Claire Ptak: I love sauerkraut; I think it's the elixir of life'


My earliest food memory...My first memory of consuming food is of eating wild blackberries where I grew up in northern California. But my first food-related memory is when a friend and I took all my mum's herbs and spices, put them into our sandbox and made mud pies. My mum was not that happy.

My store-cupboard essentials... For baking, fresh unsalted butter, some nice flours and some brown sugar – I'm really into using brown sugar and spelt flour at home, because I use more white sugar and white flour at work. Also, really good Parmesan, some cans of tomatoes and some garlic: a restaurateur friend of mine taught me how to make the best tomato pasta sauce, which is now my go-to store-cupboard recipe. The key with the tomatoes is to use whole peeled ones, then drain all the juice away and chop them up yourself.

My favourite cookbook... The River Café's first cookbook made me want to be a professional cook. It had an aesthetic that was totally different to cookbooks I had seen before: whereas I had taught myself to bake with Martha Stewart et al, in which everything was embellished in a frou-frou way, the cakes in that book are so simple and beautiful. I also recently got a reissue of a 1920s book called The Gentle Art of Cookery by Mrs CF Leyel. It's so cool, because its recipes feel really modern: she was very international [for her time], doing pasta and all kinds of Moroccan things and the like.

The kitchen gadget I couldn't live without... A knife called a bird's beak, which is a little paring knife that's really small and is perfect for peeling and coring apples.

My top culinary tip... When baking, don't over-mix things. I always say that to young cooks who come to work for me. If you do, the cake or scones or whatever you are making will be dense and dry.

My favourite food shop... Leila's Shop in Shoreditch [15-17 Calvert Avenue, London E2]. It's a really lovely old-fashioned greengrocer attached to a café; I get a lot of fruit there for my shop. Also, the Melrose and Morgan [shops] are really cool: they do all the typical deli stuff, but you can also order things like a whole Christmas dinner.

My top table... Mangal, which is a Turkish place [off Stoke Newington Road in east London] that serves amazing Turkish pizza. Also, the Dock Kitchen [in Ladbroke Grove, west London] – it's a beautiful space and it's great the way the cuisine ranges from Indian to Italian – and Ducksoup [in Dean Street, Soho], which I went to the other night and loved.

My desert-island dish... A fresh green salad with borlotti beans baked with olive oil, garlic and a bit of thyme. Borlotti beans are a favourite of mine: I planted some in my tiny garden this year; I wasn't sure if they'd grow, so when they did, it was the most exciting thing.

My comfort food... Oatcakes with sauerkraut. I did a fasting detox a couple of years ago, and that was one of the few things I could have. I really love sauerkraut; I think it's the elixir of life.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Fried moss, at Noma [Copenhagen]. I like the foraging thing, but sometimes, I think: really?

My pet hates... Savoury desserts, with things like olives in them. A little black pepper I can deal with, but that's it!

My tipple of choice... A cocktail called an Aviation, which is made up of gin, lemon juice and maraschino cherry liqueur. Traditionally, it also has a drop of crème de violette, which gives it a blue hue. It has a lovely earthiness about it. I have them at Quo Vadis, which has some of the best cocktails in London.

Claire Ptak is a pastry chef and owner of Violet Cakes, London E8. 'Leon: Baking & Puddings: Book 3', which Ptak co-authored with Henry Dimbleby, is out now (£20, Conran Octopus)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments