Inside Anna Koska’s Kitchen

1st December 2016

Interview: Molly Tait-Hyland
Photographs: Sophie Davidson

The food illustrator on three key ingredients for baked beans, a beautifully orchestrated knife and a “genius” cookbook that she’d have loved to illustrate


Smoked hot paprika »
Anna pulls out several jars and tins that have connections with baked beans. “I make homemade baked beans,” she says, “with butter beans and reduced tomato base (the tomato glut here is fantastic). Wonderful, that.”

Lyle’s black treacle »
“This also goes into the baked beans, or a loaf of bread. If there was a sweet equivalent of umami, it would be black treacle.” – Anna

Dark muscovado sugar »
“This goes into the baked beans too, or in meringues or brown bread ice cream.” – Anna

Anna has been making her own honey for the past three years. “Of all the things I’ve tried my hand at this has probably got to be the most challenging. It’s like a game of chess but you’re not quite sure how many pawns or queens or bishops there are and they change the rules halfway through.” Anna prefers honeys that are raw and deep in flavour: “Both soft-set and hard have their advantages. Hard obviously doesn’t run off the bread, but it’s a bit of a pain that you have to spoon it.”

Marmite »
“On toast,” she says. Needs no further explanation.

Maldon sea salt »
“Just the best isn’t it? Stir it into vanilla or olive-oil ice cream.” – Anna



Blok Knife » 
From the knife workshop of Ben Edmonds in Darley Abbey Mills, Derbyshire. “It’s dead easy to sharpen and the handle is really well balanced. Often you find big cheffy knives are too heavy and geared towards a man’s hand which makes them unwieldy. So for a feminine hand, this is beautifully orchestrated. It feels special every time you cook with it, it just makes the preparation of the food more of a joy. You know – if you’re using things you like looking at to create food it makes cooking more fun.” – Anna

Wooden breadboard
Anna picks out a thick, circular bread board (pictured below, right) that looks distinctly more like it came from a tree than your average board. “This was made 25 years ago from a tree cut down by my father. It’s really lovely isn’t it? My brother has one as well. It has stood the test of time. I never wash it properly, there’s always has a bit of natural oil working through it.”

Salad servers
Anna shows us a set of wooden salad tongs (pictured below, right) that work in a deceptively simple fashion. “It’s a remarkable piece of kit. I love the fact that they close up one way and serve the other way.”

Laguiole folding pocket penknife » 
“I found this knife when we stopped at a rest point in France for a picnic. Someone had obviously stopped in exactly the same place for a bit of bread and cheese. I looked down and there it was in the dirt. It was covered in rust and rubbish so we sanded it down and oiled it. It must be about 50 years old.” – Anna


Really Fast Food, Nigel Slater »
Anna is generous in her praise for the great English cookery writer. “Absolutely brilliant. I’ve got two copies. It’s got me out of so many holes. He’s such a clever guy and I love his very soft way of presenting stuff. It’s got softer over the years: he’s much more chatty in his descriptions of what to do.”

Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East, Itamar Srulovich, Sarit Packer »
Anna shares our love of Honey & Co, whose owners we interviewed last year. “I love this – and their baking book is beautiful too. I love the fact that they’re letting people look at styles of cooking that may not be part of their culture. And they make it very comfortable: it’s like they’re hugging you and holding your hand all the way through the recipe. Lamb shawarma… god! So this is one I keep going back to, a failsafe for meals with family and friends.” – Anna

Food for All Seasons, Oliver Rowe Buy from
The debut cookbook from a recent Gannet interviewee. “It reads so beautifully. Speaks to everybody who wants to have a go at sticking to the seasons. He makes it very magical. The book is more like a journal of his experiences rather than a ‘this is how you do’.”

Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson »
“Genius. One of the first proper cookbooks I ever got. I would have loved to be the illustrator. Everything I grow in the garden, I can do something with. He’s going to tell you to do something unusual with the thing you thought you could only do one thing with. The vichyssoise is the most dreamy recipe, the best soup I’ve ever made. He’s so sympathetic to those who aren’t necessarily brilliant at cooking.” – Anna

Fish, Sophie Grigson, William Black »
“This is lovely. I never used to cook fish until I illustrated her book.”




Posted 1st December 2016

In Things


Interview: Molly Tait-Hyland
Photographs: Sophie Davidson

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