What does your kitchen table mean to you? What role does it play in your home and/or business life?
For me it is and will always be the centre of the home. It’s where I remember relaying my school day to my siblings and mother as a child and today it’s the place I share stories with my partner. I adore entertaining too so my kitchen table has seen many long suppers and heard many stories.
What is your favourite thing to do at your kitchen table?
I love setting the table. I’ve got a cupboard full of linens and vintage cutlery. I also collect ceramics and old vases and love putting them to use. My kitchen table also acts as my office and I am terrible for covering it in papers, to do lists and my laptop. When I’m entertaining, all that comes off and it gets used how it should be.
Photo by Alexandra Dudley
How and when did you first get into food and cooking?
My mother cooked for us as children so from a young age I was exposed to cooking and the comfort it can bring. She was, and still is, a great host, so entertaining and cooking for others was something I found from an early age. I can remember forcing my parents to sit down and let my siblings and I cook them rather haphazard dinners usually consisting of congealed spaghetti and questionable puddings.
But I gradually learnt the art of baking and started making money from my cakes when I was a young teen. I made a decent business of it too, and went on to work shifts at a bakery and in one of my local restaurants. When I graduated from art school I began catering as a way to make money and alongside this I set up a snack company - a difficult but wonderful educational experience for me. It taught me about business, as my venture grew from my kitchen table to supplying major supermarkets and the likes of Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
But what I really loved was cooking and people working with food. When I was asked to write my cookbook I saw it as a door. I closed the business and focused full-time on recipe writing, interviewing and hosting. I now run supper clubs and dinner party workshops (much more lighthearted and fun than the name suggests!). I also host my own podcast ‘Come for Supper’ where I sit down with chefs, restaurateurs, artists, actors and pretty much anyone who likes to entertain. We chat about their life and how they serve supper. It’s a very easy listen and dishes up some great stories and dinner party tips.
Alexandra's garden, where she regularly hosts supper clubs
What inspired you to write your book, Land and Sea: Secrets to simple, sustainable, sensational food?
I believe cookbooks are really just an extension of someone’s personality. Food and cooking can be seen as another form of language. The recipes in my book are incredibly simple - it’s all the food I like to eat myself. Seasonality is also important: I’m a big believer in using every part of the ingredient and stretching them as far as they will go, so I wanted to include ideas for how to avoid throwing away the ‘bits’ we often think of as waste. Simple things like sautéing your beet stems or turning your carrot tops into pesto. Nothing mind-blowing but all delicious and also brings some colour to the kitchen table. Land & Sea is for the home cook; my hope is that it encourages people to entertain at home.
Alexandra's book, 'Land and Sea: Secrets to simple, sustainable, sensational food', published by Orion
What’s new in the world of Alexandra Dudley and what’s on the agenda for the coming months?
My podcast ‘Come for Supper’ is my focus at the moment. You can listen to it on Itunes, Spotify and other podcast apps. [In her podcast, Alexandra sits down with the likes of restaurateur Mark Hix, Masterchef judge Monica Galetti, and the man behind the Polpo group, Russell Norman].
Which three ingredients are always in your store cupboard and why?
- Eggs. You can do so much with them - from omelets and frittatas to pancakes and cakes.
- Miso paste. It really is a magic ingredient with the power to transform recipes from bland to brilliant. I use it in everything from dressings to marinades and sometimes I even add it to puddings. The umami taste works very well.
- Good olive oil. If you have good olive oil you can’t go wrong. In-season tomatoes or young lettuce or greens drizzled with good olive oil and pinch of sea-salt can be some of the simplest but most delicious dishes.
Alexandra's Blood Orange, Polenta and Almond Cake. Find the recipe here >
What is your signature dish?
Probably my chocolate toffee crunch. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth but I make it often as everyone I make it for loves it. It’s a bit like a posh Daim bar and is made with chopped nuts, toffee and chocolate. I make big sheets of it and snap it up to serve with coffee after supper. It makes for very good gifts too.
Describe your perfect coffee or tea moment at home
I rarely have a tea break at home. I drink copious amounts of tea (Green or Earl Grey) but mainly to fuel writing or recipe developing. My relaxing moment comes in the evening when I wind down with a glass of home brewed kombucha. I’ve been brewing it for 8 years now and love it. I drink it every day usually whilst prepping dinner - another thing I find incredibly good for unwinding.
Photo by Alexandra Dudley, featuring her Rhubarb Almond Frangipane Tart with Marmalade Glaze. Read the recipe here >
Who is your dream dinner party guest?
Stevie Nicks [from Fleetwood Mac]. I adore her.
Coffee or tea? Very difficult as I love both but I think if I could only ever have one it would be tea.
Cats or dogs? Dog
City or country? Country although I love the city
Jam or marmalade? Blackcurrant jam
Read a book or watch a film? Read a book
To download the latest episode of Alexandra’s podcast, click here >
Her book is published by Orion and available to buy via Amazon here >