Anna Barnett is part of the new wave of food bloggers turning their passion for feeding friends and family into a new career. Anna worked in TV and fashion before starting her blog, Anna Barnett Cooks, and has written for the Independent and Miss Vogue.

"I live just off London Fields – I lived in a warehouse for six or seven years, and I’m now the other end of London Fields – a bit more grown-up in an old converted pub. I shop day to day, so I’ll go to Umut’s next to the Cat and Mutton as they have amazing fresh fruit and veg. I’ve gone there for years and it’s always seasonal – from heritage tomatoes through to all different kinds of herbs, everything’s fresh and everything lasts. So I always go there."

"I also use our local Costcutter – they get amazing little courgettes and heritage tomatoes and huge boxes of fresh herbs. And of course Broadway Market – Hill and Szrok the butchers, the meat from W. Wells butchers on Well Street. I think it’s really nice to shop from your local rather than the big supermarkets and also food doesn’t taste as good from there! I’m not a weekly shop kind of girl. You buy exactly what you want to eat and then you plan for leftovers the next day and you don’t waste food."

 

 

"I’m probably a bit spontaneous and a bit of a planner because I’ll be eating breakfast, planning dinner or lunch! And eating lunch planning dinner! Because my boyfriend’s vegetarian if he’s out I’ll be ‘right let’s get some meat in’ – I really relish it! So I’m always planning but I don’t plan the week ahead - I’m just thinking about that next meal. I’m quite spontaneous in that I’ll raid the fridge, raid the cupboards, especially if I can’t be arsed to go to the shop, I’ll clear out the cupboard and concoct something. And a lot of the recipes in the book have that sentiment – be aware of things, leave half that courgette, don’t use things gratuitously and then use it up in another meal."
 

Formal or Informal?

"My dinner party style is definitely informal. If you set it up informally then everyone is already more relaxed and feels at home. You want people to feel like they can go back for seconds or thirds, clear the plate, help themselves. In terms of what drink to serve guests on arrival, I’d probably just go straight in with food! Or an Aperol spritz, especially for summer, or a really good cucumber gin and tonic – using a good quality spirit."

Catering for a big group

"You have to use everything you have. We’ve done a meal for 67 in a night and my mum helps do the cooking and then Henry [Holland]’s mum’s helped and my friend Gillian’s mum and my flatmate Mikey. I pull in all the favours, I’ve had friends bringing extra chairs... We initially planned for 30 covers which seemed like a good number, and then we ended up doubling it! You find yourself bringing all the crap up from the basement, my landlord is very understanding!"

Preparation, preparation...

"Prep as much as you can in advance. What’s nice is when you do things that people can DIY and get involved with. We’ve done raclette, hot plates, or an Asian-style broth where you can cook your own fish or vegetables in the broth. It’s quite nice to be a bit more interactive."

Reward your team

"People really love to bring a dish or a dessert and get involved and I’m all for that. After doing the pop-ups I want to get involved more and experience it myself. We always make sure we get loads of booze in for everyone who’s working as all my friends become waiters. My boyfriend also gets involved and goes into full-on team mode. So reward them with booze!"

 

Anna's Pizza-style Puff Pastry Tart

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Feeds: 8–10

We first made these on holiday one year in Puglia. Not wanting to miss a moment of sunlight, our time spent in the kitchen was brief. Ripe and fresh is what’s crucial here. Keep the toppings simple and well seasoned and you’ll be serving up a treat.

450 g (1 lb) pre-rolled puff pastry (about 2 rolls)
14–16 ripe cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 small glugs of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 white onion, sliced into rings
250 g (9 oz) mozzarella, ideally buffalo, roughly torn
5 slices of prosciutto
2 large handfuls of basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5) and lightly oil two baking trays.

Lay the pre-rolled pastry on the baking sheets and cook in the oven for around 15 minutes or until golden brown, risen and cooked through.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, oregano and olive oil in a pan, season with salt and pepper, then cook over medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes – it should still be firm/crisp, but not entirely raw.

Top the cooked pastry with the mozzarella, followed by the tomatoes and onion, then return to the oven for a further 5–7 minutes until the cheese melts.

Drape over the prosciutto, then garnish with basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.

TIP Leave out the prosciutto and add mushrooms for a vegetarian version.

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