Inside Elisabeth Luard’s Kitchen

22nd February 2018

Interview: Olia Hercules
Photographs: Dan Dennison

The author of European Peasant Cookery selects a potent South American tea, a tiled Andalusian table and five favourite food books


Aleppo pepper »
Asked what five ingredients are absolutely essential in her kitchen, Elisabeth picks out garlic, olive oil, seed cumin, rough salt, and chilli – “either Aleppo or the one without seeds, kirmizi biber. They call it different things but that is exactly what one has to have.”

Agredolc vinegar »
“I love Spanish vinegars,” Elisabeth tells us. We try a moscatel vinegar, an orange vinegar (both by UniQo) and this very musky Agredolc vinegar from Finca Mas d’en Gil in Prioriat.

Kolymvari Gold olive oil »
“I prefer Greek olive oil, because it’s sort of unpretentious,” says Elisabeth – she has a bottle of Kolymvari Gold on the go when we visit.

Mate tea »
“Mate is like leaf cocaine. The leaf looks like dusty tea, just yellower. When I was a child in Montevideo, everyone of my age had one of these gourds as cups and this very finely ground tea, resembling henna, and if you were a child you had sugar in it. I thought it was mildly hallucinogenic. But everyone drank it, me and many other kids, sitting on a stoop, sipping sugary mate tea. I still drink mate. I just ordered some from my coffee company. I go off the booze on Sundays and Mondays, which is a really good idea, and then I have mate instead.” – Elisabeth

Teisseire peach syrup »
Over lunch at Elisabeth’s, we drink fizzy water plus a French sirop by Teisseire. “They do a delicious white peach,” she says.

Fish roe paste »
Elisabeth mentions a liking for cods’ roe paste in a toothpaste tube and cloudberry jam as sold in Ikea.


Peasant woman’s knives
Rather than using fancy chef’s knives, Elisabeth has a selection of a small, worn and decidedly unfancy peasant woman’s knives (as she calls them). “I’ve always used them,” she says. “I’ve got three of them. You very rarely have to sharpen them.”

Greek bowl
Elisabeth picks out a beautiful blue bowl “as it reminds me of the colour of the Aegean Sea. It is essential to have things that remind you of places where I’d rather be sometimes. I got it on of the Greek islands.”

Kitchenaid shears »
“The shears!” she says, picking out an other favourite kitchen implement. “I love shears, it’s amazing how useful they are. You can always unscrew them and sharpen the blades.”

Old Andalusian table (pictured top)
What about this amazing table? we ask, pointing at the long table under the stairs with tiles set in the wood. “It was made for me by a shipwright in Tarifa when I lived in Andalusia with my young family in the late 60s and 70s,” Elisabeth replies. “All home activities happened around or on the table: prep for cooking, homework, eating. The set-in tiles are 18th century and came from a demolished house in Ronda. It also had a bench built in on three sides and the front side was in the kitchen. So I could cook and turn around and serve them – they had food coming out of their ears when they were small. And there is nothing wrong with letting them play with dough, and if they had grubby hands, it was a good thing.”

Mate gourd »
Elisabeth shows us a specially adapted gourd from which she drinks her mate tea (see above).


Elisabeth has sent a lot of her cookbooks to the Jane Grigson library at Oxford Brooks university, so her collection has been downsized. For us, she picks out The New Oxford Book of Food Plants by John Vaughan, The Penguin Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, Seeds of Change by Henry Hobhouse, Cocina Regional, and Claudia Roden’s The Food Of Spain.

Posted 22nd February 2018

In Things


Interview: Olia Hercules
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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