Angela Hartnett: 'It's not an essential, but I always have Nutella in the fridge'

Interview,Hugh Montgomery
Sunday 01 May 2011 00:00 BST

My earliest food memory... Making fairy cakes or chocolate Rice Krispies cakes when I was about six or seven. My mum was a very good cook, as were most of my family, and I learnt a lot from them at a very early age.

My store-cupboard essentials... Dried peperoncino chillies, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, anchovies: with those ingredients and a packet of spaghetti, you've got a quick but lovely meal. Also, I always have a jar of Nutella in the fridge, even if it's not really essential.

My favourite cookbook... Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Macmillan, £25). I first came across it in my teens and it was inspiring: her cooking is beautifully simple, her writing is very descriptive and all the recipes really work. I used it a lot when I was at college: she does this great recipe where you bone a chicken then stuff it with a beef farce made of mince, onions, shallots, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs.

The kitchen gadget I can't live without... A Microplane grater. Whether for lemon rind, Parmesan or chocolate, it's great – quick, sharp, and easy to use – and there's hardly any waste, unlike with the classic shaped graters, where lots of residue gets stuck inside.

My culinary tip... When you're making pastry, make sure everything is as cold as possible, from your hands to the work surface to the butter. If it starts to get too warm, it will break up when you try to roll it out.

My favourite food shop... La Fromagerie [a cheese shop and deli] in Moxon Street [central London]. I love it because you'll always find something you haven't seen in a while and it's always very seasonal. I love the Morbier and Comté cheeses, and at Christmas, they make their own truffle brie: it's a whole brie sliced in half, then layered with loads of truffles so the cheese and truffles mature together – it's pretty amazing. Also, Broadway Market in Hackney: Borough Market's become very chi-chi these days, but Broadway is much quirkier and because it's slightly off the beaten track it's full of locals rather than anyone just wanting to go to a market.

My top table... At the moment, I love going to Brawn, which is a new restaurant on Columbia Road [in east London]. The food regularly changes and is reasonably cheap and they do a lot of natural wines, which I prefer because they're much lighter. It also takes me five minutes to get home, which is probably the biggest selling point of all. As you'd imagine from the name, the menu is quite focused on meat, and especially pork, but there's good non-meat-related stuff too: I had an amazing soup, which was made out of five or six different types of beans. Also, J Sheekey [in Covent Garden] is a lovely fish restaurant: the service is second to none, and if I want to have a great night, but don't want to go top-end, that's where I'll go.

My dream dining companions... The Seinfeld crew – Jerry, Larry David and the rest – as I'm a big fan. We'd have to go to their regular café in the series, I think. There's no particular question I'd like to ask: I'd just like them to do a sketch for me – that would be more than enough.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Reindeer tongue. I had it when I went to Noma [in Copenhagen] recently, and it wasn't quite what I imagined. It was very liver-y and a bit too chewy for me, but I loved Noma overall: I thought I was going to find it overhyped, but it was probably one of the best meals I've ever had.

My pet hates...Coriander: it's too perfumed and strong for my tastes. Also, desiccated coconut: it's so sweet and artificial and I've never liked it since school, where they always used to make a horrible coconut pudding with it.

Angela Hartnett, 42, is a chef, currently consulting at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, 020 7522 7896,

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