How food writer Georgina Hayden really eats

Everyone’s got a food story to tell… Welcome back to Fridge Raid, the delicious. interview series where people from all walks of life answer our nosiest food questions, from what’s in their fridge to the last takeaway they ordered. Each week, we ask people to reveal the quirky realities of how they really eat – and the food experiences that shaped them.

Our guest this week is food writer, stylist and delicious. regular Georgina Hayden. She grew up in north London, and family life revolved around her grandparents’ Greek-Cypriot taverna. Georgina went on to carve her own path in food – including over 10 years in Jamie Oliver’s food team – and has written four cookbooks.

The self-confessed chilli fiend reveals the best party food she’s ever had, what made her fall in love with prawn cocktail crisps again – and why her latest book has been the scariest one to write… 

How food writer Georgina Hayden really eats
Portrait: Laura Edwards

Pick ‘n’ mix

What’s your favourite home-cooked comfort food?
My mum’s avgolemoni, a chicken rice soup. It’s nostalgic: if I’m eating that, I feel like I’m a little girl and I’m poorly.

Top corner shop treat?
Since I’ve had kids, I’ve resurrected my love for prawn cocktail crisps. A bit of parenting I cannot stand is swimming lessons. I hate public changing rooms – ick. But after swimming we have prawn cocktail crisps and it’s pure nostalgia.

What’s your special occasion restaurant recommendation?
Gymkhana in Mayfair: it’s spenny but my family adore Indian food and it feels opulent. And I love Rochelle Canteen’s food and ambience. We’ve been there on important days in our life and it holds a special place in my heart.

Your high street go-to?
My husband Pete loves Greggs. The best thing I ever bought him was a Greggs gift card for Valentine’s Day. I’d say Wagas – Wagamama. I enjoy a cheeky pad thai.

How do you take your coffee?
I’m extreme. I’m a cafetière plunger, going all out with a stovetop moka pot – or I’m having a spoon of Nescafé.

What can you eat on repeat?
Halloumi and any chilli condiments: chilli sauce, Tajin, chilli crisp…

What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
My wedding. We created the menu, with north Lancashire (where my husband’s from) and Greek-Cypriot elements. Mrs Kirkham’s lancashire cheese made into little tarts with pickled walnuts; kleftico (Greek lamb) with hot pot-style potatoes; and roasted mespila (loquats), one of my favourite Greek fruits, with a Greek-style pannacotta.

Georgina loves to add chilli sauce


The main meal

Growing up, what was a Saturday like at your family’s taverna?
My sister and I would be laying paper tablecloths, filling up salt and pepper pots, wiping cutlery. If it was a special occasion, say New Year’s Eve, the kids were allowed to party with the customers. I have so many memories of falling asleep under tables. And there was always food. Even now, my granny still cooks for us a few times a week. She just isn’t capable of not cooking for half of north London at any given time.

What are your memories of school dinners?
There’s a fantastic kids’ book called Bread And Jam For Frances and there’s a part in it where she has a packed lunch and she eats the foods in turn, so they “come out even”. And I remember having a sandwich, a banana and a chocolate bar, but then eating a bite of each so you finished everything at the same time…

What are some of the weirdest food styling jobs you’ve done?
Filming a Christmas TV commercial in a car park in Yorkshire, in the freezing cold, cooking 50 turkeys in a trailer. While working for Jamie Oliver, there were mad things – like in Los Angeles we had to fill an entire school bus with sugar, to show how much was being consumed by children. Wild.

How does your job impact how you eat?
I do a lot of recipe development and I’m conscious about waste. I will portion things up, freeze them. If there’s a rare time where I don’t have anything on, cooking from other people’s books is a great way to learn. But on the whole I’m all about speed. I love an egg; I love a packet noodle. I rely heavily on delicious condiments. My husband despairs: an entire shelf in our fridge is taken up with them!

"I rely heavily on delicious condiments. My husband despairs: an entire shelf in our fridge is taken up with them!"

What will always be found in your fridge?
There’s more halloumi in my fridge than anything else at any given time. If all else fails, there’s always halloumi. Broccoli, filo pastry, greek yogurt. And I always have millions of eggs – 12 on my little egg stand and boxes in the fridge to keep me going.

Halloumi is always the answer; try Georgina’s recipe with fig jam


Tell us about your new book
Greekish is most like my first, Stirring Slowly, because the recipes are mine, basically. Unlike with my second and third books, Taverna and Nistisima (about Orthodox fasting food), if there’s an issue with a recipe, you can’t take it up with my granny or a priest! But there’s more anxiety about the recipes because I’ve poured my heart and soul into them. They’re inspired by my heritage and family but are the things I like to eat. I kept saying, “the recipes are kind of Greek-ish” and would wobble my hand, and I thought, “that’s the title”.

Which dish from the book have you made the most?
The HLT kritharaki is a good example of what the book’s about. It’s a play on something quintessentially Greek-Cypriot, a halloumi, lountza (smoked pork loin) and tomato sandwich. I took those flavours and made it into a pasta dish, so it’s easy and accessible.

My bite-sized week

What was the best thing you ate this week?
A mango, cardamom and pistachio cake at the launch of Tarunima Sinha’s cookbook My Little Cake Tin.

What was the most mundane meal you ate? 
My youngest child’s leftover ham sandwich.

Did you cook a meal off the cuff? 
We had guests on Sunday to visit a local farmers’ market for lunch, but plans changed (as they do) so I made lemon and oregano chicken kebabs with spiced herby rice. And Cretan mess from my book.

What food/drink did you buy on the go?
I discovered a new Asian deli, Pachara, as I was running errands with my daughter and we had char siu pork buns for lunch. Plus, many frappés to cool off in the (welcomed!) heat.

Where did you shop for food – and what did you buy?
I stocked up at Pachara – gyozas for the freezer, fresh noodles, fried tofu, holy basil. Bread and pastries from Sourdough Sophia. And Mediterranean ingredients from our local deli, Deli on the Green, including village pasta (Cypriot macaroni) and bunches of herbs.

What did you do to relax?
We are dog sitting my aunt’s dog and I’m enjoying taking him on walks. They’re good for us both.

Greekish: Everyday Recipes With Greek Roots by Georgina Hayden (£26) is out now and available from Bloomsbury.

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