5 Foodie Minutes with … Anna Koska

Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with to find out a little bit more about what makes them tick, both on the ‘shop floor’ and in life more generally.

We call the series “5 Food Minutes with …

This week, we are very excited to be introducing you to Anna Koska, a talented food illustrator with the most beautiful social media presence … there is a small army of encouraging voices cajoling and nudging Anna to turn her evocative and gorgeous  words and pictures into a desirable tome, instantly top of any bestseller list. For now, she gently demures.

So, until then, here is our slightly cheeky way of luring some deli-cious words from the mind and pen of a talented (yet disarmingly modest) lady whose life is immersed in food in one form or another.

 

Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?

My name is Anna Koska, though most probably know me better as grem koska and I’m a freelance food illustrator.

My choice of career has seen me up to my knees in the swell of sea water, trying to find the best mussel specimen, stroking squids with my fishmonger, and climbing up ladders to pick the ‘perfect’ pear.

What inspires you?

Visually there is much that literally leaves me astounded, and very humbled. I chose to illustrate food, but really it’s not about the meal so much as where it begins. So I should probably call myself an ingredients illustrator! Trying to capture the fragile and sensuous layers of an oyster laid prone in its shell, the bosom of a downy pear, the knife sharp focus in the eye of a mackerel … all these things inspire, delight and challenge me to do better.

I don’t want to portray something as a diagrammatically, technically perfect representation. But I do really really want to try and capture some of the living quality that it possesses, make people want to pick it up, marvel at it, and be inspired to cook with it.

Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing? Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’?

The most exotic place my work has taken me to would be Iquitos, in Peru, where I boarded a boat to travel down the Amazon. I worked alongside a team of nature conservationists, the WWF, Peruvian and Brazilian chefs, journalists and film makers. It was a surreal experience. I’m very lucky to be returning in March next year.

Place means everything

Sometimes I have to illustrate ingredients I’ve not actually come into contact with, because maybe the real thing is impossible to get hold of or there’s a deadline I’ve to work to, which means that I’m not able to go out and source the ingredient. But the opportunity to actually draw from life, in the place where the ingredient was grown, created or indeed captured is by far the most emotive thing to do. You see the ingredient fresh and in the flesh. You get to see the local interaction with the subject.

One memory that will always be with me was being able to actually touch, stroke and handle a real paiche fish in Peru. I’d already painted the skin and extraordinary petrol roll of colour apparent in its scales as a gift for our host, but seeing the real thing made me want to start all over again, such was the shock of experiencing it there, where it grew, surrounded by the fisherman, the butcher (it’s an armoured monster of a fish that requires literally hacksaws and axes) and the chefs who were about to prepare and cook it for us.

Which 3 food (or drink) producers should the foodie world know more about?

{My apologies as they’re not going to be exactly ‘local’}

First up would be Ortiz … I love their anchovies … I’ve tried a variety of makes, but to be honest Ortiz are king! I would love them to sponsor me. I wouldn’t need any payment… just an endless supply of their exquisitely salted anchovies… and the packaging… I have to admit I’m a complete sucker for packaging. I’m the only one in my family who actually likes anchovies, but they appear with great frequency throughout my cooking… crushed and stirred into marinades, soups, the skin of chickens, lamb… their umami kick lends a depth of flavour that goes beyond their initial ‘fishyness’.

Planeta … There’s a Sicilian family that make deliciously rich and peppery olive oil. Putting aside all the romantic imagery that wafts into ones line of vision, the olive oil was introduced to us by a friend and although I love the variety of flavours and colours and bite/texture of other oils, to date this is the one I keep returning to. They also produce a beautiful range of wines; their rosé is the stuff of balmy languid summer lunches.

Is that three now or should I think of another?

Ok, here’s one more, just in case. Shipton Mill make good flour. Beautiful snowdrifts of the stuff. I make a fair bit of sourdough and have tried a few other producers of flour, but Shipton Mill works so well for me I buy it literally by the sack load, though it comes in kilo bags if you don’t want to commit to that much. (Canadian Strong White bread flour is my fav)

Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?

Two days and nights in Cascais in Portugal. It’s a fishing village about 34 km east of Lisbon. The old streets are a maze of ancient mosaic-cobbled lanes that weave their way between beautiful, elegantly tired but very grand architecture. There are so many restaurants … too many almost. But we found a couple that blew us away, recommended by locals with the request that locals actually ate there!! Lost the card of one, but the other was Pateo dos Petiscos, on Travessa das Amoreiras. It feeds folk from Cascais and few others. Their food is honest, full of flavour and I left with my belt loosened! There was also the undeniably beguiling experience of eating the tasting menu at Hotel Forteleza do Guincho, a seventeenth century fort that perches on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic swell. It has been lovingly restored to house a restaurant that serves the most exquisite cache of visual, edible jewels from the sea and surrounding land.

What is your favourite meal?

Venison and blackberry stew would be right up there (There’s a guy who’s employed by the local council to annually cull the deer; he’s very happy to butcher and sell the catch).  But because of the nostalgia and emotional warmth attached to it, my favourite would be my family’s favourite – and that’s cottage pie, with a little bit of shepherd in there … I always incorporate the left-overs of a lamb roast with the beef.

It’s one meal we all adore and it’s become a bit of a ritual that if one of us is away, when we’re all back together again it’s usually the first meal we eat as a family.

You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?

Easy one this … straight to Veasey & Sons, my local fishmongers in Forest Row, East Sussex. I’d buy a generous tub of peeled brown shrimp and head home to make some potted shrimp.

Not exactly a big spender I know, but it’s such a very happy-making supper.

Favourite food writer?

Can I have two?  Diana Henry and Nigel Slater. Both tell stories that happen to have recipes woven in amongst the subplot.

Most comforting ‘comfort food’?

Tinned sardines on thickly buttered, toasted sourdough, crack of black pepper.

Thank you so so much for hanging out with us, lovely Anna! We really enjoyed your musings; mouthwatering food choices, leavened with a peek through the curtains of your home life. When can Mr and Mrs Deli move in?!