Slap Dash Lunch with Tatu Bearcroft

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Tatu recently stepped up to the role of Resident Chef, to work closely with our other talented chefs to ensure every one of our guests has a delicious experience based on taste and backed by sound evidence.

Over a delicious lunch prepared by Tatu, I was able to quiz her about her food secrets. My questions were slap dash; her lunch was certainly anything but!

With a flare for wild in her food and having grown up close to nature she pulls inspiration from her nomadic upbringing, nutritional knowledge and passion to see delight on guests faces as they share meals around our social tables. I am here to introduce you to the woman behind the food.

Where are you currently based?

Chelsea, London.

Have you led a nomadic lifestyle?

I grew up in Kenya, Thailand, Bali, France, Tanzania and the UK mainly but spent time in many other places including Mozambique, Qatar, Spain, Australia and a few others here and there. So yes would be the answer.

If you could present your food to anybody in the world who would it be?

Anyone who loves good and interesting food, appreciates their health and is hungry. No one in particular comes to mind.

What is your favourite travel destination?

Any place with warm sunshine, sweet mangoes, salty sea and big space.

Do you have a go-to ingredient that can transform a dish?

Oh, this changes from month to month, year to year. Some simple saviours along the way have included the zingy taste of citrus fruits, handfuls of the herb in season, although dill still confuses me, pomegranate seeds, a generous sprinkle of cumin, a hint of tahini, toasted pine kernels, rich flavours of Croatian olive oil... it goes on!

If you were to sit down with friends to watch a movie, what snack would be on offer?

Possibly home made toasted spiced nuts and seeds, tahini marinated kale with sweet smoked paprika and sea salt flakes, or a delightful trio of spiced hummus, homemade chilli baba ganoush and crushed avocado.

What is your guilty pleasure, be it the type of music you listen to while cooking or a delicious treat that defies your food philosophy?

Guilty pleasures... I could drink maple syrup! Heavily buttered marmite and honey toast.

How would you describe the state of the modern man’s relationship with food?

Distanced, unfamiliar and lacking in gentle gratitude of its growth and creation. Many do not cook, let alone grow food, understand the magic and the hard work it takes to feed one human - let alone a city. We eat selfishly, we eat more protein so we can have big muscles; we do not consider the energy needed to grow that protein nor recognise the research that shows we need not eat so much of it. We eat for our own health, vanity and greed without acknowledging the impact it is having on the planet. Exotic health foods flood our markets, yet have been flown half way across the world, grown by people who struggle to feed their families on land claimed from life-giving forests. Then we all dash off to the gym to burn the excess we consume - what a strange existence we live. I am not exempt from this. I would say all humans should attempt to grow something, even if it's a chilli plant on their kitchen counter.

Is there a typically British ingredient that is priceless to you?

The trusty turnip, the sexy swede and the beautiful beetroot bring me great delight! Mustard greens in a salad, sorrel, chervil, dandelion leaves, the lost flavours of old. I love to make oriental inspired spiralised turnip salads, spiralised swedes with raw nut Bolognese, grated beetroot with tahini to accompany a fillet of sea-bass. Plus each of these dishes are all so wonderfully good for you!

Finally, can you give 3 of your top cooking tips?

  1. Taste your vegetables individually raw before you cook them, allow the flavour to flow over your tongue, close your eyes and savour the emerging tastes as they change influence by your pH levels, salivary amylase, hydration and mental and emotional state. Knowing your ingredients will give you the tools to play with tastes and textures.

  2. Cook less, prepare more. Avoid cooking where possible for two reasons - 1. makes the washing up a doddle, 2. reduces phytonutrient and damage and fibre breakdown.

  3. Keep it creative, remember the perfect recipe is often someone else’s perfection, be yourself. If at a loss lemon saves most disasters... except over cooked pasta, nothing will save that.