If you’re planning a big lunch this weekend and want to make something a little different to the usual roast-and-veg, try Anna Barnett’s alternative menu. The chef and food writer uses Asian and Mediterranean flavours for fresh twists on classic dishes that deliver maximum impact for minimal effort. The result is food that looks as good as it tastes – unpretentious, pretty but not too perfect to touch. Light, fresh, with the colours of spring – green, white and yellow – and flavours that sing on the palette. Perfect for sharing with a celebratory feel but without fuss – in short, very Soho House.

We went to Anna’s Hackney home to see her make and serve her spring menu. The converted pub has spacious rooms with lofty ceilings and vast windows and is filled with her flatmate’s eclectic collection of vintage furniture, art and brick-a-brack, while Anna’s domain, the kitchen, overflows with recipes books and mismatched glassware. Her dog, Ted, bounced about enthusiastically, begging for lettuce and following his owner adoringly.

 

 

Anna's tips to turn a lunch into an event

'Go all out with your table preparations, candles, flowers, tablecloth, making it look as inviting as possible. I always have drinks at the ready - cocktails or a glass of prosecco when people arrive gets people in the mood. Followed by a good Chianti or Pinot Noir or Gavi di Gavi if we’re staying on the white. Be as prepared as you can so you have time to spend with your guests. I think by just being around and not rushing round trying to prepare everything last minute makes people feel relaxed.'

Make it simple
'I’ll try and plan a lunch that can be prepared well ahead of time. I think it’s all about keeping your meal simple but serving up bold fresh flavour combinations. Adding vibrant colours to the mix and packing in as much flavour as possible. As I’ll leave minimal cooking to do once guests arrive I’ll put on a dress, or skirt and top, whatever I would ordinarily wear when lunching with friends. Always make sure you have a clean and tasteful apron to hand, I have a gorgeous Japanese linen one that I always pull out so I don’t ruin my outfit.'

Preparation is key
'Making up cold salads is a great way to avoid any last minute cooking, and having dessert ready to either heat up or just serve means once lunch has been served you can relax. Fresh herbs, edible flowers, vibrant garnishes are a great way to add extra interest to a dish. I think it’s predominantly about packing in as much flavour as possible but also making your meal look as visually enticing as possible too. Depending on the time of the year, stews, coq au vin style dishes, pasta sauces, pies and slow roasted meats are all great to cook and prepare well ahead of time, in fact they’ll taste better for it.'

Finishing touches
'A last minute douse of good quality olive oil, seasoning and a smattering of fresh herbs can really bring a dish alive, especially if you’ve prepared it ahead of time. I tend to not add herbs or dressings to salads until just before serving them so to keep them as fresh tasting as possible and to avoid any possibility of the leaves turning soggy. I like to opt for the rustic, family style informal dining, letting everyone help themselves to what they like.'

Recipes - all feed four to six people

Jerusalem Artichoke Dip

Prep: 10 minutes, cooking: 40 minutes

Ingredients
800g Jerusalem artichokes – peeled and finely sliced
2 shallots – finely sliced
several generous glugs of olive oil
knob of butter
generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes
several turns of black pepper/ or white
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp natural yogurt or sour cream
40g Parmesan, finely grated
40g Gruyere, finely grated

Instructions
'Finely slice your shallots. Add oil and butter to a large frying pan and warm over a medium heat before adding both the shallots and artichokes. Next add seasoning, several springs of thyme and allow to cook for at least 30 minutes or until soft. You could also roast these but I’d recommend adding a dash of water so they don’t go too crispy.

Once cooked, add both the yogurt and mayonnaise and half of both the cheeses. Blitz until you have a smooth creamy consistency - you may need to add more yoghurt or a splash of milk to loosen it. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary to your taste.

Pour into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over remaining cheese and bake or grill on 190 degrees Celsius until crispy on the top and heated through.'

Red Mullet with Kaffir Lime and Wild Garlic Leaves

Prep: 10 minutes, cooking: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients
6 red mullets – ask your fishmonger to gut and clean (sustainably sourced, similar size, so they all cook evenly)
1 small bunch of wild garlic leaves
2 branches of curry leaves (around 20 leaves)
5 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
zest of 1 lemon
2 lemons – cut into quarters
generous drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes
several turns of black pepper

Instructions
'Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Place half the garlic leaves, curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves on the base of your tray and tuck the rest inside and on top of the fish. Drizzle with plenty of oil, add seasoning, lemon zest and juice, leaving the lemon quarters in the tray to roast with the fish.
Place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, allowing more time the larger the fish.
Remove from the oven once the fish easily comes away from the bone. Allow to rest with a little foil over for 5 -10 minutes before serving.'

Greens with Mixed Seeds & Almonds

Prep: 5 minutes, cooking: 5 minutes

Ingredients
1 cabbage / 4 greens, roughly chopped
generous glug of olive oil
generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes
several turns of black pepper
100g mixed seeds
150g toasted almond flakes
zest of half a lemon

Instructions
'Begin by toasting your almonds. Take a frying pan and heat over a medium heat, then add the almonds and allow to turn golden, giving the pan a shake every now and then, remove once golden on both sides. Next add several glugs of oil followed by the roughly chopped greens.
Add in your seasoning and cook for several minutes until they just begin to wilt and are heated through. Next sprinkle over the mixed seeds and almonds, grate over the lemon zest and serve.'

Lemon & Thai Basil Sorbet

Prep: 10 minutes, freezing time: 40mins - 2hours

Ingredients
130g caster sugar
250ml of water
juice from 10 large unwaxed lemons (ideally Amalfi)
zest of 4 lemons
small bunch of Thai basil – lightly bruised
note: keep 3 - 4 lemons cut lengthways and remove pith

Instructions
'Begin by combining the sugar and water over a medium heat until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add in the lemon juice and zest, plus the Thai basil and allow to cool and infuse for at least an hour.
Remove the Thai basil leaves and transfer to an ice cream machine for 45-50 minutes or place in a container in the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours. Serve once frozen.
I like to freeze the lemon halves and use them to serve the lemon sorbet in as this helps keep the sorbet from thawing.'

 

'We do have a few playlists from when we got married that we use when we remember! It’s all a bit varied, so depending on who we’ve got over we’ll choose accordingly. We’re loving the new Sampha album, chilled enough to listen to with lunch. Devandra Banhart is always on our playlist, as is Chapel Club, The husband will always get some George Michael going at some point.'

'Later this month I’m cooking up one of the courses at the key4likeUK S O C I A L S U P P E R C L U B alongside incredible chefs Alex Head, Richard Falk and Adam Handling and Lee Westcott. We’ll be pairing up with ex-offenders for a one night only supper club with all profits donated to key4life.'

'My favourite foodie spots include Umuts - a grocery store on Broadway Market that has great produce with so much variety. Stoke Newington Green’s Fruit & Vegetables has an amazing selection of really great quality produce too. I’m a huge fan of La Bouche on Broadway market which has great French cheeses, breads and deli. They also do a great takeaway sandwich! Pavillion bakery is also good for artisan breads.'

Shoreditch House

Visit Anna's favourite East London foodie spots then stop for a break at Shoreditch House