CHIT-CHAT-EAU Episode No. 7: Jago Rackham

Welcome to CHIT-CHAT-EAU: Chateau Orlando's series of interviews hosted by our Co-Founder and Creative Director Luke Edward Hall.

Our seventh guest is Jago Rackham. By his own admission, Jago is very greedy. A cook and a writer, Jago’s first book, To Entertain, will be released this summer.

Having been a fan of Jago’s @ecstasy_cookbook Instagram account for a while, Luke asked Jago to make some food and drinks for the launch of the Chateau Orlando LONDON pop-up shop, which opened on Chiltern Street for a week in early June. On the menu? Sorrel tart; tomatoes; rose custard; gooseberry cake. Simple, seasonal, early summer food.

Discover Jago’s perfect breakfast and favourite kitchen tool (spoiler: it’s a spider), along with his store cupboard recipe for deep-fried artichoke hearts below...

Where is home, Jago?

A little street off Bethnal Green Road, a couple of minutes from Redchurch Street and Brick Lane. More grandly – this area of East London, with St Leonard’s as the north point, Ayubi grocery as the east and the Close-Up Cinema as south-west – is where I’ve lived for the best part of a decade. I love East London, I love all of London. If rents and house prices weren’t so high, it would be a perfect city. 

Describe your perfect breakfast.

Tahini, Sri Lankan sambol and cucumber, a fried egg and two hoppers. 

Your most loved cookbook?

Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray. It is everything I would like my writing to resemble. 

Which ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?

Cow’s milk. 

Where do you shop for groceries?

On Sunday I visit a very small farmer’s market off Broadway Market – there’s a man selling oysters, a couple selling chickens and eggs and lads selling the produce of one Kent farm. I buy a chicken, eighteen eggs and lots of vegetables, upon which I base the week’s cooking. Otherwise, it’s ad hoc. I’m not really drawn to fancy food shops, anything with Provisions in the name… I think this is because I grew up in a place – rural Devon – where food is produced. I know what counts, what’s good labelling. 

Who or what influences you?

Greed. I like so many things and I want to think and write about all of them, though the vicissitudes of life and my own mental health slow this down. I used to resent this, but now believe that the enforced slowness lends itself to deeper thinking, greater compassion and, ultimately, kindness. I’d like to say kindness follows greed, though that sounds a touch, you know, flowery. But I’d like that to be the case. 

Top vegetable?

Black Russian tomatoes grown in Tipperary, near Cashel. 

Where do you like to eat in London?

My favourite restaurant is Sweetings. I also like Cafe Cecila, the Plimsole and St John Bread and Wine. I would like Singburi more if I could get a table. I like Mein Tay and Shalamar Kebab House. I am a simple man. 

Your favourite place to visit in the summer and why?

Devon, where I grew up – if it’s sunny – the feeling of adulthood against the background of childhood is truly intoxicating. I love, especially, sitting in the back of my little sister’s car driving to the beach, listening to Ice Spice as countless acres of arable land whisk past, very green, the sky very blue. 

The best pudding...?

Chocolate mousse. 

Name a country you haven't been to that you'd like to visit, and tell us why.

I really want to go to Mexico. The sheer breadth of the food there, of the multilayered history, the ingenuity. Mexican Lebanese food – tacos árabes! Mexican Cornish food – the paste, which is not an empanada, but the relative of pasties introduced by Cornish miners in the 19th century. 

What makes a good host?

Subtle attendance. 

Which kitchen tool could you not live without?

This spoon (actually called a spider) my brother gave me. It’s from a Chinese supermarket – a wooden handle and a wire basket, by far the best thing for removing anything from water. Completely usurps the slotted spoon. 

Your last supper on the planet? Where would you be, and who would you be with?

Anchovies on bread with very thick butter. Buffalo mozzarella – not fucking burrata – with tomatoes and exceptionally good oil. Pizza from this one place near Barga in Florence, speck and mascarpone. Lots of cigarettes. In a walled garden on the evening of a hot day – but shady. A fountain somewhere. The guests know who they are. 

What projects do you have coming up? Can you tell us about your forthcoming book, To Entertain?

I wanted to write something for anyone who’s been nervous to cook for people – because they’re shy, because they’re broke… you know – I wanted to demystify hosting. I believe so much in the worth of people being together and I’m not – or I don’t believe I can be, I haven’t tried, really – a political writer, so I want to slip politics – basically egalitarian politics – into something really simple, show rather than tell. 

Could you give us a classic Jago recipe?

Yes – it’s a store cupboard recipe for people who have artichoke hearts in their cupboard. Not me. A good thing is you don’t actually need the best quality artichoke hearts. 

Deep-Fried Artichoke Hearts

Drain the artichoke hearts. Often they are kept in rather bad vegetable oil, which spoils their taste, so it’s best to wash them in warmish water before laying them on kitchen towels. Make your batter about 120g of flour mixed with an egg and a generous pinch of salt. Then slowly add 250ml of carbonated water, until you have a rather thin batter. Making sure your artichokes are dry, drop them all into the batter bowl and, in batches, fry them in sunflower oil which is about 170 degrees. I recommend buying a food thermometer my perfectly good one cost about five pounds however, you can also tell that oil is hot enough by dropping a little batter into it. Place on kitchen towel to drain and serve with a wedge of lemon.