What’s your very first memory of food?
Probably my Mum and Dad cooking simple things at home. You know, we used to have all the traditional things like cottage pie, stew and dumplings and stuff like that. All the family talked about my Mum’s cottage pie. We still talk about it.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?
It would probably be a quiche, with bacon and onions and things like that. The sort of thing you used to make in Home Economics. My Nan also taught me a Victoria sponge.
Did you have school dinners or packed lunches growing up? Any fond memories?
School dinners, I had. When I was at school they used to give you chocolate sponge with green custard and things like that. I didn’t like the semolina though.
What’s the one recipe or dish you couldn’t live without?
My guilty pleasure is tinned tomatoes on toast with cheese – it’s simple, quick and easy and that’s why I like it. It has to be real good cheddar cheese that melts.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?
Oh, definitely Pink. I’m a big fan. I think her philosophy and just her music itself tells real stories. So definitely her. If I could invite my Dad again, I’d invite him. Ayrton Senna, the race car driver… and probably someone like Anthony Bourdain or something. He’d have some amazing stories.
What’s your favourite dish you’ve ever cooked on Great British Menu?
My winning dish was my wild rabbit turnover, it was with a piccalilli and then it had a fresh veg, leek and onion stuffing. I also loved the venison and the dessert I did on the Christmas special in 2021.
Your connection to Lancashire shines through in your cooking. How do you like to make use of Lancastrian produce on Northcote and Game Bird menus?
We’re a very seasonal restaurant and hotel, and we’re very lucky to have local suppliers and producers around the area so we tap into that as much as we can. Whether it’s vegetables, cheese or animals around here as well. The area’s phenomenal for cheese.
We are always trying to develop the skills of local chefs as well, we run an apprenticeship scheme – where apprentices come on board, anywhere from 16-18 years old and they are then assessed by an external qualifications board. We try to get our chefs out to see as many producers as possible, and it’s proven successful – Danny Young, our head chef now, used to be our apprentice 10 years back. He’s grown through the ranks. Being a chef is one of those things where you can always develop and evolve, it’s a really exciting industry to be in.
What’s your all-time favourite cookbook?
I like using the Pitt Cue cookbooks, for sauces and the differences with barbecue techniques and things like that.
What drink do you like to relax with?
I’m torn between two really… I like a good old glass of bubbles, like a Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. Or I love a good gin and tonic, there’s so many different crafts of gin, and homemade ones. It’s amazing how many gins there are. We worked with The Lytham Gin Company who put a batch together for us using sea buckthorn because it was in the garden, and then dandelion and burdock, because it kind of originates from Lancashire, along with some sea herbs.
What’s your most prized kitchen tool?
I like a little step up palette knife, it’s only a little baby one I have and I like using that. The other thing we use a lot in the kitchen is an electric paint sprayer that we use for spraying chocolate on desserts, for example.
What’s been the best meal you’ve had in a restaurant recently, anywhere in the world?
Well, I ate at Core in London and that was phenomenal. My all-time favourite, somewhere I ate at years ago, was in Chicago – Alinea, and that was sensational.
Your husband is from South Africa. What is the food scene like there? Where are you excited to eat when you visit there?
It’s an incredible food scene, there’s a lot that isn’t really shouted about, some of the wineries have got amazing eateries. It’s up and coming all the time. Last time I ate at Luke Dale Roberts’ restaurant, and that was great. There are chefs using native ingredients local to South Africa which are really interesting.
The cost of living is on everyone’s minds. What are your favourite budget foods or recipes?
I think it’s got to be the humble cottage pie… For budget foods, it’s good to batch cook and make more than one of something, as that’s a cheaper way of doing it.
What keeps you awake at night?
Everything! Running a kitchen is a lot of work!
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