My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite. I can also remember eating cockles, whelks and winkles in our kitchen on Sunday afternoons. My mum’s cottage pie was made in an old army tin and left in the oven overnight, ready for us to eat the next day (there were no health and safety fears in those days). Our family was infamous for serving at least 12 vegetables with their Sunday roast dinner.
At the moment, I’m enjoying tapas-style small platters that are a fusion of flavours and influenced by all types of cuisine. My favourite place to eat is Adam Byatt’s Upstairs, because I love the simplicity of his approach, which is just focused on serving great food. I also really like the style and the ease of the menu; it feels like you’re eating around a family table. Adam’s bread is the best in London, if not the world, and I would go there just to eat that.
My most memorable meal was the monthly big treat (around Dad’s pay day) when we kids were taken out to eat at one of the few restaurants around, which was Italian. I always tried something new and I think that’s where my interest in food started. My sister would always have the same (prawn cocktail, chicken and Black Forest gateaux). It drove me insane, as I thought it was such a waste not to try other things on the menu. How times have changed, when you think how much choice we have now.
I love to entertain, but it has to be easy food, where everyone pitches in and the conversation and laughter flow. Most importantly, a valued guest is someone who helps me clear up.
I wouldn’t be without my Ceserani and Kinton’s The Theory of Catering. It was the first cookbook I ever owned; I had it when I went to college. My other solid favourites are Delia Smith’s Winter Collection and Summer Collection. Three items I always keep in my fridge are individual pots of Philadelphia cream cheese (to go with Marmite and crackers, my staple ‘at home’ diet). I also have lemon curd made by our lovely Richard Hodgson. He’s in a curd competition with my friends Andrew and Graham, so I always have plenty. The last essential is tonic water and lemon – for the gin, of course.