Ingredients play a big part in my cooking. Although I certainly do not have a limitless budget, I do try and buy the best ingredients I can, which I do think make a very real difference to the end product.
Wherever possible, I try and use local ingredients and support local producers, farmers and retailers. I find this much easier now I live out of London.
There have been periods in my life, particularly when I was at University, where I have had to stick to a tight budget. I tried buying cheaper ingredients and I genuinely found the food I was cooking significantly less appealing. I therefore decided to prioritise what I would spend money on and where I would save money and stuck to it.
Cooking remains one of my very favourite pastimes, even though I am now lucky enough to earn a living from cooking and writing about food. I get so much pleasure, satisfaction and, crucially, time and space to think whilst I cook. I have much to learn and enjoy trying new techniques and ingredients.
Although I love a potter in the kitchen, the boundaries are now blurred between work and pleasure. I often find myself very, very busy, and have very limited time to cook a meal. Some days I will have spent hours in the kitchen working on recipe development, and I don’t want to spend much more time cooking an evening meal. I also travel a lot. There is not a week that goes by when I don’t go somewhere. I’ve been meaning to make sourdough bread for 18 months now, but I am never at home long enough to get a starter underway. I did take it with me in my car last winter, but I think the cold killed it off in the boot.
The recipes featured in this blog are recipes that I cook at home. It is everyday food. I am not a chef, nor do I want to pretend to be one at home. I like simple, flavoursome food, which is straightforward to prepare. When I cook more labour intensive dishes, I like to cook in larger portions and freeze the extra food. When I cook from scratch, I like to make quick meals in the week. I also will not buy cakes or sweet treats – I make them myself.
I have a collection of several hundred cookery books, which are a constant source of inspiration. I enjoy keeping up to date with current cookery publications and am working my way through some of the classics. I don’t read fiction, I read cookery books.
Some of my very favourite food writers are:
Elisabeth Luard for her good sense, inspirational attitude to life and her love, which I share, of all things Hispanic
Rose Prince first opened my eyes to many pertinent issues surrounding the food we eat. I love her seasonal recipes and use of British produce
Jane Grigson’s recipes are simply excellent. Many are so simple, but utterly delicious. I love visiting her collection at Oxford Brookes university
Nigel Slater is the king of simple food. I love Tender, books one and two
Anna del Conte really introduced me to Italian cookery. Her focaccia recipe was the first of many recipes I really mastered. I only wish it were easier to fill the gaps in my library with some of her older publications.
I’ve enjoyed more recently published books written by Felicity Cloake, Allegra McEvedy and Rachel Allen.