Question Time with Cherie Denham


A couple of weeks ago I spent a jam-packed morning shooting the recipes for Cherie Denham’s summer cookery demonstrations. It was an indulgent session of laughing and gorging on all the treats that faultlessly emerged from Cherie’s kitchen. Aside from her infectious energy and Irish enthusiasm, Cherie is a masterful cook. She creates recipes that are both approachable and delicious, and I always rush home to make them myself. Originally trained at the prestigious Leith’s Cookery School, Cherie has clocked up a wealth of experience in the food industry, at one point running her own catering company. She now lives in an idyllic Hampshire village with her family, and luckily for us continues to concoct recipe after delectable recipe. Cherie runs seasonal cookery demonstrations in her stylish kitchen, garnering an avid fan base that returns for the good food and witty conversation.

Where do you turn for inspiration? One of my best friends Celia is a huge inspiration to me.  She and I worked together at Leith's, and she still does some teaching there.  Celia has worked with so many wonderful chefs.  She's always got her feelers out, knows what’s new where on the food scene and whilst we don't see each other enough, we speak on the phone and bounce ideas around a lot.

What's your earliest food memory? I have to say, I have 2 very early food memories that stick out in my memory, one as nostalgic as the other...Christmas Day.  A huge, free range, hand reared turkey in the oven, the bottom filled with tasty stuffing and the neck filled with cocktail sausages.  The smell was just incredible.  Then family picnics...Mummy made the most gorgeous salad sandwiches with fresh lettuce, spring onions & tomatoes from the garden with hard-boiled duck eggs from the farm...between slices of really fresh Nutty Krust bread.  Oh this is wonderful, such happy, happy memories.

What did you have for breakfast? My husband always very kindly makes me my first cup of tea of the day...Twinings Everyday.  Later I have breakfast, today it was Yeo Valley Greek Style Yoghurt with my new homemade granola recipe - Maple & Honey Date & Nut Granola with sliced strawberries and raspberries.  I enjoyed a cup of my favourite coffee, Cupsmith - they are a wonderful artisan company and roast their coffee with passion.

What's your favourite herb or spice? Oh crikey....favourite herb or tricky, I adore and use so many fresh herbs and spices.   I do love basil tho, it reminds me of very happy days working in Tuscany for 4 summers for a wonderful English family.

What's been your worst kitchen disaster? When I was a Chalet Girl in Chatel, France.  There was no fridge space and I had a fish delivery for dinner that night. I put the fish (in a polystyrene box) on a tall bar stool, outside the chalet, with loads of snow on top.  I went off  skiing, but came back to find holes in the box. A cat had swiped it's paws into the box, and taken lumps off the salmon.  I opened the box, cut the salmon into a "fish" shape, discarded any fish around the edge that I thought the cat may have reached.  Went ahead with salmon en croute...all was well, but it was VERY touch and go.

What's the best smell in the world? Ooh....the best smell in the world...I suppose I really should say something foodie's when we go upstairs to kiss our boys goodnight (after a summer's day in the garden when they've been jumping in and out of the stream, building fires, cooking their tea on fires, making their hot chocolate on their fires).  They're all clean and fresh after showering and no longer look or smell like "Stig of the Dump".  That's such a lovely smell, the security of knowing we've got through another day without injury probably helps too.

Do you listen to anything while your cooking? I listen to music constantly as I cook...Capital FM in the mornings, Chill or Jazz FM in the afternoons and also I like to go a bit random and ask our new gadget "Alexa" to play some random tunes.  Our son Harry makes me the most brilliant song lists and I love those.

Who would you most like to invite to a dinner party? James Corden...he's so fun and loves to sing, I love a good sing song, Ottolenghi because he just seems so lovely and is a culinary genius making amazing food uncomplicated, Celia, Jamie Oliver for all of the fantastic work he’s done trying to educate people about food, Tessa Kiros to talk about food, travel and her home in Tuscany, Peter Kay because he's hysterical and Chris Martin because he sings so amazingly live and seems like a really nice guy. Dawn French, because I think she’s amazing, funny beautiful and so clever. Obviously my husband would be there too and absolutely no politics to be discussed at dinner

What’s your favourite comfort food? Fry bacon in a pan, set aside to keep warm, mash some boiled swede in the bacon pan, season really well and have with champ.  I don't eat it very often at all but boy is it good when I do.

Any advice for the novice cook? Read through a recipe thoroughly, take your time and don't rush, cook food to be enjoyed by your guests not to impress your guests as that could put the novice cook under too much pressure,  put on some chilled music and enjoy your time in the kitchen.  This is why my recipes are the way they are, so people of all different cooking abilities can enjoy straightforward cooking with yummy results.

For more info on the talented Cherie, head to her website.