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Spotlight on Anna Barnett

Food writer Anna Barnett talks recipes pop-ups and entertaining with TOAST

Events organiser, celebrity booker, fashion designer, food blogger and brilliant cook; Anna Barnett is one multi-talented woman. Since the release of her debut cookery book ‘Eat The Week’ in 2015, Anna spent several years writing ‘The Reluctant Vegetarian’ for The Independent, as well as running her own website Anna Barnett Cooks, but today she is here to chat to TOAST about pasta, pop ups and her top tips for throwing the ultimate dinner party.



So far, Anna Barnett’s career has been diverse and to be honest, pretty glamorous. After working in events, Anna spent time celebrity booking at MTV, she then sashayed across to trendy British designer label House of Holland, and these days she is known as the most fashionable face of cooking. It has been quite a journey.

‘To be honest, I always wanted to work in food and I actually started writing my blog in my spare time, as a hobby’ explains Anna. 

‘Things started to take off and I began writing for The Independent and some other publications. I was working full time at House of Holland while writing my first book! So it was pretty hectic and stressful. But it’s what really gave me the push to make the jump - once the book came out I decided to leave my job, and it’s been the best and probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done!’

‘Eat the Week’ was the title of said first book - a set of achievable day-by-day recipes inspired by Anna’s lively London lifestyle. Divided by different days of the week, there’s cheap and cheerful recipes for ‘Budget Monday’, ‘Cook for Company’ on Thursdays and ‘Slow Sundays’, which cover recipes that include minimum effort. 

‘I wanted to create a book that would help give people a little more guidance when it came to picking up a cookery book, instead of just working your way through the recipes’ explains Anna. 

‘You can go to the specific day of the week and hopefully be able to relate the dishes I’ve included. I love the squid ink pasta and star anise king prawn sauce - the flavours are just the best. You can totally use shop-bought, regular pasta but that sauce is not to be missed. Plus it takes me right back to my teens, spent in Greece for the summer, eating that pasta at least 3 times a week, every week! ’ 

After the hit of both her book and her ‘Reluctant Vegetarian blog for The Telegraph, Anna now contributes to Vogue, Grazia and Elle, as well as running her own website, Anna Barnett Cooks. And when she’s not busy doing all that, Anna runs a series of pop-up events, including supper clubs in her own home in Hackney. Recently, she also hosted a workshop at the new stylish destination space House Curious in Wandsworth, called ‘The Ultimate Dinner Party Menu’, where guests are invited to cook a three course meal alongside Anna, before sitting down and enjoying the fruits of their labour together.

‘The aim of the workshop is to try and help people put on dinner parties without compromising on quality, and without the regular stress that can go with it. The workshops are all about preparing well in advance, using quality and interesting produce (we’ve teamed up with The Ginger Pig for great quality meat and Absolut Elyx for cocktails). It’s all about putting on an experience that you can be part of. I love the social aspect of it, and I also think it’s a great way to meet like-minded people and widen your friendship circle’

House Curious Kitchen

(House Curious Kitchen Dining Room)

Anna B (1)

One of the many joys of Anna’s workshop (if the delicious food and drink wasn’t enough) is her ethos of cooking together – guests and host all sitting round a table, chopping, dicing, snacking, chatting, a sip of wine, everybody contributing, creating and getting their hands dirty. It’s less of a lesson, and more of a shared experience.

‘It’s also a great way to learn to cook’ Anna adds. ‘Everyone always has their own way of doing things and I love that input and the idea of mixing it up a bit. We cook interesting recipes that stand out, yet are simple enough to cook and recreate at home. The fact that you get to sit down and eat what you cook is always a big incentive, as is the snacking you can do while cooking!’ 

Cooking

This communal approach to cooking makes for a very informal and social experience, and also means no single individual is left hidden away in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove.

‘It’s the same if you’re throwing your own dinner party at home - you want to be able to spend time with your guests as opposed to stressing and running around in the kitchen, so why not get everyone cooking together?’

Peacups 1

Tablescapejpg

Speaking of entertaining at home - Anna puts her love of food down to the joys of throwing dinner parties and Sunday lunches with friends, something that at TOAST we very much enjoy too.

‘I definitely go more relaxed with my cooking when hosting a dinner party for friends!’ laughs Anna. 

‘It’s all about sharing plates and big platters that people can get stuck into. A good balance of indulgence versus healthy, and definitely an equal split of vegetarian and meat. In fact I’m less and less adverse to doing fully vegetarian meals, if it’s good then people don’t even realise there’s no meat! Either way, a meal is always so much more enjoyable when you can sit down and appreciate it with friends or family.’

And so, what does the Queen of the dinner party, food writer extraordinaire like to eat at home, when she is not busy working, or entertaining?

‘Pasta! Any form of pasta, and serious amounts of Parmesan. That or my Nan’s shepherd’s pie!’ 

Sounds good to me.


Read on for Anna’ top tips for dinner party success, and be sure to check out her mouth-watering Ultimate Summer Dinner Party menu exclusive to TOAST here (link to menu piece).  

Anna will be hosting another workshop at House Curious in October. More details can be found on the website http://www.housecurious.co.uk

Anna’s top tips for dinner party success

  • Combining sweet and savoury is as popular as ever, melon with feta and mint, blue cheese, charred peaches and prosciutto, those less obvious pairings are always really interesting. I love anything with bundles of fresh herbs to be honest.
  • Look for things that are locally produced and in season. I like to use produce that is colourful, vibrant and delicious to eat. Experiment, taste everything at each stage of cooking and add more seasoning!
  • I love to serve up big sharing plates of food for my guests. The sharing platters from Denby’s Natural Canvas tableware are perfect for modern dinner parties as everyone can get stuck in 
  • I try to be super organised and clever with my menu by choosing dishes I can prepare well in advance and that taste better with time
  • I also try and do as little as possible on the night and avoid doing anything labour intensive so that I can spend more time with my guests.  
  • A bit of entertainment is always good. Carols at Christmas are a must!

 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 24 August 2016

 

  See All Articles

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