetti Bolognese. It pretty much became the only dish that I could cook for the family and it soon became a standing joke as to what I could possibly be cooking when it was my turn!

Why did you decide to start blogging?

Once the cooking bug really kicked in, friends started to take an interest and asked me to share recipes. It was this that made me think there may be a wider interest and so thought I would share my passion. The blog has recipes I’ve created along with photographs of the dishes, expertly taken by my husband I might add. I also do product, restaurant and event reviews, something I would like to get more involved in, along with collaborations with food producers.

What’s your biggest inspiration while crafting a new recipe?

I have to say a lot of the time the inspiration comes from what I actually have in my store cupboard, which is generally heaving with ingredients that I pick up from holidays, visits to farm shops and delis. As I kept buying ingredients that would sit there for ages, my husband came up with the store cupboard challenge, which involved him choosing a random ingredient which I would then have to use to create a dish. This proved to be a bit testing at times, but I also did come up with some fantastic dishes.

What’s your go-to dish?

It has to be chicken fajitas, a real quick, easy but satisfying dish that anyone can rustle up in no time. I do like to breadcrumb my chicken fillets for that extra crunch – the addition of parmesan and lemon zest to the breadcrumbs really lifts the dish.

Do you believe anyone can cook?

Generally, some people can find it a faff but if you put your mind to it and have a recipe with clear instructions then there is no reason why you can’t cook. A lot of people, including myself, find cooking quite therapeutic as it takes your mind off everything other than the dish you are working on. It’s also very rewarding to create a delicious meal from scratch.

What are your top tips for a beginner cook?

Always read the recipe from start to finish before starting. There is nothing worse than coming across something further on in the process that you have missed. Also, have all the required ingredients measured out, or chopped, as required.

How important is it to have the best utensils and ingredients while cooking?

I’m not going to lie, if you can afford the best utensils and ingredients then why not? Organic produce is fantastic; however, you should use what you can afford. Don’t be constrained by the notion that cooking from scratch has to cost a fortune.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without?

Aside from salt and pepper, which are a must for any dish that you make, I have to say I am never without garlic. It goes with so many different dishes and styles of cuisine, and it is also very good for you. 

What’s your favourite cuisine?

This is a tricky one as I have a few favourites, but the stand out has to be Indian. Having been lucky enough to visit India several times, I have always been blown away by the variety of dishes and the vast array of spices used. Many of these are now readily available in most local supermarkets making it easier for us to experiment with our own versions at home. 

When you are not in lockdown how do you normally spend your time?

Well, I am a huge movie buff so usually would spend a lot of time at the cinema, and this is something I find quite difficult now we are in lockdown! Gardening, growing my own vegetables, country walks and playing on my Xbox also feature heavily. I am also featured in a local magazine so put together a recipe for them monthly. In addition, I also do voluntary work and teach cookery at a couple of local youth clubs to young people aged between 8-18, which I find very rewarding. Getting kids involved at a young age is key to sparking a real interest and love of cooking. It also opens them up to trying different ingredients and styles of cooking that they may not have experienced before.

Is all your community work food based?

Whilst anything food related is a big part of my life, I also volunteer for the Royal Voluntary Service and act as a good neighbour for the elderly and lonely in my local community.  I have been visiting a lovely 94 year old lady for the last 2 years, getting her out and about locally, enjoying lunches, cinema trips (last time she went the admission price was in old money!), afternoon teas, shopping trips and taking her to hospital appointments. I find it incredibly rewarding and can’t wait for lockdown to ease up so I can continue with my visits.

My husband and I have also been recently approved to be foster carers and now we are awaiting our first placement, which is very exciting and a little scary. However, we are looking forward to making a difference to a young person’s life and certainly the cooking is something I would like to get them involved with.

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