Anna’s easy vegetarian recipes are as well-travelled as they are mouth-watering, globe-trotting between Greece (halloumi, mint, lemon and caramelised onion pie) to India (baked dahl with tamarind-glazed sweet potato) and beyond.
Her latest book, One, blazes a trail for modern vegetarian food that promises minimum waste and maximum flavour.
When did you first come to Watergate Bay, and what’s your impression of the place?
I’ve been coming to Watergate for years now. My first trip was as a young chef when Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen opened in the Bay. I was part of the second London cohort of Fifteen, so was keen to try the food and meet some of the students working there. A few years later, we came to stay as a family at the hotel.
I've spent a lot of time in Cornwall (my husband, John, lived there in the early years of our relationship), but Watergate is still one of my all-time favourite beaches. You just can’t beat a Watergate sunset.
What’s your take on the relationship between food and being active outside? And how does it apply to your life right now?
Movement and getting outside are super important to me. I love swimming (ideally in the sea), walking, yoga, and dancing.
As the years have gone by, I've learned to focus on the movement that suits my body and that I love to do, rather than pushing myself at the gym or in a class I'm not really enjoying.
I try to walk for an hour a day on the marshes near my home in Hackney – it's not quite Watergate Bay, but it's good to be in nature.
What do you like to eat if you need energy?
I don’t do anything hugely different from normal. If I’m going to yoga, I’ll usually make a smoothie with lots of hemp hearts and nut butter for a hit of plant protein – something not too heavy.
I always bring snacks on walks, mainly for my son, but I have been known to dip into them. I make oat and peanut butter bars which are perfect walking fuel.
What are some of your favourite ways to work up an appetite – or burn off a big meal – at Watergate Bay?
A walk along the coast path is a favourite – it never fails to blow me away with its beauty. Or a swim in the sea or the pool. Food always tastes best after a swim.
Do you like being active and getting in the water, or is it more about slowing down and taking it easy with the view?
I'm a water baby. I’m still very much learning to surf, but I love getting out there. I try and get in the sea whenever I’m near it, whatever the weather.
I did draw the line at breaking through the ice on the shoreline one day. But John still went in for a surf – there's no stopping him!
We’d love to hear your ideas for the perfect post-surf brunch…
The meal I always make for John post-surf is potato rosti with roast tomatoes, soft-boiled eggs, and chilli chutney. It's filling, has a good bit of protein, and is his absolute favourite.
Are you big on breakfast? What do you eat to start the day, and how does that change through the week?
I would go as far as to say breakfast might be my favourite meal. Weekdays are usually a bit of a rush as I’m not a natural early riser, so we keep things quite simple, but we do always try to sit down together. Me, my son, and my husband will have toast or pancakes (I make a big batch of batter and use it for a few days) and fruit. On weekends, we spend a bit more time over things, with cinnamon buns from our favourite bakery, shakshuka, or breakfast tacos. We love the breakfasts at Watergate Bay – who wouldn’t want a DIY waffle maker?!
What does vegetable-first food mean to you, and how does it make you feel?
I don’t love labels when it comes to food, so, for me, vegetable-focused food is just great food. In our house, we eat mostly plants and a vegetarian diet, but I’m led by the joy and connection of eating – of ingredients at their best, and by the seasons. Putting vegetables at the centre of our table just makes sense to me; I feel good eating this way. Plus, it lessens my load on the world around me, which feels amazing.
Do you have any favourite dishes that consistently convert the die-hard carnivores?
If you've eaten a certain way all your life, it can be hard to make a change. But it’s clear that we all need to be eating a lot more plants for our health and for the planet – and if you eat the kind of food I love to cook, I really don’t think anyone would feel as if they were missing out.
I like to persuade people with food over words, so I’d make a saag aloo ‘shepherd's pie' or my sticky sesame baked cauliflower.
Apart from local and seasonal, how else do you decide what vegetables to buy and cook with? What are your favourites?
I get cravings for certain foods. This week, I couldn’t stop thinking about caponata, the Sicilian sweet and sour aubergine stew, so that’s what I made. But more often than not, it’s a trip to my local greengrocers or scanning the 'what's in season' list from my local veg supplier.
I generally buy what looks particularly good – or sometimes whatever's going cheap and I know I can use up.
At the moment, I'm all about tomatoes. I'm eating them for almost every meal! I like them simply on toast with British Graceburn cheese or in slow-cooked sauces for pasta with crispy capers and herbs.
Is there an ingredient that instantly makes you think of Cornwall, or taste that transports you back to Watergate Bay?
There’s a celeriac risotto I ate at Restaurant Emily Scott that I keep thinking of at least a year after eating it. It used Cornish Jack cheese, and the celeriac cut into little pieces cleverly took the place of the rice. I hope it's on the menu next time we visit.
What’s your favourite indulgence?
Chip shop chips with lots of salt and vinegar, eaten on the beach.
Of all the recipes in your cookbooks, which ones do you return to again and again, and why?
We have a few family favourites which we cook on repeat. There's the sweet potato dhal from my first book, A Modern Way to Eat, along with the black bean tacos from the same book. Then there's the one-pot pasta from my second book, A Modern Way to Cook. We also love the coconut and mustard seed baked cauliflower from my third book, The Modern Cook’s Year, and the lentil, sweet potato, and tamarind bake from my latest book, One.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a couple of very different projects. I have another book in the works, which will come out in late 2023/early 2024 – and I’m having another baby at the end of this year.
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