My love affair with food

I was going to write another self-indulgent post this week and then I thought “Emma, get a grip”.

Instead I thought I would write about food.  I would describe myself as a bit of a foodie and yet, weirdly, I haven’t written a blog about it although I seem to think about the darn stuff for at least 23 1/2 hours a day. I admit it; I’m greedy and love all food – I try and be healthy but you know what sometimes nothing beats a pint and packet of crisps (Walkers Cheese & Onion to be precise).

I’m pretty sure it’s genetic as I was reading the diary my nanny (I know!) wrote and even when I was still in nappies I would throw a strop if there wasn’t chocolate cake for pudding.  Plus I lost the top of a finger helping my mother mince roast lamb to make shepherd’s pie – let’s not go there either… And, as I grew older I was allowed to choose the restaurants for our family special occasions.  In my mid-teens my favourite was Coconut Grove (I think it’s a Carluccio’s now) in St Christopher’s Place off Oxford Street.  It was Caribbean-themed and you could order gaudy cocktails and have platters of ribs, chicken wings and anything else that gave a nod to those tropical islands.  I still salivate at the thought.

My love affair has continued fueled by a number of years in the wine industry, eating and drinking at Michelin-starred restaurants and surrounding myself with foodies working on delicious. Magazine and Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Now that family life dominates, my husband is more of a fuel-for-life kinda man and my waistband has increasingly thickened my tastes have changed and I long for simple foods beautifully executed with fresh, clean flavours. Our go to treat at home when we have people round for dinner is a rare rib of beef with Vietnamese coleslaw.

I would say my favourite restaurants in Central London which I will happily go back to time and time again are Roka, Barrafina, Quo Vadis, J Sheekey, Lima and you can’t beat The Hawksmoor chain for some serious steaks.  Locally our go-to restaurant is Naturally Chinese and for special occasions The French Table but I do wish Kingston had more independents as they all seem to be chains.

And in terms of cooking, I do like to create but I also have a folder full of recipes that “one day I’ll cook” and a shelf loaded with cookbooks.  I did a sort out recently and sent some to the charity shop as I just never used them.  However I go back to the same books/ chefs time and time again:

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course – I bought that for our au-pairs so they could learn the basics and it’s a really good reminder for basic weights, temperatures and cooking times for classic home cooking

Nigella Lawson – Kitchen – you can’t beat her recipes as they work and taste fab.  Try her lemon polenta cake or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and you’ll be hooked

Made in India – Meera Sodha – a new and v welcome addition to my collection.  Delicious curries, salads, breads and chutneys.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and fig curry, masala roast chicken and chaat salad. Yum!

Dan Lepard Short and Sweet – he’s my go to for baking and bread-making.  Easy to follow down to earth recipes. Banana butterscotch cake, farmhouse loaf and his long-prove sourdough are my weekend hit list bakes

Anything by Ottolenghi as long as I’ve got the time and ingredients.  His recipes can sometimes feel rather long-winded but they are worth it if you’ve got the patience.  I did his version of a Waldorf salad and I could have troughed the lot before our friends arrived for supper

Falling Clouberries – Tessa Kiros – a loving collection of recipes from around the world and from her family.  Mouthwatering and I’ve yet to find a better carrot cake recipe (sorry Dan)

Finally I really enjoy reading Felicity Cloake’s column in The Guardian.  I love reading about the history of recipes and the different versions chefs make.  She then creates the definitive recipe based on her research.  I’ve made her gazpacho and cinnamon buns recently and they’ve gone down a storm.

It would be lovely to hear what your favourite restaurants and cookbooks are.  I’m off to cook Bill Granger’s stir-fried  Vietnamese lemongrass chicken….