My Life In Food: Rosie Birkett | sheerluxe.com
Food writer, stylist and broadcaster, Rosie Birkett is a regular on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. She has also been a guest judge on Masterchef and Great British Menu, so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about food. Her latest book, The Joyful Home Cook, is a celebration of simple home-cooked food, designed to help you get the most out of everyday meals. Here Rosie shares her favourite foodie haunts, must-cook dishes and cherished food memories.
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Do you have a memorable restaurant from your childhood?

A restaurant on the edge of the sea in Northern Spain where we were on a camping holiday – it belonged to the brother of the man who taught me to swim at the campsite. The tables were inside old sherry barrels and it smelled incredible in there. We ate amazing seafood and I remember the excitement I felt at being in a grown-up place, with the twinkle of candles and the sound of clattering cutlery, chat and laughter.
 
What was the first dish you learned to cook?

On my own it was probably cheese on toast, but I’ve always been my mum’s sous chef and her roasts are legendary, so I’d say I had a good grounding in Sunday roasts by the time I was 12.

Which restaurants do you return to most often?

Rochelle Canteen, an incredible Turkish restaurant in Stoke Newington called Testi, Lyle’s in Shoreditch, the great ramen resto Tonkotsu, St John at the Barbican, Carousel, P Franco and Dishoom.
 
Do you have a favourite chef?

I’m a huge fan of Margot and Fergus Henderson, Skye Gyngell, Ollie Templeton, James Lowe, Nieves Barragan, Claude Bosi, Tom Kerridge, Chris Galvin, to name just a few.

What’s been your favourite recent restaurant opening?

Upstairs at The French House is sublime. I also really love Henrietta Inman’s sweet little cafe at Yardarm in Leyton, Tom Ryalls at Rubedo in Stoke Newington and Brat in Shoreditch, but I haven’t been eating out as much as usual as I’ve been writing my book!
 
Which restaurant should everyone visit once in their lifetime?

This is so subjective, but if you like seafood then Contramar in Mexico City is my new favourite – they do the most insane tuna tostadas.
 
What’s your most memorable meal?

Our wedding anniversary last year at The Sportsman in Kent was really special. It's an old Shepherd Neame pub (a local Kent brewery) that was taken over by self-taught chef Stephen Harris and now has a Michelin star. It's on the salt flats of Sea Salter near Whitstable and Stephen pays particular attention to the local terroir. He uses as much Kentish produce as possible, really showcasing what the region has to offer, particularly in dishes like slip sole cooked in seaweed butter, where he has foraged ingredients himself. We had a wonderful boozy lunch there and ate oysters, new season lamb, celeriac and truffle tart and rhubarb souffle.
 
Where’s your favourite pub?

I love The Chesham Arms in Homerton and The Marksman in Shoreditch. The former is such a cosy pub with two working fireplaces and a massive beer garden. It doesn't do food but you can order pizza there and it's an amazing place to while away a Sunday afternoon with a game of Scrabble. The Marksman is a legendary old pub in Shoreditch which now has two former St John chefs cooking there. It does incredible dishes like spiced lamb buns and chicken and leek pie. 
  
Do you have a favourite London bar?

Bar Termini in Soho – I just love their cocktails. They do the classics so well.
 
What’s the best way to start the day?

A cup of tea and cuddle with the dog in bed.
 
What’s your go-to dish on a Sunday night?

Roast chicken – it’s always an easy win. I fill it with bay, lemon, garlic, sometimes tarragon and smother it in butter under the skin, then roast it and eat with roast or new potatoes and greens of some sort. We then make stock with the carcass and live off chicken noodle soup or risotto in the coming days.  
 
Where do you go for date night?

J Sheekey in Covent Garden for fruit de mer and Champagne. It doesn’t get much sexier than that!

What do you like to eat after a long, tiring day?

Chicken noodle soup or a big bowl of coconut, tomato and spinach dal.
 
Who does most of the cooking at home?

Me mostly, but my husband can knock up a few solid dishes for when I’m all cooked out. He makes a fantastic lasagne and grilled mackerel.
 
Do you have a favourite cookbook?

I have many – probably too many to name. But Delia’s Complete Cookery Course holds a particular sentimental value as it was my first.
 

Where do you like to buy ingredients?

At the greengrocers, farmers markets, the butchers and fish mongers. You tend to get the freshest, best quality veg and salad from green grocers and farmers markets rather than supermarkets. I love supporting my local independent butchers, fishmongers and shops too as I know them personally and feel connected to the food I'm cooking. 
 
Who’s your favourite dining companion?

My husband Jamie.

What’s your signature dish if you have people coming for dinner?

I change it according to what’s in season. The Wild Garlic and Chicken Puff Pie from my new book is getting a lot of airtime at the moment.
 
If you could invite anyone to your dinner party, who would it be?

My late father.
 
What’s the secret to a good dinner party?

Be relaxed, give yourself some shortcuts and make a couple of really good things ahead of time.

What’s your favourite takeaway or food on-the-go?

Turkish from Testi – it’s all cooked over coals and the grilled onion salad is off the charts.
 
Who’s inspired you most when it comes to cooking?

My mum. She has always made the most delicious, joyful home cooked food for us and every mealtime is a treat with her.

The one dish you always order if you see it on the menu?

Taramasalata – I adore it! Love the smokiness, creaminess of the olive oil emulsified with the fish roe, and the tang from the lemon juice. Superb on toast, pitta bread or crunchy flatbread. 

What’s your drink of choice?

Natural orange wine or a Negroni, depending on my mood.
 
Quickest midweek meal?

You can’t go wrong with some sort of eggs on sourdough toast situation.

What's your death row dinner?

Fresh native oysters, fish and chips on the beach with buttered bread for chip butties, Champagne and a Negroni for dessert.
 
What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday lunch?

My mum’s roast rib of beef, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots, kale and Yorkshire puddings.
 
And finally, what’s your food hell?

A fry up made with awful low-quality ingredients.
 
Get a copy of Rosie’s new book, The Joyful Home Cook, here.

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