Tales From My Kitchen Table

Jess Elliott Dennison

Food writer and founder of Elliott’s Kitchen & Workshop in Edinburgh, Jess Elliott Dennison takes us on a journey through her life in food. A self-proclaimed ‘born feeder’, Jess shares the food she loves to cook and cosy up with, from tomato butter sugo to rhubarb jam sponge. Tuck in!

 

Tell us about your favourite food memory from your childhood…

Saturday night dinners made by my mum, when I was little, are treasured memories for me - there was always music on, something really delicious, lots of adults drinking red wine and everyone having a good time. My Mum, Claire Elliott has the incredible ability of turning what appears to be nothing in the fridge into a feast for everyone. She’s the one who taught me to cook and continues to be my inspiration for Elliott’s. 

 

What would your advice be to someone who is new to cooking and is looking to put more love into the ritual of preparing food at home? 

Keep things simple and relaxed by mastering a really delicious dish that has just three or four ingredients in rather than overwhelming yourself with lots of ingredients or complicated techniques. You could try something like the Tomato Butter Sugo from my book Tin Can Magic where you quickly simmer a tin of chopped tomatoes, garlic, chilli and butter for an amazing sauce to go on your favourite pasta. By keeping the sauce simple, you can invest in a good quality tin of tomatoes then customise with cheese, olives, capers, whatever you fancy...a good bottle of wine. Who doesn’t love pasta and wine?!

“My Sunday morning ritual: clear the kitchen table of all the paperwork and random debris that’s accumulated over the week then make a big pot of coffee and sage-fried eggs with lemony greens and toast for me and my husband, Philip.”

Tell us about one of your cooking rituals at home... 

My Sunday morning ritual: clear the kitchen table of all the paperwork and random debris that’s accumulated over the week then make a big pot of coffee and sage-fried eggs with lemony greens and toast for me and my husband, Philip. He goes to pick the sage in the garden as I make the coffee. Radio 6 is always on in the background on a Sunday morning. 

 

What’s your favourite thing about having friends and family round for dinner?

I was born a feeder, so nothing makes me happier than cooking for a table of those closest to me. My favourite part is when everyone goes back for seconds or even thirds - there’s no bigger compliment or satisfaction for a feeder! 

 

Tell us about one of the most memorable meals someone important in your life has cooked for you...

Years ago, I was working as a food stylist in London and had back-to-back shoots and was completely shattered and I came home one night to Philip making me Rick Stein’s seafood stew. He’d gone to so much effort, buying loads of different types of fish from the fishmonger, making a stock from prawn heads, prepping all the fish - all quite chef-fy. Cooking really isn’t Philip’s thing (he does the growing and eating part!) and he’s not that keen on fish, so surprising me with that meal meant A LOT. 

QUICK FIRE 

Taste that makes you think of home: 

Dad’s marmite on toast. He makes the BEST toast - he’s all about the timing, loads of butter and the perfect amount of marmite. 

 

Favourite song to cook to: 

Bermuda Triangle by Fleetwood Mac brings all the good cooking vibes

 

 You have friends coming round for an impromptu dinner, what do you cook? 

Roast chicken with loads of garlicky potatoes, aioli and lemony gem lettuce and tarragon salad. Then jam sponge with custard - minimal fuss but everyone loves the nostalgic, school dinner feels! 

 

Your most proud career moment to date: 

Monocle magazine’s wrote an article about me titled ‘Local Hero’ with an illustrated version of me - bob included! It was all about how I successfully pivoted the original Elliott’s cafe and restaurant into a takeaway essential provisions place for the local community in lockdown, within days of the first announcement that we would be going into lockdown. 

 

Best place for a cosy dinner in Edinburgh: 

Downstairs at Petit Paris in the grassmarket for steak, chips and glass of house red on a paper gingham tablecloth. 

 

 Favourite comfort food to make on a rainy day: 

Braised butter beans with loads of sage, garlic, white wine and lemon - the recipe is in Tin Can Magic if you want to try it.  

 

The ingredient you’re most looking forward to incorporating into your dishes this season: Yorkshire-forced rhubarb - that colour! And the sherbet flavour! Jars of pink rhubarb jam will definitely be going onto the Elliott’s retail shelves. And I’ll be putting rhubarb jam sponge with custard on the counter for sure.

 

Jess Elliott Dennison’s cookbooks are out now: Salad Feasts, Tin Can Magic and Lazy Baking. 

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