Good Food blog
Allegra McEvedy on her kitchen delights
Wish you were more creative in the kitchen? Allegra McEvedy shares how she creates recipes, the food diaries she’s kept since she was 10 and her mission to get everyone talking about Turkish food
Watch Allegra McEvedy in the kitchen, and you can soak up the blast of colourful ingredients, the combination of flavours and no-nonsense recipes.
In her new series, Turkish Delights with Allegra McEvedy, she travels the country for ideas and then recreates authentic Turkish recipes in her own style.
When we meet, she’s fresh from a quickfire cycle from her home in west London the morning after her daughter’s birthday party, when she hosted no less than 20 toddlers at her house.
In real life, she’s as warm and fun as she appears on TV. Her latest show is a real passion project for her, since she has felt a special connection with Turkey since she first visited as a child. In fact, she’s on a mission to get “Turkish food into a place where it’s more respected in Britain, rather than just being seen as a hotchpotch of different cultures and continents”.
“My cooking style at home is quite similar to the style you see on TV, in my books or in Leon,” she says. “I don’t turn on the TV cameras and become someone else. I grow herbs and vegetables at home, I use a butcher and a fishmonger.
“I write recipes for work, so my style at home revolves around making sure nothing goes to waste – with Middle Eastern, North African and Italian influences.
“I never go the shops with a shopping list, I just look to see what’s there – I think it’s important to go to shop and see.
“I have kept food diaries since I was 10 years old,” she adds. “I have 15 volumes of them. When I was younger, they were pretty crude – ‘I ate grissini’ or something, but I’ve kept it up for 30-something years. I start there, go back to a certain country, remind myself what ingredients were there – I always make lists of what I see in markets. I like to see how many different types of onion you can get in France, for example.
“I have a big library of books and lots of recipe books. I’ll go to the index, and go from A to Z and be inspired.”
In fact, Allegra has always felt comfortable in the kitchen. “I grew up with comfort food and French stuff and dinner parties,” she explains. “At home it was about good comfort food. I always gravitated towards the kitchen; somehow, it’s a place I have always felt at home.”
After a “tumultuous time” at school, Allegra didn’t go to university but instead trained at Le Cordon Bleu. “It all came together for me when I started working in restaurants,” she says.
At just 24, Allegra was head chef at Notting Hill restaurant The Cow. Her sense of adventure took her to work in New York and San Francisco, before returning to London to set up her own restaurant in Notting Hill's Tabernacle Community Centre, where she wrote her first book. She eventually became the co-founder and culinary brains for award-winning fast food chain Leon.
Want to recreate Allegra's relaxed cooking style? Try her Turkish recipes for yourself.