Anna Barnett has had a fabulous life. At one time or another she has worked as a celebrity and events booker for MTV and Channel 4, Kelly Osbourne’s PA and International Sales Manager at House of Holland. That’s enough to fill most people’s CV’s but, it seems fair to say, Anna has now found fame in her ultimate passion: food. Known amongst her friends as ‘The Feeder’, it was only a matter of time before destiny caught up with Ms. Barnett and she now flits between hosting pop-up restaurants at her Hackney townhouse, writing her foodie blog (and those for, amongst others, The Independent) and most recently penning her own cookbook, Eat The Week – a creative collection of recipes to get you through your week; whether you’re looking at cash-conscious Mondays or blow-the-budget Saturdays, carb-fuelled dishes or virtuous plates. As if she wasn’t busy enough, she also created the menu for Atterley‘s AW15 press dinner (you can read all about that here). All in all, Anna seems like someone we would like to know better, so we caught up with the girl of the moment to chat all things food.
Hello Anna, you recently provided some delicious dishes for the Atterley press dinner, how did you come up with the menu? What was your inspiration?
Produce that is seasonal tends to be the starting point, our British asparagus and wild garlic parmesan and dijon crusted tarts were probably the first dish I decided on, I then built the rest of the menu around them. I wanted all the dishes to be inviting, fresh and vibrant. I love the natural boldness of vegetables and love that they can be the main event. The roasted rainbow carrots with nettle pesto and scallops in raddichio cups have to be my favourite dishes from the menu.
Your previous career in fashion makes for a good match with Atterley, what are your top tips for hosting a fashionably chic dinner?
Make sure your presentation is spot on; people like to be impressed by what they’re about to eat…sometimes less can be more so don’t over pack your plates, just have back up leftovers in case people want seconds. I think a meal that isn’t too heavy is always a winner; you want to be full but you don’t want the party to be over or your guests to be snoozing post dinner because you’ve over eaten.
We love your new book. What is your favourite recipe and why?
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 abroad in Greece for the summer, eating that pasta at least 3 times a week, every week. TRY IT!
Tell us about the most memorable meal you’ve hosted.
We once shot a pilot a good few years back and had a serious mixture of musicians and celebs round the table…they had to ‘sing’ for their supper and it was chaos! But they sang, cooked and helped tidy. It was so much fun.
Ultimate UK foodie destination?
Broadway Market in Hackney has some really great produce and food stalls. Every Saturday it’s packed, I can never eat enough down there. Borough Market’s up there too. I love being able to graze and try a bit of everything.
Where’s next on your travel list for food inspiration?
I’m heading to Italy this summer, travelling from Verona down the coast to Puglia and am planning on eating my way round as many restaurants I can. I live for Italian food. We’ve also booked a table at Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura’s restaurant, currently ranking No. 2 best restaurant in the world. Couldn’t be more excited.
Store cupboard essentials you can’t be without?
Sea salt, black peppercorns, white pepper, good extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano, chilli flakes, smoked paprika.
Current food addiction?
Pizzas Don’t Cry in Netil Market, Hackney every Saturday. I’m their biggest fan. The best, freshest, tastiest pizzas you’ll ever eat.
What would you eat for your last supper?
Probably my nan’s shepherd’s pie, followed by about eight of her mince pies. There’s nothing that competes.
Thanks Anna. And to treat those now inevitable hunger pangs, Anna has given us this gorgeous recipe from the Atterley event for you to try yourselves.
Nests of Radicchio with Roasted Beets, Black Quinoa, Pomegranate & Fennel Tops
This dish is guaranteed to make you not miss the meat. Not only is it gluten free and packed full of protein, it’s super vibrant with a combination of flavours and textures that leave you wanting more. Serve it up as the perfect dinner party starter, or as the main event. Gorgonzola or stilton is a delicious addition.
Preparation Time – 10 minutes
Cooking Time – 30-40 minutes
5 medium fresh beetroots – Thoroughly washed, ends removed then sliced into 6-8 segments
2 glugs of balsamic
5 cloves of garlic – left in the skin and roasted
1/2 pomegranate – pearls removed
handful of black olives (I like the salty greek styles ones – NOT in brine)
generous glug of red wine vinegar
sprinkle of sea salt & black and white pepper
good glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel – tops/herbs removed and finely chopped
400g black quinoa (white works too) – cook in boiling water as per instructions (add a chopped up clove of garlic for extra flavour)
2 radicchio – leaves removed and used for the nests
Start be preheating the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Prepare the beetroot, place on a baking tray with the whole cloves of garlic, season and add the balsamic vinegar roasting for 20 minutes before shaking and roasting for a further 5-10 minutes.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the quinoa, cooking as per instructions.
Prepare the pomegranate, remove the stones from the olives and chop up the fennel tops, ready to garnish.
Once the beetroot has roasted, remove from the oven, combine with the quinoa making sure you pour in the balsamic also (this will be rich with flavour). Squeeze the garlic from the skins and thoroughly mix into the quinoa. Next add in the red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, seasoning and thoroughly mix. Taste and adjust flavours accordingly, adding extra red wine vinegar if you want more of a tang and extra pepper for more heat and flavour.
Make up your radicchio nest by taking two leaves and slotting them together. Serve up two generous spoonfuls per radicchio nest, sprinkle over the black olives, pomegranate and fennel tops to garnish, serve immediately.
TIP – This dish can be served warm or cold and can be prepared well in advance.