When my passion for food and drink flourished

It’s been a big part of my life since childhood, as meals were always the heartbeat of our family. My mum made really delicious home cooked food and we grew our own veg because it was my father’s passion - but I only properly started cooking for myself as a student. In my early twenties I began experimenting more and more and my interest grew alongside my job as a trade journalist for chef and hospitality magazines. Eventually I decided I wanted to specialise completely in food writing and train in cookery, doing a cookery course and teaching myself from books, assisting chefs and friends who were caterers. My whole career has been a massive education and the more I’ve learned the more I’ve realised you never stop learning, and have fallen in love with food and drink.

Rosie Birkett by Helen Cathcart

Rosie Birkett by Helen Cathcart

Cooking and eating with friends is one of my favourite pastimes

I love sharing meals with friends and family. I always feel like the best and most intimate conversations and stories often unfold around the table. Cooking is my way of looking after people and showing them love. Hosting a get together is so simple, whatever the time of year. It’s all about making the most of the space you have. If there's time, I like to set the scene. playing to the natural season, whether this is dining outdoors in summer, or bringing Autumn tones inside during the colder months with dried flowers, pretty autumn leaves or decorative squashes on the table, and of course if you can, helping yourself out by preparing in advance, so that you can enjoy the moment as much as possible. For example, an orzo salad can be made in the morning and will sit happily in the fridge until needed - the flavours just have time to mingle and get better. There are also loads of cocktails that can be whipped up and pre batched in advance. This summer, I put a new spin on traditional cocktails and made them dairy-free using Baileys Almande. One of my favourite creations this summer was the Baileys Pina Almanda - a fun twist on a retro classic Colada with an indulgently light taste. All of the ingredients can be blended together and poured as a perfect after-dinner cocktail. You can find the recipe here and make it yourself at home.  

Why I believe in eating seasonally

I feel there is a really sad disconnect between what we eat and drink and how food is grown and produced. The fact that food is the result of agriculture, complex food systems and seasonal factors often gets lost and I truly believe that the more we can connect with the natural environment through our food and cooking, the better. Food that is in season is more plentiful, cheaper and fresher. There are lots of ways you can make a crop of seasonal produce last longer, whether it’s making a cordial from hedgerow elderflower or freezing fruit purees to be used in puddings and cocktails. 

My love of foraging / growing my own veg 

I grew up foraging for field mushrooms and cobnuts with my dad in Kent, and while researching my book on East London's Food scene I met a local forager called John the Poacher (who turns out to be a neighbour of mine) who has shown me some incredible wild food that's growing right on the doorstep here in London. Foraging used to be much more of a part of our way of life and I do think people are beginning to re-embrace a bit of foraging and hedgerow cookery - it's such a great way of connecting with the landscape you live in and understanding seasonality. I also have an allotment which has been an incredible learning curve and constant source of inspiration. Being able to harvest food you've grown yourself gives you such a heightened appreciation of produce and food eaten when it's so fresh from the ground is full of flavour. 

My love of puddings

I love finishing a meal with something sweet. I’ll base my desserts around seasonal fruit or some really good quality chocolate. Puddings always go well paired with an after-dinner drink and cocktails are surprisingly versatile thanks to the vast range of flavours they can cover. A vibrant and zesty Baileys Almande Passion Fruit Chilli martini cocktail works amazingly with a fruit dessert. One of my favourites from the summer was peaches with this twist on a martini cocktail. I’d roast them together to bring out their flavour and sugars, and top with a cardamom spiced crumble with toasted almonds and pecans, spooned over gorgeous clouds of sharp, creamy coconut yoghurt. This works really well with the deliciously light taste of Baileys Almande, plus it’s dairy-free so it’s something everyone can enjoy. Another great way to end a meal is with coffee of course. At get togethers you can leave guests with a lasting impression by creating something visual. Try a Baileys Almande Iced Coffee & Tahini Twist, where iced coffee is topped with creamy layers of Baileys Almande. As the liquid mixes it creates a beautiful swirl in the glass.

My go-to kind of dishes 

Like most people, I'm always juggling life, so when I spend time in the kitchen, which I love to do, I like it to be a bit of an investment. I might make a big tray of roasted stone fruits as a dessert and keep some to have for breakfast with yoghurt, or make a nice tub of labneh which I can keep in the fridge and use in different guises throughout the week. My cooking is all about enabling yourself to throw together really delicious, satisfying meals with ease. 

My lovely dog Cyril!  

I mostly work from home so having Cyril as a companion is really important. He's very low maintenance and tends to sleep all day, but I take him out twice a day. I love being outside in nature: hearing the birds and spotting what's growing outside: whether it's crab apples, elderflower or wild garlic.