My mum did Zoom masterclasses for the family in the pandemic. I hadn’t cooked Nigerian food before, ever. She’d send us the ingredients list early in the week, and then, wherever we were, we would cook and then eat together.. I learned all of these dishes that I probably should have learned growing up. I’m really excited to have dinner parties again, so I can actually exhibit my jollof rice.
It was survival of the fittest in our household. My three brothers are 6ft 7in and they eat so much. We used to have competitions around the dinner table. Like when you roast a chicken, we would take it in turns to see who could suck the spinal cord out in one go. And whoever could would be rewarded by getting the chicken feet. Which was a delicacy. If we were having a whole fish, we’d fight over the head. On I’m a Celeb they say, “Oh, you have to eat a fish eye,” and they’re all retching. In our household, we were fighting over the fish eyes!
My mum and dad are a great team in the kitchen. Growing up, Mum was cooking Nigerian food and my dad brought a few pretty good dishes of classic British grub to the table. They’ve always told us we have to experiment and I really appreciate that they’ve instilled that mentality. Because that’s what makes life exciting. It has also ended in us having quite bad diarrhoea on holiday, but look, you do what you’ve got to do.
My dad’s very much a hobbyist and a lot of his hobbies are culinary. He got into bread making for a bit, he got into sous-viding as well. He went through a phase where he got really into curing. He’s been making biltong in some kind of dehydration chamber.
I’d cooked more than most when I arrived at university. One thing about Cambridge: the most intelligent people in the world, but very, very limited practical skills. So I came through like Nigella, just because I could cook a breakfast or make noodles.
The most exciting food I’ve had was when I went to live in Argentina. There was this boom at the time for Peruvian-Japanese fusion and I remember thinking: “This is it. I’ve died and gone to heaven.” Those flavours cross over so well: tropical fruits with coriander, chillies and zests and citruses. It sounds like I’m being snobby but it’s really good. When I got home from Argentina, Peruvian-Japanese fusion became my thing. And everyone was like: “Yeah, OK, right.”
The main advice Nick Grimshaw gave me and Jordan North about taking over on Radio 1’s drivetime show was to watch out for the hangovers. He’d done the breakfast show, and I know from experience that breakfast is a tough shift. But he said rather than getting the hangover over and done with in the morning, you stew in it the whole day. But Nick’s a proper celebrity, so perhaps he’s talking about going harder than Jordan or I plan to do. We’ll see.
The best meal of my life was a couple of years ago, when my brother Theo, who used to live in Australia, came home and surprised my parents. It was at Rudie’s in Dalston, which is no longer there alas, but was this Caribbean restaurant with the best cocktails, best rum punch, these amazing massive jerk platters and loads of rice and peas. All my family was there, and Theo had dressed up like an old man and hobbled in and pretended to trip over my mum’s chair. She went to help him up and was like, “I’m so sorry. Are you OK?” Then she realised it was my brother and she just started screaming and bawling. It was so joyful and everyone was crying.
My favourite things
Would it be bad to say garlic? That’s not really a food, but I just think everything’s better with it. Same goes for salt, pepper, chilli and coriander. Put them with anything and it’s amplified, it’s elevated.
It’s red wine. And I know it is. But it doesn’t make me feel good. As I’ve got older I’ve felt the red wine hangover more acutely, almost with every day. However, it just draws a line under the day, it feels nice to hold. So I’ve got to say a malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.
In Ibiza, there’s a fish shack that sits atop a craggy rock face, a cliff, just above Talamanca beach. It’s not easy to find and you have to do a bit of climbing to get there. They cook on oil stoves, but the food is amazing and the setting is magical. Sometimes I think: “If I died right now, I wouldn’t mind because this is heaven.”
Dish to make
If I get some good fresh tuna or salmon, I like to make ceviche: really flavoursome, explosive, lots of coriander, chilli, citrus. And then serve it in tiny little baby gem cups.