Inside Lillie O’Brien’s Kitchen

1st April 2016

Interview & Photographs: Monica R. Goya

The owner of London Borough of Jam picks out a really good pan for making jam, a genmaicha tea and a cookbook that sharpened her techniques


Refractometer »
“This is a useful gadget that measures the sugar level in jam.” – Lillie

Sori Yanagi Ladle »
“Sori Yanagi is a very famous Japanese designer and I especially like using his ladle. It seems simple but it is so well designed – when you pour something it never drips. It’s a beautiful object too. Expensive, yes, but I love it.”

Mauviel copper jam pan »
“This is a really good pan for making jam – it heats quickly and cooks the jam very evenly.”

Japanese chef’s knives » 
“If someone I know is going to New York, I ask them to pick me up a knife, because the taxes on knives in the UK is insane – they’re half the price in the States. I got one of my Japanese chef’s knives in a shop called Korin in Tribeca and it cost me about $80, whereas you’d probably pay £150 for it here. Another knife I love was a present from an ex-colleague at St John – she brought it back for me from Kyoto and it has my name engraved on it.” (pictured above)

Chemex coffee maker »
“A lot of cutting-edge coffee shops are using this coffee maker but it’s a very old-fashioned design – it was invented in New York in 1941. [The American artist] Georgia O’Keeffe used to have one in her kitchen.”



Green tea »
“I can’t start my day without green tea and I can easily drink three pots of it. I sometimes buy genmaicha tea with toasted rice from the Japan Centre, but my amazing friend Noriko asked her sister to send over some green tea for me from Japan and she sent 10 one-kilo packets. So I haven’t had to buy any tea for well over a year.” – Lillie

Homemade vinegar
“A winemaker I stock in the shop (Le Grappin) gave me a 50-litre barrel of wine that he couldn’t use, so I turned it into vinegar. It’s got natural bacteria in it, like sourdough bread. Some people drink unpasteurised vinegar with water every morning – it’s really good for your gut.”

Raw honey
“This comes from a friend in Suffolk who has her own hives. I’m a big believer in raw honey. Most commercial honeys have been heated, and that kills off all the stuff that’s good for you. Raw honey is unpasteurised, and the higher the pollen count, the harder the honey. You can soften it in hot water: bring a pan of water to the boil, then let it cool gently and pop in the jar (not completely submerging it because you don’t want to heat it too much). I have a spoonful every day.”

Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder » “This is really handy. I use it to make myself a really quick soup with spinach and spring onions.”

Bottarga »
A Mediterranean delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, typically from grey mullet or tuna. “This is cured raw fish. It’s quite rich.”


Bar Tartine; Techniques and Recipes, Nick Balla, Cortney Burns »
Inventive and unusual cookbook from the much-admired San Francisco restaurant of the same name (which is attached to the famous Tartine Bakery). “I like their techniques and recipes. I started to do some curing and smoking at home and I found this book really helped me with my techniques.” – Lillie

Wild Food, Roger Phillips »
“I love this book. It’s really informative about foods that are growing wild around us and it gives me lots of ideas for things to pick.”

The Cook’s Companion, Stephanie Alexander »
“One of my favourite cookbooks and one of the first Australian cookbooks that became a staple on my shelf. The only reason I don’t have it in London is because it was too big for my luggage. It’s a A-to-Z of cooking and so useful – every good kitchen back home has it.”

Nose To Tail Eating, Fergus Henderson »
“Having worked at St John for four years, I feel an attachment to the restaurant and Fergus’s recipes. When I cook puddings at home now, I tend to cook them in a St. John style – it’s embedded in me.”

Salt Sugar Smoke, Diana Henry »
A book about preserving all kinds of food. “I really admire what Diana Henry does and this book is quite inspiring.”


Posted 1st April 2016

In Things


Interview & Photographs: Monica R. Goya

More from the Things

Inside Jess Murphy’s Kitchen – The chef-owner of Kai picks out an award-winning local beer, a pioneering plant-based cookbook and perhaps the most coveted kitchen item in Ireland

Inside Mitch Tonks’ Kitchen – The seafood master picks out his favourite anchovy brand, the "original and best" pepper mill, and the book he taught himself to cook from

Inside Louise McGuane’s Kitchen – The whiskey bonder picks out some very good local beer, an Irish whiskey-tasting glass named after a mythological race, and her favourite food website

Inside Gill Meller’s Kitchen – The chef and author picks out a good local sea salt, his parents' aluminium egg poacher and the cookbook that opened his eyes to real food and cooking