Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with or who we have bumped into along the way 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 …“
Anja Dunk is a food writer and artist. The gorgeous artwork featured above is exclusive to Honey & Co but Anja’s Instagram feed (@cocoinmykitchen) is an art gallery in its own right. From the open cupboards which tell a story through plates, glasses, jars of ingredients and collectibles, to the beautiful images of meals lovingly set on the table for her gorgeous family, Anja’s life is lived creatively, deliciously. In partnership with friends Jen Goss and Mimi Beaven, Anja co-authored ‘DO/Preserve‘ a fabulous addition to the DO Book Company back catalogue, a glorious celebration of seasonality.
We were delighted to catch up with Anja for ‘5 Foodie Minutes’.
Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?
I’m Anja – I test recipes most days, both for others and myself. Sometimes this means making the same thing three times over with minor ingredient tweaks until it’s right, other times it means taking one ingredient as a starting point and letting a recipe evolve from there with whatever else I have to hand – I like well stocked shelves, so there is always plenty to choose from.
The kitchen is a dangerous place for a laptop, so I use notebooks next to the stove instead. In the evenings I take these notebooks to the desk and transfer the recipes onto a computer.
Some days I run preserving workshops alongside my partner in crime Jen Goss (co-author of DO/Preserve) and often there are pans of jam bubbling away on the stovetop in the background.
From late spring through to autumn I try to spend any spare time out of the kitchen walking the local lanes and woodland foraging for wild things, which I preserve the very same day. There are two wild plum trees about 300 metres from our house that I make vanilla and plum oven jam with each year – I think preserving is satisfying full stop, but when the produce you are preserving is free and picked by hand it makes it all the more wonderful.
What inspires you?
At the moment what I cook at home is greatly inspired by my three boys and our allotment. I also love cooking over fire outside. The seasons, of course, are probably the greatest influence/inspiration for the food on our table. I can’t wait for the elderflowers to come out (not too long to wait now) so that we can make cordial – we make vast batches each year and one drawer of our freezer is solely dedicated to it. Wild garlic is out now, which is so brilliant – if you catch the flower buds before they open they are great pickled in vinegar.
Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing?
I do most of my work from home, so some days the school gates are as far as I need to venture before returning to our Kitchen – I am very lucky, but before I got to this stage of my life I spent many years cooking in various other kitchens. I cook for the DO Lectures in Wales every year alongside my dear friend Jen. There is a real thrill to cooking for large numbers and I greatly enjoy this kind of work, it keeps you on your toes.
Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’?
Sense of place is something I feel when I cook, so it doesn’t really matter where I am; as long as I am creating, feeding and sharing I feel at home. Equally, there is no better ‘place‘ than to be cooked for and fed at a friend’s table.
Which 3 food (or drink) producers should the foodie world know more about?
Halen Môn – I think it’s the best salt in the world, and it happens to be harvested in Anglesey. They also make an incredible smoked water and oak smoked sugar. I use the sugar when I smoke trout fillets over the fire, just to add an extra depth of smokiness.
Bara Menyn is a small scale bakery and cafe in Cardigan, West Wales that produces sensational sourdough. Each loaf is very special, crafted by hand with care and the kind of skill that can only be acquired through years of practice.
Great Glen Charcuterie make salami and chorizo out of Wild Scottish venison – I buy it online and get it posted down for special occasions (always for Christmas).
Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?
Well, our last holiday was in Wales but because I also class that as home, I’m not sure it passes as a real holiday, so Wales aside, New England USA. We used to live in Massachusetts and so try to go back once a year. There is a farm in upstate New York called Little Ghent Farm – if you happen to be out that way it is well worth a visit – exceptional sourdough (notice a theme here?), preserves, baked goods and meat from animals reared on the farm.
A visit to the Gropius House followed by a walk around Walden Pond then a coffee in My Haute Cafe in Concord, MA is also one of my favourite days out.
What is your favourite meal?
Well, if you mean a choice between breakfast, lunch or dinner, then it’s a clichéd answer … all of them. If you mean what plate or bowl of food is my favourite (yep, that’s the one!) then I couldn’t answer the question because it changes all the time but I do love potatoes of any kind: chips, mash, fritters, baked, roasted, crushed, in a soup (see below) – you can’t go wrong with a meal that’s built around a potato.
You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?
I would head to the Italian shop down the road and buy a lemon or two from Sicily and some super cheese to eat with the best olive oil and fresh pasta – also a bottle of wine (which would probably be plonk at this rate because I will have already spent all my money on oil and cheese).
Favourite food writer?
Elisabeth Luard, Rachel Roddy, Diana Henry – there are more but I’m already over the limit by two (there’s plenty of latitude given – you should see our cookbook shelves!).
Most comforting ‘comfort food’?