I am a food writer and author of four cook books. My books focus on putting plants at the centre of the table and the joy and connection of cooking and eating. I have been lucky enough to have written widely about food and sustainability for publications all over the world. My books are sold in twelve countries and are translated into eight languages which is wild. My most recent book One focuses on easy to cook vibrant vegetable centred food that is good for the planet. I am also a mum to six year old Dylan. One day I will live by the sea.
Tell us a little about where you live, who you live with and why this is important to you.
I live in a beautiful Victorian semi detached house in Hackney, London, very close to Mary in fact. The community where we live is incredible. I can walk down the street and see 10 people I know, everyone says hi and has time to chat, it feels more and more like a village. I’ve made friends who will be with me for life here, its full of special creative people. I live with my husband John and our son Dylan. Our house has been recently renovated and I walk in the door and frankly can’t believe it's ours. It is a total sanctuary, calm colors and lots of space. I feel incredibly lucky to live in it.
What are some of your daily rituals that you rely on to make you happy?
In general I am not a creature of habit. I value change and spontaneity but there are a few things I do every day. I start the day with a cup of lady grey tea (its like earl grey but with both orange and bergamot zest) I drink it with oat milk. I am sure it's classier to drink it with a slice of lemon but I like it that way. I love to try and always collect my son from school, even if I have to go home and do some work later. He bowls out of the gates so pleased to see me, I know one day in his teenage years I will thank myself for making the time to do it.
What is the one thing you would grab if the house was burning?
If the house was burning I would grab Dylan and John of course, if I knew they were safe it would be a tin type photo of the three of us that I treasure. It was taken by a wonderful photographer called Tiff Hunter using a very old camera and method and I love it. We had to stay statute still for it to be in focus. It's a sweet memory.
What was the job you thought you’d have when you were younger?
At points I thought I was going to be an actress or an investment banker. I am really glad my life took another path. Though food was always the thing I got excited about it's not something I considered as a career until I was in my mid twenties.
If money, skills, experiences or time weren’t a factor - what job would you do?
I’d do exactly what I do now. It sounds trite but I really do love what I do and I feel so lucky that I have managed (with a lot of hard work) to forge a career that I love day to day and that I hope does something positive for the world around us. It has taken me 20 years of cooking to be where I am so it hasn’t come overnight. Saying that I do recognise my privilege and the kindness of people who have given me a chance.
Talk us through your morning rituals..
I am not much of a morning person but since having my son I’ve got better at mornings. I get up and have a shower run some citrus AHA toner over my skin and moisturise (that's as much of a beauty routine as I have) then come down to sit with John and Dylan as he has his breakfast. I drink tea as I don’t eat until 10 or 11ish usually. Then I walk Dylan to school with John and we get a coffee and then I walk around the Marshes for about 40 mins before starting whatever work is on that day.
Name one everyday object that you can’t live without?
Contact lenses. I have tried wearing glasses but they make me feel hazy and fuzzy and not like myself. I hate that I am using little pieces of plastic everyday but luckily there is a way of recycling them now.
What is your favourite scent and why?
That's a hard one. I am so into scents, I think it is part of why I love to cook as taste is so much about smell. I have a lot of essential oils, I find the healing and emotional regulation aspects of smell and essential oils fascinating. If I had to pick one I think it would have to be a citrus scent. It would be between bergamot, lemon and mandarin. I love the freshness of a citrus smell. I think Bergamot would win - I love the almost floral notes which back up the freshness really do it for me. Ha!
What is the one smell that triggers a memory - what is that memory?
Weirdly Creosote that wood treatment that you paint onto sheds and fences brings be right back to Mam’s house (my Dad’s mum). It might not be my favourite smell but it always seemed to linger in the garden and on the shed and it brings me back to my childhood in a second. My Dad is one of 12 brothers and sisters who were all brought up in this little 2 bed terraced house. It was always a hive of activity, roast dinners and people coming and going, so whilst it might not be a smell I want to spray on my skin it weirdly makes me very happy. I think it's fairly toxic and rarely used to treat wood anymore - though so maybe don’t go sniffing it.
What is the one smell that makes you hungry?
Onions cooking slowly in lots of olive oil. Classic unimaginative answer but I don’t think there is anything more hunger inducing. A slow cooked onion is the start of so many good things.
What plastic-free initiatives have you gotten behind?
I’ve tried to get behind as many as I can. There is a whole chapter in my latest book One about reducing plastic in the kitchen. We have done away with cling film, we use wax wraps and glass jars and containers instead, or even just a bowl with a plate on top. We try to buy dry goods in bulk or from a low waste shop if we can. I buy my veg from the local greengrocers and from a local veg scheme. I always try to carry a reusable coffee cup. I could go on. We are not perfect but we try our best, I think of every time I don’t use plastic as a small win.
Is there a more recent action you have done recently to help your carbon footprint that you make like to share?
I have tried to limit the flights we take as a family. Of course the last 2 years have meant far less travel but for our holidays this year I am looking into trains to Ibiza and Portugal. It is much more expensive (which is annoying as it makes it out of reach for lots of people) but its something I feel is important. I can’t promise we will never fly again as we have family abroad and I love travel but I am trying to limit us to one flight a year.
What is the first place you recommend to visitors that are coming to town?
I love the food markets. It might sound like a cliche but I think you can tell a lot about a place from the kind of food on offer. Our markets in my opinion don’t match up to those in Italy or France or even California for their scale but there are so many great local producers and characters. I would go to Spa Termius market and then wander down Maltby street to the restaurant of the same name at the end of it for a glass of wine. Or I would go to the growing communities farmers market in Stoke Newington or Chatsworth road on a Sunday. I’d leave Borough or Broadway market to the tourists.
Favourite shop/ place in your neighbourhood? And why?
I love Lardo. A local pizza and pasta spot near london fields that I have been going to for years. Eliza has a connection to it but that's not why I have chosen it. It's one of my favourite places to eat as its got such a good vibe, the food is always on point. The chef Matt is great and creative and young and old we always have a good time at Lardo.
A must go holiday spot
Cornwall. It forever has my heart, Rain or shine I love it. One day we will live there. Until then I go every chance I get. Sennen cove is a favourite.
Thank you Anna for sharing your gorgeous home with us!