How long have you been cooking and what made you decide to be a chef?
I’ve been cooking ever since I can remember – my parents are great cooks, we grew up eating local food and with our own vegetable garden and fruit trees, I think it all inspired me to do what I do today – bake with delicious, natural, wholesome and nourishing ingredients, as in my new book, The Natural Baker.
Can you talk us through your style of cooking?
I’m a pastry chef, cookery teacher and author, based in London and Suffolk. I love to use the best of local and seasonal ingredients in my cooking, sourced in the UK as much as possible, returning home to Suffolk (where I grew up) for inspiration, as much as possible. I love to use wholegrains for their great nutty flavours and textures, less refined sweeteners like brown sugar and honey for their rich and fragrant notes respectively, and good fats like butter, vanilla-y coconut oil and earthy rapeseed oil. My new book, The Natural Baker, is all about celebrating these beautiful ingredients in sweet and savoury baking recipes.
Which chef has influenced you most during your career?
Many people! I’d love my own restaurant or café space one day, so other women who have done this before me are huge inspirations like Romy Gill, Zoe Adjonyh, Sally Clarke, Skye Gyngell, Alice Waters… the list goes on. Romy and Zoe, along with great women like Olia Hercules, Sumayya Usmani and Meera Sodha, have introduced their countries’ cuisines to us in the UK and around the world, Indian, Ghanaian, Ukrainian, Pakistani and incredible vegetarian Indian food from Meera especially, as well as her awesome vegan column in the Guardian. Alice Waters is making huge leaps for food in schools in the US, as well as educating children about where food comes from, and Skye Gyngell is always doing the most delicious things to seasonal ingredients, in simple and elegant ways, whilst my friend Kylee Newton who owns Newton & Pott, preserves the seasons in some of the best jams, chutneys and pickles I have ever tasted. I will always love Jeremy Lee, Fergus and Margot Henderson at Quo Vadis, St John and Rochelle Canteen for cooking with British produce in the best possible way. Samin Nosrat and her new book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, rocks! Then there’s Helen Goh, Yotam Ottolenghi, Elizabeth Prueitt and her husband Chad Robertson who all are great baking inspirations… so many, it’s impossible to list them all! Anyone who just believes in what they are doing and cooks and bakes with love, is an inspiration to me.
What are your favourite garnishes to use when plating up?
With salads, I love to use flowers like nasturtiums, rocket, chive and wild garlic flowers, obviously it depends on the seasons too! On savoury dishes chopped or ripped herbs never fail. On sweet things, I love using colourful edible flowers like bellis daisies, geraniums, pansies and primulas.
What is your favourite product to work with?
Any wholegrain flour for their great nutty-rich flavours and substantial textures… and seasonal fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers and flower waters.
What does the future hold for you as a chef, what is your ambition?
I’d love to have my own café or restaurant space one day, serving lots of wonderful produce from Suffolk, my natural baking recipes and with some kind of social aspect also, whether that’s making sure than any food that is leftover goes to the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen, working with other social enterprises like Luminary Bakery or charities like Cook For Syria; we are so lucky to have everything that we have and I think it’s so important to give back to society whenever we can; food it all about love and sharing and a great vehicle for doing this.