Gill Meller

Head chef at the River Cottage re­veals the hand-hewn hub of his home

The Guardian - Cook - - Kitchen Encounters -

My kitchen is … my favourite room in our house. We only fin­ished build­ing last year, and I made the kitchen my­self, from tim­ber left over from the roof­ing beams. The work sur­face is made from gym floor­ing, which is a plea­sure to clean – it just takes a good scrub, like the deck of a boat. On one side we have floor-to-ceil­ing shelv­ing, with all our crock­ery, glasses, jars of herbs, spices and dry goods on dis­play.

My favourite kitchen tool is … our kitchen ta­ble. My fa­ther built it for us when we moved in. It’s a beau­ti­ful ash ta­ble, which seats 12. It’s the hub of the house; it’s where we get to­gether for eat­ing and talk­ing, and it’s made a great im­pact on us as a fam­ily. It’s also our vis­i­tor’s book – ev­ery­one who comes for din­ner signs their name un­der­neath it.

My store­cup­board sta­ple is … rye flour. Our fam­ily loaf is a rye sour­dough, which we make once a week, with co­rian­der seeds and mo­lasses.

When I’m starv­ing I … have fried eggs on but­tered Mar­mite toast. If I’m feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, I’ll add a shake of tabasco over the top.

My culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion is … the land­scape in which I live, and the pro­duc­ers I work with. They are the lifeblood of any good kitchen. West Dorset and east Devon has long been a hub for good food and or­ganic farm­ing.

My best-kept kitchen se­cret is … freez­ing fruit. The best thing you can do with a glut of ripe or over­ripe fruit is to pre­pare it and pop it in the freezer. It’s then so easy to drop a hand­ful into the blen­der with some yo­ghurt for a quick, cold smoothie.

My cur­rent ob­ses­sion is … raw flap­jacks. Oats, honey, dates and ba­nana puree – you com­bine ev­ery­thing, and pop it in the fridge.

Ev­ery­thing tastes bet­ter with … pork fat. Whether it’s ba­con you’re fry­ing or the roast you’re mak­ing, pork fat en­hances any dish.

When we go shop­ping … we’re quite or­gan­ised. For the bulk of our fruit and veg, we have a weekly box scheme. Dry goods and essen­tials we get from a lit­tle farm shop. Meat and fish comes through my work kitchens, be­cause prove­nance is re­ally im­por­tant to me.

For din­ner tonight … we’re hav­ing cockle and chard rarebit, fol­lowed by some paella made from chicken, home­made chorizo and squid.

River Cottage Hand­book No.14, Pigs & Pork by Gill Meller (Blooms­bury, £14.99) is out now; river­cot­tage.net

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