Carole Bamford interviews Lindsey Bareham
‘I have been reading and enjoying Lindsey Bareham’s writing since I first discovered her restaurant reviews many years ago. But it was her wonderful book, The Prawn Cocktail Years, which she co-wrote with Simon Hopkinson, that drew me to her recipes; and I still adore so many of its dishes. We share a love of seasonal British food so it was a great pleasure to ask her about what inspires her cooking today and whether she still enjoys eating out.’
– Carole Bamford
We are delighted to be welcoming Lindsey to our Summer Festival this year where she will be creating delicious recipes and discussing her food philosophy in our demonstration tent in the heart of the Market Garden.
Where does your passion for food and cooking stem from?
I think it was probably my first French holiday when I was 12, seeing how beautifully the food was presented in the shops, the smell of freshly baked baguette and the tray of stuffed tomatoes just out of the oven at the campsite shop where we stayed on the coast in Bordeaux. After various false starts, I ended up at Time Out editing the consumer section, eventually being invited to take the restaurant column under my wing. I was already a keen cook and I learnt as I went along; if I liked the taste of something, I learnt how to cook it. I was also reviewing cook books, so began to build up an impressive collection. I introduced a column where I took favourite chefs and restaurateurs out to lunch to talk about the restaurants they regularly visited, so I would end up with about 10 brilliant suggestions for the readers. It was at the time when Alastair Little, Rowley Leigh and Simon Hopkinson were starting to make their mark, and Rose Gray (a colleague from Time Out), was going into partnership with Ruthie Rogers to open the River Café.
What was food like when you were growing up?
My mother was a good plain cook – plenty of stews, liver and bacon, fish and chips on Friday, traditional Sunday roasts and plenty of fruit pies with Bird’s custard for pudding. Everything was cooked from scratch and nothing was wasted. Roast chicken led to soup and the last lick from marmalade making led to sponge pudding.
You’ve been a vocal champion of eating seasonally – why is it so important to you to cook and eat this way?
I was brought up to eat seasonally from the two allotments my father kept and we had farms and orchards close by in Chislehurst where my family lived, so it comes naturally to me. I look forward to British seasonal foods and mark the year by them. I aim to avoid food with high air miles but I’m not a slave to this – I wouldn’t miss out on avocados, mangos and other favourite ingredients as their season gluts.
What produce are you excited about working with as we come into summer?
New potatoes are a great favourite for salads but I enjoy all the lovely green vegetables like chard, spinach and beans that form the basis of an essentially vegetarian diet. Wonderful salad, strawberries that taste as they should, plump raspberries and gooseberries, the currants and stone fruit. It’s a time of year when it’s easy to cut right back on meat.
And which ingredients do you consider staples – the things you always have in your cupboards or fridge?
Lemons, garlic, onions, chillies, olive oil, French butter, cider vinegar, eggs, Parmesan, chicken stock cubes, fresh breadcrumbs and petits pois in the freezer.
The restaurant industry is renowned for producing a lot of food waste, which is why the work of organisations like The Felix Project, is so important. How do you feel the industry could
work towards becoming more sustainable?
I applaud organisations like The Felix Project and Chef’s Table star Asma Khan’s supper club that cooks and serves meals from donations of surplus food. Both successfully bring greater awareness of food waste in the catering industry. I also applaud the trend amongst young chefs to open restaurants with short, seasonal, specialized menus with tight larder management behind them. I think we all need help with making our own kitchens more sustainable; less waste, using leftovers and eating seasonally.
After so many years of being a restaurant critic, do you still enjoy eating out, or do you prefer to cook at home?
Oh yes, I love eating out and it is one of the great sources of inspiration for my recipes. The other day, for example, I had mussels cooked with nduja and the next day I shopped and cooked my version.
I cook almost every day, even if it’s just making a salad or soup for my working lunch. After so many years writing a daily after work recipe, it’s second nature to me.
Do you find you still subconsciously ‘review’ restaurants? If so, what sort of things do you look for now?
Very much so and I dissect what I’m eating. My sons are used to it and they do it now too but my new partner, himself a keen cook, is constantly amazed by my attention to detail. I look for friendly, welcoming staff, a short, seasonal menu, ideally with daily specials, decently spaced tables, comfortable seats and no loud music!
One Pot Wonders by Lindsey Bareham is available in paperback by Penguin/Michael Joseph, £16.99.
Tabbouleh is a great thing to have on standby in the fridge, perfect on its own or with just about anything from boiled eggs to roast chicken, kebabs, or lamb chops with a dollop of hummus. Traditionally, it is made with phenomenal amounts of flat-leaf parsley, a hint of onion and tomato, the salad jerked into life with lemon juice and a little olive oil. When I didn’t have sufficient parsley one day, I used some peppery watercress instead and it proved to be a good addition. Here it’s matched with chicken kebabs that go well with the lemon and orange juice vinaigrette.
8 skinned and boned chicken thigh fillets
1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
25g flat-leaf parsley
15 mint leaves
200g cherry tomatoes
4 Little Gem lettuce hearts for the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon runny honey salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons orange juice 3 tablespoons olive oil
Boil the kettle. Slice the chicken into small kebab-size chunks. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and thyme in a bowl, then stir in the chicken.
Stash the bowl in a plastic bag in the fridge.Wash the bulgur in a sieve until the water runs clear. Place it in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
Cover with a stretch of clingfilm and leave it for 20 minutes until swollen but still nutty. Drain it in a sieve, shake it dry and spread it in a mixing bowl to cool.
Finely chop the shallots. Put them into a bowl and mix with the juice from the lemon. Pick the leaves from the parsley and chop them with the mint and watercress. Quarter the cherry tomatoes. Separate the lettuce leaves; rinse and shake them dry.
Dissolve the honey and a pinch of salt in a tablespoon of lemon juice, then whisk in the orange juice and olive oil. Stir the shallot mixture, the chopped herbs and tomatoes into the cooling bulgur. Toss thoroughly. Thread the chicken onto kebab sticks and cook on a barbecue at the white-ash stage or on a hot griddle, turning as the meat forms a crust until it is cooked through.
Serve the lettuce dribbled with vinaigrette, topped with the bulgur and the kebabs. This looks pretty arranged on a platter.