My earliest food memory is while growing up on the family Dairy Farm on the North Yorkshire Moors, where we were blessed with a plentiful supply of some of the finest Yorkshire ingredients! My Grandmother was, without doubt, an amazing and inspirational cook and somehow, she always managed to rustle up the finest feast from what seemed like an empty fridge. Nothing fancy, just wholesome and hearty dishes made with the freshest of ingredients and by the hands of a lady who took such joy from just watching people enjoy her food. She used to make the best Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever tasted, and for a treat, she would sometimes make them the size of dinner plates and fill them with a full-on roast dinner, swimming in a thick onion gravy. This was followed by a classic Yorkshire rhubarb crumble with homemade custard.
Food trends continue to move at a fast pace and it’s always a challenge to keep up with the next big thing, but for me, it has to about the drive for food to be more ‘plant forward dishes’. Not Vegetarian, not pescatarian or even vegan, it’s just about making the vegetable on the plate be the star of the dish and change the balance from the protein.
My favourite place for breakfast is ‘Milk’ in Balham for its awesome coffee by The Barn and their amazing take on an Eggs Benedict, homemade sourdough, two perfectly poached eggs, home-cured smoked streaky bacon and topped with espresso mayonnaise.
I love ‘Bocca Di Lupo’ in Soho for lunch. Their amazing small plates of authentic regional Italian dishes that change daily, dependent on the market. Make sure you sit at the bar as somehow the atmosphere makes the food taste better.
I’m a huge fan of Japanese food and I love the simplicity of ‘Sticks’n’Sushi’ and its ability to capture such clean flavours, if it’s done well! I’ve followed these guys since they came to the UK and opened their first restaurant in Wimbledon. Sticks’n’Sushi put an amazing Danish slant on some of the freshest and sustainable sushi and yakitori.
My most memorable meal would have to be a tiny little place in a village just outside Florence called ‘La Casa del Prosciutto’ (The House of Ham). It’s in the middle of nowhere and only opens for lunch and everyone has to arrive at 12pm on the dot! You walk through the deli at the front of the shop and into a 50-cover restaurant in the back. Not a chef in sight, but in the kitchen are the real deal Italian Nonnas, no menu because they only cook what’s good that day, no choice because everything is amazing, and you get what you’re given and no wine list because the local house wine does the trick. This experience is definitely not a sprint but more like a 4-hour eating marathon. Course after course just keeps arriving at the table from the best cured Italian meats, to the freshest ravioli filled with truffle, to the most amazing classic Bistecca Alla Fiorentina. The most incredible thing is that they are so confident in their food that there is no bill and they only ask you to pay what you think it’s worth!
Number one on my ideal dinner guest list is my Dad. He loved his food and always encouraged us, as kids, to try absolutely everything and took us to some amazing restaurants. Keith Floyd because he’s mad as a box of frogs and I’m sure he has some great stories to tell. And finally Sir David Attenborough, who in my mind doesn’t need any introduction.
I have far too many favourite cookbooks to mention, but if I were to name a few, then it would have to be the ‘River Café’ because it’s just an absolute classic and to eat there is simply amazing. ‘Black Pudding and Foie Gras’ by Andrew Pern is a cracker of a book and his Michelin Star pub called ‘The Star Inn’ in Harome is well worth the trip. ‘Mallmann on Fire’ is a book by Argentinian Chef Francis Mallmann and it’s based around cooking over traditional open fires, the Argentinian way. Last of all, but I’m not too sure if it counts as a cookbook, would have to be ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by the late and great Anthony Bourdain.
The three items I always keep in my fridge are Sriracha Mayonaise because it makes almost anything taste amazing, some top-quality Chorizo from Brindis, and finally some good homemade pickled onions.