As the man behind the design of some of the most inspiring cookbooks on your shelf, MATT INWOOD knows what looks good. But does he keep his kitchen up to scratch, asks LAURA ROWE
So, I’ve become a bit obsessed by Matt Inwood’s Instagram feed. Everything – and I mean, everything – is beautiful and, more often than not, delicious. From garlic cloves to beetroot, red currants to avocados; the simplest ingredient to the most complicated of cakes has been expertly styled and shot (all on his iPhone, incredibly). The art director (formerly of Bath’s Absolute Books), designer and “occasional writer” (check out his incredibly emotive blog athousandfragments.com), even has his own stash of backgrounds (slate to battered bits of wood) to style on, which he keeps out of sight round the back of his Bradford-on-Avon home.
We’ve been invited round for lunch, and are taken through to the back of the terraced house, to the galley kitchen, which overlooks the garden while he finishes the prep. It’s not the biggest kitchen we’ve ever been in, but it maximises the space meaning there’s plenty of room for us three imposters from Crumbs HQ, Matt, and Bo, the Golden Retriever. There’s a wall of sleek, shiny, contemporary white cupboards and built-in oven and grill: brave with Tilly, 9, and Bessie, 5 as part of the brood, too, although Matt’s clearly been polishing before our arrival.
On the other side of the kitchen is a gas hob, tactile oak worksurfaces, a deep Belfast sink with a colander full of blanched broad beans ready to be shelled (that’ll be our job) along with a pistachio and olive oil cake, still warm, out of the oven. There’s a corner dedicated to cookbooks, obviously; Matt’s worked on some of the most prestigious books of the last 15 years, including Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food and Atul Kochhar’s Curries of the World.
Must-have kitchen item: Washing-up liquid. I always try to start and finish with the kitchen clean, and I tend to clean as I go. I find it very difficult to walk through the kitchen and not wash up or put away.
Go-to recipe: Probably sausage and mash. Good mashed potato might have been the only recipe to have been passed down to me from my mother. I add white pepper, salt and an ungodly amount of butter. I use good pork sausages and make a sweet onion gravy by reducing red wine and redcurrant jelly with a small heaped spoon of gravy granules. It is the best S&M I know.
You love the taste of… Salt. So many people don’t season well (home cooks, but cooks and chefs, too). And salt will transform a dish: it helps to define so many other flavours.
Coffee or tea? Tea. Coffee is an occasional treat, which I love, but I couldn’t drink it regularly. I remember my father spooning tealeaves into a filthy silver teapot – for teapots should never be cleaned – and then following it with a few spoonfuls of sugar. I have been hooked on tea (and sugar) ever since. I get anxious about other people making tea for me: I’d rather miss a round than have to endure something weak, milky or under-sweetened. And it must always be builder’s.
Beer or cider? The 17-and-a-half-year-old me would have acquiesced to slowly sipping their way through a pint of very sweet cider. The 20-year-old-me would have struggled Sisyphus-like through the same measure of beer without ever quite discovering the hallmark at the bottom of the glass. Close friends of the 39-year-old me know that I’m the most lightweight drinker ever to set foot inside a pub. Give me tea.
Five people you’d invite to your dinner party, dead or alive: Albert Camus: because he articulated the beauty of poverty better than anyone else. Leslie Nielsen: because his face never fails to make me smile. John Grant: because his music creates light from such dark places. Margaret Jull Costa: translator of some of my favourite authors – she’s immersed herself inside the heads of some of the last century’s most amazing creative minds. And finally, Charlotte: because all those amazing people would only shine half as brilliantly without being able to share it with the most amazing person of all (besides, I’m not doing the washing-up on my own!).
The look of your kitchen in three words: Obsessive compulsive order.
Kitchen uniform: Always sans apron, so often sporting the faded stains of last week’s ragu and the odd belched blot of cooking oil.
Preferred midnight nosh: Honey-nut cornflakes [I’m eating them as I type this!]. A bowl of cereal cannot possibly ever disappoint (the wise words of chef Phil Howard).
Your kitchen is awesome because… We spent 10% of the mortgage making it so and I nearly gave myself a hernia grouting the floor.
Secret skills: I never fail to cater for second helpings and leftovers. Serial severer of flesh but still yet to lose a single finger or phalanx to the mandoline.
What’s on your cooking/baking playlist? John Grant (see above) and probably something bleepingly electronic. Hits of the ’80s if Charlotte’s in the kitchen. And baking would always be with the girls, so five minutes of either Taylor Swift or the Frozen soundtrack repeating on a two-hour-long loop.
Unexpected item in your kitchen cupboard: A disgusting amount of singed-once birthday candles. My wife never fails to buy them anew for every one of our daughters’ birthdays.
Most prized item: Probably the Le Creuset casserole which we inherited from Charlotte’s mother. Chipped and lid missing its handle, yet still the most robust and versatile cooking vessel we own.
You can’t live without… Biscuits. I have no other vice. But they must be simple biscuits: nothing too cheap, but nothing too posh either. Bourbon, gingernut, digestive – and a cup of tea always.
Favourite condiment: Balsamic vinegar. Smoked paprika a close second. And sumac is my current flavour of the month.
If your kitchen could talk, it’d say… “Your wife was right.” [She decided where everything should go, what everything should do and what it should look like.]
Photos by ANDREW CALLAGHAN