My earliest food memories are, without question, of my Grandma’s cooking. My grandparents lived in the Lake District; about 6 hours drive from where we lived in Surrey and I will always remember the rejuvenating effects of Grandma’s home cooking – spicy kidney bean soup served with crusty bread and lashings of salted butter, roast ham with all of the trimmings and all manner of wonderful trifles from classic sherry to clementine and chocolate – all of which seemed to have healing powers which soothed us weary travellers. At a time when Smiley Faces, baked beans and Turkey Twizzlers were in vogue, the wholesomeness of Grandma’s cooking is something that I look back on with great fondness.
It is impossible at the moment to talk about food trends without mentioning the V word, but I will do my best! With plastic packaging and waste such a hot topic at present, there have been some significant strides in ‘zero waste’ cooking which I see as a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. A great example I came across recently was the tempura stems and herbs at Rovi which made a delicious nibble out of something that would otherwise have gone to waste.
I am immensely lucky to be in a line of work which means that eating out can be considered market research, so I have had the privilege of some wonderful meals over the past few years. When it comes to my favourite places to eat, L’Enclume in Cartmel was perhaps the most technically perfect meal I have ever eaten with absolutely every element of the evening being utterly flawless. I love the old school Sunday roasts at the East India Club paired with a bottle from the excellent wine list; but for me my favourite place to eat is St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields. If you haven’t been before, I cannot recommend enough ordering a Bicyclette (Campari and white wine) or a Negroni at the bar before working your way through as many of the small plates as your stomach can handle!
My most memorable meal would have to be the bowl of Laksa I slurped down at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre in Singapore a few years ago. I was blown away by how inexpensive it was as well as the complexity and richness of the flavour. I had never had a bowl of food quite like it before and I certainly have not had anything like it since.
At my ideal dinner table, I would have to have Bruce Dickinson – the lead singer of Iron Maiden. He has managed to front a hugely successful rock band, became a commercial airline pilot, written books and competed at the highest level of sport. I am sure he has some sage words of wisdom. I would also have to have my family as no dinner is really complete without them.
I am reminded on a regular basis by my girlfriend that our flat is too small to fit any more of my cookbooks in… notwithstanding, I have managed to accrue a lovely little collection. ‘Nose to Tail Eating’ by Fergus Henderson is one of my all-time favourites. The photography is hilarious and the food is sublime – particularly excellent is the roasted pig’s head on a pillow of garlic, shallots, wine, stock, cognac and watercress. ‘Zaitoun’ by Yasmin Khan is crammed full of wonderful Palestinian recipes from salads to roast meats to delicious flatbreads. ‘Completely Perfect’ by Felicity Cloake is an amazing compilation of her fascinating column in the Guardian and has become a bit of a go-to if ever I am unsure of a recipe. A veritable food bible! Another honourable mention is the classic ‘Harrod’s Book of Entertaining’ – you must try the chocolate fudge cake recipe – absolutely unbeatable and great for birthdays.
Three items I always keep in my fridge are real ale, rocket chillies – because you never know when you’ll need to whip up a curry and some form of homemade chutney.