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We caught up with head chef and general foodie guru Sky Gyngell to talk about her new book, guilty pleasures and why she left the West End restaurant scene....
I knew I was destined to be a chef when I tasted...Damien Pignolet's Bouillabaisse at the age of 15, at his legendary restaurant Claude's in Sydney. One Saturday a month he just cooked bouillabaisse. I was really struck by his absolute sureness that if something is perfect you don't need to cook (or offer) anything else.
After being a chef at The Dorchester I wanted Petersham Cafe to be totally different because... West End kitchens tend to be testosterone filled plus the hours are terrible, they rarely see daylight and as for fresh air! I wanted to create a working environment that gave me the possibility to have a family and work at the same time. Now I virtually work outside and feel connected to the seasons as never before.
When I was little, I wanted to be... for just one minute l did in fact actually want to be a nun!
If I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be... a salad compose, the French sort, where you have a combination of seasonal ingredients. For example, in autumn it could be walnuts, gorgonzola & pear.
My culinary heroine is... Judy Rogers of Zuni Cafe in San-Francisco.
The yummiest recipe from my new book is... Baked Treacle, Stem Ginger & Blackberry Pudding. (Fancy cooking it now? See end of interview for the recipe!)
Some might say it's an 'eco-sin' but I just can't live without... Flying home to Sydney for Christmas!
When I'm cooking for friends, I like to make... something simple and slow cooked with a sauce that you can drag bread through. My winter favourite is shoulder of pork, with dried chili, wild oregano & a splash of wine. Cooked for 4 hours. I like to serve it with some lovely gently cooked white cannelini beans and delicious leafy winter vegetable like the cavelo nero or cima de rappa we grow at Petersham Nurseries.
My guilty pleasures are... inky black coffee and a cigarette.
I get my creative juices flowing by... reading Jeffrey Steingarten because he's funny and interesting. His best-selling book, The Man Who Ate Everything was fascinating!
When sourcing food, the most important things are... is it in season? Local? Sustainable? Does it look good and does the sight of it make me feel hungry?!
I'm embarrassed to say it but I'm.. always wanting to be a little thinner.
If I was Prime Minister for the day, I would... encourage one and all to join Slow Food! Because their policy of good, clean and fair food for all would really solve a lot of problems that the world is facing today.
Skye Gyngell's A Year in My Kitchen is available from Amazon for £15.
But whilst you're waiting for your copy, here's a little taster... Sky's favourite recipe from her book....
Baked Treacle, Stem Ginger & Blackberry Pudding:
I generally prefer clean, light, fresh fruit-based desserts that don't sit heavily at the end of a meal.
But as the weather turns cooler and the days become shorter, there is something undeniably comforting about this warm, sweet pudding and the slightly spicy aroma that emerges when you plunge your spoon in. Pair it with a beautiful, thick unpasteurised cream and you have a really lovely autumn dessert.
lOOg unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
lOOg caster sugar
2 organic free-range eggs
lOOg self-raising flour
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
4 knobs of preserved stem ginger in syrup, drained and very finely chopped
A little pinch of salt
4 tbsp golden syrup
12 plump blackberries
Thick Jersey cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Butter 4 dariole moulds or small individual pudding basins and set aside. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour from a good height and fold in gently. Finally, add the lemon zest, stem ginger and a restrained pinch of salt. Fold in until evenly mixed.
Put 1 tbsp golden syrup and 3 blackberries into each pudding mould and spoon the sponge mixture on top. Cover each mould loosely with a piece of buttered foil and stand the moulds on a baking tray.
Bake for 30 minutes until well risen and cooked through. To test, stick a skewer into the centre; it should come out clean.
Run a knife around each pudding and turn out on to a warm plate.
Serve with a jug of rich, yellowy cream.
Contact Award-winning Petersham Nurseries Cafe www.petershamnurseries.com