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Celia brooks

In the kitchen with Celia Brooks

The cookbook author talks cheese, pumpkin pie and more.


Have you ever wondered what those in the food industry eat when they're not in work? Us too.

That's why in this series we talk to some of our favourite members of the food scene about their food habits outside of the workplace. Today we're chatting with Celia Brooks, TV chef and cookbook author, who began her career as a private chef to Hollywood director Stanley Kubrick. To see more from Celia, click here

Here, Celia tells us about what she likes to eat when she's not working.

Do you cook a lot at home?

Cooking is my first love, so I do it as much as possible. When I’m writing a cookbook, my kitchen becomes a laboratory, where multiple dishes are flowing forth every day for months on end. When I’m running a normal schedule of operating my food tours, as I was up until lockdown in March 2020, I was out and about so much that having time to cook for pleasure had become a rare luxury. One silver lining of Covid for me has been having time to cook as much as I want, which has been a real blessing.

Who do you usually eat with?

It’s just me and my partner Justin at home - and our dog Rico, though I only occasionally cook for him. We have been able to eat almost every meal together at home in recent times.

Are there any foods you have to or choose to avoid?

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. I’m not strict about things like animal rennet in cheese, but I do insist on organic eggs if possible. I generally avoid processed foods, but I am a slave to cheese, even processed cheese, and have a weakness for certain snacks, like Hula Hoops, Twiglets, Pringles, and especially Cheetos (I’m American). 

What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?

I always have broccoli, brussels sprouts (I love them shredded raw), plain yoghurt, good bread, and many types of cheese. 

What's in your fridge right now?

Did I mention that I love cheese? I have an entire large fridge shelf dedicated to cheese with at least 20 different types at the moment, including paneer and halloumi. I’ve got two massive vegetable drawers stuffed to the gills with greens, potatoes, root veg, and fruit. There’s a menagerie of chutneys, chilli sauces, mustards, capers, kimchi, and several types of pickles, plus drinks galore, including fizzy mineral water, fresh juices, homemade water kefir, protein shakes, and prosecco. We also keep my partner’s vintage polaroid film in the fridge!

What is your default dinner after a busy week?

One of my favourite quick and easy dinners is my version of a taco salad: a heap of shredded lettuce and spinach dressed with lime juice-soaked onion, topped with crushed tortilla chips, warm refried beans, grated Red Leicester cheese, pickled jalapeños, spicy salsa, and sour cream. My partner adds a flash-fried sliced sirloin steak to his. It takes about 10 minutes to throw together.

What is your favourite kitchen gadget?

That has to be my Mexican elbow lemon squeezer. You just pop half a lemon or lime in and press, and almost all of the juice comes out with no seeds. Super fast and no mess.

Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?

I’m a serious cookbook collector and choosing a favourite is tough. I suppose if I was forced to take just one book to a desert island it would be Jane Grigson’s “Vegetable Book”. It’s a timeless, beautifully crafted volume and the definitive work on my favourite subject of all.

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

Of course! One of the most notable was starting a fire on live TV. I was making a pumpkin pie on Great Food Live and did a version that involves putting marshmallows on top and finishing it under the grill. The tray buckled under the heat and pushed the pie into the grill element, resulting in a rather alarming inferno. You can watch a clip of it on YouTube - search “Celia Brooks fire on TV”.

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What's the best thing you've ever cooked?

I think one of the very best recipes I’ve created is Thai mushroom and cashew larb from my latest book “SuperVeg”. Traditional larb is made with minced pork or chicken, but I used finely chopped mushrooms and cashew nuts as a sort of mock meat, which absorbs all of the high-impact Thai flavours beautifully. I serve it in gem lettuce leaves and topped with cucumber, its fresh and zingy - an all-round winner.

What is the best cooking tip you've ever been given?

Use the tip of a teaspoon to peel fresh ginger. It takes just the skin off without wasting any juicy flesh. 

What would be your last meal?

My last meal would be a large fresh globe artichoke, boiled until very tender in water that has been very well seasoned with salt and wine vinegar. For dipping, it has to be a sauce of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice and lots of black pepper. Plus a giant wedge of Stilton, some water biscuits, chutney, and a nice glass of California Zinfandel.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

I love making fondue. I learned from a book called “Modernist Cuisine” about using a slightly esoteric ingredient - sodium citrate - which is an anticoagulant (it’s available online). I dissolve it in a little warm lager or wine, then melt in heaps of grated mature cheddar, which results in a perfectly smooth fondue. I eat it with chunks of crusty bread, sliced apples, and raw broccoli florets.  

For more info on Celia Brooks, click here