My earliest food memory...My third birthday party: I was obsessed with cheese, so my mum got three wheels and stacked them on top of each other to make a cake. I've got the biggest sweet tooth, so it's weird to think, at that age, that I was so keen on a non-cake cake.
My store-cupboard essentials... Capers, pasta, olive oil, and sherry: I love drinking it first and foremost – it's one of the few drinks that can stand up to strongly flavoured food – but it's also really good for risotto, deglazing and cooking meat.
My favourite cookbook... A Tale of 12 Kitchens by Jake Tilson. He's the son of Pop Artists and has had a very unconventional life, and this tells the stories of the kitchens and foods he's eaten in, all the different places he's lived, from Notting Hill in the 1960s to Wiltshire, Umbria and Brooklyn. It's magical. If one book inspired me when I was younger, it was the Sainsbury's Chocolate Lover's Cookbook by Patricia Lousada, which I got in my stocking one year. I remember baking my first chocolate cake and being hooked: I used to go around with a timer around my neck, as I always had something in the oven.
My top culinary tip...When making brownies, add a little a bit of espresso powder. You have to put so much sugar in them to give them the right fudginess, so it's good to bring them back down with a flavour that's a bit deeper.
My favourite food shop... I love Wild Caper in Brixton: it has the best bread in London and the most amazing Italian sausages, which they make themselves. But my favourite in the whole world is the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. It [offers] an urban take on the bounties of the countryside around San Fran, from great peach jams to blue-corn-chip tortillas and chicharrones [pork scratchings]. And it's all really visual: I think America has such an interesting way of presenting food. There's an almost cartoon-like approach to using funny names, colours and packaging.
My top table... In terms of street food, I love the Luardos burrito van. It does the best fish tacos in England, and it brings so much exuberance and flavour to the streets, as well as a beautiful van. Another of my favourite places to eat is the Boston Bay Jerk Center, on the pathway leading down to the beach at Boston Bay in Jamaica. It's got the best jerk pork you're ever going to have, which they serve with wonderful "festival" dumplings, which are really doughy and a bit sweet.
My dream dining companion... My dad, Tristram Barran. He's not around any more but he was such a reference for me in terms of food. He was a herbalist and pig farmer and he just got stuck in. He would cook sorrel soup, followed by some unmentionable part of pig with some turnip tops on the side, and we would talk about everything from The Sound of Music to Coronation Street.
The strangest thing I've eaten... Dog in Bali back in the 1990s. I was in the midst of a magic-mushroom situation, and I was whisked away by a local tattoo artist to a shack where we ate these skewers and drank warm Coke. Some of them were dog's liver, and I remember thinking, "Ooh, this is much more delicious than usual liver," but at the same time watching some poor little street mutt go past and thinking, "Oh god, I'm probably eating its brother."
My tipple of choice... Bourbon, straight up. I remember my uncle used to come back from Kentucky with bottles of it and he'd say, "Petra, this is all you need to know about liquor." And to this the day, it's the drink that makes me feel the most alive.
Petra Barran is the owner of the Choc Star van and co-founder of street-food collective Eat St (eat.st). She is also a judge of The Young British Foodie awards, a nationwide search for new food and drink talent. To enter, visit the-ybfs.comReuse content