Inside My Kitchen: Natalie Chassay

Food Instagrammer and chef Natalie Chassay was born in South Africa, raised in Australia and educated in Italy. A self-taught cook, she spent years honing her cooking style before her live online cook-a-longs turned her into an Internet sensation. To find out more about her foodie must-haves and entertaining secrets, she took us inside her London test kitchen...
By Heather Steele /

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Truth to be told, I don't love my current kitchen. I really dislike the cupboards and happily received news from our landlord recently that we have permission to go ahead and change them, so the kitchen is definitely a bit of a project. Watch this space.

My dream kitchen is a beautiful space in Notting Hill where I shoot my on-demand recipes. It’s part of a cooking school called Enrica Rocca and is run by two lovely sisters. I do a lot of work here and find the kitchen is a calm and creative space, which is exactly how they should be.

They’ve done such a stunning job designing the kitchen. I’ve never seen a more family style, cosy space before and I adore it – especially because it has massive ovens. The entire kitchen island is pretty much the same size as my current kitchen! I love that the hobs sit on the island and that everyone else can sit around and be involved with what you’re doing. From an entertaining perspective, it’s great as you never have to have your back to your guests. 

My favourite kitchenware brands are Le Creuset and Stellar for pots and pans, and CuisinArt, Sage and Victorinox – which also makes fantastic serrated knives – for appliances. I have a great CuisinArt mini food processor which is great for making herby green sauces and blitzing things like feta. I couldn’t live without my microplane grater.

I was given a Sage pizza oven late last year and it is incredible. I only managed to use it once, but the plan is to start experimenting more with pizza doughs and styles this summer. Usually, my culinary flex doesn’t extend to doughs. I don’t really do any baking at all, so I need to work on my flour, water and kneading skills.

In terms of tableware, The Sette makes amazing plates. My favourite is the scalloped-edge dining plate by Royal Limoges. I also love the Maison Margaux L’Objet Haas Mojave Gold set. As for glassware, they’re plain and simple, but I love Riedel O Wine stemless glasses.

I love HOBS that sit ON AN ISLAND. From an ENTERTAINING PERSPECTIVE, it’s great as you never have to have your back to your guests.

My husband will laugh if he sees me offering advice on keeping a kitchen tidy. In all honesty, I am very messy and being super organised doesn’t come naturally to me. But I do love my trusty spice rack which I got on Amazon. I can confidently say the spice drawer is organised because of it.

I have a couple of signature dishes. Since I was young, I’ve always made these really big, abundant tuna salads with every vegetable imaginable in there. I still love making tuna salads, but I’ve definitely refined the process. My late grandmother was a fabulous host and cook, and we have an oxtail, red wine and kidney bean stew recipe that has made it through the ages. It’s my death row meal and I make it as often as I can. It’s a labour of love but every time I make it, it makes me happy to think of all the women in my family. 

I love shopping locally. For fresh greens, fruit, and veg, Clifton Greens has everything you could possibly need. For meat, I love Provenance Butcher in Little Venice or Kent & Sons in St John’s Wood. For fish and seafood, Browns of St John’s Wood is great.

When it comes to entertaining, I like fool-proof dishes that are good for sharing. When the food is on the table and everyone can serve themselves, it always evokes that lovely convivial feel and atmosphere. Having said that, if I’m doing a pasta starter, I’ll always plate up for everyone individually as it would break my heart if someone didn’t put enough parmesan on theirs or finish it off with a nice slick of olive oil. That’s the food control freak in me.

If I’m serving canapés at home, I like to do one type of bitesize crostini with a delicious topping. A staple is my confit tomato and mascarpone crostini, which always fly off the platter.

I like a small bowl of pasta as a starter – something that’s easy and still full of flavour when made in large quantities. This is an art by the way – if you double a pasta recipe you need to make sure there is enough of whatever delicious sauce you’ve made to coat every piece. I usually do a spicy anchovy orecchiette with some pangrattato.

I usually move onto something whole for mains. I’ll often do a large roasted sea bass which I stuff with an unthinkable amount of lemon, thyme and rosemary (so much flavour). I’ll roast that on fennel and lemon slices then serve it with a starchy side dish like potatoes and a really fresh and simple zippy salad. Also love doing a Greek-style slow lamb kleftiko, as it’s just so easy and always impresses.

I’m not sure I’ve fully mastered the art of throwing a great dinner party. No matter how prepped and organised I am, I always seem to spend most of the night in the kitchen. Luckily, we have an open kitchen/dining room so I’m never too far away. I do try to be super prepped in advance and keep it simple. Don’t try something new and complicated the night you’re having a large group over. I’ve done it and it isn’t fun.

Choose a menu where you can prep and marinate your meat the night before. Then, you can just pop it in the oven. And don’t do more than one starchy and one green side dish, such as potatoes and salad. Keep it easy so you can have a good time too! I’d never cook individual pieces of fish unless I only have four people over. A whole fish, large cuts of slow-cooked meat or a fillet in the oven is the way to go.

One of the most memorable meals I’ve hosted recently was a dinner at home for the launch of the spring collection for swimwear and resort wear brand Casaraki, which was so beautiful. They wanted a South American theme so the food was all about those lovely punchy flavours. I served charred corn crostini with lime, chilli, jalapeño and parmesan; fresh tuna, yellow tomato and green chilli crostini with sesame, avocado and tahini cream; followed by roast hispi cabbage with chimichurri, pistachio and whipped garlic yoghurt; jerk cod with sticky plantains, mojo verde and a white bean and avocado puree; and a side of garlic, lime and chilli wilted greens. It was such a gorgeous night and the table setting by Maison Margaux finished it all off perfectly. 

My go-to mid-week meal is tuna salad and roast veggies. It’s so simple – just a can of tuna in olive oil emptied out onto some crunchy lettuce with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of red wine vinegar and tahini. I love having roasted sweet potatoes with it too.

My kitchen cupboard essentials are lemons, tahini, chilli flakes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and Maldon sea salt flakes. And at this time of year, I’m never without radicchio, fennel, orange, watercress, sweetheart cabbage, feta and pistachios. I mostly cook with olive oil. But for dressings and finishing dishes off, I love to use nice peppery green extra virgin olive oil.

I love Middle Eastern cooking so I use a lot of zaatar, sumac, dried mint and cumin. I’m also loving ground ginger at the moment. I’ve been making a lot of stewed chickpea and bean dishes with lots of stock and ground ginger, and the flavour is so good.

I’m not much of a cocktail girl, but my husband will always make martinis when people come over. If I’m out, I’ll usually go for a dry vodka martini with an olive.

If I'm serving pasta, I’ll always PLATE THEM UP INDIVIDUALLY as it would break my heart if someone didn’t put ENOUGH PARMESAN on theirs.

My idea of a perfect Sunday lunch is a lazy, long day of communal cooking where everyone is working on something different, and it all comes together at the end. I’ll take roast chicken over roast beef any day. I always make sure the veggies are roasted and caramelised really well. I don’t like thick-cut carrots that are still bright orange in colour, I want them to be roasted so they’re sticky, caramelised and slightly burnt around the edges. I also love serving wilted garlicky cavolo nero and charred cabbage with a Sunday lunch.

I recently had to come up with a few new veggie recipes for my on-demand video recipe platform that I’m launching and there was a carrot dish that really knocked my socks off (and everyone else's). I’ve since made it about four times this year when I’ve hosted. It’s roasted harissa carrot rounds served on whipped tahini and green harissa yoghurt, with a punchy coriander, chilli and lime salsa and crunchy maple candied walnuts. 

My go-to cookbook has to be How To Eat A Peach by Diana Henry – it always sparks wonderful ideas. I also love Bitter Honey by Letitia Clarke. It’s all about simple Sardinian cooking – a lovely reminder that simplicity and good produce is key.

Good natural light is all you need to take incredible photos. I was in Sydney recently and it was a beautiful sunny day. I snapped a pic of my radicchio salad and the colours were just incredible. When it comes to food styling, try to have very clear vision of how you want to plate something before you start assembling. I always find it easier to plate larger platters of food than individual plates because you just have more room for error.

I’m a couple of weeks away from launching a new platform. It’s a subscription (or pay-as-you-go) on-demand video recipe platform. I taught hundreds of live cooking classes over the lockdown for my community, brands, big companies, private parties – you name it – but there’s no denying that since restrictions have eased, people are out and about a lot more and want to cook in their own time. This platform caters to exactly that. I’ll be launching with an existing library of about 30+ professionally filmed recipes where members can cook along in real time whenever they like, anywhere in the world. I’m partnering with some wonderful lifestyle and food brands to give my members access to perks and discounts across wine, flowers, candles, tablescapes, olive oil, linen napkins, everything you might need to host a beautiful evening at home. 

 

For more cooking tips, follow Natalie at @NatalieChassay or visit NatalieChassay.com


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