Q&A Jessica Seaton

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Jessica Seaton, enthusiastic cook and co-founder of Toast

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

There have been so many! From hours poring over the pictures in Cookery in Colour  by Marguerite Patten as a small girl, to Tassajara Cookery  and Indian Vegetarian Cookery in my early adult life and The River Cafe in the years we were raising our family, the list is very long. I have a shelf at home that runs the (long) length of the larder, which is weighed down with books, piled several high in some places.

The food of love… What would you cook to impress a potential date

I couldn’t imagine a circumstance where I might be embarking on the risky venture of dating, but I love to cook for those I love. And it is less about impressing them and more about cooking something that they can enjoy deeply. A day ago my husband came home from Copenhagen with effusive recollections of a dish he’d eaten, and asked me to cook it for him last night. I came home from work to find him and our son (who doesn’t live with us) in close and warm conversation. The meal I cooked was a wilted kale salad on a bed of walnut cream with blood oranges and toasted walnuts, paired with soft scorched carrots and poppy seeds. To see pleasure on the faces of the people you love for the food you have cooked is the best reward.

Your top five dinner guests, dead or alive

While waiting for supper last night my husband Jamie read to me of Leonard Cohen’s deep enjoyment of an Époisses de Bourgogne cheese. So for that, his gracious manners, his poetry and many other reasons, he is first on my list. I would pair him with Penelope Fitzgerald, the author, whose concise and deeply human novels are among the best I have read. Then, I’d love to meet Fergus Henderson. And I am convinced he would love the wines in my husband Jamie’s cellar, so he’s number three. Number four, is Michelle Obama. She has such natural energy and has managed her role with grace and dignity. I would love to meet her. Last, but not least, I would include my husband Jamie. I could never leave him out. And he would also love to meet these people.

Fast food –  your top snack tip

Returning home tired, alone and hungry I often eat a bowl of garden peas with feta and mint, with a dose of olive oil, crunchy salt and black pepper on top. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare with frozen peas and I love it.

Most memorable meal in  film/literature/painting

This one’s easy. It has to be the preparation of the lavish feast in Babette’s Feast. Babette’s quiet determination and appreciation of her task (a sensuous labour of love for her austere hosts), the ravishing sight of beautiful ingredients arriving, load after load, is a deep delight.

Your worst kitchen disaster

The one I remember with most shame is when my mother-in-law had to re-cook some macaroni cheese for my small daughter’s tea. Mine was so awful!

What do you eat  when you get home from the pub [or similar]

I rarely go to pubs just to drink, almost always I eat there. I particularly love the superb pork pies at The Southampton Arms in Kentish Town. One of those, with a pint of good, hoppy bitter beer, after swimming in the ponds on Hampstead Heath, is absolute bliss.

What would you like your final meal to be?

Hot milk with honey

What is your secret talent [in or out of the kitchen]?

My not-so-secret talent is for creating vast piles of washing up and spillages

What did you eat for breakfast today?

Shakshuka with egg, sourdough toast, avocado and Neal’s Yard yoghurt.

Most over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget

I love all proper foods but loath our industrialised food industry that does such harm to the land, our bodies and to animals. I am not much one for gadgets either – although do love my hand lemon zester. I rather boringly gave one to each of my children, who were a little puzzled.

Your inheritance recipes – the one you inherited [and from whom] and the one you’d like to pass on to your children

The savoury tomatoes on sourdough toast from my book, Gather Cook Feast, is a riff on something my mother used to make me as a child. It is a very soothing and easy supper. Only this week my daughter said she can’t stop cooking it, so I guess the system is working.


Gather, Cook, Feast by Jessica Seaton is published by Fig Tree, £26 penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/publishers/penguin-general/fig-tree

For a taste of Jessica’s recipes go to  breadandoysters.com/magazine/bookshelf/