At the moment my kitchen is half-finished, as we moved to Deal recently and are mid-way through the renovation. Generally, it’s a really good-sized room with lots of natural light – it’s south facing – and double doors at the end which open out onto our garden. Having lived in London without a garden for many years it’s such a pleasure to be able to wander out and pick fresh herbs or veg for cooking – if it hasn’t all been eaten by those pesky slugs! Soon, the gorgeous marble chequerboard floor tiles from Floors of Stone, Devol aged brass taps and marble worktops will go in…
We inherited a perfectly serviceable kitchen when we moved in, it just wasn’t in my style – it was all bright blue walls, vinyl red floor and shiny modern kitchen units. I wanted to upcycle as much as possible to avoid waste and more going into landfill, so I did this by sanding and painting all the doors and drawer fronts in Wimborne White by Farrow and Ball – which were originally shiny and cream – and replacing all the long, curved, stainless steel handles with brass pull and cup handles I antiqued myself. Once the marble worktops go in, I’ll install a splash back of white zellige tiles from the Mosaic Factory, which has the most amazing handmade Moroccan tiles.
My interiors style is inspired by Italian and French farmhouse kitchens, as well as Devol’s gorgeous kitchens which combine function and a sense of character, uniqueness and antique charm, and those by British Standard and Plain English. I look for natural textures and materials I know will last – people always warn that marble will get battered but for me, battered marble is still a hundred times more charming than pristine synthetic worktops – and so good for making pastry on!
I don’t love spotlights in a kitchen, but as I've inherited some in the new place, I’ve learned to love the fact they are dimmable – which comes in handy for setting the right mood according to available light. I bought a frilly antique glass pendant from a local antique shop, and it brings a lovely rustic feel to an otherwise quite generic lighting situation. I love Pooky lights. It has some really lovely options, as does Graham and Green.
I love to buy kitchenware from all over. I collect vintage pieces like wooden chopping boards and jelly moulds, but for function I like to have a few really good quality, enduring pieces. A few brands I love are Crane, Le Creuset and I’m currently lusting after Ondine’s stunning stainless-steel cookware.
The utensils I couldn’t live without are a good heavy-bottomed non-stick frying pan or cast-iron skillet; a decent Japanese chef’s knife (I love my Kin knives); and a microplane for grating everything from cheese to garlic and citrus zest.
When it comes to gadgets, I adore my Thermomix. It’s one of the best, most powerful food processors out there, and so much more than a blender. It can be used for making things like fool-proof hollandaise, soup, even bread and pizza dough. I’m also loving our new Sage Food Cycler which dehydrates and grinds food waste into a handful of dried chips you can put into your garden.
My most recent kitchen purchases are a new fluted sink from Shaw’s, and those Devol brass taps and marble worktops I mentioned before. I’ve also invested in a new AEG induction hob to replace the one that was here when we moved in.
For tableware, I love the Portuguese ceramics house Bordallo Pinheiro’s plates, which are inspired by fruit, vegetables and other ingredients. I have its classic cabbage plates and they make every table setting look so unique and joyful. I also love Aerende for tableware and homeware – it’s a really ethical and sustainable brand that works with makers who are facing barriers to employment. Liberty always has a lust-worthy selection of tableware and ceramics too, I love going for a wander around the homeware floor to get inspired. And I love Cornishware. I have their plates, bowls and mugs and just love the classic stripe.
I like really fine glassware. We recently got some gorgeously designed wine glasses from Nude via Fenwick. My drink of choice is natural orange wine or a negroni, depending on my mood.
When it comes to reliable pots and pans, my Le Creuset casseroles and Crane Cookware cast iron pots are lightweight but brilliantly durable. And I love the fact we inherited lots of drawers down one side of the kitchen, which is where I store all my kitchen kit and dry ingredients.
I have a few tricks to keep my kitchen clutter-free. Buy a label maker and keep everything in stackable, labelled tubs so that you can see what’s in your cupboards and avoid duplicates. Also do regular (I do bi-monthly) kitchen audits to use up things that are nearly finished and chuck out anything that’s past it. Find a place for everything and make sure you put things back into place once you’ve used them.
I do most of the cooking at home, 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.
The best way to start the day is with a cup of tea and cuddle with the dog in bed. After a long, tiring day, I make some kind of quick and delicious seasonal pasta dish or a big bowl of coconut, tomato and spinach dal. You also can’t go wrong with a great big summer salad at this time of year either – I'm currently enjoying binging on tomatoes with garlicky white beans and fried halloumi.
On Sunday nights, my go-to is a 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 risotto in the coming days.
I have many cookbooks – probably too many to name. But Delia’s Complete Cookery Course holds a particular sentimental value as it was my first. And in terms of chefs, I’m a huge fan of Margot and Fergus Henderson, Skye Gyngell, Jamie Oliver, Ottolenghi, Nieves Barragan, Uyen Luu and Chris Galvin, to name just a few.
I love to buy my 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.
In terms of eating out, I love all the places we've featured in the new update of the East London Food book, but particularly a ‘Mirror Margarita’ and taco at Hacha in Dalston, followed by a wine-filled dinner at Bright or supper at Hai Cafe on Lower Clapton Road where they make the most wonderful Vietnamese dishes. I have really great memories of The Sportsman in Kent, where we celebrated one of our wedding anniversaries. 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.
The secret to a good dinner party? Be relaxed, give yourself some shortcuts and make a couple of really good things ahead of time. I don’t have a signature dish, as I change what I cook according to what’s in season, but my wild garlic and chicken puff pie from my book The Joyful Home Cook always goes down well.
My ideal Sunday lunch is my mum’s roast rib of beef, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots, kale and Yorkshire puddings. She has always made the most delicious, joyful home cooked food for us and every mealtime is a treat with her. 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.
My idea of a perfect meal would be fresh native oysters, fish and chips on the beach with buttered bread for chip butties, champagne and a negroni for dessert.