Tales From My Kitchen Table

Joseph Denison Carey

Join chef Joseph Denison Carey as he takes us on a journey through his life in food. From his grandma’s saltfish and boiled yam to making pizza with his whole family, his memories of dishes and flavours are vivid and comforting. Joe reminds us that cooking can be a way of coming back to the present and carving out a moment of calm in the day.

Tell us about your favourite food memory from your childhood…

My grandma on my dad’s side would always make the same thing when I went to visit. Saltfish with red pepper and tomato sauce, boiled yam, rice and peas and steamed veg. The salt dried fish would season the pepper sauce as it cooked, and to this day it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. She doesn’t cook as much these days so it lives in the past. I’ve tried cooking it myself but it’s never the same.

What is your advice to busy home cooks who find preparing food stressful?

Change your perception of cooking. It’s the opposite of stressful, at it’s best it can be meditative. When you’re cooking you’re not thinking about the past or the future, you’re totally present. Make as much time for it as you can and don’t stress about failure, sometimes you’ll get it wrong and that’s ok. Just enjoy the moment.

Tell us about one of your cooking rituals at home...

It might sound strange but cleaning the kitchen BEFORE I cook is essential. Navigating a messy kitchen whilst trying to cook is stressful. I don’t like wasting time looking for things or discovering that the sieve I need is dirty and having to clean it mid cook. A total kitchen reset let’s me relax with the knowledge that everything is where it’s supposed to be, and everything is clean. It also makes cleaning up during/after cooking MUCH easier.

What’s your favourite thing about having friends and family round for dinner?

There’s something really special about being sat around a table with people that you love. It’s almost like, in a world with so many things distracting us from each other, at dinner we’re forced to shut it all out and talk, and I find that every single time we’re reminded of how much we need it. Laughing, joking, sharing stories, it all happens around the table. A necessity that today feels like a luxury. It’s amazing to be able to provide an experience like that. I do it as much as I possibly can. 

Tell us about one of the most memorable meals someone important in your life has cooked for you...

I made pizza with my family recently. Technically I made my own, but my uncle had to show me the ropes. He has a new pizza oven and we all took it for a spin, me, my mum, stepdad, aunt, uncle and cousins. It was nice spending time with my family, all of us trying something new and having pizza to eat at the end of it all.

Taste that most makes you think of home: 

Ragú. Spag Bol was the first thing I learned to cook and is still one of my favourites. The ultimate comfort food. 

Favourite song to cook to: 

I have a Beyoncé best hits playlist that’s pretty impeccable.

You have friends coming round for an impromptu dinner, what do you cook? 

If impromptu then a huge pot of very simple pasta, maybe pork sausage, fennel and tomato, with some Parmesan and black pepper, and a nice bitter leaf salad with a simple vinaigrette. Almost no prep needed but still totally delicious when done properly.

Your most proud career moment to date: 

Going on This Morning for the first time. Cooking live for 1 million people was a HUGE milestone.

Best place for a cosy dinner in London: 

Campania on Ezra street just off Columbia Road. It doesn’t get much cosier.

Seasonal ingredients you’re most looking forward to incorporating into your dishes:

Literally anything, I often don’t know until I see it. Heading into winter I’m looking forward to a lot of root vegetables and mushrooms.

Follow Joseph: @joechef_

Joseph's Kitchen Table Favourites: