The “giggling chef” has just launched four DIY meal boxes with Kibsons and is appearing at Taste of Abu Dhabi this weekend
'Giggling chef' Jenny Morris: You can get every single ingredient here
Jenny Morris is cradling a round, bulbous root in her hands. “What’s beneath the skin is just too delicious for words,” she says. “It has a subtle celery flavour and the most beautiful texture. You can cook it or you can roast it.”
Morris is partial to ugly vegetables, and likes to include them in her recipes. And when it comes to celeriac, there are just so many reasons to do so: it’s nutritious, helps with digestion and balances blood sugar, something the South African chef, television and radio personality and cookbook author admits she has been struggling with of late. “It’s just got so much going for it,” she says. “It’s ugly, but beautiful.”
Morris is in Dubai this week for the launch of four DIY meal-box recipes she has created for Kibsons. She’s preparing one of them – salmon, apple and celeriac salad – at the home of Kibsons’ co-founder Halima Jumani. The lively dish is completed with a simple dressing of honey, olive oil, Greek yoghurt, lime, spring onions and dill. “I came across Kibsons on a show and went to have a look at operations, as one does,” Morris says. “I am so impressed with this produce, and I said to my husband: ‘I love their outlook, and their passion.’”
Morris, also known as The Giggling Gourmet, has just released her sixth, veg-heavy cookbook Yumcious, named after one of her two restaurants. “It’s full of fresh, lovely things,” says Morris, trilling the “r”. The recipes inside are drool-worthy – think baked apricot-buttered snoek and caramelised onion tart in a potato crust – and for each one, simplicity is key. “I think food should be what it is,” she says. “I don’t think food should be over-engineered. I think it should talk to you.”
In addition to their restaurants, Morris and her husband run Cook’s Playground, a catering company and cooking school that opened in 1997 for regular folk looking to beef up their skills, and where companies often send staff for team-building exercises. Morris is currently hard at work on her seventh cookbook and looking forward to this weekend, when she will team up with long-time friend, fellow Food Network star Reza Mahammad, at Taste of Abu Dhabi on Yas Island.
The pair, who star in Jenny & Reza’s Fabulous Food Academy and are looking to do another show together (nothing official yet), met when they literally bumped into each other at a food festival in South Africa 14 years ago. “We literally knocked each other over,” she says. “It was raining in South Africa and we were running for cover.” They became fast friends first, culinary co-stars later. They work because they complement each other, sharing the same passion for cooking as well as flavour profile.
“I love working with Reza because we’re like a married couple, in food,” says Morris. “We complete each other’s sentences, there’s no ego. We are so comfortable in our own skin. And because we are genuine friends, we just want the best for each other; we never try to overshadow each other.”
Morris and her husband usually visit Dubai three times a year. Although they describe with rapture a fine-dining experience they had at Pierchic, they also rave about a humble Iranian haunt in Bur Dubai that they never fail to visit, called Al Ustad Special Kabab. Morris is partial to the chicken soup.
One thing residents of the UAE should appreciate, she says, is that they are living in a chef’s heaven. With the wide array of fresh food on offer throughout the year, “in season” isn’t really even a factor. And that goes for Morris’s beloved celeriac, which she can’t seem to grow in her otherwise bountiful garden back home and is even hard to find in stores. “You can get every single ingredient here,” she says, “as god is my witness.”
Jenny Morris will be at Taste of Abu Dhabi at the du Arena on Yas Island today from 6pm to 6.30pm with chef Reza Mahammad, and on her own tomorrow from 3.30pm to 4pm, and on Saturday from 4.30pm to 5pm. Her DIY meal boxes will be sold through Kibsons